Open Thread, 2/18/2019

Peter Turchin’s Ages of Discord is now a free rental if you have Amazon Prime (otherwise you will be prompted for a Kindle Unlimited subscription). If you are interested in the kind of stuff I talk about, I highly recommend all of Peter Turchin’s work. For readers of this weblog Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall and War and Peace and War: The Life Cycles of Imperial Nations would be of most interest.

Speaking of Peter, check out his recent blog post, An Anarchist View of Human Social Evolution, which is basically a critique of the two of scholars and an essay, Are we city dwellers or hunter-gatherers? The interesting sociological aspect is that one of the scholars is a pretty unpleasant disputant with critics on social media…and that seems to redound to his fame and influence. Unfortunate incentives.

An Honest Living: What is it like to go from a tenured professorship to an hourly wage driving buses? This piece tries to make sense of an unusual transition. The author is, to be frank, kind of a dick. But there are lots of people with unpleasant and intolerable personalities in academia.

President’s Day sale and DNAGEEKS. Put in the code “PREZ” and you are good to go.

Speaking of presidents, you probably know about The Age of Jackson. A more recent book, The Age of Lincoln is worth reading. And, if you want to get more contemporary views for and against Jacksonianism, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln and What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.

The post below, The End Of America As The World As We Know It, is gated. But the first two posts should be free. And since the gating is leaky if you want to deal with the hassle you should be able to figure out how to get access (I’m going to make them free after 30 days as well).

The biography of Maximinus Thrax is on sale as Kindle. A lot of the Roman history stuff that is discounted is kind of like a Wikipedia entry, but this biography comes from a serious scholar and has some reviews that are positive from legitimate people. Thrax is a bit of a turning point character, ushering in the period when the Roman Empire was under serious threat from without and within.

Jussie Smollett. I wish there were betting markets for this sort of stuff. Also, those guys were shredded.

More than 26 million people have taken an at-home ancestry test. A bit of an update on the piece David Mittelman and I worked on last year, Consumer genomics will change your life, whether you get tested or not.

What ancient DNA tells us about caste. David Reich was in India for a bit talking about his work. It seems that they’re ready to uncoil their work soon enough. I’ve been told that he said a draft of the paper was written, so it’s probably going through internal revisions with collaborators.

This Mediterranean diet study was hugely impactful. The science has fallen apart.

The Making of a DNA Detective CeCe Moore, an amateur genealogist turned professional, helps police crack decades-old cases.

If you are on Twitter, Thomas Chatterton Williams is worth following.

For those of you who have read this blog since the beginning, you know that Ramez Naam is a friend. How to decarbonize America — and the world.

Mitogenomic evidence of close relationships between New Zealand’s extinct giant raptors and small-sized Australian sister-taxa.

Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe.

A ‘Denisovan’ genetic history of recent human evolution.

A journalist is tweeting out old, and likely false, information, and another journalist is pointing out how you shouldn’t trust this result. Unfortunately, the original tweet-out is getting more RTs and likes than the refutation of the source and the credibility of the result.

I don’t normally read a book such as The Souls of Yellow Folk. First, it’s too much like a memoir, and I don’t care about other peoples’ memories. Second, I am on the same wavelength about most of these sorts of issues as Wes Yang, and I didn’t think I’d encounter anything novel or that pushed me to new views. But Yang is a good writer. Reading on the strong recommendation of a friend.

This week on the BrownCast I’ll be posting a conversation about Native Americans and nationalism with a lawyer.

Noah Smith says replace listening to podcasts with audiobooks. The problem I see with this is when it comes to books I have to give singular attention…so if I wanted to pay attention I’d just read the book. Podcasts are things that are less dense and contingent and I can sample in and out.

New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon: Yes, Amazon’s departure will modestly hurt the city’s economy. But it’s also a victory against bad economic policy.

The Valentine’s Day episode of The Insight was fun. This was a conversation we could have had for three hours.

Speaking of academics who are irascible, Bob Trivers is burning up Twitter. Worth a follow.

Open Thread, 02/11/2019

Rereading Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, and it’s striking how different Americans today are in relation to development and economic growth. Yes, we want to be richer, but in large parts of the country, there is a strong tendency to want to bake incumbency advantages into the cake. Texas and Florida still retain relatively open development cultures, which explains much of their growth. Meanwhile, of course people are fleeing California due to the expensive (at least if you want to have children).

The Brown Pundits BrownCast is pushing along fast. We’ll probably stabilize to somewhere between 4 and 8 episodes a month. The last two have been very popular (they touch on Hindu nationalism).

Having done these podcasts now for a few months…the BrownCast is quite different than The Insight. On The Insight we’re tackling technical and scholarly topics, and the goal is clarity and density of exposition. Not dialogue as such. BrownCast is different.

This causes issues because speaking is far lower data density and less structured than writing. During every podcast, I take notes but rarely get a chance to follow up. Extemporaneous digressions are common. To be frank, it’s probably interesting, but the quality of insight is just lower on a substantive scale.

