Category: Blog

Open Thread, 11/24/13

By Razib Khan | November 24, 2013 4:21 am


One of the stranger call-ins on my interview with Kathleen Dunn last month was when a woman who proudly declared that she was a math major in college asserted that 23andMe had told her she wasn’t at risk for many diseases which now in her 60s she had developed. I didn’t want to be too pointed about it, but if you are in your 60s you are at risk for developing many illnesses no matter what your “genetic risk.” This is clear from 23andMe’s statistics, which display high baseline risks for many common diseases. From reading comments on 23andMe discussion forums it seems that perceived false negatives are going to be a much bigger issue than false positives over the long run. If the tests are “wrong” in a direction which leaves you in a better state than predicted you might feel like you’ve dodged a bullet. On other hand if the tests are “wrong” in a direction which gave you false comfort, or add insult to injury when you’ve developed a debilitating disease, then you feel much more burned.

I don’t really recommend blogs too much anymore. But please check out The Stage and Social Evolution Forum.

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Open Thread, 10/20/2013

By Razib Khan | October 20, 2013 11:43 am

Beginnings and endings.

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Open Thread, 10/6/2013

By Razib Khan | October 6, 2013 2:14 am


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Open Thread, 9/22/2013

By Razib Khan | September 22, 2013 4:46 am

I found this broadside against intellectual ignorance by Christoper Beckwith rather amazing and enjoyable. Long time readers will be aware that I am a fan of his Empires of the Silk Road. In any case, I have noticed that many of my friends and acquaintances use the term ‘ignorance’ to connote a set of views which they find normatively offensive. That is not my preferred usage of the term. Rather, I take it rather at its face value as denoting those who are lacking in the basic facts from which to even attempt audacious inference. The latter I appreciate. The former I detest.

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Open Thread, 9/15/2013

By Razib Khan | September 15, 2013 4:39 pm

How do people manage to keep track of the scientific literature in their area?

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Writing about science on the internet

By Razib Khan | September 14, 2013 2:30 am

Don’t be shy

A few weeks ago I was asked on Twitter by someone for advice on how to write a science blog/do science communication. Since I was studying up for my qualifying exam I said I’d get back to him later. I passed, and now this is later.

First, you should probably read Sabine and Chad. Second, I’ll be up front and admit that I don’t give much thought in the details to this sort of thing (though I follow with interest the opinions of others, such as Bora Zivkovic, on this topic). I really only have one qualification: I’ve been doing this for a long time. Since spring of 2002. To my knowledge only Derek Lowe has been blogging continually and without interruption about science longer than I have (Chad Orzel of Uncertain Principles also started in the spring of 2002).

So in no special order, my “advice”….

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Open thread, 6/2/2013

By Razib Khan | June 2, 2013 2:46 pm

The Way of the Sages

On occasion I recommend to friends reading what are to the public obscure philosophers such as Nietzsche and Plato. This is not because I necessarily think that these individuals had deep and/or true thoughts and ideas (though in some cases I do believe they did). Rather, I want to make it clear to angst ridden moderns that cognitive tail chasing has been around a long time, and others have done it with more thoroughness and aplomb, so there’s no point in wasting time and being original. Also, smart opinions from people whose world views are fundamentally alien toward our own allows us to consider what dogmas and orthodoxies we hold as self-evident truths. The reality is on questions of “meta” (physics, ethics) there hasn’t been that much progress on the margin over the past ~3,000 years, in sharp contrast to what used to be natural philosophy and logic/geometry. As an example, I don’t find our arguments against slavery particularly impressive compared the rebuttals of the ancients or basically any pre-moderns in favor slavery as a necessary evil or even a good. Rather, what I find impressive is our realized humanity. In most areas our advances have been in what we have done, not our justifications for what we have done.


Open thread, 5/26/2013

By Razib Khan | May 26, 2013 2:37 am

Summer is coming!

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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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Open thread, 5/12/2013

By Razib Khan | May 12, 2013 3:25 am

The usual.

I haven’t been able to blog much because of various other responsibilities, but I definitely do feel pent up posting energy. So when I come back I assume that I’ll have a lot of stuff to say. Meanwhile I’m chortling a bit about this bizarre attack on my friend Steve Hsu. Here’s the issue that I always have with this: Steve managed to get tenure as a theoretical physicist. When you’re talking to someone who is an academic theoretical physicist it is generally optimal to not assume a priori that they’re ignorant dullards. Unless that is you want to just engage in empty signalling rhetoric.

Though despite not having concerted time to write, I am tweeting a lot since that requires only minimal lengths of attention. Mostly it’s just repeating the functionality of my Pinboard, though I do comment and what not.

Finally, I keep hearing that the Big Five personality typology is much more scientific than Myers Briggs. So I took a bunch of tests which purport to analyze the Big Five categories.

Extraverted: Very high. Consistent. I was 90-99% on all tests.
Agreeableness: Low. Consistent. Generally in the 15-0% range.
Openness: Medium. This was not very consistent. 40-60% range.
Neuroticism: Erratic. For whatever reason I varied from 20-80% here.
Conscientiousness: Medium. But there was some variation.

