February, 2010


14
Feb 10

Dinosaur Comics: Genetics

T-Rex on Genetics :-)

(Link)


14
Feb 10

First Genetic Link Between Reptile And Human Heart Evolution Found

Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) have traced the evolution of the four-chambered human heart to a common genetic factor linked to the development of hearts in turtles and other reptiles.

The research, published in the September 3 [2009] issue of the journal Nature, shows how a specific protein that turns on genes is involved in heart formation in turtles, lizards and humans.

“This is the first genetic link to the evolution of two, rather than one, pumping chamber in the heart, which is a key event in the evolution of becoming warm-blooded,” said Gladstone investigator Benoit Bruneau, PhD, who led the study. “The gene involved, Tbx5, is also implicated in human congenital heart disease, so our results also bring insight into human disease.”

From an evolutionary standpoint, the reptiles occupy a critical point in

(Link)


14
Feb 10

Climatologist Phil Jones admits, no global warming since 1995, and concedes, world was warmer in medieval times than now

The famous, or infamous, depending on which side of things you are on, Climatologist Phil Jones admits there has been no global warming since 1995 and concedes that the world was warmer in medieval times than now.

The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.
[...]
Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.

(Link)


14
Feb 10

Cliodynamics

Interesting work by Peter Turchin called: Cliodynamics.

Seems to be somewhat along the same lines as Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler’s “Der Untergang des Abendslandes” (i.e., “The Decline of the West“) and Abū Zayd ‘Abdu r-Raḥman bin Muḥammad bin Khaldūn Al-Hadrami’s “Muqaddimah“.

What is cliodynamics?

Empires rise and fall, populations and economies boom and bust, world religions spread or wither… What are the mechanisms underlying such dynamical processes in history? Are there ‘laws of history’? We do not lack hypotheses to investigate – to take just one instance, more than two hundred explanations have been proposed for why the Roman Empire fell. But we still don’t know which of these hypotheses are plausible, and which should be rejected. More importantly, there is no consensus on what general mechanisms explain the collapse of historical empires. What is needed is a systematic application of the scientific method to history: verbal theories should be translated into mathematical models, precise predictions derived, and then rigorously tested on empirical material. In short, history needs to become an analytical, predictive science (see Arise cliodynamics).

Cliodynamics (from Clio, the muse of history, and dynamics, the study of temporally varying processes) is the new transdisciplinary area of research at the intersection of historical macrosociology, economic history/cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Mathematical approaches – modeling historical processes with differential equations or agent-based simulations; sophisticated statistical approaches to data analysis – are a key ingredient in the cliodynamic research program (Why do we need mathematical history?). But ultimately the aim is to discover general principles that explain the functioning and dynamics of actual historical societies.

(Link)


14
Feb 10

Want Attractive Women? Then Be Seen With Attractive Women!

Seems the trend is that, men benefit from being seen with an attractive woman and suffer from being seen with an unattractive one.

(One caveat I should add is that my impression is that what women tend to think makes an attractive/unattractive women is different than what men tend to think makes an attractive/unattractive women. Although, from reading this, it didn’t seem clear if this point was considered.)

Sigmund Freud famously confessed he had no idea what women want. Charles Darwin, however, had a hunch. He thought that women, like other creatures, want to propagate their genes. Where it gets interesting is how they figure out what kind of man to look for. Sure, most women like a man who is sincere and able to make them laugh, but the story gets more complicated. Women’s preferences vary over their menstrual cycle and whether they are looking for a short-term mate or a long-term partner, which, in turn, also depends on the time in the menstrual cycle. When looking for a short-term mate, women can use visual cues such as his shoulder-to-waist ratio, the angularity of his face, or the presence of facial hair. [...]

A woman looking for a good [long-term] man can use the old conformity heuristic. [...]