It makes me much more appreciative of the thesis in Warriors of the Cloisters that the Buddhist recursive-argument technique led to the flowering of scholarship and thought that was progressive, contingent, and cumulative. Written dialogue and disagreement is fruitful because of the external structure imposed upon it, removing the ability of individuals to temporize, dodge, and digress. It makes human stupidity just a little less stupid.

Speaking of stupid. Last week I was having beers with a member of the “mainstream media” who was coming through Austin. We were talking all things D.C., and I mentioned offhand that a key aspect of Ilhan Omar that is not spoken of enough is that she’s likely not very smart in comparison to the average member of Congress. She graduated from North Dakota State University with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies in 2011. Her B.A. likely indicates an ability to parrot platitudes. Not the ability to think analytically, or, to engage in verbal parsing so as to be subtle enough to maintain deniability. Her attempt to lift the ban on trans powerlifters is probably sincere.

Relative stupidity is I think an explanation for these sorts of cringe-inducing tweets:

An Anarchist View of Human Social Evolution. Peter Turchin reviews a tendentious essay. Of course he’s correct. Of course it won’t matter.

I contributed a chapter to the book, Which of us are Aryans? I didn’t think it would be available in the United States, but according to Amazon some independent booksellers are distributing it! Obviously I talk about genetics. At least what we knew in the summer of 2018. I would like to thank Priya Moorjani in particular for detailed feedback on my initial draft.

Walter Jones, congressman who worked to atone for his Iraq war vote, is dead at 76. Jones was an honest and sincere man. That’s why he never became nationally successful as a politician.

There are so few science blogs in the world now that are active. But here is a new one on quantitative evolutionary biology, After Sol.

The Dune Reboot Could Be the Next Lord of the Rings. Unlikely, but one can hope.

Cupertino Mayor: “Build the Wall”.

A Bell Beaker superhighway.

Patterns of African and Asian admixture in the Afrikaner population of South Africa. No big surprise when it comes to the issue of admixture (confirms what I found). But there are some interesting suggestions of really strong selection. I would bet not a true positive, but if I’m wrong, super notable.

If you aren’t subscribed to my total feed, The ghost of empire and the origin of all repression.

Is there adaptation in the human genome for taste perception and phase I biotransformation?

The Bonfire of the Democrats. Related:

You made your bed now lie in it.

Parag Khanna’s new book, The Future is Asian, is out. I also got a copy of Wes Yang’s The Souls of Yellow Folk. In general I seem to agree with Wes, so I didn’t see the point in reading a collection of his essays…but a friend suggested I really should because it’s that good. So there you go.

Tides of History has been on fire recently. Games of Thrones and Late Medieval Politics. Patrick Wyman’s podcast is one where when there’s a new episode I immediately listen and ignore the rest of the queue. It’s that good.

Also, this week’s In Our Time is on Aristotle’s Biology. Highly recommend a listen. Armand Leroi, author of The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science, is one of the guests.

Characterization of prevalence and health consequences of uniparental disomy in four million individuals from the general population.

Several people have asked me about my reduced frequency of posting. A major issue is that I’ve been trying to figure out how to implement the MemberPress plugin to my satisfaction (the Patreon I’ve set up for the BrownCast is easier to manage obviously). I have particular concerns and needs, and it’s not entirely easy to customize in the way I want. But at this point, I think I’ve implemented “leaky gating” for this website in a way I want. I am only gating the long-form essays. They will become free after about a month (and you get a few freebies, so it allows outside sites to link without a major issue). I’m currently set up for one tier, a $2/month membership that renews every month. The registration page is here. You can change your status (pause, cancel), on the account page. These two links are on the top right.

It seems everything works correctly except the password reset email. I’ll try and get it fixed, but if anyone has an issue you can email me until I get that working.

Open Thread, 02/04/2019

Most of you know about The Insight, my podcast with Spencer Wells. Some of you may not know about the BrownCast, associated with the Brown Pundits. I’m on about two out of every three podcasts, but it’s a group effort. We cover a diverse array of topics. The latest episode was a conversation between myself and Carl Zha, and we talked about Chinese colonialism (or lack thereof), casual racism among Asians, religion, and what American publications cover China well.

Rommie

Because editing and hosting the podcasts cost some money, we set up a Patreon page. One podcast that I recorded this weekend has already been posted there for “patrons”, involves discussion with a Hindu nationalist about their viewpoints. We didn’t resolve anything, but it was nice to get to the point of understanding the sort of questions that need to be asked in the first place!

That cast will probably drop by the end of this week.

In the near future, I will be having a chat with Zack Stentz. Though most of you might think “oh, he was involved in the screenplay for X-Men: First Class,” I’m more excited about the fact that he was involved in Andromeda!

