linkfest – 10/14/13

Ancient DNA Unravels Europe’s Genetic Diversity“Ancient DNA recovered from a time series of skeletons in Germany spanning 4,000 years of prehistory has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern-day Europeans. The study, published today in ‘Science’, reveals dramatic population changes with waves of prehistoric migration, not only from the accepted path via the Near East, but also from Western and Eastern Europe.” – orig. research article: Ancient DNA Reveals Key Stages in the Formation of Central European Mitochondrial Genetic Diversity. from dienekes: “Anyone adhering to a ‘pots not people’ paradigm will find difficult to explain the sharp discontinuities found in the genetic record.” – and here’s national geographic’s take on the story – my head’s dizzy from all the spin!: “So, just like parts of Europe today are melting pots from different living cultures across the world, Europe is also a melting pot of genetic lineages from different prehistoric cultures that lived there at different periods of time.” – see also: Stone Age farmers, hunters kept their distance.

Genes Suggest European Women at Root of Ashkenazi Family Tree“The women who founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Europe were not from the Near East, as previously supposed, and reinforces the idea that many Jewish communities outside Israel were founded by single men who married and converted local women.” – see dienekes and greg cochran.

[Genetic] Link to Oetzi the Iceman found in living Austrians – AWESOME!

Child Behaviour: Not In Their Genes?“Using a powerful approach called GCTA, King’s College London researchers Maciej Trzaskowski and colleagues found no evidence that genetics can explain differences in children’s behavioural and conduct difficulties.” – @neuroskeptic.

“Were the First Artists Mostly Women?“Three-quarters of handprints in ancient cave art were left by women, study finds.” — afaics, there’s no reason to conclude that the individuals who spray painted outlines of their hands (any idiot can do that — I could do that!) were the same individuals who painted the horses and lions, etc. duh. anyway, here’s the interesting bit from the article: “[T]he hands in the caves were much more sexually dimorphic than modern hands, meaning that there was little overlap in the various hand measurements. ‘They fall at the extreme ends, and even beyond the extreme ends,’ Snow said. ‘Twenty thousand years ago, men were men and women were women.'”

Glass always half-empty? Your genes may be to blame“UBC researcher finds some people are genetically predisposed to seeing things in a negative light. Further research is also planned to explore the gene variant’s occurrence across different ethnic groups. While it is believed more than half of Caucasians have ADRA2b, some studies suggest it is much less prominent in other ethnicities….”

Whites More Prone to Certain Heart Condition Than Other Ethnic Groups“In a study to be published online October 8 and in the November 12 issue of ‘Circulation’, researchers discovered that self-described non-Hispanic whites are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than people from other race or ethnic groups. ‘We found that consistently, every other race had a statistically significant lower risk of atrial fibrillation compared to whites…. So this suggests that white race is itself a risk factor for atrial fibrillation.'” – h/t mr. mangan, esq!

Evolution and Bad Boyfriends

Neurons Fire Backward in Sleep“Unusual brain cell activity may underlie memory streng…” wait. NEURONS FIRE BACKWARD IN SLEEP! cool.

Changes in women’s attractiveness perception of masculine men’s dances across the ovulatory cycle: Preliminary data“Women’s preferences for putative cues of genetic quality in men’s voices, faces, bodies, and behavioral displays are stronger during the fertile phase of the ovulatory cycle. Here we show that ovulatory cycle-related changes in women’s attractiveness perceptions of male features are also found with dance movements, especially those perceived as highly masculine.”

Similar chimpanzees form friendships“‘We found that, especially among unrelated friends, the most sociable and bold individuals preferred the company of other highly sociable and bold individuals, whereas shy and less sociable ones spent time with other similarly aloof and shy chimpanzees,’ says the researcher. The researchers argue that such a strong preference for self-like individuals is probably adaptive, because frequent cooperation becomes more reliable when both partners have similar behavioural tendencies and emotional states. This finding strongly resembles the known ‘similarity effect’ in humans: We tend to make friends with people who are equally extraverted, friendly and bold as ourselves.” — same in some birds, too, remember?

All you ever wanted to know about intelligence (but were too bright to ask) Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 – from dr. james thompson.

Social Status and Anger Expression: The Cultural Moderation Hypothesis“Individuals with lower social status have been reported to express more anger, but this evidence comes mostly from Western cultures…. Americans with lower social status expressed more anger…. Japanese with higher social status expressed more anger….” – maybe there’s a biological explanation? – h/t neuroskeptic!

