Monthly Archives: February 2012


In popular fiction, mutants are cool. They have special powers and look like Hugh Jackman. In reality, though, mutations that have any effect at all are almost always bad for you. Everybody has a number of mutations of varying severity. … Continue reading

Posted in Genetics | 45 Comments

Gauge Transformation

As a reader pointed out, you don’t need to to have a flypaper memory to be a physicist.  There you can go a long way with a few basic facts and a long chain of mathematical reasoning.  You can see … Continue reading

Posted in World War Two | 59 Comments

Low-hanging fruit

In The Great Stagnation, Tyler Cowen discusses a real problem – a slowdown in technical innovation,  with slow economic growth as a consequence..   I think his perspective is limited, since he doesn’t know much about the inward nature of … Continue reading

Posted in Low-hanging Fruit | 39 Comments

Lactase Persistence and Understanding History

I threw together some simulations a while ago for a lecture on selection. As usual they led to thinking about some of the implications of selection that I knew but that I had never really internalized. Here, for example is … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Islands in the sky

There are three major high-altitude regions inhabited by humans: highland Ethiopia, Tibet, and the Andean altiplano. In each of these three cases, the locals have adapted in various ways to high altitude – physiological adaptations, as well as cultural. To … Continue reading

Posted in Altitude adaptations, Archaic humans, Denisovans | 19 Comments

Depths of Madness

I’ve said it before, but it’s probably time to say it again.  The most likely explanation for human homosexuality is that it is caused by some pathogen.  It’s too common to be mutational pressure (and we don’t see syndromic versions, … Continue reading

Posted in Evolutionary Medicine, Homosexuality | 315 Comments

Diamond on domestication

Jared Diamond, in discussing animal domestication, claims that the local availability of species with the right qualities for domestication was key, rather than anything special about the biology or culture of the humans living there. In some cases that may … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 48 Comments


There’s a cluster of Y-chromosomes found in inner Eurasia that vary only slightly, and thus must have a recent common ancestor. They are surprisingly common: there are something like 16 million carriers.  The analysts who discovered this (Zerjal et al) … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments


Back around the time I was born, anthropologists sometimes talked about some cultures being more advanced than others.  This was before they decided that all cultures are equal,  except that some are more equal than others. Anyhow, that kind of … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 59 Comments

My Brush with Reproductive Success

Sadly I am a big fan of the traditional approach to these matters so I never followed up with them.  Since this blog could use a touch of humor, …..

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments