03 July 2014
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
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
- Unscientific adaptationist claptrap of the week. No, the human skull didn't evolve to be punched.
- Write it down, maybe. Your semi-regular reminder that humans are animals, too.
- Good news! A new pesticide derived from spider venom might be safe for bees.
- By cheating. Apparently a chatbot kinda, sorta passed the Turing test.
- It's genes! It's environment! It's genes and environment.
- Pour one out for Growly. How we decided to use pepper spray for protection against bears
- Yeah, it's not going to be good. Randall Munroe puts projected global warming in perspective.
- Looks oddly familiar. NASA's long-shot warp-drive team unveils a mocked-up faster-than-light spacecraft.
06 June 2014
Hey there, Eugene. Photo by NASA.
- More on Wade's folly. His pathetic response to critics; there are no primary colors of humanity; we should look beyond culture and genetics to politics; Wade conflates science with fantasy; and laugh so you don't cry.
- Well, maybe. Are hurricanes with feminine names deadlier than hurricanes with masculine names?
- Ow. The scientific value of viral face-plant pratfall videos.
- A good start, anyway. The EPA unveils a new plan to cut carbon emissions.
- Your dose of hope/despair for the week. A new study aims to predict academic promotion from publication records. Well, kinda.
- Um, thanks? Icthyologists honor the Indiana University sports teams in naming a blind fish with a neck anus.
- Endless forms, &c. Here is a wasp with a zinc-tipped "drill bit" on its ovipositor.
- Perspective check. How humans are collateral damage in microbial arms races.
30 May 2014
Photo by Kate Ter Haar.
- This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! Why evolutionary biologists should be excited about the pot genome.
- And at The Molecular Ecologist: Molecular Ecology's top reviewers for 2014 and my review of A Troublesome Inheritance.
- Because why wouldn't you? Figuring out how many habitable planets you can have in the same solar system.
- I take my landfills black, thanks. You can test for groundwater contamination from a landfill by looking for artificial sweeteners.
- Hmm. A lot of Americans who tell pollsters they don't "believe" in evolution understand how it works anyway.
- There's a Methods section for that. No, you shouldn't have to ask scientists to explain their methods before you try to replicate their results.
- Because of course? The brains of gay men who are parents look like straight mothers and straight fathers in a functional MRI scan.
- Sneaky! This fish glows in a color that it's predators can't see.
- I'm choosing to believe that I did, anyway. Did humans evolve bigger brains at the expense of muscle power?
29 May 2014
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
Photo by Diego Charlón Sánchez.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.◼