How much of the genome is transcribed? Or, the utility of a good genome browser. One of the issues with science today are the necessary capital inputs which make it such a narrow and focused vocation. But there are lots of things you as an individual can discern by poking around the public tools.
‘Mitochondrial Eve’: Mother of All Humans Lived 200,000 Years Ago. That should be a mother of all humans. Ever since the term ‘mitochondrial Eve’ was coined in the mid-80s it’s been nearly impossible to fight against the idea that ‘Eve’ was the only mother because of the mythological baggage. Quite often in science you need a good ‘hook’ if you want to get your idea ‘out there,’ but this is a case where the hook is now in the driver’s seat. I mean, the result reported here is probably worthwhile, there have long been problems with dating the timing of the last common ancestor of all human mitochondrial DNA, but it wouldn’t get press were it not for the vehicle of that mtDNA, the woman labelled ‘Eve’ (and apparently now referenced in science fiction shows).
Libertopia, with asterisks. John Quiggin suggests that the land-surplus in the early American republic made libertarianism feasible. This may be correct, but, I think it is interesting that conservatives make similar critiques of liberalism more generally. By liberalism I include Left-liberalism, libertarianism, and liberal conservatism (the American Republican party has been liberal conservative for the past generation). Of course in this case it’s not just land-surplus, but economic productivity growth and the consumer society above the Malthusian trap in general which fosters the liberal order. The argument is laid out in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. (link via Randy McDonald)
mtDNA relics in south China. With an N ~ 6,000 you can find really low frequency variants. This is important, and something that has been neglected due to constraints of the technology. But is 6,000 so many? 23andMe has more than 50,000 customers, over half of whom have the ability to download 550,000 SNPs as a text file.
I’m one of the nerds out there who doesn’t play any electronic games of any sort. I gave up at the age of 16 when I realized how much time I was sinking into John Madden Football. But I still find this song catchy (I assume my numerous virgin readers are already aware, but so be it):