Data Dump – November 1st, 2010

By Razib Khan | November 1, 2010 1:01 am

Might not post these every day for a few weeks as I’ll be busy, and not on the net as much. So no more “Daily” Data Dump until I’m more assured of my schedule.

In Icy Tip of Afghanistan, War Seems Remote. Profiles the people of the Wakhan Corridor, which is part of Afghanistan mostly because of the 19th century “Great Game” between Russia and the United Kingdom. The most striking aspect for the journalist seems to have been that the local Nizari Ismaili population of ethnic Kirghiz do not have their women don the burqa, except in the major town where ~50% of the population are Sunni Muslims. The Nizari Muslims are led by the Aga Khan, who holds the position of imam for this sect. Interestingly the current holder of the title is half-English, one-fourth Italian, and one-fourth Persian. He is married to an Englishwoman. Even the Sunni Kirghiz are generally not as punctilious about adhering to the normative Islam of Central Asia, so I don’t think we should chalk up all the differences to religion.

Debt Collectors Face a Hazard: Writer’s Cramp. I suspect many readers have had to deal with debt-collectors who keep calling for other people at their phone number, and won’t stop calling. Just the tip of the iceberg.


Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens. Basically extinction by consumerist nihilism. I’ve offered a less gloomy assessment in a similar vein. But this may all be wrong. The choke point to intelligent life may be the switch from prokaryotes to eukaryotes. If that’s the case the ascent toward sentience might stall out a real low level of complexity.

PacBio IPO, Not Exactly the Netscape Moment of 2010, But a Win for Genomics. Competition pushes down prices. Basic economics driving innovation.

Evolution of Fairness Driven by Culture, Not Genes. “Biologically speaking, people in the study weren’t fundamentally different from their circa-200,000 B.C. ancestors, or from each other.” A 200,000 year span would probably make the assertion trivially false, but a 10,000 year span may also be false. Culture can drive changes in biology, and biology can set the preconditions for culture. Dichotomies and contrasts make neat titles, even bloggers know that, but they probably aren’t going to get us too far when it comes to properly characterizing the shape of human behavior.

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  • Antonio

    “A 200,000 year span would probably make the assertion trivially false, but a 10,000 year span may also be false.” what about 500 years? do you think the emergency of modern state, with its monopoly of the violence, changed our genes?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    that’s only 20 generations. if selection and heritability are strong enough, sure. i recall hearing that the % of malaria defenses among african americans is lower than you’d expect. probably selection against them once they were no longer useful.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Data Dump – November 1st, 2010 | Gene Expression | Discover Magazine -- Topsy.com()

  • Rimon

    nitpicking and not that it matters, but the Aga Khan’s first wife and the mother of his adult children was an Englishwoman. His current wife, from whom he has been separated for some years and has a young son, is German. One of the Aga Khan’s sons is married to an American of European descent who converted to Islam and his daughter is married to an Englishman. The Aga Khan’s other son and heir presumptive is still single, but it certainly looks like the next generation of this family will be very white indeed.

  • http://www.latif.blogspot.com Zachary Latif

    When I was in Karachi a couple of years ago I used to be really surprised to see shopkeepers having a picture of a European man in their shops. It was only after a couple of days I realized it was the Aga Khan.

    Its one reason why the British forbid the Princely States of India from marrying Europeans; they had concluded that within a couple of generations all the Royal lines of India would have been European.

  • isamu

    The reason we have not met any aliens is because to support the kind of technological civilization capable of sending radio signals to other stars requires finite fossil fuels which will be quickly exausted by exponential growth. Therefore the window of opportunity to send or detect signals is tiny (~200 years for Earth). Its not only a matter of distance but also time.

  • Chris T

    It was probably a whole series of choke points from eukaryotes on. I find it telling, that out of all species that have existed, only one has accomplished sending radio transmissions. This does not speak of high probabilities.

  • http://occludedsun.wordpress.com Caledonian

    “I find it telling, that out of all species that have existed, only one has accomplished sending radio transmissions.”

    No, it’s out of all known species. If you’re going to hold up what we’re familiar with as representative, then we’d be forced to accept absurd claims – like ‘life exists in only one place in the universe’.

    Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, and so forth. Admittedly, the lack of intelligent life anywhere in the known universe is a bit depressing…

  • Chris T

    No, it’s out of all known species. If you’re going to hold up what we’re familiar with as representative, then we’d be forced to accept absurd claims – like ‘life exists in only one place in the universe’.

    Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, and so forth. Admittedly, the lack of intelligent life anywhere in the known universe is a bit depressing.

    Granted, but we can only use the evidence we have… or do not have. We do not have any evidence of another species that has achieved radio communications. While we may one day find evidence of it, currently our best operating hypothesis is that there wasn’t one.

    Based on chemical precursors and life showing up relatively early in Earth’s history, there is is a high probability that life has arisen elsewhere in the universe. However, until we actually find evidence of non-terrestrial life, the hypothesis that life has only arisen once is still valid and not absurd as you say. It may be unlikely, but it is still valid.

    Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, and so forth.

    This is probably one of the most abused statements in science. A lack of evidence does not prove the absence of, but until you have such evidence or good reason to believe otherwise, absence is still your best hypothesis to explain the data.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Off-topic, but you’ve previously said the dumb are more bored. But you only looked at the GSS variable BORED, not BOREDOM. I give results for both, and it turns out the smart report being bored more often at work:
    http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/intelligent-people-are-bored-at-work-and-dont-have-much-free-time/

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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