Open thread, 5/19/2013

By Razib Khan | May 19, 2013 4:01 pm

A lot’s been happening. The human phylogenetic graph is looking curiouser and curiouser.

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Comments (18)

  1. TheBrett

    It really sucks that the Kepler Space Telescope might be done for. They’ve got tons of stuff, and it did survive past the mission life-expectancy time, but another year or two and they would have been much better suited to identify earth-sized planets in habitable orbits around sun-like stars (the data turned out to be a bit noisier than they expected). They’ll still probably find tons of stuff in the long period of fully examining the existing pool of data, but it would have been nice if Kepler could have had Mars Observer-levels of beyond-mission-life-reliability.

    More generally, I wish we could get another $5 billion a year in unmanned space missions. That would open the doors to a ton of new knowledge about the planets, and elsewhere. I won’t say “Take it out of the manned program,” because I think having the manned program helps to keep political support for the unmanned one.

    I wish that study on stimulating the brain to enhance math skills had a larger sample size. A sample size of merely a dozen or two dozen people isn’t much use except to point you in the direction of where to conduct a larger study that can confirm an effect.

  2. Sandgroper

    I’m entertained someone actually thinks the French are better behaved than Americans. Not that I’d noticed.

    Does anyone happen to know the frequency of *gout* in the American population/sub-populations, or any other national frequencies? Seeing one of my friends hobbling around in agony today reminded me – the number of middle aged or older Cantonese guys I know who suffer from gout, you wouldn’t believe. I know no Shanghainese or North-eastern Chinese who has it. I have only ever known one person of European ancestry who had it – my aunt by marriage, whose parents were Swedish.

    It would be an exaggeration to say it is epidemic proportions among older Cantonese males, but the frequency is really high. Just from the group I know, I’d rate it at 5% or higher.

    Population sub-structure matters.

  3. So a few interesting links and then some questions:

    Peter Turchin has up a series of intriguing posts on the evolution of complex society and how it precedes agriculture:

    High quality comments in both posts. One of the commentators there linked to what has to be one of the most interesting articles I have read in a long time (and the only multi-media presentation on archeology I have come across ever):

    Al West has a great post on why the spread of agriculture is an insufficient explanation for the spread of many languages:

  4. Ok, and here are my questions for you. They deal with that map of racial tolerance that has been making the rounds (and is on your pinboard). My observations upon reading this (pulled shamelessly from ym facebook page) are as follows:

    “A few notes of interest: 1) On a whole lot fo personality/culture mesaures Scandinavians and Anglos rank very similar. (Most notable are individuality/group-think measures – Anglo and Scandinavians emphasize individuality over group identity.) This might account for their openess to other races.

    2) But they are joined by Latin America! I am not sure what explains this – though some Latin American countries (Brazil in particular) are about as multi-racial as the U.S.

    3) So moving on to Asia – not suprised. A little surprised that Hong Kong ranks so poor in relation to other Asian states; probably reflects a long history of other Asian ethnic groups trying to make a new life on the islands (similar reasoning might explain things in France). They have a lot of anti-immigrant fevor even against ethnically similar mainland Chinese.

    4) India – so what is up with this? Any Indian friends ( maybe —-edit name out — ?) want to take a stab? This surprises me a bit b/c India is one fo the most diverse countries on the planet – perhaps there is a disconnect between the way they construct race and the way they view the many Desi ethnic groups on the subcontinent? Are tribals seen as another race? A lot of questions here. (And notice the difference between Pakistan and India/Bangladesh!)

    6) I would have liked to see the geographic breakdowns of several of these countries.. I suspect that India, the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, and China may very greatly from region to region.

    So any thoughts on why India gets such low marks while Pakistan seems to be so tolerant? Or thoughts on why Latin America is equal to the ASS countries? Any other independent observations on of worth you’ve made concerning the graphic?

    • Sandgroper

      3) Erm…what other Asian ethnic groups and what islands?

      Incidentally, Max Fisher has published a correction – the figure for Hong Kong should be 26.8%, not 71.8%.

      • Sandgroper

        Also, Bangladeshis should be 28.3%, not 71.7%.

        • Good to know!

          1) Islands – Hong Kong island and Lentao.

          2) Other Asian groups – see here: Biggest group is from the Philippines.

          • Sandgroper

            LOL! I’d love to know where you’re getting your information – it’s basically nonsense. That’s “Lantau”. For “long history of” read “recent legal challenge”, and it wasn’t confined to HKI and Lantau, it applied to the whole of Hong Kong. Basically, last year a few overseas contract workers applied for permanent residence on the grounds of having worked in HK for > 7 years, and the courts ruled that the length of residency was not sufficient condition to qualify. Their case was supported by some HK Chinese and resisted by some others.

          • Sandgroper

            You might also note that, as of 2010, the biggest group is not from the Philippines, they are from Indonesia. And by inspection, they are not ethnic Chinese from Indonesia. So, I guess this is now the Austronesians trying to re-colonise some of the lesser occupied islands – it remains to be seen if they will succeed in pushing the English hippies out of Lamma. One can only hope.

          • Any details on how Hong Kongers feel about Indonesian immigration? (My information came from conversations with friends of mine from/in Hong Kong, not anything I read.)

          • Sandgroper

            This is not immigration – these are contract workers coming in on fixed term contracts who are required to leave on contract completion.

            Given that people are employing these women to live with them in their own homes, help to supervise their kids, prepare meals, etc. and that they keep on doing it (repeat contracts, etc), it seems safe to assume that HK people have no problem with it. From observation and personal experience, relations are comfortable, even warm and friendly.

            You’ll always hear the occasional story of a rogue employer or employee, but that’s clearly not the generality. And most of them do want to go home again – they don’t see this as some route to permanent residence; certainly not now that the court ruling has made that completely clear.

  5. Riordan

    It appears Mr. Coates has read your piece (which is no small achievement in itself):

    In which he does some perfunctory nods to your points, but never bothers to address them in any earnest or substantial extent. What’s notable, and sobering, is his reaction to Andrew Sullivan’s point about the solidity of IQ distributions. In nowhere does he attempt to actually address the thrust of that argument, and instead attempts to stonewall it by dragging in political red herrings. If this is going to be what future debates will look like between the “scientists” and “politicos”, it does not bode well…..

  6. Given the commenters on here span the political spectrum, I’m wondering about thoughts on mass unemployment due to technology?

    The subject has been on my mind lately. I read an interesting article in the airport (can’t remember if it was in Discover or Scientific American) about the coming rise of 3D printing in manufacturing. In addition, there’s this article, which details a new much cheaper manufacturing robot which has the capabilities to wipe out much of the remaining low-wage assembly work. And of course, the robot hamburger maker, which got more buzz around the web this week.

    Mass unemployment due to automation had not happened yet, even though it’s been predicted for generations. But it seems like automation is hitting its stride now, and there just aren’t obvious job growth areas to make up the difference.

    For those of us who lean left economically, there is at least a simple solution, although in practice it may not be easy to implement. But I’m curious what posters on the right side of the spectrum think should be done once the bottom third (or more) of the aptitude spectrum cannot do any job that a machine can’t perform better?


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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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