February always goes by so fast….
Should you go to an Ivy League School, Part II. I think the value of an Ivy League degree will be more, not less, important in the future. It seems possible that we’re nearing the end of the age when the wage gap between unskilled and skilled workers is relatively modest (roughly, the wage gap decreased between 1800 up to 1970, and has been increasing over the past 40 years). Credentialing and finding juicy rents and sinecures is probably the way to go in the future. As the past was, the future shall be?
Anthropologists Trace Human Origins Back To One Large Goat. “Read the whole thing.”
Advanced Degrees Add Up to Lower Blood Pressure. I’m sure that the paper itself is less irritating in terms of conflating correlation and causation. The problem is that it is the least intelligent people who will think that extra years of education = extra years of life in a magical manner. That being said, peer group effects probably matter, so I suspect that that’s part of what’s going on here after you correct for background variables.
Election Defeat Predicted for Ireland’s Ruling Party. It is rather strange that the more right-wing party generally enters into coalitions with the left-wing party, against the centrist party.
The first month of 2011 is almost over….
Exiled Islamist Leader Returns to Tunisia. “…while Ennahdha was branded an Islamic terrorist group by Ben Ali, it is considered moderate by scholars.” I remember talking to a gay friend after 9/11 about Islam, and he began to repeat the pablum about how most Muslims were moderate and tolerant. I had to disabuse him of the notion that they would be as tolerant of him as the Christians at the local Congregationalist church. One can be moderate, but if the scale is set at one end of the broader distribution, that moderation can be quite extreme from the vantage point of an outsider. So a recent survey of British Muslims found that 0 out of 500 would accede to the position that homosexuality was morally acceptable. Certainly within the set of 500 there were many moderates on the issue, but the center of the distribution would probably not be what we’d consider “gay-friendly” (it might in fact be tolerance in a more pre-modern sense, where the majority suffers that the minority may exist, so long as they do not become undue burdens or flout public mores).
Selection is random. I don’t know if this is what the general population would term “random,” but it is an important point insofar as even if natural selection can be conceived as a deterministic process when you expand the parameters of population size and time to infinite, it still operates in a stochastic cauldron. That beings said, another point worth remembering is that selection is also stochastic insofar as it may operate over a set of equally fit adaptive peaks, and there’s no rhyme or reason to which peak selection may eventually drive the population toward (or, consider different genetic architectures which would lead to the same phenotypic value for a quantitative trait).
A Golden Age of Foreign Films, Mostly Unseen. I don’t know if this is relevant, but from what I have heard the “long tail” has not really panned out.
Participants So Far. Zack reports 10 people of South Asian ancestry have sent their raw data. His coverage seems OK, but he only has multiple samples from Punjabis. I know some people who will be sending their data in soon, and I’m going to swap my parents in for me, so Bengalis will go from N = 1 to N = 2, but please spread the word. Better coverage in eastern and southern South Asia is really needed.
Why Rich Parents Don’t Matter. Jonah Lehrer references my post When genes matter for intelligence. This is a possibility which I think needs to be more widely spread by the mainstream media: “Eliminating such inequalities in the early years of life would simply create a new kind of inequality, driven by genetics.” When people fret about the relative lack of class mobility into Ivy League universities compared to the 1960s, they might consider if the mobility of that era was simply a function of the relatively recent removal of previous discriminatory barriers. Once those barriers are gone for a few generations there’s no reason to expect that the “peak churn” would match the transition phase.
US equivalents. Comparing the aggregate GDP of American states to nations around the world.
Human Prehistory and Genetics Wiki. I don’t “do” the wiki thing myself, but in case you’re interested.
Sex and Statistics or Heteroscedasticity is Hot. Heteroscedasticity just means differences in variances. So it turns out that two women who have the same expected attractiveness rating from different males can still exhibit a difference in variance of evaluations. So a woman who is average, and everyone perceives her as average, gets less attention than a woman who some perceive as beautiful and some perceive as ugly. Seems common sense. Interestingly one of my roommates in college, who is now an economist, expressed this theory. I would forward him the article on Facebook, but I’m not sure if his wife would be excited if she saw it….
