03 July 2014

Moving day!

As of right about today, I'm moving both Denim and Tweed and my professional site to a new domain: jbyoder.org. I've imported the complete D&T archive to its new location in a subdomain of that new site, though I'll be keeping things online at this address as well for the foreseeable future, if only to prevent linkrot. The D&T RSS feed should now feed posts from the new location, and I'll be adjusting the Facebook page accordingly as well.◼

23 June 2014

My review of A Troublesome Inheritance for the Los Angeles Review of Books

World Map - Abstract Acrylic Image by Lara Mukahirn.
I've written (another) review of Nicholas Wade's "science of race" book A Troublesome Inheritance, this time for the Los Angeles Review of Books. If you've read the my previous review for The Molecular Ecologist, you won't find much new here, but the LARB piece is pitched at a less technical audience, and takes a somewhat different point of entry:

CHARLES DARWIN is more usually cited for his scientific discoveries than his moral insights. In the closing pages of his travelogue The Voyage of the Beagle however, he condemns the practice of slavery — which he observed firsthand in the colonized New World — in blistering, heartfelt terms worthy of an Old Testament prophet

...

In this testimony against the great social sin of his age, Darwin makes an observation that should unsettle us even here and now: “if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”

I'm extremely pleased for the chance to contribute to a great literary magazine, and I'm also quite happy to see that LARB went with my suggested, punny headline: "Cluster-struck."

13 June 2014

Science online, warped factors edition

ixspreparation2 This is a spacecraft NASA wants to build. Photo by Mark Rademaker.

06 June 2014

Science online, may the odds be ever in your favor edition

Hurricane Eugene Hey there, Eugene. Photo by NASA.

30 May 2014

Science online, sweetening the stats edition

Splenda in the Grass Photo by Kate Ter Haar.

29 May 2014

The Molecular Ecologist: I read A Troublesome Inheritance so you don't have to

World Map - Abstract Acrylic Image by Lara Mukahirn.
Over at The Molecular Ecologist I've done an in-depth review of the population genetics data cited by Nicholas Wade in his book A Troublesome Inheritance, which argues that social, cultural, and economic differences between human populations are all in our genes. Digging into the book's endnotes, it didn't take me long to find discrepancies between Wade's description of basic population genetic results and the actual, um, results.

First and foremost, Wade claims that when population geneticists apply a class of statistical methods called clustering algorithms to datasets containing hundreds or thousands of genetic markers, they objectively identify five geographic groups that he calls “continental races”—differentiating African, European/Middle Eastern/South Asian, East Asian, Oceanian, and American people. What he does not make particularly clear is that while clustering methods do group genetic samples without direct instructions, the algorithms do not decide how many clusters there are. The geneticists using them do.

To make me feel somewhat better for having paid actual money to read this book, go read my whole review.◼

27 May 2014

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Why evolutionary biologists are stoked about pot

This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, guest contributor Daniela Vergara explains how CGRI, the initiative to sequence the genome-wide genetic variation of Cannabis, will answer cool evolutionary questions.

At the CGRI, we would like to understand first, how much genetic variation there is in the numerous pure C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis accessions and heirloom varieties. This will lead us to understand the relationships among the major lineages within the genus, the spread of Cannabis throughout the globe, and rates of historical hybridization between the named species.

For Daniela's detailed run-down of important evolutionary questions in Cannabis, go read the whole thing.◼