Life Purpose Buffers Negative Moods Triggered by Diversity“Being in the minority in an ethnically diverse crowd is distressing, regardless of your ethnicity….” – h/t mr. mangan, esq!

Neandertals ate stomach goop, and you can too – mmmmm! chyme!

Study: Narcissists Only Think They’re Especially Creative“Narcissistic people do undertake more creative things, but their correlation with self-reported creativity is disproportionately strong.” – h/t jayman! – speaking of narcissts: The Double-Edged Sword of Grandiose Narcissism: Implications for Successful and Unsuccessful Leadership Among U.S. Presidents.

The Whites of Their Eyes“The subjects in [milgram’s] experiments notoriously (and shockingly!) were willing to inflict great pain and possibly permanent harm or even death on victims. But they became less willing to do so as the victim was moved progressively closer to them.”

Meritocracy and Its Discontents – @thosewhocansee.

The Paekchong of Korea – from peter frost.

Tribal feuds, local conflicts engulf Libya“Ever since its revolution, Libya has been riddled with tribal conflict. The state remains powerless in the face of weapon proliferation and violence. Societal fragmentation seems inevitable.” — huh. strange.

The Anglosphere miracle – by daniel hannan – “As for the idea that the individual should be as free as possible from state coercion, this is regarded as the ultimate Anglophone fetish. Whenever the E.U. extends its jurisdiction into a new field—decreeing what vitamins we can buy, how much capital banks must hold, what hours we may work, how herbal remedies are to be regulated—I ask what specific problem the new rules are needed to solve. The response is always the same: ‘But the old system was unregulated!’ The idea that absence of regulation might be a natural state of affairs is seen as preposterous.”

A Second Great Depression? – from jayman.

Cheaters always prosper, to a point

Ancient Sundial Discovered In Bronze Age Ukrainian Grave Is Oldest Of Its Kind

Why a medieval peasant got more vacation time than you – d*mn them! h/t mike anissimov!

I tooke a bodkine“‘I tooke a bodkine,’ he wrote in his notebook, ‘& put it betwixt my eye & bone as neare to [the] backside of my eye as I could: pressing my eye [with the] end of it…there appeared severall white & darke & coloured circles…which circles were plainest when I continued to rub my eye [with the] point of [the] bodkine.’ After many months with his bodkins, notebooks and prisms he came to the conclusion that our eyes can deceive us even about something as obvious as daylight, which appears plain and simple to us, but is in fact composed of lights of many different colours. Appearances can conceal as much as they reveal.” – great #longread about isaac newton.

Length of pregnancy can vary by up to five weeks, scientists discover

Preventing penile fractures and Peyronie’s disease – DON’T try this at home!: “In some Middle East regions, men engage in a practice known as *taqaandan* (‘to click’ in Kurdish), explains Dr. Javaad Zargooshi, urology professor at Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences in Iran. It’s a painless process, similar to knuckle-cracking, in which the top half of an erect penis is bent forcefully while the rest of the shaft is held stationary. Usually this produces only a loss of erection and a satisfying popping noise, says Zargooshi, who published a report on the phenomenon in December in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Other times, it will fracture the penis.” – wait. what? – via ed west!

Aldeburgh dig unearths teenager’s ‘keepsakes’ box“An Anglo-Saxon teenage girl’s box of trinkets is thought to have been uncovered by archaeologists during a three-week dig in Suffolk.”

bonus: How the Western Banksta System Kills Millions (by accident)

bonus bonus: True scale of European immigration“An EU study has found 600,000 unemployed migrants are living in Britain.”

bonus bonus bonus: Does Some Deeper Level of Physics Underlie Quantum Mechanics? An Interview with Nobelist Gerard ’t Hooft and You probably have no free will. But don’t worry about it.

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Swifts stay airborne for six months at a time – whoa!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Southern Flying Squirrels Land in Canada“Southern flying squirrels are moving into the habitat of Northern flying squirrels. Now people are debating what to call the hybrid offspring.” — illegal infiltrators! (~_^)

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where everybody’s fourth cousins

in response to the “people befriend their fourth cousins” study, smersh makes an excellent observation:

“You referenced some of this in your counter currents interview but this study makes things more clear.

