Around the Web – January 3rd, 2010

By Razib Khan | January 3, 2011 9:46 am

I don’t do too many New Year’s Resolutions. My main goal this year which is of interest readers is increase total quantity of quality in terms of content. In other words, I want to keep volume up, but increase the quality of posting.

If you haven’t contributed to the Open Thread this week, it’s about post requests.

Since “Scissors” Michelle already nudged the “soft launch” a bit harder, I thought it might be time to introduce Brown Pundits. Zach Latif & were spending too much time talking to each other on the comment boards of Sepia Mutiny. I thought Zach’s comments would probably benefit from a wider venue, and I am (along with others) coming on board. The topicality is brown, but that’s about it. Now, I’m about as brown as a Jewish guy raised in north Alabama who loves ham sandwiches & Christmas tree decorations is Jewish (or, the perhaps the biggest Jain patron of Outback Steakhouse is Jain). But like being Jewish being brown is to some extent inalienable, so of course I’ll speak up. Since Zach is a Pakistani Bahai who grew up in Kuwait and Britain whose mother is an ethnic Persian, I think it’s kosher to add him to the “league of odd-brownz.” BP has a twitter account and a Facebook page.

Speaking of Michelle, she’s back to blogging more regularly. Wish her well after her less-than-optimal 2010 part 2.

Amerindian-like sequences in Baltic Finns (aka. phased data and extended haplotypes are the way forward). David seems to be suggesting that there are traces of some commonality between Amerindians and Finns not found in other Europeans. First thought would be that this is a common circumpolar element.

A genetic map of West Eurasians. Oh my! Read the whole thing. Note the large gap between Pakistani Iranian speakers, and Farsi speakers. Is this simply a function of geography? Do Tajiks, or Farsi speakers from Khorasan, resemble Pathans more? Or perhaps the Indo-Iranian languages are overlain on preexistent genetic variation?

What the Roman Empire’s demographics were like and what they mean. ” the only countries that comes close to the likely life expectancy of the average Roman are a long list of terribly poor countries, all but Afghanistan located in sub-Saharan Africa, most with very high levels of HIV infection in addition to any number of other illnesses. But even the worst-off country, Swaziland, comes at 39.6 years at least a decade ahead of the Roman average and on par with the luckiest Roman districts.” And many people in very poor countries today have cell phones!

World population 500BC. Also see John Hawks’ comment.

American English Dialect Map. A definite time killer!

Our Brains Are Shrinking. Are We Getting Dumber? This one is not behind a paywall.

A kiss still outperforms a dating website. “When choosing a mate, you can’t beat up-close chemistry.”

Israel’s Fundamentalist Future. You’ve already encountered this argument here.

Twins’ Facebook Fight Rages On. Can’t decide whether it’s irrational greed or irrational pride.

100 Trillion Connections: New Efforts Probe and Map the Brain’s Detailed. That’s an incomprehensible number. Ironic if that’s the root of comprehension.

How old is Y-chromosome Adam? Many people, including myself, have been known to treat Y and mtDNA methods of inference as “black boxes.” But now is the time to go back and check our premises.

Economic Optimism? Yes, I’ll Take That Bet. John Tierney won his bet on oil prices by 2010, recapitulating the famous Simon-Ehrlich bet. Can’t believe that Ehrlich won a MacArthur award in the year in he lost the bet!

Brooklyn Immigrant Congregations Clash. Religion is not always the solution to inter-ethnic clashes.

Doctors on Facebook Risk Compromising Doctor-Patient Relationship, Study Suggests. A lawyer friend commented that if people had to pay medical expenses out of pocket like they often have to do with legal bills, doctors wouldn’t be nearly as a popular. The operation of the AMA as a licensing cartel is hurting the median well being of the average American. Pushing M.D.’s off their pedestal by showing them to be toolish humans on Facebook might be a good thing!

Rodents Were Diverse and Abundant in Prehistoric Africa When Our Human Ancestors Evolved. Africa, the mother of the rat?

From Simple To Complex. Repeated emergence of multicellularity?

Artificial intelligence makes some progress, but robots still can’t match humans. Check out some books about the future of robotics from th early 1980s. Revealing.

Was There Any Cannibalism during the “Great Drought”? A few years ago Martin Gardiner was promoting the idea of some cultural anthropologist that cannibalism was a universal myth.

Behavioral consequences of dopamine deficiency in the Drosophila central nervous system.

Muslim ham complaint thrown out. “A prosecutor has thrown out a complaint made by a Muslim family against a geography teacher who mentioned pork in their son’s class.” Barbarians strike again!

19 of the Best Infographics From 2010. A list I want to make in 2011!

On Genetic Denialism.

Europe’s Economic Pain Awakens Old Arguments.