Hotheads by nature. Even more interesting is the intersection of nature and nurture. There are differences across the USA among “Anglo” subcultures in propensity toward aggression and violence. One of the reasons that John Brown became such a hero in the North before the Civil War was that his violent behavior was seem as appropriate retaliation for the ubiquitous aggression and intimidation which Yankee settlers experienced on the frontier when they encountered Southerners. It would be interesting to see how genes expression in different American subcultures.
By This Time in the Last Presidential Cycle, 14 Candidates Had Jumped In. A guess a sitting president makes a big difference. I recall in 1992 many of the “big names” in the Democratic party passed, allowing Bill Clinton to rise to the top of the dwarfish pack.
I Won’t Hug This File — I Won’t Even Call It My Friend. A weird screed against the internet and free content, posted on the internet for free (observed by David Dobbs).
The Web Is a Customer Service Medium. The main skepticism I have about these sorts of pronouncements is that they underestimate the diversity and pluralism of the web medium. Some outfits are bottom-up, others are top-down. Some websites solicit a lot of feedback, others do not. Some blogs post lots of short posts and observations, others post extended essays. I don’t see the point of triumphalism or defeatism. In the aggregate the pie is growing, though unfortunately in this bout of creative destruction many people are losing their livelihoods during the transition.
Americans: not as religious as they think they are. Basically Americans claim to allocate twice as much time to religion as they really do. This is an old and robust finding.
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.
Hope Christmas went well for everyone. No complaints about mine.
Pinboard. Thanks for the Delicious replacement recommendations. I know that Delicious is going to be sold and not shutdown, but confidence is lost. Pinboard seems to work well, and you can import all your Delicious bookmarks. Additionally, there’s a serviceable Chrome extension so that I can easily add bookmarks. Already have the new RSS up: http://feeds.pinboard.in/rss/u:gnxp/.
HTC Evo 4G. I’m not an early adopter of hardware, but I have no big complaints about the HTC Evo 4G. It’s lame that they call it 4G when Sprint’s 4G coverage is so sparse (no coverage in San Francisco, but coverage in Merced and Stockton!). But their version of Android is reasonably user friendly, though not as much as the iPhone (or at least what I could gather from playing around with the iPhones of others). Though I already ran into one app which made the phone crash and reboot. It was an online banking app, distributed by that specific bank.
The genome of woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca). It’s in Nature, but open access!
Genomic DNA Sequences from Mastodon and Woolly Mammoth Reveal Deep Speciation of Forest and Savanna Elephants. This paper has gotten a lot of coverage. I didn’t hit it mostly because of the time investment I made in the Denisovan paper, but I do think it is interesting. The deep separation of African forest and savanna elephant populations may be interesting because of the sort of analogies one can make about the gross evolutionary pressures on mammalian lineages due to ecological and geological parameters. I’m thinking in particular of apes, the bonobo-chimpanzee and hominin vs. ‘great ape’ divisions.
Countdown to Christmas! Hope everyone has pleasant holidays.
Apple v Google. Very long article highlighting the different strategies of the two companies. I do though think Google is starting to get a touch annoying trumpeting their “open ways.” They’re not a struggling start-up, they’re a massive corporation.
Hmong’s new lives in Caribbean. They’re 1% of French Guinea’s population, but control 70% of the agriculture, since arriving in the 1970s.
Estimating Heritability Using Twins. Luke Jostins lays out the A’s, E’s, and C’s. Very informative. This part was kind of funny though: “Interestingly, the Bioscience Resource Project post cites this paper, which makes their mistake somewhat surprising.” Wonder if Luke is making a reference to the tendency for people not to read papers they cite too closely.
The cell is a messy place: understanding alternative splicing with RNA sequencing. Another of the talks about a paper they just published in PLoS Genetics.
One of the Sweden Bombs Exploded Prematurely. Looks like Sweden dodged a bomb here, more or less. But ~5% of Sweden’s population is Muslim (culturally or by practice), mostly from Middle Eastern countries. It cancels some of Sweden’s historic military neutrality out when you bring populations recently subject to political disturbance into the nation. I say some because Britain has recently combined worst of both worlds, importing in a culturally alienated population along with an adventurous high-risk foreign policy.
