razib https://scienceblogs.com/author/razib/feed en Remember to switch RSS feeds https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/04/04/remember-to-switch-rss-feeds <span>Remember to switch RSS feeds</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><span style="font-size:18px; color:red;">If you link to this weblog from your weblog, please update links:</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:18px;"><a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/">http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/</a></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:18px;">If you have not updated your feeds, please do<br /> so now:</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:18px;"><a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/GeneExpressionBlog">http://feeds.feedburner.com/GeneExpressionBlog</a></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:18px;">The old feed address will point for another week or so to the new feed, but eventually it will cease working.</span></p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Sat, 04/03/2010 - 20:06</span> Sun, 04 Apr 2010 00:06:43 +0000 razib 101333 at https://scienceblogs.com I'm moving to Discover https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/26/im-moving-to-discover <span>I&#039;m moving to Discover</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><b>Update your bookmarks: </b><a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp">http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp</a><br /><br /><b>And RSS:</b> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/GeneExpressionBlog">http://feeds.feedburner.com/GeneExpressionBlog</a><br /></p> <p>If you have a weblog that links to ScienceBlogs GNXP, I would appreciate you update the link for the sake of PageRank.</p> <p><img src="http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/wp-content/blogs.dir/461/files/2012/04/i-6793770b34ede3d90a5c45a5086918bf-moving-van.jpg" alt="i-6793770b34ede3d90a5c45a5086918bf-moving-van.jpg" />There isn't much to say about the move. There wasn't one big precipitating reason, a variety of reasons coalesced to make this the right thing to do for me. I would like to give a shout out to Erin Johnson, who from what I recall has been the longest serving ScienceBlogs community manager in the history of the website. One bittersweet aspect of leaving the network now is the arrival of awesome blogs such as <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/observations/">Observations of a Nerd</a>, along with old friends such as <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/geneticfuture/">Dr. Daniel MacArthur</a> of <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/geneticfuture/">Genetic Future</a>. </p> <p>I was approached by Chris Mims of <i>Seed Media Group</i> over 4 years ago to contribute to ScienceBlogs. I'm an "original," along with <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/?utm_source=bloglist&amp;utm_medium=dropdown">Adventures in Ethics &amp; Science</a>, <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/?utm_source=bloglist&amp;utm_medium=dropdown">Aetiology</a>, <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/?utm_source=bloglist&amp;utm_medium=dropdown">Deltoid</a>, <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/?utm_source=bloglist&amp;utm_medium=dropdown">Dispatches from the Culture Wars</a>, <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/grrlscientist/?utm_source=bloglist&amp;utm_medium=dropdown"> GrrlScientist</a>, <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/?utm_source=bloglist&amp;utm_medium=dropdown">Pharyngula</a> and <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/principles/?utm_source=bloglist&amp;utm_medium=dropdown">Uncertain Principles</a> (some others have left the network, or blogging, such as <a href="http://blog.jmlynch.org/">John Lynch</a> and <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/evolgen/">Evolgen</a>). I really didn't know what to expect, but it's been fun overall, and I've met many interesting people. By the time I'd arrived at ScienceBlogs I've been blogging for almost 4 years, since April of 2002. To a great extent it had become a solitary endeavour. ScienceBlogs made me a bit more social in my online interactions. In particular during the first few years <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/evolgen/">RPM</a> of <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/evolgen/">Evolgen</a> and <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/mixingmemory/">Chris of Mixing Memory</a> were good friends. The ScienceBlogs summer meetups were pretty fun too, and allowed me to convince <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/">Mark Hoofnagle</a> that I was <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/thescian/">The Scientific Indian</a>. I've also made some friends offline, such as <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/purepedantry/">Jake Young</a>, with whom I've partied in New York.