Open thread, 3/3/2013

By Razib Khan | March 3, 2013 12:43 am


MORE ABOUT: Open Thread
  • Robert Ford

    this site seems to take forever to load now. comments are much improved tho…

    • razibkhan

      the problem has to do with third party content. i’ve talked to the management.

      • Sandgroper

        I’m having much less problem with slow loading post-Disqus than I was before.

    • S.J. Esposito

      I don’t have a problem with load time, however the “subscribe bar” at the bottom drives me insane. It’s horribly annoying to have to x that out every time I visit the page.

  • TheBrett

    On the site, things are looking good. I vastly prefer DISQUS to the old commenting system.

    On everything else, let’s see-

    1. I’ve been arguing with someone about space colonies. I told him that I think the idea is mostly a relic of space opera and bad comparisons to the frontier period in American history. I said that space is like Antarctica – you go there for the science, and maybe to do oil/mineral extraction if the treaty wasn’t there, but you don’t permanently live there. Maybe some people with enough money and desire to live in a space colony will found one, but it could be a while.

    2. Elephants are getting poached like crazy in Africa. We have precedent for elephant sanctuaries that hold older elephants, like one in Tennessee. If the elephant situation continues to get worse, should we build some bigger sanctuaries in the US to keep breeding populations of them here? We could get them from zoos and let them live in open land in peace. I’m not suggesting something like proposed “Pleistocene Re-wilding”, but preserving a breeding population (and possibly making storage space for retrieved elephant sperm and eggs for insemination later on).

    3. Parts of the American southwest had woodland environments, before some climate change and the indigenous population cut down too many trees and changed it to a more desert-like environment. Would it be possible to re-trigger the growth of woodlands there, possibly with some assistance?

    • razibkhan

      robots will colonize space IMO.

      • TheBrett

        That’s what I tend to think, too. There are some issues with putting really good, state-of-the-art computers in space right now, such as the need to make them durable and resistant to stuff like “bit flip”. But if we can find some decent workarounds and/or ways to harden them against that, then Space will be Robotic.

        It could actually be pretty cool. Imagine a pretty good AI sitting in a spacecraft in orbit around Mars, simultaneously operating dozens of dexterous robotic rovers on the surface in real-time.

        That said, they could also make those space colonies possible. Have the robots build them for you!

    • Zenn Diagram

      Elephants in East Africa aren’t doing well because they are limited to the conservation model, a model that really isn’t going to work when everyone has an incentive to poach or take bribes from poachers. Elephants in Southern Africa are doing great and their population keeps growing. This is because Elephants are treated like property and thus the owners (villages) have an incentive to protect the elephants in their area. No one worries about chickens going extinct.

      • TheBrett

        The paper dates from 1998, but more recent articles seem to indicate that you’re right. The population of elephants doesn’t appear to be getting hit as hard in southern Africa as they are in eastern Africa.

  • Eric Gee

    Sorry, I know this is late, but did anyone else see this globe13 analysis of the Tianyuan genome by genetiker? It appears to be ~50% South Asian component, followed by ~27% Australasian, ~17% East Asian and ~6% Paleo African..

    He goes on to say: “It occurs to me now that Tianyuan being ~50% South_Asian only makes perfect sense: Tianyuan lived at the halfway point between the completion of Veddoid evolution and the completion of Mongoloid evolution.”

    Is it possible that Tianyuan also branched off into some of the Oceanic populations in SEA, Oceania and Australia? What’s everyone’s take on this?

  • Charles

    Is any one aware of large open data sets of responses to the “big 5” personality test?

    (Especially one where the participants self-asserted their gender.)

  • Sandgroper


    Black Caviar 23/23 after her first race of the current season. She’s 6 years old now, so this might be her last year of racing.


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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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