Friends are as close to each other as fourth cousins.

Jews are also as close to each other as fourth or fifth cousins.

Therefore it is easy for Jews to make close friends by hanging out with other Jews.

Meanwhile, it is harder for gentiles to make close friends in mass societies, as people move around and no longer live in a village near a bunch of closely related people.

Certainly seems like it might explain a lot without implying a malicious intent on the part of certain parties.”

yes! maybe.

if it’s correct that people generally befriend their fourth cousins — and this is something that could vary between different populations (Further Research is RequiredTM) — then, perhaps, this could explain why places like iceland work so well, too. i don’t know what the average relatedness there is (does anybody know?), but presumably it’s something like fourth or fifth cousins as well. maybe then it IS really easy in such a place to have a — whatever — redistributive socialist system when it feels like almost anyone in your population could be your friend.


btw, that counter currents interview was, in fact, originally a hoover hog interview that somehow got syndicated over on cc. just want to give credit where credit is due. (^_^)

previously: friendship and natural selection (and human biodiversity)

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friendship and natural selection (and human biodiversity)

i linked to this paper…

Friendship and Natural Selection

…in this past sunday’s linkfest, but, to be honest with you, i hadn’t actually read it. (yeah, i do that sometimes. ok, ok — a LOT of times!)

since then, a couple of people urged me to read the arXiv blogpost on it (thanks @DKshad0w and @SamoBurja!), which prompted me to read the orig. research paper and … wow! … mind. blown.

now, no, i’m NOT a geneticist — i don’t even play one on the innerwebs — so i’m not your gal for evaluating whether or not these guys — nicholas christakis and james fowler — have done their work right, but if they have, this is very cool stuff:

Pairs of friends are, on average, as genetically similar to one another as fourth cousins, which seems noteworthy since this estimate is net of mean ancestry and background relatedness.”

fourth cousins! note that these are (i believe) all white folks. the data are from the framingham heart study, but the researchers do say that they controlled both for relatives (i.e. that individuals might be “friends” with people who are, in fact, distant relatives) and ethnicity (eg. that italians might just be friends with other italians).

It is intriguing that genetic structure in human populations may result not only from the formation of reproductive unions, but also from the formation of friendship unions. This in turn has relevance for the idea of an evocative gene-environment correlation, proposed more than 30 years ago, which suggests that a person’s genes can lead one to seek out circumstances that are compatible with one’s genotype. Our results suggest that these circumstances could include not only the physical environment but also the *social* environment, and hence the genotypic constitution of one’s friends. As Tooby and Cosmides argue, ‘not only do individual humans have different reproductive values that can be estimated based on various cues they manifest, but they also have different association values.’ People may seek out particular, convivial social environments that affect their fitness.

i’ve been saying for a while now that the family types/social structures in which individuals are located ought to be taken into consideration when thinking about the fitness of those individuals and how natural selection might be working on different individuals living and reproducing in different sorts of social structures (individuals living in nuclear family structures versus large clan structures, for instance). i’ve mostly been thinking about family structures, but christakis and fowler are talking about friendship structures — alliances with non-family members. cool!

“The existence of excess genetic similarity between friends is also relevant to the growing area of indirect genetic effects, wherein the phenotypic traits of focal individuals are influenced by the genomes of their neighbors, in a kind of ‘network epistasis.’ In fact, our results support the idea that humans might be seen as metagenomic not just with respect to the microbes within them, but also with respect to the humans around them. It may be useful to view a person’s genetic landscape as a summation of the genes within the individual and within the people surrounding the individual, just as in certain other organisms.

yeah. just muse on THAT for a while. (~_^) and then try this on for size…

“[T]he human evolutionary environment is not limited to the physical environment (sunshine, altitude) or biological environment (predators, pathogens), but also includes the social environment, which may itself be an evolutionary force. Our finding that positively correlated genotypes are under positive selection suggests that the genes of other people might modify the fitness advantages of one’s own genes, thus affecting the speed and outcome of evolution.

did you get that? the researchers found that, the SNPs that were most common between the friends (the homophilic SNPs), have, indeed, been under recent positive selection:

