Substack cometh, and lo it is good. (Pricing)

Open Thread – 04/17/2021 – Gene Expression

Doing some reading for my series on the steppe for my Substack, Empires of Ancient Eurasia: The First Silk Roads Era, 100 BCE – 250 CE is worth reading. The focus is on the silk road, 2,000 years ago.

Also, rereading David Anthony’s The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. It’s a good book and stands the test of time. We know so much from ancient DNA it’s more rewarding to read, not less.

Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion. Dense but informative.

Been keeping the Friday evening Clubhouse scheduling for giving talks. Android will go live in a month.

Benjamin Basset: pagans and Christians then and now.

Life without mismatch repair.

DNA from cave dirt tells tale of how some Neanderthals disappeared.


15 thoughts on “Open Thread – 04/17/2021 – Gene Expression

  1. finished Karen Armstrong’s “The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism.” I thought it was really good. Reactionary fundamentalism is so predictable it is basically a physical law of the universe!
    Also did carl Zimmer’s new one and “A Short History of Humanity
    By: Johannes Krause, Thomas Trappe.” liked both of those.
    Now on to “Prey” by Ayaan…very excited for that one.

  2. > Genetics has earned a reputation for smuggling racist ideologies into science, but cutting-edge science makes nonsense of eugenics and “pure” bloodlines. Immigration and genetic exchanges have always defined our species; who we are is a question of culture, not biological inheritance. This revelatory book offers us an entirely new way to understand ourselves, both past and present.

    From that ‘Old Europe’ book. Sounds like the “one race, the human race” folks were correct after all.

  3. Gabriel Rossman starts talking about warp points in video games right when I am being warped in a video game. Synchronicity?

  4. Been following the Alina Chan saga recently, and couldn’t believe what was I reading from her Twitter account:

    Apparently there’s a new wrinkle in the saga, where Richard Ebright (a prof. from Rutgers) is alleging the NIH itself funded the dangerous gain of function research at the WIV, which eventually led in motion to the lab leak of the SARS-COV2. Also interesting in Prof. Ebright implying Alina is intentionally tip toeing around this issue due to job security risks to her postdoc position

  5. One Coronavirus vaccine to rule them all? – (proposed universal coronavirus vaccine, not limited to Covid-19; possibly targets part of viruses which will be highly conserved and so hard to mutate away from… although downsides if can mutate away from might be significant?)

    Another covid related thing, haven’t done this in a while, so took the data from OurWorldInData on Deaths/million, and then did an adjustment for age* to see what they would be like on a typical Western European demography (in this case UK but that isn’t an important bit):

    Some differences but the general pattern is still similar; South and Central America, West Asia and Europe all badly hit, Southeast Asia and Africa still seem pretty protected (apart from South Africa) though some of this may be underreporting (many countries probably underreport Russia has probably undercounted massively according to excess deaths). In age adjusted terms India still about on a par with Denmark, but that might change soon I guess. This could be said to be dubious though, as I’m only adjusting for age, not for capacity of healthcare which might also be expected to boost deaths.

    (*Method: Take Bommer and Vollmer’s predicted age-adjusted IFRs (, then generate a regression (r^2=0.99) predicting them from the median age and >65 share present in OWiD’s data, then use that to estimate expected IFR for all countries and then the ratio of that to expected UK IFR to estimate “deaths if UK demography”).

  6. Does anyone here have any (informed) concerns about possible long-term effects of mRNA vaccines? Not an anti-vaxxer by any means but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be leery about a new tech, especially for younger people.

    For anyone here who’s already gotten a vax, any significant short term side effects worth noting?

  7. @Mick
    Hope this is helpful to you.
    I have taken Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in March 2021 and completed both the shots(South Asian Indian descent). As far side effects are concerned just mild pain on the arm where I got my first shot (depends on the clinician),since my husband didn’t feel anything.
    On my second shot, my husband and I experienced chills and fever for whole day and were normal the next day.
    CDC has listed the side effects:

    Just in case, if you have chills/fever or any other adverse side effects after first shot than you already had Covid-19 before.

  8. @Mick – Wife (Chinese) and myself (mostly random white) both vaxxed with BioNTech (not called Pfizer here because it comes direct from BioNTech in Germany, and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical has bought the distribution rights for Greater China, whereas Pfizer has the rest of the world. We had our first shot on March 12 and our second shot on April 8. Should have been on April 2, but vaccination was stopped (needlessly) over a small % of damaged vials while BioNTech and Fosun investigated the cause of the damage to the vials (no risk of getting vaccine from a damaged vial – all of the community vaccination centres had two experienced pharmacists who inspected all of the vials before they were used, and any that were even just stained on the outside were set aside and not used). The problem turned out to be a faulty crimping tool for the aluminium collar on each vial at one of the plants in Germany. Definitely not a big deal.

    We’re both getting on a bit in years. Side effects: mild soreness in the deltoid muscle at the injection site for a few days. I felt a bit tired for the rest of that day, then nothing. My wife felt tired for a few days, but nothing else. No other symptoms – they were really minimal.

    I have absolutely no concerns about long term effects. The vaccine does not alter your DNA. And if we are to be agile enough to produce new vaccines or boosters to deal with new variants that escape the existing mRNA vaccines, they are the vaccines that can be redesigned and produced quickly enough to respond. It seems possible that a booster for BioNTech might need to be available as early as 6 to 12 months from now, depending on the variants that emerge. Obviously, the more people who get infected, the more variants will emerge – most will be only trivially different, but some might be different enough to evade the existing vaccines.

    And there is no truth in the belief that coronaviruses always mutate to become less virulent or infectious, so I think we need to be prepared to get at least annual vaccination for the foreseeable future.

    My friend and his wife in Seattle (both white) had Moderna and reported zero side effects. They are both getting on in years as well. So now they are happily traveling all over the US, visiting relatives and such.

  9. The author of so-called ‘Anatolian hypothesis’, Colin Renfrew, confessed that Anatolians did not bring agriculture nor so-called Indo-European language to Vinca, what means that this hypothesis can be archived. Respect for this academic integrity and bravery. I stated the same in many occasions based only on common logic. People who lived in very populated urban settlements, in the cities with a large concentration of inhabitants, multi-storey temples, had sacral script, spacious houses with four or five rooms, professional potters, weavers, mints of gold and other metals …could not be just hunter gatherers who didn’t know for agriculture. No archaeology is needed here, just basic logic, what is now confirmed by prof Renfrew himself.

  10. Colin did his bit, this is your turn, David. Just release the language and keep the wheel and horse.

  11. @Mick – I was in the office talking to my boss yesterday, and he mentioned that a lot of younger colleagues had reported “quite strong” reactions to being vaccinated, but he didn’t say what the reactions were, and they were not bad enough to prevent them from returning to work, so maybe headaches and fever for a couple of days – nothing serious or severe. He had only had his first dose but didn’t mention any adverse reaction. Usually the reaction is stronger to the second dose than the first. All of them would be Chinese, I guess – our staff are 95% Chinese.

    But the fact that he brought up the subject, and was surprised that I had a minimal reaction to both doses, suggests that the reactions experienced by younger colleagues were not, like, trivial – they were strong enough for them to report them to him, maybe while asking if they could skip work for a couple of days.

    My brother-in-law got a swollen lymph gland under his arm, which went away after a few days. Apparently that is quite common with BioNTech. I couldn’t find that particular reaction on the list Roma provided, but the HK Centre for Health Protection has mentioned that as a common (and harmless) reaction.

    I think this is not mysterious – it has been reported that older people tend to have less strong reactions to the vaccines because their immune systems are weaker.

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