Friday, August 29, 2014

Cat parasite reprograms human brains


Ever notice how cat owners seem to be under the spell of some sort of mind control that makes them completely irrational about some things? Some new research has shown how this works:
An unassuming single-celled organism called Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most successful parasites on Earth, infecting an estimated 11 percent of Americans and perhaps half of all people worldwide. It’s just as prevalent in many other species of mammals and birds. In a recent study in Ohio, scientists found the parasite in three-quarters of the white-tailed deer they studied.

One reason for Toxoplasma’s success is its ability to manipulate its hosts. The parasite can influence their behavior, so much so that hosts can put themselves at risk of death. Scientists first discovered this strange mind control in the 1990s, but it’s been hard to figure out how they manage it. Now a new study suggests that Toxoplasma can turn its host’s genes on and off — and it’s possible other parasites use this strategy, too.

Toxoplasma manipulates its hosts to complete its life cycle. Although it can infect any mammal or bird, it can reproduce only inside of a cat. The parasites produce cysts that get passed out of the cat with its feces; once in the soil, the cysts infect new hosts.

Toxoplasma returns to cats via their prey. But a host like a rat has evolved to avoid cats as much as possible, taking evasive action from the very moment it smells feline odor.

Experiments on rats and mice have shown that Toxoplasma alters their response to cat smells. Many infected rodents lose their natural fear of the scent. Some even seem to be attracted to it.
And if your behavior is not driven by cat parasites, then it is probably your genes:
“First Law: All human behavioural traits are heritable.
Second Law: The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of the genes.
Third Law: A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioural traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families.”

- Turkheimer, E. (2000). Three laws of behavior genetics and what they mean.

“There is now a large body of evidence that supports the conclusion that individual differences in most, if not all, reliably measured psychological traits, normal and abnormal, are substantively influenced by genetic factors. This fact has important implications for research and theory building in psychology, as evidence of genetic influence unleashes a cascade of questions regarding the sources of variance in such traits. A brief list of those questions is provided, and representative findings regarding genetic and environmental influences are presented for the domains of personality, intelligence, psychological interests, psychiatric illnesses, and social attitudes. These findings are consistent with those reported for the traits of other species and for many human physical traits, suggesting that they may represent a general biological phenomenon.”

- Bouchard, T. J. (2004). Genetic Influence on Human Psychological Traits: A Survey

Friday, August 22, 2014

Obama denounces Islamic group

Pres. Barack Obama has been busy stirring up racial animosity in Missouri, and has moved on to religious animosity:
Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion.

They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people. So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. ...

From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of this kind of nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century. ...

And may God bless the United States of America.
The Christians are religious minorities. ISIL is certainly not nihilistic, as nihilism means:
Rejection of all distinctions in moral or religious value and a willingness to repudiate all previous theories of morality or religious belief.
ISIL has an Islamic religious belief, and promotes a traditional Mohammedan ideology. The kill people of other religions. Yes they sometimes murder Muslims, if those Muslims disagree with killing Christians.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Equal access is not possible

The NY Times has a debate on organ selling, and the medical ethics professor says:
If all patients have equal value as humans, then they should have equal access to health care. This stipulation crumbles, however, when organs can be bought and sold.

Values and ethics underpin society and medical practice so health care structures that operate purely on economics are inappropriate.

Payments for organs equates to price tags for them, and who gets to put a price on life?
It is baffling how an expert in the subject could make such a silly argument.

It is simply not possible for everyone to get equal health care. Even if that were desirable, some physicians and medical providers are better than others. People have vastly different needs.

Equal medical care is no more desirable than equal food, housing, transportation, or anything else.

While paying donors for kidneys is illegal outside Iran, patients (or their employers, insurers, welfare benefits, etc) certainly have to pay maybe $100k for a transplant. So they are paying for life. The issue under debate is whether the person making the transplant possible can get some small percentage of the expense.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Future of humanity is African

NPR Radio reports:
"The future of humanity is increasingly African."

That's the prediction in a new UNICEF report, which estimates that by the end of this century, 40 percent of the world's people will be African — up from 15 percent now. The continent's population currently sits at roughly 1.2 billion but will soar to more than 4 billion by 2100. Nearly 1 billion will live in Nigeria alone.