This is where choice copying in mate selection comes in. The basic idea is that females looking for a male partner are, in part, swayed by a male’s ability to attract other females. If this happens, if other women flock to some men just because other women do, two related phenomena familiar from folk psychology begin to make sense. First, as some men have noticed, their stock in the dating market paradoxically rises when they are committed; second, some women are concerned about losing their men to other, “raiding,” women.

[...] That’s the effect. A man who has been “validated” by another woman becomes more attractive. The effect is also specific. The desire to be friends with a man depends only slightly on an endorsement by another woman, and the expectation of being able to work with him as a colleague is not affected at all.

(Emphasis mine.)

(Link)

It would be interesting to see if there is any “structure” among women. Do some some exhibit this herding behavior more than others?

Also, on another note, I wonder if this has to do with why guys tend not to want others to know about less attractive girls they have had a “one night stand” with or “fool around” with.


13
Feb 10

Swine Flu Hysteria

Not too long ago, swine flu (or H1N1) was “all the rage”. People were hysterical about it! But based on the data I kept on seeing, people fears were irrational. Relatively speaking, the chances of dying from swine flu was insignificant. Sure it’s possible. But it’s also possible the space shuttle will out of the sky and crush your house and everyone in it. It’s possible, but it’s unlikely enough that you really don’t need to worry about it. But people were not only worried about swine flu, but there was mass hysteria about swine flu!

For their fear to be rational, they should have had at least the same level of fear for anything that kills the same or more people. But they didn’t. More people die from traffic accidents than swine flu. More people die from the common flu than swine flu. (How many people do you know that died from the common flu?) More people die from falling than die from the swine flu. (How many people do you know that have died from falling?) But they’re not even worried about all these other things.

But quoting statistics to people (as I did) isn’t always effective. (Not everyone is able to process numbers like that.) Thankfully Michæl Paukner created a nice little graph.

As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words

(Link)

Note that the number of swine flu death was likely inflated. People had a tendency to by default report any death they didn’t have another explanation for as swine flu.


13
Feb 10

Why Do Some Guys Work Hard At School And Career? To Impress Women!

An interesting paper from Eric D. Gould. Although not a surprising result. And shows there may be “some truth” to the claim that: men have built civilizations in order to impress women.

Of course, not all guys work hard at school and career. But some do. And with those guys who work hard at school and careers, it seems their motivation tends to be to impress women. (Just to be specific, my impression is that this doesn’t imply they will take just any women. But that they are trying to impress and get their “ideal” women.)

Marriage and Career: The Dynamic Decisions of Young Men

Eric D. Gould

Hebrew University, Shalem Center, Centre for Economic Policy Research, and Institute for the Study of Labor

This paper examines the extent to which human capital and career decisions are affected by their potential returns in the marriage market. Although schooling and career decisions often are made before getting married, these decisions are likely to affect the future chances of receiving a marriage offer, the type of offer, and the probability of getting divorced. Therefore, I estimate a forwardlooking model of the marriage and career decisions of young men between the ages of 16 and 39. The results show that if there were no returns to career choices in the marriage market, men would tend to work less, study less, and choose blue-collar jobs over white-collar jobs. These findings suggest that the existing literature underestimates the true returns to human capital investments by ignoring their returns in the marriage market.

(Emphasis mine.)

(Link)

(H/T Eric Barker)


12
Feb 10

Epigenetic Signals Differ Across Alleles

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London, have identified numerous novel regions of the genome where the chemical modifications involved in controlling gene expression are influenced by either genetic variation or the parental origin of that particular stretch of DNA. This contradicts previous assumptions that epigenetic signals are generally equal across both copies of a given region of the genome, except at a small number of known imprinted genes.

(Emphasis mine.)

(Link)


9
Feb 10

U.S. Divides Into 7 “Nations”, Says Facebook Data

This is an interesting use of the data Facebook exposes. It shows a way the U.S. can be “naturally” divided. The author took the publicly available Facebook data and showed how people in the U.S. cluster. See the map….

(Link)


8
Feb 10

Dinosaur Comics: HeLa Cells

T-Rex on HeLa Cells :-)

(Link)