Daily Data Dump – Thursday

By Razib Khan | September 16, 2010 8:45 am

Detecting positive natural selection from genetic data. “I’ve tried to avoid the alphabet soup of acronyms for tests for selection in the above discussion.” Eminently readable.

A New Power Broker Rises in Italy. An article about the Northern League. The inclusion of Tuscany indicates a “broad church” vantage point. An indication of the mishmash of policies (from an American perspective): “It is openly hostile to illegal immigration, an increasingly loud theme both in Italy and Europe. One Northern League deputy provocatively threw a pig’s head on the ground where a mosque was planned, defiling the lot. Popular among agricultural workers, it is fiercely opposed to genetically modified crops and European legislation that it fears would inhibit local food traditions.” Seems some Italians are blaming rising obesity rates on Chinese GMOs.


Kill Whitey. It’s the right thing to do. “While self-described conservatives more readily accepted the sacrifice of Tyrone than they did killing Chip, the liberals were easier about to seeing Chip sacrificed than Tyrone.” You can get a summary of the original research here, though not methods or raw results.

CEO Behavior And Testosterone Levels. No surprises. A few years ago there was a controversy with a manager at a hedge fund demanding his subordinates take estrogen supplements.

Lies, damn lies and Chinese science. “…. what we witness in today’s China is the way in which science – upheld since the early 20th century as the cornerstone of Chinese development – is repeatedly stymied by ideology, superstition, bureaucratic thinking and fear of dissent. This is a frightening situation.” Looks like nothing has changed since the days of Cixi!

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  • pconroy

    That Hedge Fund manager really takes the biscuit!

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  • Katharine

    Looks like nothing has changed since the days of Cixi!

    And looks like China’s following the example of idiot politicians in the United States, sadly.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    And looks like China’s following the example of idiot politicians in the United States, sadly.

    watch it one! one of my more emotionally sensitive readers sent me a distressed email that i didn’t rebuke you on your anti-humanist misanthropy. :-)

  • Katharine

    watch it one! one of my more emotionally sensitive readers sent me a distressed email that i didn’t rebuke you on your anti-humanist misanthropy.

    Ohhhhh nooooooes.

  • Katharine

    China, of course, is swimming in Jenny McCarthys etc. since it’s the home of Chinese traditional ‘medicine’.

    Regarding your second link, I am wholly unsurprised. Anyone who’s got even a smattering of knowledge regarding political and economic dynamics knows extreme rightist groups rise in popularity during periods of instability (I have no idea if extreme leftist ones do the same.).

    This can of course be solved by stability and prosperity, but that is easier said than done, and anyway the leaders of these groups have a vested interest in keeping the environment unstable.

    I wonder what makes the difference between someone who joins one of these groups and someone who knows well enough that those groups’ aims are not compatible with the stability of the nation.

  • Sandgroper

    The problem with Traditional Chinese Medicine is not that it contains nothing useful, but that it is uncodified and unregulated, and that in the past it has not been subjected to clinical trials. The comparison with Jenny McCarthy is not really appropriate.

    I agree with quite a lot in Sam Geall’s article, but he needs to be a little bit careful about earthquakes and prediction. In general, earthquakes are not predictable, and a lot of effort on this in China has produced nothing useful. That is not to say that China does not have a lot of highly competent scientists and engineers working on earthquake zoning and writing appropriate building codes – they certainly do. As with many things in China (e.g. environmental legislation), the failing is often in implementation and enforcement of regulations.

    The reason the 1976 Tangshan earthquake surprised everyone is that China has absolutely outstanding earthquake records going back more than 2,000 years, and no previous movements had ever been recorded in that part of the country. There was no reason to suppose that it was seismically active. But then, the Chinese are certainly not the only people who have been taken by surprise by low frequency earthquake events occurring in previously quiet intra-plate areas distant from plate boundaries – the same has happened in America, Australia and many other countries, but without such spectacularly high casualties and destruction.

    However, the movements that occur on subduction zones at tectonic plate boundaries are cyclic, the cycles typically being of the order of hundreds of years, and such movements are predictable by extrapolation from historical records. The danger with implying that all earthquakes are not predictable is that it might discourage preparedness for future recurrence of events like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. A similar event definitely will occur in the future, just like similar events definitely did occur in the past, as clearly demonstrated by the historical records of earthquakes on that subduction zone, and countries bordering the Indian Ocean need to be prepared for it – the main problem is how to prepare for an event 150 years from now.