“To test the hypothesis that homophilic SNPs are generally under recent positive selection, we use the Composite of Multiple Signals (CMS) score. This score combines signals from several measures of positive selection to create a single value that indicates the likelihood a SNP has been increasing in frequency due to selection pressure over the last 30,000 years (see SI). In Fig.3, we show that, after correcting for correlated outcomes due to linkage disequilibrium and for varying precision in the GWAS estimates (see SI), the top 20% most homophilic SNPs have significantly higher CMS scores than the other 80% (+0.07, SE 0.02, p = 0.003)…. In contrast, Fig.3 also shows that CMS scores are not significantly higher for the most homophilic SNPs in the strangers GWAS (–0.00, SE 0.02, p = 0.86). This suggests that the whole-genome regression model we use does not generate false positives…. In sum, it appears that, overall, across the whole genome, the genotypes humans tend to share in common with their friends are more likely to be under recent natural selection than other genotypes.

friendship and natural selection 01

friendship and natural selection 02

with human biodiversity in mind, my question would be: do all peoples everywhere form an equal number of friendships with (technically) unrelated individuals? yes, i have an obsession with clannish peoples — but, seriously — do people who live in clans or tribes make as many “friends” as peoples who don’t? do they even have the opportunity? if not, what might this mean for natural selection in those populations?

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friends vs. family

*update below*

luke asks: “How important is friendship — between-non relatives that is — in highly inbred societies?”

good question.

there are two questions that relate to this on the world values survey (2005-2008 wave):

– For each of the following aspects, indicate how important it is in your life. Would you say it is: Family.
– For each of the following aspects, indicate how important it is in your life. Would you say it is: Friends.

i’m assuming that “friends” means non-relative friends to all of the respondents.

possible responses:

1 Very important
2 Rather important
3 Not very important
4 Not at all important

i looked at just those that responded “very important” to each question. i haven’t sorted any of the nations by ethnicity, so … you know … some nations (like the u.s.) are kinda mixed up ’cause they’re multi-ethnic.

here are the nations sorted by those who responded that family was the most important to them. all five father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marrying societies in this world values survey wave (in red) are above the global average, four of them towards the top. of my “core” nw europeans (in blue), the netherlands, germany, france, and norway are all below the global average. the anglo nations scored, for the most part, below the fbd nations, but above the global average. i’m surprised at how low china and hong kong score:

wvs - family very important

and here are the nations sorted by those who responded that friends were the most important to them. the “core” europeans are all above the global average, but so are jordan, iraq, and morocco. again china and hong kong score very low:

wvs - friends very important

finally, here’s the data sorted by the difference between the “family” responses and the “friends” responses (family responses minus friends responses). towards the top are the societies with the widest difference between how important they feel family is versus friends — so they, presumably, value family much more than friends. towards the bottom are the societies with the smallest difference between how important family and friends are. all of my “core” europeans are below the global average, most well below. great britain, the netherlands, norway, and sweden are in the lowest quarter of the table, showing how — comparatively speaking — there’s not a very great difference in how these populations view family and friends. three of the five fbd marriage societies are above the global average. hong kong scores surprisingly low — as does ethiopia! maybe i shouldn’t be so surprised at that:

wvs - family friends very important - difference

update 12/29: i took a look at the documentation of the values surveys for some of the countries for which i or someone else thought the results were kinda surprising (china, ethiopia, georgia, cyprus). here’s what i found:

– china: seems to be a pretty good quality survey. the researchers (from the Research Center for Contemporary China, Peking University) did conduct surveys in all regions of the country (i was concerned that maybe they only focused on beijing or something). two things that are a little concerning to me: 1) the sample size is 1,991. is that representative for a population of 1.3 billion? seems to me like it wouldn’t be, but what do i know about stats (not much)? 2) they interviewed more older people than younger people (aged 18-29). they figured that’s ’cause so many younger people are migrant workers and so just weren’t at “home” when these surveys were done. which is interesting given the results ’cause i would’ve thought that family would be more important to older generations in china than to younger ones, but perhaps not.