The New York Times has an op-ed up, Why You Should Be Careful About 23andMe’s Health Test. It’s not a bad op-ed, though I think it definitely is slanted. But this sentence jumped out at me: “But doctors and geneticists say that the tests are still more parlor trick than medicine.” First, unless the M.D. works in genetics who cares? But the term “parlor trick” has too strong a connotation for me, and I think most geneticists would agree. I think this part of the op-ed is plain misleading to the general reader. Steve Salzberg probably reflects the views of most geneticists, NY Times, Why Are You So Worried About 23andMe’s Genetic Tests? He has the exact same issue that I do: ‘Who are these geneticists who call DNA testing a “parlor trick”?’

Evidence of Austronesian genetic lineages in East Africa and South Arabia: complex dispersal from Madagascar and Southeast Asia.

Ancient human genome-wide data from a 3000-year interval in the Caucasus corresponds with eco-geographic regions.

Ancient human genome-wide data from a 3000-year interval in the Caucasus corresponds with eco-geographic regions.

The influence of gender stereotype threat on mathematics test scores of Dutch high school students: a registered report.

Compound-specific radiocarbon dating and mitochondrial DNA analysis of the Pleistocene hominin from Salkhit Mongolia.

Can War Foster Cooperation?

Mysterious human relatives moved into ‘penthouse’ Siberian cave 100,000 years earlier than thought.

Neanderthal introgression reintroduced functional alleles lost in the human out of Africa bottleneck.

Many years ago I read the book The Cultural Creatives. One aspect of the book was how old people have a lot of information and knowledge that Western cultures ignored. I thought it was funny at the time. But perhaps because I’m getting older…I appreciate it more. I think part of it is the fact that so many older scientists are now dying who are taking with them a lot of knowledge.

Speaking of old scientists, Robert Trivers’ Twitter account is lit.

I predict that by next weekend it will become clear that what we were told happened to Jussie Smollett is not what happened. The press won’t care, and neither will the politicians.

Open Thread, 01/28/2019

If I haven’t made it clear, I highly recommend The First Farmers of Europe: An Evolutionary Perspective. A very readable book. One thing I haven’t emphasized is that the early European farmers seem to have been big consumers of cheese. This is curious as it doesn’t look like they have the modern European lactase persistence allele. Cheese is different from milk because the proportion of sugar is lower, as the fermenting process exhausts some of it. But cheese-base agro-pastoralism seems to have been common in many places before the arrival of Indo-Europeans.

David Reich is on giving talks in India. He has stated that the draft of the Indian ancient DNA paper is complete. This doesn’t speak to when it will be posted on bioRxiv, but we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, I assume the Iberian paper showing mass male-mediated migration ~2000 BC will arrive at some point this year.

A friend pointed me to a new book by Edward Dutton on J. Phillipe Rushton. After watching clips of Dutton speak about the contents of the book, it is not a flattering portrayal. Dutton depicts Rushton as a bit of a general sociopath (though he seems to couch it as part of Rushton’s individual “life history strategy” of being a “user”). More concerning than his personal life is that Rushton was clearly willing to fudge facts in regards to his science, which was of such a controversial nature regarding race and life history that ultimately he should have been much more careful than is the norm. Dutton documents some instances apparently in his book, but I can give another specific example.

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Open Thread, 01/20/2019

Peter Turchin recommended The First Farmers of Europe: An Evolutionary Perspective. It’s dry. But good. It is also one of those academic books where the cost of the Kindle version is $50 less than the hardcover version.

Two for Tea is a good podcast. One the most recent one they interviewed two anthropologists, both known to me. It was a nerdy but informative conversation and convinced me to not take up Sex at Dawn (it’s in my stack).

We’ve got 9 episodes now on the Brown Pundits podcast, the BrownCast. The latest is on Sanskrit. The current plan is to range over a lot of topics. If you have ideas, shoot them my way.

People have been asking about my other podcast, The Insight. It will be back soon!

The transferability of lipid-associated loci across African, Asian and European cohorts.

Genetic Nature or Genetic Nurture? Quantifying Bias in Analyses Using Polygenic Scores.

Nathan Glazer, Urban Sociologist and Outspoken Intellectual, Dies at 95. I read Ethnicity about 20 years ago. Glazer was a giant.

Tiny animal carcasses found in buried Antarctic lake.

The last two episodes of Tides of History on the War of the Roses have been some of the best. I really recommend them.

Justin Murphy is leaving academia. Murphy is way too much of an oddball to ever fit in. Probably for the best.

Genes lost during the transition from land to water in cetaceans highlight genomic changes involved in aquatic adaptations.

Estimating recent migration and population-size surfaces.

Approximate Bayesian computation with deep learning supports a third archaic introgression in Asia and Oceania.

Killer whale genomes reveal a complex history of recurrent admixture and vicariance.

Macroevolution of dimensionless life history metrics in tetrapods.

Sacklers Directed Efforts to Mislead Public About OxyContin, New Documents Indicate.

A Classic Genetic Model of Sexual Selection.

Open Thread, 01/15/2019

Update: Forgot to open comments on this. Fixed.

Robert Alter has a new translation of The Hebrew Bible out. I really like Alter’s work. In particular, Genesis: Translation and Commentary. But read all his stuff!

NPR has an 200 OK

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