In a released Wednesday, UNICEF projected the growth of Africa's child population within the next century. And the numbers are staggering.

An estimated 1.8 billion births will take place in Africa in the next 35 years, the authors predict. By 2050, Africa will have almost children under 18, making up nearly 40 percent of kids worldwide.
For comparison, this chart says that 500M people lived in Europe or N. America in 1900, and the world population was 1600M. Today, the world population is 60% Asian.

Whites are rapidly becoming a minority in the USA:
For the first time, U.S. public schools are projected this fall to have more minority students than non-Hispanic whites, a shift largely fueled by growth in the number of Hispanic children.
If space aliens have been observing us for the last few centuries, they would report that Europe and N. America invented modern civilization, with the science, technology, agriculture, political organizations, law, etc. to support a multi-billion population. Then they chose to use that know-how to re-populate the planet with other races.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Responsible use of mathematical tools

Forbes reports on mathematicians criticizing the NSA:
Keith Devlin of Stanford University, worked on Defense Department projects after September 11th and takes a far more critical view of the NSA after the Snowden revelations. ...

“I think mathematicians should refuse to work for the NSA until they both follow the US Constitution and demonstrate responsible use of mathematical tools,” says Devlin in an email to me. “The latter is something they clearly failed to do by engineering weaknesses into mathematical crypto systems, which mathematicians know to be a very dangerous thing to do. I think it is very regrettable that the current NSA leadership has broken the immense goodwill that most of us in the mathematical community once had toward them.” ...

When Google, for example, released an “end-to-end” encryption tool for Gmail this week, it placed a smiley face message in its code, an inside joke that was a subtle dig at the NSA, and a celebration of the fact that it will be harder for spying types to get access to messages sent this way by Gmail users.
For articles on the subject in a mathematician publication, see Apr 2000, Jan 2014, Feb 2014, Jun 2014, and Jul 2014 (pdf).

The NSA is a military intelligence agency. It is a little strange for Devlin to lecture us on "responsible use of mathematical tools". It is even stranger to criticize spying and praise Google at the same time. Google makes billions of dollars from spying on users and selling their privacy to advertisers. C-Net reports:
Google sees alleged child porn in man's email, alerts police
A Houston man is charged after police say Google tips them off to alleged child porn in his e-mail.
By contrast, the NSA is accused of recommending a pseudo-random number generator that might have it easier to catch foreign terrorists.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Professors against human evolution book

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist professor Jerry Coyne writes:
Sunday’s New York Times Book Review (already up) features a letter signed by 139 population geneticists, including myself. It is, in essence, a group of scientists objecting en masse to Nicholas Wade’s shoddy treatment of race and evolution in his new book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History. 
I have mentioned controversy about this book, and I have posted both sides. This is a significant development in opposition to the book.

Coyne previously joined a gang against group selection:
The list of authors and their institutions, which occupies two pages of the three-page letter, reads like a Who’s Who of social evolution. It’s telling that nearly every major figure in the field lined up against Nowak et al.
One of his readers commented:
I’m confident that you’re on the right side of this dispute, but still, that argument is uncomfortably reminiscent of an infamous book titled “Hundert Autoren gegen Einstein” (Hundred authors against Einstein) [1931.]
Wade replies:
These attacks have included repeated assertions that the book is scientifically inaccurate, a charge for which I have seen no basis. In the same vein, this letter issues general charges without supporting evidence.

That is no coincidence. The two principal signatories of the letter, Graham Coop and Michael Eisen, have written previously that the book is full of scientific errors. I wrote to both of them asking for a list of errors that I could correct in the next edition. Coop never replied; Eisen said he would get back to me but never did. Neither had the grace to withdraw his original accusations. This is how politicians are expected to behave, not people professionally committed to the truth. Their baseless attacks on my book are a classic smear technique which they have now extended by organizing this letter. I hope that readers will see through the lack of specifics in their charges and judge my book for themselves.

Perhaps I could point out an error in one of the few specific statements in their letter. They charge me with saying that “recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in I.Q. test results.” I say no such thing.
It is a little strange for 139 professors to agree to an attack letter, but to not be able to cite any specific errors, or even to state accurately what they are attacking. I would have thought that at least one of them would insist that the letter be accurate.

Wade's book does have some speculative comments, so I can understand if some scientists were complaining about exaggeration. But Coyne and his colleagues like to politicize evolution at every opportunity, and they appear to just upset that they are not controlling the message.

Coyne writes:
As far as the science is concerned, all of the signatories, I think, would agree that evolution has indeed played a significant role in human morphology and biochemistry, producing population differences that have adaptive significance. Differences among groups in skin color and lactose tolerance, for instance, are certainly due to natural selection, ...

But what is even more speculative is Wade’s thesis that behavioral differences between groups, and thus the societies they construct, are based on genetic differences produced by natural selection. Perhaps that is true, but we don’t have a scintilla of evidence for it right now. And we know that those societal and cultural differences can change quite rapidly — much faster than can be explained by natural selection. Perhaps we’ve experienced genetic evolution producing inter-group differences in behavior, but we’ve surely had tons of nongenetic cultural evolution. (Take a look at the penchant for “Hello Kitty” in Japan. That is not based on genes.) For Wade to write a whole book resting on this speculative house of cards — the idea that genes and natural selection are everything in explaining culture — is simply bad popular science.
So he is not saying that Wade is wrong. He says that Wade might be right, but we do not yet have the evidence.

There is some evidence. We know that all known measurable human behavioral traits are heritable, and that many (non-behavioral) human traits have been shown to have been evolving in the last few thousand years. What we don't have is linkage between behavioral traits and specific genes.

I wonder how Coyne knows that there is no genetic influence on the Hello Kitty penchant. Has it been shown not to be heritable? Do Japanese girls dislike Hello Kitty if they have been reared outside of Japan? These may seem like dumb questions, but there does not seem to be any science to back up what he says.

Update: Other comments:
Nicholas Wade is hardly an insignificant figure, being a longtime science editor and reporter at The New York Times and perhaps America’s foremost journalist on evolutionary matters, whose previous bestsellers have gathered almost universal praise. Therefore, I find it very odd that his most strident critics apparently have not bothered to carefully read the book they were attacking.
And this:
The 144 letter signatories apparently couldn’t agree on _anything_ beyond ‘speculative Wade is speculative’, and that there’s a lack of good evidence on topics that have been intellectually taboo, career-destroying, and grant-unfundable for decades (surprise!).

Friday, August 08, 2014

Driving a car with earphones

A lot of people seem to think that it is illegal to drive a car while listening to earphones.

Here is the California Vehicle Code:
Wearing of Headsets or Earplugs

27400. A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears. This prohibition does not apply to any of the following:

(a) A person operating authorized emergency vehicles, as defined in Section 165.

(b) A person engaged in the operation of either special construction equipment or equipment for use in the maintenance of any highway.

(c) A person engaged in the operation of refuse collection equipment who is wearing a safety headset or safety earplugs.

(d) A person wearing personal hearing protectors in the form of earplugs or molds that are specifically designed to attenuate injurious noise levels. The plugs or molds shall be designed in a manner so as to not inhibit the wearer's ability to hear a siren or horn from an emergency vehicle or a horn from another motor vehicle.

(e) A person using a prosthetic device that aids the hard of hearing.
So the way I read this, when driving a car:
Earphone in one ear - legal.
Headphones covering both ears - illegal.
In-ear earbuds or earphones - legal if they reduce external noise.

Deaf people are allowed to drive, so you don't have to be able to hear horns. I don't know why a "headset covering" is banned, but cops will give tickets for that. You need to wear the earbuds instead.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Dietary gospel on fat is wrong

NewScientist reports:
After decades of health warnings, the idea that steak, cheese and lard are bad for your heart is melting away. The truth is more complex – and delicious

THERE'S a famous scene in Woody Allen's film Sleeper in which two scientists in the year 2173 are discussing the dietary advice of the late 20th century.

"You mean there was no deep fat, no steak or cream pies or hot fudge?" asks one, incredulous. "Those were thought to be unhealthy," replies the other. "Precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true."

We're not quite in Woody Allen territory yet, but steak and cream pies are starting to look a lot less unhealthy than they once did. After 35 years as dietary gospel, the idea that saturated fat is bad for your heart appears to be melting away like a lump of butter in ...
It explains:
Yet the voices of doubt have been growing for some time. In 2010, scientists pooled the results of 21 studies that had followed 348,000 people for many years. This meta-analysis found "no significant evidence" in support of the idea that saturated fat raises the risk of heart disease (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol 91, p 535).

The doubters were given a further boost by another meta-analysis published in March (Annals of Internal Medicine, vol 160, p 398). It revisited the results of 72 studies involving 640,000 people in 18 countries.

To the surprise of many, it did not find backing for the existing dietary advice. "Current evidence does not clearly support guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats," it concluded. "Nutritional guidelines... may require reappraisal."

In essence, the study found that people at the extreme ends of the spectrum – that is, those who ate the most or least saturated fat – had the same chance of developing heart disease. High consumption of unsaturated fat seemed to offer no protection. ...

Yet the voices of doubt have been growing for some time. In 2010, scientists pooled the results of 21 studies that had followed 348,000 people for many years. This meta-analysis found "no significant evidence" in support of the idea that saturated fat raises the risk of heart disease (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol 91, p 535).

The doubters were given a further boost by another meta-analysis published in March (Annals of Internal Medicine, vol 160, p 398). It revisited the results of 72 studies involving 640,000 people in 18 countries.

To the surprise of many, it did not find backing for the existing dietary advice. "Current evidence does not clearly support guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats," it concluded. "Nutritional guidelines... may require reappraisal."

In essence, the study found that people at the extreme ends of the spectrum – that is, those who ate the most or least saturated fat – had the same chance of developing heart disease. High consumption of unsaturated fat seemed to offer no protection.
Slate argues:

It’s been more than 40 years since Allen’s movie premiered, but his satire of public health research sadly still resonates. A widely circulated New York Times blog post reported this week on a study purporting to show that people who run at least five minutes a day live around three years longer than those who don’t. This finding was determined to be true after “adjusting for” various characteristics of study subjects—their gender, whether they smoked, any family history of heart disease, and so forth.

The problem with this study—and the many related observational studies on what does or doesn’t make us live longer—is that healthy people are different in all sorts of ways from unhealthy ones. Some of the differences between runners and nonrunners can be accounted for, albeit somewhat imperfectly, by considering observable attributes like height, weight, age, etc. But inevitably there are differences that get left out of the analyses: runners might sleep longer; they might eat more almonds or blueberries; maybe they have less stressful work lives, which in turn facilitate a few minutes of exercise each day; maybe they are less depressed because they have shorter commutes; maybe their commutes involve more walking than driving. The list of other attributes and habits, any of which might contribute to a longer observed life span, extends to infinity. Is it running that accounts for the difference in longevity between runners and nonrunners? Or one of these other, unobserved differences? Who knows?
That's right, it is hard to prove that one diet or lifestyle is healthier than another.

Update: NewScientist adds:
ACCORDING to the Oxford English Dictionary, the expression "heart attack on a plate" was first recorded in 1984 in a newspaper interview with actor Michael Caine. He was living in health-conscious Los Angeles at the time and missing his full English breakfast. That rings true, as it was around then that the US public was being urged to reduce its intake of saturated fat to cut the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Thirty years on, the idea that pigging out on bacon, egg and sausages can lead to a heart attack is second nature to most of us; it is probably the single most influential piece of nutritional advice ever dished out.

But in recent weeks and months a steady drumbeat of media coverage has suggested that saturated fat has been unfairly maligned. "Eat Butter", declared the cover of Time magazine. "Everything we thought we knew about dietary fat is wrong," said the blurb on The Big Fat Surprise: Why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet, an influential book by investigative journalist Nina Teicholz.

Really? Everything? As usual, the truth is less earth-shattering. Yes, two large reviews of the evidence have cast doubt on the supposedly rock-solid link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. Scientific understanding of how the human body handles fat has indeed moved on. And the original research that proved the link has been questioned (see "Heart attack on a plate? The truth about saturated fat"). But it is too soon to declare saturated fat innocent of all charges. Much more research is needed before the nutrition rule book can be rewritten. In any case, meat, butter and cheese already belong in a healthy diet, as long as you don't eat too much of them.

If there is an immediate take-away message, it is that singling out one nutrient at the expense of the wider dietary context is a mistake. In our rush to cut down on saturated fat, we may have inadvertently upped our intake of other unhealthy nutrients, especially sugar. In fact, one of the interesting by-products of the saturated fat debate is that it is helping to reinforce the emerging idea that refined sugar is the real demon in our diets.

The case against sugar is getting stronger, as our story earlier this year spelled out (New Scientist, 1 February, p 34). But it would be a mistake to fixate on sugar at the expense of everything else.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Looking for jealousy in animals

SciAm reports:
Man's best friend does not like anything muscling in on that friendship. The first experimental test of jealousy in dogs shows that canines nip even at stuffed pooches when these fakes take away the attention of the dogs' owners.

This new findings support the view that jealousy is a primordial emotion seen not only in humans, but in other animals as well, researchers said. The results also show that jealousy does not require especially complex minds, the scientists said. ...

The owners were instructed to treat the fake dog and the jack-o'-lantern like they were real dogs, by petting the objects and talking to them sweetly. When it came to the book, the owners were asked to read the text out loud.

The scientists found dogs acted far more jealous when their owners displayed affection to the stuffed dog compared with the other items. The canines were nearly twice as likely to push or touch the owner when the owner was playing with the fake dog compared with the jack-o'-lantern, and more than three times as likely to do so when compared with the book. Furthermore, about one-third of the dogs tried to get between their owners and the stuffed toy. And while one-quarter of the dogs snapped at the fake dog, only one did so at the jack-o'-lantern and book.
This is anthropomorphism. Maybe it would be jealousy if the dog destroyed the fake dog, but I am not sure this has anything to do with jealous. Maybe the dog just wanted to be petted by the owner.

Yes, the dog liked being petted, and asked for it when he say that the owner was petting a fake dog. But maybe the dog was just deducing that the owner was available for petting. I might decide that I want an ice cream cone after seeing someone else with an ice cream cone, but that does not mean that I am jealous.

A professor says:
The sociologist, Davis (1948) defined jealousy as a fear and rage reaction fitted to protect, maintain, and prolong the intimate association of love. In a pair-bonding species like our own that lives in social groups, jealousy is a logical prediction from evolutionary theory. In fact, if jealousy did not exist as a universal human characteristic, it would represent an oddity that demanded scientific explanation.

The function of jealousy is somewhat different between the two sexes. In males, jealousy revolves around the issue of uncertainty of paternity. Whereas women have always known if an infant is hers or not, until the advent of modern DNA testing techniques men could never be certain that a child was the product of their loins.

Although paternal uncertainty is a problem in all primate species, true jealousy may be unique to the evolution of the human line. ...

Based on evolutionary logic, it was predicted that male jealousy would be more concerned with sexual infidelity and female jealousy would be more concerned with emotional infidelity. Buss, Larson, Westen, & Semmelroth (1992) used a series of forced choice experiments to demonstrate that men indicated greater distress to a partner’s sexual, rather than emotional infidelity, whereas women showed the reverse response displaying greater distress to a partner’s emotional infidelity rather than their sexual infidelity.
This video claims to demonstrate jealousy in capuchins (New World monkeys). Others say that it shows fairness or entitlement. But there is a leaner explanation -- maybe the monkey just prefers grapes to cucumbers and is trying to get grapes. Further research has attempted to address the objections, but it is still limited. It always finds a monkey that prefers grapes to cucumber, showing the monkey that it could be getting a grape instead of cucumber, and watch the monkey reject the cucumber in an effort to get a grape.

I have posted similar criticism of mindreading crows, cats, and rats, and suggested that many people have a cognitive bias for rich explanations.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Whites not supposed to agree with NSA

To be politically correct now, you have to post pictures of your black nanny on your FB page, and Check Your Privilege before commenting on NSA surveillance.

Could have fooled me. I thought that it was mainly white males who complain about the NSA. And I am surprised a white feminist professor would admit that she did not know how to take care of her baby, and had to rely on a black nanny.

Mathematician Peter Woit writes:
Among the many disturbing aspects of the behavior of the NSA revealed by the Snowden documents, the most controversial one directly relevant to mathematicians was the story of the NSA’s involvement in a flawed NIST cryptography standard (for more see here and here). The New York Times reported:
Classified N.S.A. memos appear to confirm that the fatal weakness, discovered by two Microsoft cryptographers in 2007, was engineered by the agency. The N.S.A. wrote the standard and aggressively pushed it on the international group, privately calling the effort “a challenge in finesse.”
The standard was based on the mathematics of elliptic curves, so this is a clearly identifiable case where mathematicians seem to have been involved in using their expertise to subvert the group tasked with producing high quality cryptography. ...

Read carefully (and I think it was written very carefully…), note that George never directly denies that the NSA back-doored Dual-EC-DRBG, just claims there is no “proven weakness”. In other words, since how they chose the elliptic curves is a classified secret, no one can prove anything about how this was done. All the public has is the Snowden documents which aren’t “proof”.
We don't need the Snowden documents. The public also has the 2007 Microsoft paper explaining the possible backdoor. If you are an al qaeda terrorist, then you might not want to use the NSA function to generate your private keys. If you are not an international terrorist, then there is no proven or fatal weakness.

I would comment on Woit's blog, but he is deleting comments that disagree with him.

The Clinton administration did propose a Clipper Chip with an NSA backdoor in 1993. Or more precisely, a system for key escrow, not a backdoor. It is plausible that the NSA designed in a backdoor to Dual-EC-DRBG that it could use and no one else. But so what? It is just a stupid pseudo-random number generator. If you don't like it, then don't use it.

Update: Woit deleted this comment from me:
It is true that you can choose your own (P,Q) if you do not trust what NSA did. It is just a pseudo-random number generator. You can also toss coins if you wish, or use dozens of other pseudo-random number generators. Your main complaint is that the NSA did not fully explain itself. Guess what -- the NSA never fully explains itself.
He does quote hysterical anti-NSA comments, such as from Ron Rivest. But there is no mention of how Rivest's company sold out to create data insecurities for millions.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10,000-hour rule disproved

The NY Times reports on new research in the nature-nurture debate:
Scientists have long argued over the relative contributions of practice and native talent to the development of elite performance. This debate swings back and forth every century, it seems, but a paper in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science illustrates where the discussion now stands and hints — more tantalizingly, for people who just want to do their best — at where the research will go next.

The value-of-practice debate has reached a stalemate. In a landmark 1993 study of musicians, a research team led by K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist now at Florida State University, found that practice time explained almost all the difference (about 80 percent) between elite performers and committed amateurs. The finding rippled quickly through the popular culture, perhaps most visibly as the apparent inspiration for the “10,000-hour rule” in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling “Outliers” — a rough average of the amount of practice time required for expert performance.

The new paper, the most comprehensive review of relevant research to date, comes to a different conclusion. Compiling results from 88 studies across a wide range of skills, it estimates that practice time explains about 20 percent to 25 percent of the difference in performance in music, sports and games like chess. In academics, the number is much lower — 4 percent — in part because it’s hard to assess the effect of previous knowledge, the authors wrote.
The NY Times podcast described this as "dispiriting". Apparently a lot of people prefer a fantasy in which they could be LeBron James if only they practiced enough. That fantasy seems more dispiriting to me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Feminist attack on R.P. Feynman

A SciAm blog writes:
What about someone who is scrupulously honest about his scientific contributions but whose behavior towards women or members of underrepresented minorities demonstrates that he does not regard them as being as capable, as smart, or as worthy of respect? What if, moreover, most of these behaviors are displayed outside of scientific contexts (owing to the general lack of women or members of underrepresented minorities in the scientific contexts this scientist encounters)? ...

This last description of a hypothetical scientist is not too far from famous physicist Richard Feynman, something that we know not just from the testimony of his contemporaries but from Feynman’s own accounts. ...

The predation in question here included actively targeting female students as sex partners, a behavior that rather conveys that you don’t view them primarily in terms of their potential to contribute to science. ...

About the Author: Janet D. Stemwedel is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at San José State University.
So he is considered a sexual predator because he flirted with some non-scientist women, outside a scientific context, and he is a bad guy because he was more interested in them as sex partner than their potential to contribute to science?!

There is no such thing as "San José State University". She teaches in San Jose, an American city with no accent.

Galileo's Pendulum blog also attacks Feynman because he flirted with some undergraduates without revealing that he had graduated. Some comments ask the author to explain what Feynman did wrong, but he refuses.

Another SciAm blogger was apparently fired for writing:
Also importantly, while some of Feynman's utterances and actions appear sexist to modern sensibilities, it's worth noting that they were probably no different than the attitudes of a male-dominated American society in the giddy postwar years, a society in which women were supposed to take care of the house and children and men were seen as the bread winners. ... The encouraging development is that actions by Feynman - and male society in general - that were considered acceptable or amusing in 1950 would quite rightly cause instant outrage in 2014. ... We can condemn parts of his behavior while praising his science. And we should.
The problem is that he did not sufficiently condemn sexism.

SciAm is owned by Nature mag, which just apologized for saying that female scientists might publish less if they are taking care of small children.

Update: The Wash. Post reported on SciAm firing bloggers:
Throughout its 169-year history, Scientific American has been an august and sober chronicler of the advance of human knowledge, from chemistry to physics to anthropology.

Lately, however, things have become kind of a mess.

A series of blog posts on the magazine’s Web site over the past few months has unleashed waves of criticism and claims that the publication was promoting racism, sexism and “genetic determinism.”
It is hard to figure out what is supposedly offensive about the SciAm posts, except for facts that are upsetting to leftists.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

NY Times really hates human evolution

The NY Times Book Review trashed a book on human evolution by one of its own science reporters. Appaarently that was not negative enough, and now it publishes an even worse review:
This racial divide started, Wade says, when humans began migrating out of Africa some 50,000 years ago. As groups entered diverse environments, they faced differing pressures that selected for gene variants creating different traits, including dissimilar social behaviors. Genetic selection for distinctive physical traits in different populations, such as lighter skin to maximize sunlight absorption, is well established and widely accepted. Decidedly not well established, however, is Wade’s proposal that genetic selection gives different human populations distinct behaviors. ...

As a key event he cites Europe’s adoption, starting around A.D. 1000, of the principle that law is the ultimate ruler. This, Wade argues, allowed a transition from closed, insular tribal social organizations to more open, interactive nation-states, and Europe then entered a self-reinforcing cycle: Its rules-based, trade-oriented culture selected for gene variants generating trusting and productive social behavior, and these genes in turn made the culture more trusting and rewarding of hard work. ...

While warning us to avoid filtering science through politics, he draws heavily from conservative historians who minimize the roles played by political power, geographic advantage, momentum, disease and dumb luck. ...

He constantly gathers up long shots, speculations and spurious claims, then declares they add up to substantiate his case.

The result is a deeply flawed, deceptive and dangerous book. Its most pernicious conceit is that it’s finally safe to talk of racial genetics because “opposition to racism is now well entrenched.” The daily news — a black teenager’s killer walks free in Florida; ...

David Dobbs is writing a book about theories of human sensitivity to experience.
So Dobbs seems to be saying that we should not discuss human evolution and diversity because of George Zimmerman trial? The jury acquitted Zimmerman of all charges because he acted in self-defense while an attacker was beating him to death. He was only put on trial because of political race-baiting by MSNBC and Pres. Barack Obama.

In the NY Times podcast, Dobbs goes more directly into a guilt-by-association attack, complaining about political conservatives, scientific racism, eugenics, sterilization, Nazis, Holocaust, etc. I previously noted other such leftist attacks.

Dobbs argues that Wade's thesis is circular, but it is not. It is true that there is no direct quantitative link from specific genes to human behaviors, but there is plenty of scientific evidence that behavioral traits are heritable, that human evolution is accelerating, and that there are huge population differences. How many of those differences are genetic in origin is debatable, but Wade's thesis is plausible and Dobbs has no contrary evidence.

Dobbs says "lighter skin to maximize sunlight absorption, is well established", but I am not sure it is correct. A 2014 paper by Peter Frost on The Puzzle of European Hair, Eye, and Skin Color argues that sexual selection led to lighter skin color, not lower sunlight in Europe.

On the podcast, Dobbs seems to side with Stephen Jay Gould in his denunciation of the heritability of intelligence.

I am all in favor of some healthy skepticism about genetic determinism, but Wade's book is largely a summary of his NY Times stories and not politically conservative. And yet reviewers must trash it by bringing up Hitler and arguing against even discussing the ideas.