– ethiopia: there was a big problem with the ethiopia survey. i’ll just quote from the report [pg. 13]:

“Respondents (and interviewers) had IMMENSE difficulty interpreting scales with opposing statements on either side of a 10 point scale. They tended to give an answer of agreement or not for either statements separately rather than selecting a number to indicate their answer on the continuum between the two statements. A large amount of time had to be spent in each interview explaining (over and over again!) that a score below 5 indicated agreement in varying degrees of strength with the statement on the left, 5 and 6 meant a lack of agreement or neutral feeling towards both statements with a forced preference to one, and a score between 7 and 10 indicated varying degrees of agreement with the statement on the right. Attempts at utilising the ‘counting stones’ scale assistance technique AND attempts at adapted show card representations failed as respondents were too confused by the fact that there were two statements involved in each question.”

the friends and family answers were not on a ten point scale, but they were on a four point scale (very/rather/not very/not at all important). perhaps that confused the respondents as well?

also, the report says that the interviews were conducted in amharic. well, iwitbb** only 29% of the ethiopian population speaks amharic. hmmmmm.

**if wikipedia is to be believed.

– georgia: seems to be a pretty good quality survey, except — abkhazia and ossetia were NOT included (*sigh* — well, what can you do?) — neither were some regions that were occupied by the russians at the time (are they still?).

– cyprus: the respondents in cyprus comprised 550 greek cypriots and 500 turkish cypriots [pg. 24 of report]. however, iwitbb, ca. 80% of cypriots are greek while only ca. 18% of cypriots are turkish. having said that, i would’ve thought that the presence of so many turkish cypriots in the survey would’ve made the difference between the “family” vs. “friends” score higher. it would be interesting to know — which i don’t — the areas of turkey from which the ancestors of today’s turkish cypriots hailed.

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heroes and their friends

luke skywalker … and han and leia (we didn’t know she was luke’s sister in the first movie) and chewie and obi-wan and r2 and c-3po:

frodo baggins … and sam and merry and pippin and gandalf and strider and legolas and gimli and boromir:

harry potter … and ron and hermione and dumbledore and ginny and neville and luna:

robin hood … and little john and will scarlet and friar tuck and maid marian:


is this a western/anglo/post-early-medieval storyline? having a hero allied with a bunch of friends i mean? do other traditional hero stories from other cultures involve alliances with friends?

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assortative friendships

do you pick your friends ’cause you like them, or ’cause they have certain genes? (or is that the same thing?):

“Correlated genotypes in friendship networks”

“[K]inship may not be the only basis on which natural selection might possibly operate at the group level. For example, if genetic differences between social networks (or, conversely, genetic similarity within networks) were found at significant levels among humans, it would enhance the opportunity for natural selection to operate at the level of social groups established on a basis other than kinship….

“[N]o work has yet established that, net of such stratification, there are any genes that are correlated (either positively or negatively) between individuals in nonreproductive, friendship unions. To study whether such correlation exists, we analyzed two independent samples with information about respondents’ genes and about respondents’ friendship ties and social networks: the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and the Framingham Heart Study Social Network (FHS-Net). Add Health allowed respondents to name up to 10 friends at each of three waves over 6 y (27), and the FHS-Net captured up to two close friends at each of seven waves over 32 y (28).

“In Add Health, subjects were genotyped for one marker each in the DRD2, DRD4, CYP2A6, MAOA, SLC6A3, and SLC6A4 genes (Materials and Methods). Figs. 1 and 2 show how genotypes for two of these genes are distributed in the largest connected component of the friendship network. Notably, significant clusters of similar genotypes for DRD2 suggest the possibility of homophily, but the substantial absence of any connection between individuals with minor alleles of CYP2A6 suggests possible heterophily….

“These results suggest that there is genotypic clustering in social networks that exceeds what might be expected solely from population stratification. People’s friends may not only have similar traits, but actually resemble each other on a genotypic level, even at the level of specific alleles and nucleotides.

“Thus, homophily and heterophily in friendships, expressed at the genetic level, may have notable implications for our understanding both of the way that our genes can shape our environmental exposures and the way that our social environment can influence our behavior (21, 22, 28, 35). A feedback process might emerge whereby a person’s genes lead to the selection of friends with certain genotypes, which in turn facilitates or modifies the expression of a person’s own genes…. Such a process could also play out over longer time scales; the human evolutionary environment is not limited to the physical and biological environment, but also includes the social environment, which may itself be an evolutionary force (37, 38).

“In some sense, humans might be ‘metagenomic’ not just with respect to the microbes within them (39, 40), but also with respect to the humans around them. We could possibly view an individual’s genetic landscape as a summation of the genes within the individual and those around him, just as in certain other organisms (14, 17).”

metagenomic. i like that. i like it a lot!

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