Open thread, 9-19-2012

By Razib Khan | September 19, 2012 10:59 pm

Say as you will.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized
  • Grey

    Something i wonder but not sure how to prove (or disprove) and maybe somehow who knows about perspective could say – is the effect of a taller person looking down on a shorter person a variation on foreshortening

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perspective_(graphical)

    and vice versa i.e. does a shorter person look shorter than they actually are to a taller person and does a taller person look taller than they actually are to a shorter person?

    The significance would be if both the tall and short person had the same value for some height-width ratio e.g. 0.8, that ratio might *appear* to be closer to 0.7 or 0.9 depending on height difference and who is viewing who.

  • Eurologist

    This is an area I know very little about – so forgive my uneducated question:

    Given the apparent high levels of (non-rational) taboos and superstition in practitioners, are many modern mainstream religions in reality not as far removed from shamanism as their believers or even outsiders think?

    Related to this, how much of the huge amount of religious scholarship is smoke and mirrors, justification after the fact, devising a language that frames social interaction into preconceived notions?

  • http://delicious.com/robertford Darkseid

    Who is America’s “greatest generation”? I’ d have to agree with Tom Brokaw. What does everyone think?

  • Sandgroper

    @3 – I’m sorry, I don’t know what Brokaw said.

    Before I was born, but I think Australians owe a big debt of gratitude to the guys who fought in the Pacific Theatre 1942 onwards. I find it hard to go beyond those people. Didn’t like the sound of MacArthur much, but I thought the rest were a pretty admirable bunch from everything I have seen.

    OT, but a humorous aside – I once visited the American war cemetery in Manila. A Filipino taxi driver suggested to me and my wife that we pay him to take us there, so we said yeah, fine. Endless rows of white crosses, with here and there a Star of David. I pointed out the stars to my wife, and the taxi driver said “Yeah, they were the officers.”

  • Darkseid

    ah, he wrote a book called “The Greatest Generation” about those that fought in WWII. but after i wrote that i thought maybe the greatest might be the first generation who fought the English. hard to say which was better. or maybe it’s the Boomers cuz they did the whole env/civil rights/anti-war/feminist thing.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    are many modern mainstream religions in reality not as far removed from shamanism as their believers or even outsiders think?

    there is a fair amount of anthropological evidence to support this position:

    Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t.

  • Sandgroper

    @5 – Then I agree with Brokaw. Second I think I would have put the early space exploration, but I was particularly influenced by that at the time. I wouldn’t disagree with your second thought – that must have taken some collective guts. Yeah, from my perspective, the late 60s/early 70s did seem like a period of enlightenment of sorts, but it wasn’t just confined to America – I read Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” pretty much as soon as it came out, which was pretty far-out stuff at the time and permanently changed the way I saw things, and I think it did that to a lot of people. I did my first year undergraduate thesis on clean renewable energy in 1967, the year before Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” came out. He was wrong, I was right – didn’t do me much good, apart from helping me to get into second year.

  • Simone Simonini

    Have you considered using pre-implantation genetic diagnose to conceive future children?

    I have been thinking about it for when I have kids (which should be within the next 5-10 years) but it’s hard to find a clear cost-benefit analysis. When I google it I mostly come across ads or boring ethics rants.

    – Will the price come down dramatically in the future (similar to gene sequencing/testing)?
    – When will it be feasible to select based on traits other than gender/pigmentation?
    – Does using PIGD come with any health risks?
    – For having children in one’s 30s, is it better to freeze sperm/eggs in the 20s or do the risks from using preserved gametes outway the risks of being past your prime?

  • jose

    How much of Environmentalism, and the Green movement more generally, is best understood as a New Religious Movement? Whenever I am forced to recycle (mandatory consumer-level recycling is a net waste of resources) I tend to think of it in terms of being forced to observe the purity rituals of the state religion.

  • http://delicious.com/robertford Darkseid

    00 I forgot about space exploration. That’s a good point!

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    Have you considered using pre-implantation genetic diagnose to conceive future children?

    yes. but we have a narrow time horizon, so probably not feasible. the bang-for-the-buck isn’t there yet.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    How much of Environmentalism, and the Green movement more generally, is best understood as a New Religious Movement? Whenever I am forced to recycle (mandatory consumer-level recycling is a net waste of resources) I tend to think of it in terms of being forced to observe the purity rituals of the state religion.

    most things can be analogized to religion. going to college? going to a sporting event? rock concert?