Default Position. “Why we needn’t worry too much about municipal bankruptcy.” Hope it’s so!

The Year of the Exome. Yes!

MORE ABOUT: Daily Data Dump
  • EcoPhysioMichelle

    You’re just not going to let the scissors thing go, are you? 😉

  • Tom Bri

    Re the rise in population. I am more interested in the gentle rise in population between 30,000 BC and about 5000 BC. Interesting. All the major continents were occupied by at least 12,000 years ago. (There should be a blip showing the New World occupation, but maybe the data isn’t fine grained enough for this.) But even under hunter-gatherer conditions and the ice age, a rise in population is clear.

    6000 years or so ago in both the new and old worlds agriculture was raising populations. No mystery there. But what was going on during the 20,000 years before that? Gradual, worldwide technological improvements? Expansion of humans into more marginal habitats as they develop technologies that allow them to thrive? This is a Cornucopian chart, not a Malthusian.

  • Ray

    “6000 years or so ago in both the new and old worlds agriculture was raising populations. No mystery there. But what was going on during the 20,000 years before that?”

    End of the ice-age?

  • Tom Bri

    Ray, the ice age was intensifying, not weakening during 10,000 years of that period. When it melted, it melted quite suddenly. It wasn’t as much of a gradual lessening of the ice age as a sudden shift of climate. The chart slopes more sharply upward at about the 5000 BC mark, several thousand years after the end of the ice age, not right at the end. The gradual slope holds steadily upward, ignoring the climate for several thousand years.

    I am wondering about the productivity of the areas just south of the ice. Pretty high I’d guess. It was cold, but the actual level of solar energy was just as high as it is today at the same latitude. Summers might have been pretty nice, if the wind wasn’t from the north.

    A steadily rising population does not suggest a simple Malthusian model.

  • Razib Khan

    . But what was going on during the 20,000 years before that? Gradual, worldwide technological improvements?

    yes. that’s what the archaeology seems to suggest.

    You’re just not going to let the scissors thing go, are you?

    prolly not.

  • Tom Bri

    Okay, I just read the brain size article too. Hmm. Sounds dumb. They pick the largest ever modern humans, and then say that since the modern average human is smaller, that brain size has decreased. I’d guess if you went to Norway or Sweden today, picked out a few dozen 6’5″ giants and measured their brains you’d find them just as large as Cro-Magnon’s.

  • Ray

    On the ice age, from , the warming looks like it started around 25kyA, and temperatures were pretty flat before that anyway. Also, I kind of wonder how many data points the population increase for the relevant 20,000 years is based on in the first place and whether they’re counting neanderthals as part of the human population.

    That said, plenty of technological improvements do seem to date from about that time, but one wonders why they happened then and not earlier.

  • Zachary Latif

    Thanks for the kind comments. I like the League of odd-brownz, with you as its Rabbi-Pope. You’ve even taken to deciding who is kosher or not. I look forward to Brown Pundits and envision it as congregation of the league.

    I was reflecting on the word Brown though; it doesn’t only mean Desi brown but Latin Brown too.

    That might actually be more relevant to an American audience because both the US and UK are browning albeit differently.

  • trajan23

    Zachary Latif: “I was reflecting on the word Brown though; it doesn’t only mean Desi brown but Latin Brown too.”

    I’ve pointed out that problem out on this blog a time or two before. Lamentably, Hispanics, in defiance of typological realities (Indians being, on a per capita basis, darker complected than Hispanics) seem to have seized the onomastic high ground on this one.

  • Razib Khan

    hispanics have latino too. but no, they want brown as well. and la raza.

  • anondoc

    Perhaps I misunderstood what you wrote, but the AMA does not have control over individual physician licensing at all. That is handled by the states, who also license osteopaths, NP’s, CRNA’s, etc. One can become a licensed, practicing allopathic physician without ever joining or supporting the AMA. The AMA is one of the sponsoring organizations for the Liaision Committee on Medical Education, the organization that accredits medical schools, so in that capacity it does possesss non-exclusive input into issues of overall physician supply (although much less at the level of distribution of trainees into individual specialties).

    Insurance does not just give docs everything that we want. In my limited experience, the negotiations over rates are heavily tilted in the insurers’ favor whether they be public or private, and in the last few years the main issues up for discussion have been how much we will be cut and from where and what new hoops we and the patients will have to jump through to secure reimbursement. I should add that reimbursement from some public payors (especially variants of Medicaid) doesn’t even always cover office costs, particularly for evaluation and management specialties. Private insurance reimbursement rates are often pegged to Medicare rates, and so we essentially never set our own fees. Nearly the only people ever faced with paying the full hospital and physician charges are the uninsured, and even many of them can bargain if they are savvy since most providers recognize the risk that that “self-pay” will turn into “no pay” which frankly happens a lot.


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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


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