Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lazy Linking

I've not linked lazily in a while (nasty flu...). So...

  • Very interesting New Scientist article, related to my recent post on the farm fox experiment, that focuses on work done by Max Planck Institute evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääbo (of Neanderthal genome-fame) on the genetics of domestication. (They worked on rats bred for tameness and aggression though, not the foxes). My hypothesis that the original fox domestication results could have been due to experimental biases gets some indirect support from the fact that Pääbo's team thought it necessary to introduce more rigorous protocols for determining tameness.   
  • Also noteworthy is a supplemental text-box that quotes Richard Wrangham as saying human beings may be a "self-domesticated species". Intriguing thought. 
  • A fantastic Douglas Adams essay from the late 90s. Among other things, he predicted the end of the broadcasting (one-to-many) pattern of communications (c.f. Shirky).
  • "Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’."
  • Via Michael Nielsen
  • Anomalistic psychologist Chris French on sleep paralysis (hypnopompia and hypnogogia). I have experienced this myself, which I described in a post early in the history of this blog...
12th Edition of Science Pro Publica
  • The twelfth edition of the blog carnival Science Pro Publica hosted by Lab Rat. My pieces on chameleons and fox domestication were featured. 
"How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?"
  • A lengthy piece by Paul Krugman in The New York Magazine on the causes of the failure of academic economics. 
  • Random anecdote: I still remember the day I decided I wouldn't pursue economics beyond undergrad. (It was the last straw...). It was a third year ecos course at UCT and we were covering a 2-buyer, 2-commodity and 2-seller model when, reflecting on possible problems with the model, the lecturer said "the assumptions may not reflect reality". MAY!?!
  • A bunch of hilarious verbatim howlers from the essays of undergrads collected over several decades by a history professor.
  • My favorite: "In the 1400 hundreds most Englishmen were perpendicular. A class of yeowls arose. Finally, Europe caught the Black Death. The bubonic plague is a social disease in the sense that it can be transmitted by intercourse and other etceteras. It was spread from port to port by inflected rats. Victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks. The plague also helped the emergance of the English language as the national language of England, France and Italy."
"What conclusions can be drawn from Neanderthal DNA": Parts One and Two.
  • An excellent essay on... well, the title says it all. It's by one James Winters, a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh. There are a bunch of grammatical and stylistic solecisms and rather... creative use of adjectives, but the content is very interesting. 
Entheogens - Wikipedia
  • "An entheogen ("creates god within")... in the strict sense, is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic or spiritual context. Historically, entheogens were mostly derived from plant sources and have been used in a variety of traditional religious contexts. Most entheogens do not produce drug dependency. With the advent of organic chemistry, there now exist many synthetic substances with similar psychoactive properties. Entheogens are tools to supplement various practices for healing and transcendence, including in meditation, psychonautics, art projects, and psychedelic therapy."

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