Oh, and here’s a list of books I’ve rated for Good Reads.

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Open thread, 5/5/2013

By Razib Khan | May 6, 2013 1:53 am

Last week’s thread was rather informative.



By Razib Khan | May 3, 2013 10:30 am

For old time’s sake. The cats have a new companion….


On replacements for Google Reader, etc.

By Razib Khan | March 24, 2013 11:42 am

With the impending expiration of Google Reader, I have been using Feedly, and I like it quite a bit. So if you’ve been procrastinating, check it out.

The Feedburner address for this blog is:

The blog content is of course pushed to Twitter:

Also, if for whatever reason you want Razib-curated-content, my Pinboard is public (RSS). I also push content to a Facebook account. And the best way to contact me is using one of the options on my personal website. And with that I end this irregularly scheduled administrative post.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

By Razib Khan | March 17, 2013 2:35 am

St. Patrick was just one man!

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Why more academics should blog (cuz you can!)

By Razib Khan | March 12, 2013 9:23 pm

A citizen of the Republic of Letters

Many people have been talking about the Patrick Dunleavy and Chris Gilson piece on why academics should blog. In my own opinion it’s a little hyperbolic, not everyone is the same, whether it is in inter-individual differences in attributes, or the circumstantial point where one is in their career (e.g., if you are a graduate student or postdoc then your boss/mentor’s attitude matters a lot). With that out of the way I think it is important to reiterate that more academics should blog sometimes. I suspect one issue is that the image of academic bloggers is dominated by people such as Jerry Coyne or the guys at Marginal Revolution. They blog in huge quantity on a wide range of topics. Obviously this is not suitable for everyone’s temperament or situation (it seems that after tenure there is a greater obligation to engage in communication because the biggest hurdle of impressing one’s colleagues is over with, though that’s just me).

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Even the conservative columnist Ezra Klein!

By Razib Khan | February 13, 2013 4:03 am

I’ve observed the rise of Ezra Klein out of the corner of my eye for years. Political blogging is not really my thing, but I’ve been “around,” and I’ve brushed up against the “Juicebox” now and then (though I interacted with Matt Yglesias as early as 2003, usually I get on the radar of Washington policy types when my friend Reihan Salam picks up something I say). So I thought I’d point you to a profile in The New Republic, Ezra Klein: The Wise Boy, A tale of striving and success in modern-day Washington.

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Around the net, & of note

By Razib Khan | February 13, 2013 2:04 am

As some of you may have noticed, Neuroskeptic has joined Discover. I am rather pleased. There will be others soon enough.

Chris Chabris has a blog. I reviewed his book The Invisible Gorilla a few years back. Here’s one thing I would say about Chabris: I read him very closely, because he is very careful. And I’ve been doing so since the late 1990s, when I first encountered his writing.

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Unleash the chatter!

By Razib Khan | January 27, 2013 6:26 pm

I’ve been saying for a few weeks that this weblog’s comments are going to be improved with a Disqus system. Worry no more, I have a “hard date.” I’m not going to give it to you because my personal experience with hard dates in I.T. is that things come up, and delays are routine. But, it won’t be much longer. In the range of weeks, not months. All the features that I missed will be back, and you should be able to leave comments with Twitter or Facebook authentication.

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Around the web – January 23rd, 2013

By Razib Khan | January 23, 2013 12:05 pm

Well, I don’t have as much time for these anymore…but here it goes….

Haldane’s Sieve. A must if you are interested in evolutionary/population genetics/genomics (not that you can keep up with it all, but interesting for a taste). Since it only posts on pre-prints you don’t need academic access to get into the academic literature.

Human Varieties. A blog which discusses relatively taboo topics such as psychometrics (well, OK, topics which are taboo so long as you don’t have children who are entering elementary school, at which point you examine average test scores with the same acuity as Alfred Binet).

Reaction Norm. He’s been hibernating for a few weeks. Perhaps he’s found a job?

America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead: New research finds Pb is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic. And fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing. Obvious why it’s important.

Lead and Crime. Jim Manzi’s response.

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Comments, the fine line between relevance and trash

By Razib Khan | January 13, 2013 4:33 pm

John Hawks, Online communication biases upon the public perception of science:

Anyone who reads comments sections following news articles surely will have noticed the rotten wealth of trolls and other idiots who inhabit such forums. I thought about Brossard and Scheufele’s piece again today when I read a post by Dan Conover at Xark: “Why I shut down comments”. The post reflects on how blog communities have changed since the early days of blogging in 2005. This timeframe has coincided with the growth of social media of other types, such as Facebook and Twitter, which have given many people a closed community for sharing comments and perspectives with like-minded folks. Conover observes that the trolls and spam are more persistent, causing a rapid degradation of the value of comment sections of many blogs.

This isn’t of course universal. Many blogs continue to have rich and varied comment sections with their posts, and some (like mine) never had any comments at all….

To which Chris Mims graciously observes:

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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!

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