    But implying that it cannot be predicted is not helpful in this particular category of earthquake events. And in general, modern earthquake zoning is prediction of a sort, I guess.

  • http://shinbounomatsuri.wordpress.com Spike Gomes

    On the China thing:

    Living in Japan I was often aghast at the basic scientific illiteracy of even the most educated people. Not in the sense of pseudoscience (though it’s definitely there in spades), but just in “Where the hell did you come up with that notion?”. Note that these weren’t farmers or office salarimen, but automotive engineers and designers who had an ostensible technical education and went to high schools with a strong core curriculum.

    Then I started to realize it had a cultural component as well. It seemed weird because one rather takes for granted the wrong-headed crap of their own culture like water off a duck’s back (like not swimming an hour after eating, or not going out into the cold after showering).

    It’s all basic human principles that only seem really different because of cultural priors (i.e. we’re all not very scientifically minded as a species, but how our rationalization processes work are colored differently).

  • Katharine

    not swimming an hour after eating, or not going out into the cold after showering

    Actually, to be fair, these two are grounded in some sense.

    Swimming an hour after eating interferes with blood flow to the intestines a bit. Blood is being diverted from the intestines, where it is being used to power digestion, to your arms and legs, which are being powered to keep you afloat.

    Going out into the cold after showering could be problematic because a hot shower will dilate your blood vessels, whereas if you go into the cold, you will lose heat more quickly because your blood vessels have to do more work to constrict.

  • Katharine

    Also, if you have any knowledge of the Salem hypothesis (which is a very informal hypothesis which states that any creobot who claims to be a scientist is most often actually an engineer), it tends to be engineers that have less understanding of the scientific principles than scientists (this definitely doesn’t apply to all engineers, but a substantial portion of them seem to walk around with no real understanding of them) – they’re taught to do the development and have very little actual scientific training, often not extending much beyond general chemistry and maybe SOME second-level physics – mechanics, etc. – whereas we scientists are the ones actually tasked with creating the new knowledge and knowing and discovering and researching about the natural world and being the source of and providing this information to others (including engineers), some of which knowledge engineers make into technology (for instance, we’ve discovered proteins from mussels that can be used as adhesives in wet environments; I have no doubt we’re going to find biomedical engineers to use this idea to make adhesives that can be used in medicine), and in so doing we generally have a better understanding of what actually exists and happens.

  • Sandgroper

    Crap – you can float without moving your arms and legs at all. You obviously don’t understand the concept of density.

    Define creobot and Salem hypothesis, or stop alleging gibberish against engineers.

    Otherwise you are a worse woo merchant than anyone you accuse.

  • miko

    Sandgroper — use the google, old man. The Salem Hypothesis is absolutely true–with the extension that creationist MDs often refer to themselves as “scientists” when dissing evolution as well. I actually find it funny that in these better-paid professions (engineering, medicine) there are some so insecure they need to pretend what they do is science for…. for who? What? I don’t know. Who respects scientists in this country?

    (I’ll admit some MDs and engineers are involved with real scientific research, but it’s not their training or usually their role.)

  • miko

    Maybe you’re kidding. I can’t tell in the morning.

  • Sandgroper

    miko, old man, do you seriously think I give a fuck what some minor academic at some obscure university says? I realize that Myers is hugely popular with the baying brainless mob, but I gave up reading him years ago, because by my metric he’s boring, trivial and irrelevant.

    I am not a creationist or anything like it. I don’t give a fuck about your stupid American mental diseases.

    Engineering is the application of science. In my career, I have done this to protect public safety. I do not pretend that I have done it for science. Science is a tool, just like engineering is.

    I respect good scientists because I collaborate with them in a synergystic manner for the betterment of society. What I will not tolerate is mindless moronic trivial gibberish from the likes of you or Katharine.

  • Sandgroper

    And do you really think there is no such thing as real engineering research, which is real application of science, which real engineers are trained in?

    Who do you think builds the world you live in? Scientists? If you think that, you have at best a primary school grasp of what scientists do, and no grasp at all of what engineers do.

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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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