</p> <p>A domain is just a string of letters, and I don't expect much to really change. I hope to reach a new audience, and keep the current one, and still continue to have fun. </p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Fri, 03/26/2010 - 10:16</span> Fri, 26 Mar 2010 14:16:51 +0000 razib 101332 at https://scienceblogs.com Canada is not a "free society" https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/24/canada-is-not-a-free-society <span>Canada is not a &quot;free society&quot;</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>That's all I have to say to Eric Michael Johnson's post, <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/primatediaries/2010/03/ann_coulter_hate_speech_and_fr.php?utm_source=selectfeed&amp;utm_medium=rss">Ann Coulter, Hate Speech, and Free Societies</a>. OK, seriously, from what I recall Eric is an American, though resident in the forgotten north. American absolutist stances on free speech are not shared by most Western societies, so demanding total free speech is quixotic and culturally tone deaf. Granted, Europe or Canada are not barbaric like China or Muslim societies when it comes to speech, so that communication about this issue is possible. But here are the exceptions to free speech enumerated in the European Convention on Human Rights:</p> <blockquote><p>The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or <b>public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime</b>, for the protection of health or<b> morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others</b>, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.</p></blockquote> <p>I bolded aspects which I think Americans would assume are going to be open to abuse. The new <a href="http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/new-irish-blasphemy-law-broken/">Irish blasphemy law</a> is rumored to be motivated by a fear of Muslim violence aimed at those who defame their primitive superstitions (<strike>the cowardly Irish atheists know that Western Christians tend to be lax about agitating violently on behalf of their superstitions, so they blasphemed Catholicism</strike>, this was an error, see <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/canada_is_not_a_free_society.php#comment-2377035">below</a>). Though it isn't just Muslims who are barbaric, a few years ago <a href="http://atheism.about.com/b/2004/12/22/britain-sikhs-riot-protest-play-theater-closes.htm">Sikhs in Britain rioted</a> over a blasphemous theater production, and the arguments that it isn't speech if it "hurts feelings" were voiced by them as well. This is a normal human viewpoint, protection of patently offensive speech is probably a cultural aberration. What to Americans seems a universal human right is actually a perverse extremism from the viewpoint of outsiders (though do note that the abolitionists seemed to be perverse extremists in their time, so numbers don't always predict where history will flow)</p> <p>One of Eric's stupid commenters linked to <a href="http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Opinion+Coulter+free+speech+like+yours/2721510/story.html">this op-ed</a>, <a href="http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Opinion+Coulter+free+speech+like+yours/2721510/story.html">Ann Coulter, Hate Speech, and Free Societies</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>This is why Coulter's speech is not just "free" (i.e. bias-free, objectively sent out into the atmosphere). The effects of her speech when launched into public space are not simply situational. They are another series of burps in the historical and currently existing framework that has normalized a particular way of thinking about<b> Muslims, gays and lesbians, and other marginalized groups.</b></p></blockquote> <p>Pretty funny that Muslims are marginalized along with homosexuals, since when Muslims are a majority they have a tendency to persecute or <a href="http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2005/10/shocking_new_ph.html">kill homosexuals</a> with more efficacy than other cultures (though <i>not</i> homosexual behavior). Naturally Muslims in the West are <a href="http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/12/noted-homophobe-named-norways">exempt</a> from the injunction toward not engaging in homophobia, as it's naturally part of their barbaric set of beliefs. The op-ed continues:</p> <blockquote><p>From this framework, we can see how free speech is a slippery problem. Ironically, it seems to surface when there is a need to stifle speech that challenges social power (which is what the U of Ottawa students were doing - challenging the inequitable social power relations that Coulter's "speech" upheld).</p></blockquote> <p>Really someone should ban the usage of quotations, because morons like this will get drunk on them. Though seriously, <b>I'm expressing a very cultural biased viewpoint here, an American one, and I'm of conscious of this.</b> I really don't see a point in castigating Canadians for being Canadians, they're not China or Syria, but neither are they the United States. Even the British have insane libel laws which stifle speech operationally, though there's a chance that the law might be tightened up. We alone should be the City upon a Hill where the blasphemers and peddlers of bigotry can take refuge, because we're already the last best and only hope.</p> <p>* I use the term "barbaric" to refer to societies which I feel express values which are fundamentally different from those of my own so that there is a lack of commensurability of discourse. From the perspective of many Muslim societies American culture is barbaric and <i>kuffar</i>, while the Chinese have their own set of values as evident with the recent conflict with Google over censorship. I use the term "savage" to delineate those societies which dehumanize other cultures. So the Aztecs were savage because they waged wars against other polities for the sake of harvesting sacrificial victims, who were later cannibalized. </p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Wed, 03/24/2010 - 12:47</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/social-sciences" hreflang="en">Social Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 24 Mar 2010 16:47:10 +0000 razib 101331 