linkfest – 09/28/15

‘Tree of life’ for 2.3 million species released“A first draft of the ‘tree of life’ for the roughly 2.3 million named species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes — from platypuses to puffballs — has been released. A collaborative effort among eleven institutions, the tree depicts the relationships among living things as they diverged from one another over time, tracing back to the beginning of life on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago. Tens of thousands of smaller trees have been published over the years for select branches of the tree of life — some containing upwards of 100,000 species — but this is the first time those results have been combined into a single tree that encompasses all of life.”

Taste Mutation Helps Monkeys Enjoy Human Food – nice example of recent and local evolution.

SNP hits on cognitive ability from 300k individuals – from steve hsu.

General Cognitive Ability Is Almost Perfectly Stable from Early Adulthood to Late Middle Age“[I]ndividual differences in general intelligence that exist at age 18 are almost perfectly preserved to age 60, after which this stability starts to slowly break down.” – @ human varieties.

Genome-wide autozygosity is associated with lower general cognitive ability“We found that increased levels of autozygosity predicted lower general cognitive ability, and estimate a drop of 0.6 s.d. among the offspring of first cousins (P=0.003–0.02 depending on the model). This effect came predominantly from long and rare autozygous tracts, which theory predicts as more likely to be deleterious than short and common tracts.” – discuss. (~_^)

Study Reports Rare Genetic Mutations Responsible for Almost Half of Autism Cases“Quantitative study identifies 239 genes whose ‘vulnerability’ to devastating de novo mutation makes them priority research targets.”

Genetic transmission of reading ability – h/t to the siberian fox! who tweeted: “Heritability of reading ability is 62%. Previous estimates lower because of assortive mating (r=.38).”

Clannishness – the Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain – from jayman. see also: a few thoughts. from me! (^_^)

Inequality among 32 London Boroughs: An S factor analysis and The general religious factor among Muslims: a multi-level factor analysis – from emil kirkegaard.

It’s official: The Maltese are the fattest in all of the European Union“Despite Malta’s weighty problem, the Maltese have a less than average prevalence of premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease.” – h/t staffan!

Support for linguistic macrofamilies from weighted sequence alignment“This article reports findings regarding the automatic classification of Eurasian languages using techniques from computational biology (such as sequence alignment, phylogenetic inference, and bootstrapping). Main results are that there is solid support for the hypothetical linguistic macrofamilies Eurasiatic and Austro-Tai.”

Our Mental Noise Grows More Intense As We Age, So Our Brains Lose Processing Speed Over Time

Ancient hominid ears were tuned to high frequencies“A. africanus and P. robustus could have heard high-frequency consonants associated with the letters t, k, f and s better than either chimps or present-day people do, the team found.”

Extreme Altruism – The Case of the Pathological Do-Gooder – from helian.

Personal values and intergroup outcomes of concern for group honor – h/t andrew sabisky! who tweeted: “group honour culture = more empathy, lower openness, more endorsement of violence towards Americans.”

Scope Insensitivity in Helping Decisions: Is It a Matter of Culture and Values? – h/t robin hanson! who tweeted: “Contrast to westerners, collectivist Bedouin NOT more willing to help one concrete victim than a group of victims.”

Indigenous Belief in a Just World: New Zealand Māori and other Ethnicities Compared“Māori have more ‘leftist’ beliefs than non-Māori (i.e., nearly 60% of Māori blame an unfair society compared to 41% of non-Māori).”

Tiny mitochondria play outsized role in human evolution and disease

An architecture for encoding sentence meaning in left mid-superior temporal cortex – h/t steve pinker! who tweeted: “The most important paper in cognitive neuroscience in many years: How does the brain represent who did what to whom?”

Sex differences and stress across the lifespan – h/t kevin mitchell!

Does the Welfare State Destroy the Family? Evidence from OECD Member Countries“[A]n expansion in the welfare state increases the fertility, marriage, and divorce rates with a quantitatively stronger effect on the marriage rate. We conclude that the welfare state supports family formation in the aggregate. Further, we find that the welfare state decouples marriage and fertility, and therefore, alters the organization of the average family.”

What is a standard deviation? A definition. – from pumpkin person.

Data analysis yields striking maps of human expansion in North American Holocene“[A] group of paleoclimatologists and anthropologists analyzed data recorded in the Canadian Archaeological Radiocarbon Database (CARD), which aggregates 35,905 radiocarbon samples from archaeological sites across the North American continent, and was created by Dr. Richard Morlan of the Canadian Museum of History. By applying a kernel density estimation method to the data, the researchers produced the first maps of temporally distinct paleo-demographic trends that correspond well to existing evidence of human expansion across North America in the Holocene.”