For Those About to Rock…You’ll Need These. Chris Mooney has a round-up of ‘Rock Stars of Science’. I’ve been meaning to talk about this, as Chris gave me a heads up, but I’ve been kind of busy with other things. But better late than never. I have some of the same concerns as the nay-sayers. Is this really necessary? The campaign strikes me as kind of cheesy and ill-thought out. But the critical thing to focus on is that it isn’t about me, it’s about the efficacy of this sort of thing in furthering the ends of science. I’m not convinced that this will help, but I’m skeptical that this will hurt. Therefore though my personal gut response is consonant with the reaction of those who think this strikes a false note, I can acknowledge that I’m not the typical person on the street. Additionally, many marketing campaigns work through implicit associations, and this might get the job done on that level and shatter some old associations. The target audience is presumably the type of person who’ll never encounter PV = nRT or doesn’t know that acceleration is the derivative of velocity with respect to time. Both cool concepts, but total gibberish to the masses. Science is a cultural enterprise which needs institutional support, and I am not going to judge these sorts of campaigns on my personal reaction. Rather, I’ll be interested in whether these campaigns reduce or elevate the image of science as an enterprise in the eyes of the public. For that, there needs to be some social science! More marketing as science, and less as art, in the interests of science!
Smart Republicans, Stupid Democrats. Apparently the trend started in 1994, where “Red States” were net debtors to the public fisc. I still want to see more data on the possibility that the transfer of monies is from Republicans in the Upper East Side to Democrats in North Dakota, though I’m open to anything.
Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion and the Politics of Human Origins. John Lynch reviews a book on the history of polygenism. Though I’m willing to cop the role of secular progressive intellectuals in forwarding ideas which we’d perceive as very illiberal and objectionable today (e.g., H. G. Wells contention that the colored races would have to go extinct because it was the law of nature that the strong should supersede the weak), it is always interesting to me how Christians of a given age are strongly shaped by the secular currents of thought. So Southern promoters of slavery who were Christian believers integrated polygenism into their ideology, whereas Christian abolitionists were explicit monogenists. Though many Christians opposed eugenics, man advocated eugenics. And so forth.
Epilepsy’s Big, Fat Miracle. Two points to note: 1) modern medicine seems to have strongly resisted the ketogenic diet because of ideology, 2) this treatment works, but they don’t really understand why. It shows the importance of empiricism in medicine, but the reality that even an empirical discipline can be shifted by ideology.
Grumpy Kvetching of the Day. One of Sean Carroll’s readers complains about the content he’s posting up. If I ever get one of those blogs where my readers “sponsor” me, then I would listen to this sort of input. You paid for the privilege. Until then, shove it. Anyone who leaves a comment like that would be on my permanent “sh*t list.” I’m not really that disagreeable in person, but in person people rarely make demands on my own time as if such requests are the nature of things. Not so on the internet.
“Operation: Stop Palin” Gets Rolling. I was expecting this to happen some point soon, but my probability that the Republican establishment will be able to crush Sarah Palin is dropping from ~1.0, perhaps moving toward ~0.5. The main issue from what I tell is that the establishment is unlikely to be able to co-opt Mike Huckabee, who is the only other candidate on the horizon that could eat into her base.
I am not doing daily link round ups right now because I’m not reading the web as much, but I certainly have enough material to put up one link round-up/pointer per week.
Vitamin D Deficit Doubles Risk of Stroke in Whites, but Not in Blacks, Study Finds. There has been other stuff about different healthy basal levels of micronutrients by population. This is an important one to keep an eye on, and should make us reflect on the importance of personalized medicine. A friend of mine who is a doctor observed that one reason that more well educated and higher socioeconomic status patients get better diagnoses and treatment is because they do so much leg-work and are so assertive as advocates for their own health.
Questionable Science Behind Academic Rankings. It’s long been known that academic rankings (like lists of all sorts) are 1) voodoo in terms of adding any real value beyond what you know, 2) crack in terms of profitability. US News & World Report wouldn’t even exist at this point if it wasn’t for their yearly rankings, and if the weekly folds I’m sure that their rankings could be spun-off as a profitable annual publication.
The Way the Future Blogs. Frederik Pohl’s memories. One of the things I really enjoyed about The Price of Altruism is that it gave me a wider lens on George Price the man, who I knew primarily through the recollections of W. D. Hamilton. Pohl does the same for the luminaries of the “Golden Age of Science Fiction.” I especially enjoy the stuff on Isaac Asimov.
Thoughtful Animal. A blog worth reading.
Might not post these every day for a few weeks as I’ll be busy, and not on the net as much. So no more “Daily” Data Dump until I’m more assured of my schedule.
In Icy Tip of Afghanistan, War Seems Remote. Profiles the people of the Wakhan Corridor, which is part of Afghanistan mostly because of the 19th century “Great Game” between Russia and the United Kingdom. The most striking aspect for the journalist seems to have been that the local Nizari Ismaili population of ethnic Kirghiz do not have their women don the burqa, except in the major town where ~50% of the population are Sunni Muslims. The Nizari Muslims are led by the Aga Khan, who holds the position of imam for this sect. Interestingly the current holder of the title is half-English, one-fourth Italian, and one-fourth Persian. He is married to an Englishwoman. Even the Sunni Kirghiz are generally not as punctilious about adhering to the normative Islam of Central Asia, so I don’t think we should chalk up all the differences to religion.
Debt Collectors Face a Hazard: Writer’s Cramp. I suspect many readers have had to deal with debt-collectors who keep calling for other people at their phone number, and won’t stop calling. Just the tip of the iceberg.
A map of human genome variation from population-scale sequencing. This paper is getting a lot of play. A taste of things to come from the 1000 Genomes Project. It’s OA, so check it out.
Difficulties in Defining Errors in Case Against Harvard Researcher. I think Marc Hauser will be an emeritus professor by the time the case involving his alleged misconduct is resolved.
In Mideast House of Cards, U.S. Views Lebanon as Shaky. Some of the problems here are structural demographics. The institutions of Lebanon’s democracy were formed when Maronite Christians were the plural majority, followed by Sunni Muslims, then Shia Muslims, and finally minorities such as the Greek Orthodox and Druze. Today the likely plural majority are the Shia, followed by the Sunnis and Maronites. Add on top of this the fact that the Shia tend to be poorer, and, have an invested international backer in Iran. The connection between the Iranian Shia and the Lebanese Shia has traditionally been closer than between the Iranian Shia and the Iraqi Shia.
Saudi Border With Yemen Is Still Inviting for Al Qaeda. Interesting coincidence that I posted on this issue last week. I think my libertarian friends such as Will Wilkinson and Bryan Caplan will get their wish for relatively open borders in the 21st century as a matter of pure probable prediction (there will be exceptions, I suspect Japan may be one). The future will be something more like the United Arab Emirates, though I hope we’ll be able to effect some humanitarianism on the margins, as well as mitigate the popularity of ugly modernist mega-structures.
Just a heads up, I might be posting less later in the week and into the weekend. So might skip these at some point.
Are Democrats Overachieving in the Senate? Is Nate Silver is having a downward pressure on other political coverage? I don’t even bother checking the other analytical stuff in The New York Times; they’re just going to basically do souped-up trend stories with cherry-picked quotes from “experts” attempting a bit of man-bites-dog to product-differentiate. The basic outlines of what’s going to happen at the mid-terms is known, as well as the uncertainty. Beyond that most people are guessing and spinning. On the specific issue at hand, I’m not too versed in politics but I had assumed that the Senate was a less volatile institution in election-to-election change in party proportions because only 1/3 of it was up for election in a given year, vs. 100% of the House of Representatives. Silver points out that if the whole Senate was up for reelection we might be looking at filibuster-proof Republican majority, and an outside shot at veto-proof majority.
The Myth of Charter Schools. It’s basically a review of the problems with Waiting for “Superman”. I think this current educational enthusiasm is at a bubble-point, I noticed a few weeks back The New York Times published a downbeat assessment of Geoffrey Canada’s results with the Harlem Children’s Zone.