  • pconroy

    @Darkseid, Sandgroper,

    I hate Tom Brokaw – as I see him as a pompous fool, and also saw his private indiscretions years ago, when I worked in a luxury hotel for a spell.

    Having said that, and as a Naturalized American, I think the Greatest Generation can ONLY be Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton and the crew who gave us the US Constitution and the Republic – Sine Qua Non!!!

  • http://delicious.com/robertford Darkseid

    fair enough! I’m still up in the air, i guess. it’s hard for me to tell how much of what each accomplished was a result of their place and time and how much was them pushing past their perceived limits. adding space exploration to the Baby Boomers’ resume make it a pretty solid one, fwiw.

  • Insightful

    Razib, under the topic, Mutation: how about dividing by two? on Sept 12, you cited a study from Nature Reviews Genetics that indicated the split between the Khoe–San and other modern humans to have been on the order of 250,000–300,000 years ago.

    But a new study in Science Daily puts it at around 100,000 years ago (it’s over in your Pinboard Feed). The largest genomic study ever conducted among Khoe and San groups reveals that these groups from southern Africa are descendants of the earliest diversification event in the history of all humans — some 100,000 years ago, well before the ‘out-of-Africa’ migration of modern humans.

    So who is right?

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #15, no one knows yet. i probably lean toward the older date though.

  • Grey

    @1
    Replying to myself i remember where i got the idea from now. The “making of” dvd for Lord of the Rings where they talk about creating illusions of tallness and shortness by lowering and raising the camera angle.

  • Grey

    @15
    Something i’m not quite sure of but does the mutation rate depend on assumptions of average paternal age?

  • Sandgroper

    @1 & 17 – do you ever take photographs of people? If yes, and like me most of the people you take photos of are shorter than you are, then you know that you need to either use a tripod or lower yourself by bending your legs so that you are the same height they are when you take the photo – otherwise they come out looking distorted in terms of body proportions. You might not particularly notice this normally because you are used to seeing people that way, but it becomes noticeable in photos.

  • Grey

    @19
    “or lower yourself by bending your legs so that you are the same height they are when you take the photo”

    good point, yes but i hadn’t noticed myself doing it.

    (i should mention the relevance, if there is any, is the potential influence of this optical effect on opposite male-female sexual selection on height.)

  • T

    I saw this link on your sidebar: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120920141139.htm

    It supports my hypothesis that “Out of Africa” was also into Africa. Africa is a big place, and with a north-south orientation it has a wide range of climates and thus biomes. Its relatively smooth coast means that littoral cultures wouldn’t exist, thus early seafaring was likely very limited (that is if it existed at all). All this means reduced gene flow between the various regions of Africa. Rather than one species of human in Africa, I believe that there were many.

    One of those species changed, suddenly becoming very good at expanding. We know that it expanded into the rest of the world, all but replacing the natives (with some hybridization). I believe that it also did the same to other human species in Africa. Perhaps some day a skeleton of a new human species will be found and it will be determined that Khoisans have 5% ancestry from this newly discovered species. All this seems very non-controversial and non-original to me, but I don’t think that I’ve seen it fully expressed.

    I also believe (this is just a hunch) that the advantage that modern man had was totalitarianism. Some people yearn to lose their money to ponzi schemes, others have Stockholm syndrome. Maybe modern humans were great followers and the other human species weren’t. True the spread of modern humans is often linked to some sort of “increased sociality” concept, but what does that really mean? I’m thinking that it means that they were suckers in such a way that they could be mobilized in order to conquer the world. The amount of neanderthal DNA in Otzi was double what is found in modern Europeans. Perhaps we’ll find evidence of a falling level of Denisovan DNA over time, as modern humans continue to modernize (select against the substrate).