Scientists Discover 9,000-Year-Old Case of Decapitation in the Americas

Remains of 6,000-year-old first settlers [in ireland] found

Archaeological breakthrough could solve the mystery of Greenland’s Vikings

Regional microbial signatures positively correlate with differential wine phenotypes: evidence for a microbial aspect to terroir

bonus: Growing a penis at 12: the ‘Guevedoce’ boys of the Dominican Republic – (O.O) – h/t @don_arete!

and the tweet of the week! (~_^) :

(note: comments do not require an email. 5-alpha-reductase deficiency.)


  1. Totally off topic (so ignore if you would like) but I think its interesting:

    Just got done reading a book, “Roots of the Classical: The Popular Origins of Western Music”.by musicologist Peter van der Merwe. He discusses the Hajnal line and it’s influence on Western folk and classical music but refers to it as the “Phygrian Fringe” (a mode or note set found in a lot of folk music).

    Van der Merwe argues that up until a few centuries ago, the areas east of the Fringe “were…the civilized part of Europe”. He defines the most important part of the Fringe as southern Spain, southern and north-eastern Italy, and eastern Europe. He discusses the many Germanic/Polish/English composer who composed “Spanish music”, including Chopin, d’Indy, Elgar, Glazunoff, Gluck, Humperdinck, Ibert, Lizst, Carl Lowe…Arthur Rubinstein, Mozart, Richard Strauss, Schumann…”. They were all profoundly influenced by eastern music, to the extent that “we forget that Lizst was German”. He claims there has been “a conspiracy of silence” to ignore the contributions of the Fringe to Western classical and folk music, which mainly developed under the auspices of the Gypsies, but also the Turks and Arabs.

    He particularly feels that German Romantic music borrowed heavily from the Fringe, and even claims they’re “partly, Orientalized peoples”. He says, “This is evident in many national traits: the love of fantasy; the gift of mathematics; the almost Indian delight in complication; the weakness for cloudy mysticism; the fatalism (transmogrified into ‘historical necessity’); the tendency to regard abstractions as somehow more real than the sensible world; the obsession with unity, and especially the unity of opposites.” Going on, he states, “The inclination towards the East is especially obvious in the realms of abstract thought, and it is surely not coincidental that so many eminent German thinker–Marx, Freud, Einstein, Popper, and Schenker, to name only a few– have been Jewish, at least by origin.”

    I thought it was interesting and reminded me of some of the stuff you touch on. i mean, it’s tangentially related to what you usually discuss, but it was fascinating to me that the East, and particularly Vienna (which he calls the capital of the “western-Orient”) contributed in this way to music, even though we usually think of the major cities west of the Hajnal as being the founts of Western classical music.


  2. “How does the brain represent who did what to whom?”

    This could explain a lot.

    Get your who/whom/action bins mixed up and you are going to be coming up with some very different explanations from people who don’t have your same who/whom/action constructs.


  3. Lion of…

    “Van der Merwe argues that up until a few centuries ago, the areas east of the Fringe “were…the civilized part of Europe”.

    Not off-topic imo and also makes perfect sense imo.

    The more southerly mid-latitude climates had the advantage of high density agriculture and subsequent civilization long before northern Europe and all else being equal you’d expect the expansion of high density agriculture into northern Europe – due to inventions like the heavy plow – would have led to northern Europe slowly rising to the same or similar level of civilization as southern Europe and other mid-latitude civilizations of a similar level in other parts of the world – and then stopped at around that level.

    However it didn’t stop and “why” is the big question because if the why is something that can be engineered then the potential benefit of knowing why is huge

    and to me anyway hbdchick’s marriage pattern idea seems like a plausible candidate.


  4. “It’s official: The Maltese are the fattest in all of the European Union”; quite impossible because Mediterranean diet.

    “the Maltese have a less than average prevalence of premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease”; naturally, because Mediterranean diet.


  5. Makes me wonder how many heritability estimates are too low. Judging by research by David Buss and others, assortative mating must be very common on all psychological characteristics.


  6. Self report made by teens for personality research… the most emotionally turbulent period of human life. Is quaaasi-like ask for bipolar people in their bad days how they describe themselves.

    Even if the best methods were used, seems likely that this type of research will have wrong results.


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