at https://scienceblogs.com Others in Siberia https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/24/others-in-siberia <span>Others in Siberia</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature08976.html">The complete mitochondrial DNA genome of an unknown hominin from southern Siberia</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>With the exception of Neanderthals, from which DNA sequences of numerous individuals have now been determined...the number and genetic relationships of other hominin lineages are largely unknown. Here we report a complete mitochondrial (mt) DNA sequence retrieved from a bone excavated in 2008 in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia. It represents a hitherto unknown type of hominin mtDNA that shares a common ancestor with anatomically modern human and Neanderthal mtDNAs about 1.0 million years ago. This indicates that it derives from a hominin migration out of Africa distinct from that of the ancestors of Neanderthals and of modern humans. The stratigraphy of the cave where the bone was found suggests that the Denisova hominin lived close in time and space with Neanderthals as well as with modern humans....</p></blockquote> <p>The tree gets bushier? Just see <a href="http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/neandertals/neandertal_dna/denisova-krause-2010.html">John Hawks</a> and <a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2010/03/24/the-x-womans-fingerbone/">Carl Zimmer</a>.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Wed, 03/24/2010 - 10:04</span> Wed, 24 Mar 2010 14:04:16 +0000 razib 101330 at https://scienceblogs.com The biophysical limits of cognitive computation https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/23/the-biophysical-limits-of-cogn <span>The biophysical limits of cognitive computation</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>In this <a href="http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/26877?in=00:00&amp;out=52:04">diavlog</a> with Glenn Loury the behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan recounts the results of an experiment.</p> <p>- If given the option of paying $100 for an item vs. $80 for an item, but in the second case having to go across town for the item, respondents choose $80 and going across town</p> <p>- If given the option of paying $1000 for an item vs. $980 for an item, but in the second case having to go across town for the item, respondents choose $1000 and not going across town</p> <!--more--><p>This the result of a heuristic bias whereby we seem to perform comparisons as percentages, and not the absolute value of currency. You save $20 in both cases, but the proportion is much smaller in the big ticket item. That's not too interesting, what is interesting is this: <b>Mullainathan claims that poor respondents actually choose to go across town in <i>both</i> cases because to them the $20 is very tangible.</b> In other words, in this case the poor behave as the rational actors which neoclassical economics is predicated upon, because they operate in a world of such cash scarcity that they perform numerical calculations habitually to estimate trade offs. Much of the rest of the discussion involves these sorts of insights (if you've ever been on vacation and start out with a fixed amount of money you're going to expend, I suspect you see how this works as you progress through the vacation and have less and less money you can spend).</p> <p>Mullainathan as a behavioral economist emphasizes the importance of psychology in understanding human action, but listening to him I felt that the real truth here was more fundamental and neurological. In <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2009/05/how_we_decide_stuff_happens_in.php">How We Decide</a> Jonah Lehrer reports plenty of data which show that the utilization of the prefrontal cortex to engage in rational action which overrules impulse is strongly conditioned on how much stress we are under and energy we have on hand. In my <a href="http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/19274?in=00:00&amp;out=54:21">discussion with Jake Young</a> last year, Jake, a neuroscientist with a deep interest in economics. pointed out how that the fixation on <b>relative</b> calculations may simply be a function of the fact that general relative rules and heuristics are computationally less expensive than encoding specific absolute values.</p> <p>It is an irony here that one of the problems with modern economic science is that the scholarship of scarcity does not account for the scarcity of resources on a deep neurological level. Rather, the rational actor's prefrontal cortex has an infinite amount of cognitive juice at its disposal, and choice itself is not taxing. But in reality, a utility function in regards to choice always has to take into account that the <b>act of choice itself is subject to the rules of scarcity.</b> The brain uses 25-30% of our calories, far more than in a typical organism.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Tue, 03/23/2010 - 15:26</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/brain-and-behavior" hreflang="en">Brain and Behavior</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 23 Mar 2010 19:26:39 +0000 razib 101329 at https://scienceblogs.com Fructose, bad in rats https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/23/fructose-bad-in-rats <span>Fructose, bad in rats</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>You've probably heard about the research in the press, but please see <a href="http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2010/03/23/rats_and_highfructose_corn_syrup.php">Derek Lowe</a> for perspective. The difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar as an additive may, or may not, be problematic. But the uncertainty in this area is why I try and avoid excessively processed foods*, <b>there's just so much we don't know.</b> If you're poor and short on cash perhaps the high ratio of calories per cent of processed foods are simply necessary, but for people of even modest means I don't think it is that difficult to cut most consumables which come out of boxes from your diet.</p> <p>Again, I want to reiterate that I don't necessarily have an atavistic fear of food science and industry. Or think that "nature always knows right." The human state of nature is Malthusian and characterized by high mortality. But I think some trends in the modern food industry driven by demand side pressures result in medium-to-long term gains in morbidity in return for short-term spikes in pleasure.</p> <p>* If something has fewer than six ingredients, and you know what the ingredients are (i.e., they're not obscure chemicals), I don't know if I would avoid that. After all, cooking is in many ways a form of processing too. As are cheeses and pickling.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Tue, 03/23/2010 - 14:45</span> Tue, 23 Mar 2010 18:45:15 +0000 razib 101328 at https://scienceblogs.com Research blogger of the year is.... https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/23/research-blogger-of-the-year-i <span>Research blogger of the year is....</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a href="http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2010/03/research_blog_of_the_year.php?utm_source=selectfeed&amp;utm_medium=rss">Not Exactly Rocket Science</a>, authored by a certain <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2010/03/research_blog_of_the_year.php?utm_source=selectfeed&amp;utm_medium=rss">Edmund Yong</a>. Congratulations Mr. Yong, but I will admit being less than surprised.</p> <p><b>Update:</b> And also, congratulations to all the other winners, several of whom are in my "regular reads."</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Tue, 03/23/2010 - 14:36</span> Tue, 23 Mar 2010 18:36:27 +0000 razib 101327 at https://scienceblogs.com The evolution of morals https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/21/the-evolution-of-morals <span>The evolution of morals</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>I have a short piece up at <i>Comment is Free</i> at <i>The Guardian</i>, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/mar/20/morality-evolution">The origins of morality do not matter</a>. Its flavor is a bit different from my typical blog posts because the format enforces more brevity, so I decided to try and leverage some analogies. I conclude:</p> <blockquote><p>... Our moral consensus is a river whose course shifts across the plain, constrained by the hills thrust upward by biology. Only history knows where the river will flow next, though evolution can hint at the range of possibilities.</p></blockquote> <p>On a note related to this piece, I will be posting a review of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393067785/geneexpressio-20/">The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness</a> in a few months.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Sun, 03/21/2010 - 18:09</span> Sun, 21 Mar 2010 22:09:01 +0000 razib 101326 at https://scienceblogs.com Personal genomics is dead, long live personal genomics https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/21/the-andrew-pollack-piece-which <span>Personal genomics is dead, long live personal genomics</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/business/20consumergene.html?pagewanted=print">Andrew Pollack</a> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/business/20consumergene.html?pagewanted=print">piece</a> which I <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/creative_destruction_in_the_pe.php">hinted at</a> came out a few days ago: <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/business/20consumergene.html?pagewanted=print">Consumers Slow to Embrace the Age of Genomics</a>. For what it's worth, I think this chart from <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/geneticfuture/2010/03/the_end_is_nigh_for_23andme.php">Dr. Daniel MacArthur</a> is right on:</p> <p><img src="http://scienceblogs.com/geneticfuture/wiki_hype-cycle.jpg" /></p> <p>This too will pass. I believe that like the internet the knowledge and analysis of our genetic information is going to be ubiquitous after a rough period when most of the dreams of grandeur from the first generation entrepreneurs fade.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Sun, 03/21/2010 - 15:21</span> Sun, 21 Mar 2010 19:21:29 +0000 razib 101325 at https://scienceblogs.com Katz https://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2010/03/19/katz-99 <span>Katz</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><!--more--><div style="align: right;"><img src="http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/wp-content/blogs.dir/461/files/2012/04/i-6d5b819880b074728a897d2afcd83119-farawayGurl.jpg" alt="i-6d5b819880b074728a897d2afcd83119-farawayGurl.jpg" /></div> <div style="align: right;"><img src="http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/wp-content/blogs.dir/461/files/2012/04/i-2efb0628b4008f9b3f54e3d73b169bee-gurl.jpg" alt="i-2efb0628b4008f9b3f54e3d73b169bee-gurl.jpg" /></div> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/razib">razib</a></span> <span>Fri, 03/19/2010 - 06:19</span> Fri, 19 Mar 2010 10:19:35 +0000 razib 101305 at https://scienceblogs.com