  • Sandgroper

    @20 I’m not sure, because we don’t always see people from the same perspective obviously (e.g. close vs further away) and it seems to me our brains kind of factor it out somehow, whereas the distorting effect seems much more noticeable in photographs and film.

  • http://bluetenlese.wordpress.com M. Möhling

    technical issue: since some weeks http://feeds.feedburner.com/GeneExpressionBlog gets cut off in the middle when viewed with Firefox (15.0.1) and won’t be displayed at all with Sage (popular Firefox feedreader add-on) because of XML parse errors. Checking the feed I see three unprintable chars that somehow sneaked inside regular text blocks that should cause the errors. I guess it’s a feedburner thing.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    thanks. i need to be careful about cutting & pasting from elsewhere then.

  • Grey

    @22
    I’m not sure either. I’d like it to be true for one of my pet theories but currently it’s just a thought.

  • Sandgroper

    @25 – Well, if it’s that much of a pet theory, we could make it true :)

    Sorry, little researcher’s joke there.

  • http://bluetenlese.wordpress.com M. Möhling

    @24
    I’m not sure if it’s the cutting & pasting, seems like a bug with feedburner when it slices texts to show excerpts, possibly some multibyte characters get sliced though they shouldn’t, as happens with UTF-8. Yet other feedburner feeds I read work well, so it’s some weird interaction of your texts, feedburner, and/or WordPress. Once the feed is populated up to the max (15?) with posts that don’t cause trouble it should pass.

  • Eurologist

    @6 Thanks, Razib. Sometimes I get kind of nervous when I find that some (to me) pretty straightforward thoughts or ideas I have, throughout the years are rarely discussed/ found in the media. Doubly difficult if there are taboos on reporting on taboos! ;)

    (no evoking of conspiracy theories intended – just human nature)

  • ackbark

    Still not getting the rss feed.

    It says ‘Live blog feed failed to load’. Using Firefox.

    Trying to subscribe to it with Chrome it says,

    ‘error on line 201 at column 25: Input is not proper UTF-8, indicate encoding !
    Bytes: 0x0C 0x65 0x64 0x20′

  • ackbark

    So I tried adding it in Chrome with an extension called RSS Live Links and that worked.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    i think i fixed that post.

  • Asheim

    @9

    How much of Environmentalism, and the Green movement more generally, is best understood as a New Religious Movement? Whenever I am forced to recycle (mandatory consumer-level recycling is a net waste of resources) I tend to think of it in terms of being forced to observe the purity rituals of the state religion.

    I don’t see what you’re getting at? Environmentalism is based on reason, not faith. You can always see recycling as a ritual, as you can with anything, but that does not make Environmentalism a religon.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    I think this survey of American working-class white voters would be of interest to posters, in part because it cuts through a lot of myths that both the left and the right have about the white working class. I’d suggest looking at the PDF and not just the summary.

  • pconroy

    @32, Asheim, said:

    Environmentalism is based on reason, not faith

    I do not see how this is true. Almost all the most ardent environmentalists seem to have no grasp of history or basics of physics, and most seem anti-scientific or even ascientific…

    Most haven’t heard of the major warming and cooling cycles of the earth, and especially have not heard about the minor ones, like the Medieval “Little Ice Ages”. Nor have they heard about sun-spot activity and it’s influence on climate, or cycles of such activity.

    Note: I say “heard”, both as a play on “herd” and the fact that most environmentalists I’ve encountered do not read date, rather they accept word of mouth slogans from others who have heard them elsewhere.

  • Random Rambler

    n00b question: How does the early Khoisan divergence affect the interpretation of so-called Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve? Is this irrelevant because of pedigree collapse, or something? Thanks.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #35, aligns with them actually. especially mtDNA, where the dating is firmer.

  • Asheim

    @34

    . Almost all the most ardent environmentalists seem to have no grasp of history or basics of physics, and most seem anti-scientific or even ascientific…

    I don’t see where those claims come from. You have environmentalists, as well as all other -ists, that are more and less informed, and you seem to assume that all are less informed.

    However, that is all beside the point. Environmentalism (I’m not tolking about environmentalists) is based on reason. It’s based on science. We don’t recycle because God said so, we do it because we have reason to believe it’s a better solution.

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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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