If anyone was a pseudo-scientific racist, it was Gould. He was a leftist Marxist Jewish ideologue whose most famous work was shown to have been faked in order to promote his offensive racial theories. When confronted with the evidence, he just accused his critics of being racists. A 2011 NY Times story said:
In his book, Dr. Gould contended that Morton’s results were “a patchwork of fudging and finagling in the clear interest of controlling a priori convictions.” ...

But the Penn team finds Morton’s results were neither fudged nor influenced by his convictions. ...

Ralph L. Holloway, an expert on human evolution at Columbia and a co-author of the new study, was less willing to give Dr. Gould benefit of the doubt.

“I just didn’t trust Gould,” he said. “I had the feeling that his ideological stance was supreme. When the 1996 version of ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ came and he never even bothered to mention Michael’s study, I just felt he was a charlatan.”
Gould was a charlatan, and a disgrace to science.

Update: NatGeo says Like in Humans, Genes Drive Half of Chimp Intelligence, and SciAm blogs posts a non-apology apology for its favorable review of Wade's book.

Earlier this year, Nature mag apologized for publishing a letter to the editor responding to an editorial. Here was the letter:
Publish on the basis of quality, not gender

The publication of research papers should be based on quality and merit, so the gender balance of authors is not relevant in the same way as it might be for commissioned writers (see Nature 504, 188; 2013). Neither is the disproportionate number of male reviewers evidence of gender bias.

Having young children may prevent a scientist from spending as much time publishing, applying for grants and advancing their career as some of their colleagues. Because it is usually women who stay at home with their children, journals end up with more male authors on research articles. The effect is exacerbated in fast-moving fields, in which taking even a year out threatens to leave a researcher far behind.

This means that there are likely to be more men in the pool of potential referees.

Lukas Koube Sherman, Texas, USA.
Apparently science magazines now consider it misogynist to point out that women have babies.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Using gendered role models is sexist

Thew xkcd comic says:
For a long time, sexism, a lack of role models, and institutional hostility largely kept women from pursuing serious chess careers.
This seems unlikely to me. Chess is more sexist now, as there are separate chess tournaments for women. The above comment is sexist for suggesting women cannot be successful in chess unless they have same-gendered role models. I doubt that Bobby Fischer or Judit Polgar were following role models.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Te penguin is the new poster child

The climate has been changing for millions of years. Even billions. Evolution teaches that plant or animal species will find ecological niches, and adapt to them. So climate changes always seems bad for almost everyone, if you ignore adaptation.

NPR reports on a scientist who wants to use law and politics to manipulate us:
WERTHEIMER: You've been studying the Emperor penguin population in Antarctica. What's happening to them?

CASWELL: The Emperor penguin is affected by changes in the sea ice conditions. The projection is that all of the colonies - there are 45 of them known around the circumference of Antarctica. All 45 of them, by the end of the century, are going to be declining quite rapidly. ...

WERTHEIMER: The Emperor penguin is actually on the list to be considered for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Would protected status help them?

CASWELL: Listing them as an endangered species would have several really positive effects. The biggest one is that it would provide more impetus to take action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing or halting climate change.

WERTHEIMER: You mean the penguin might become a sort of poster child for correcting the direction in which the climate is going?

CASWELL: Yes. And identifying threats to charismatic species, like the Emperor penguin, like the polar bear, is not going to be enough. But documenting threats to species like this, along with the many other impacts of climate change, is an important contribution. And it's really something that the Endangered Species Act is quite appropriate for.
No, that is not an appropriate use of the law. The law was help prevent extinction, not to exploit cute animals for political gain.

Sure, some populations will being decline at the end of the XXI century, if they fail to adapt to change. But we will very likely have just as much wildlife as we have today, and plenty of penguins.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Europeans love American products

Europeans are always complaining about American stuff, but it sure seems to me that they love everything American. The NY Times reports:
American tech companies operate seven of the 10 most visited websites in Europe, according to comScore statistics. ...

Nonetheless, from Spain to Sweden, many of Europe’s millions of Internet users regularly complain about the dominance of American tech companies, particularly about how their data is used and shared. It also leaves them wondering why so few homegrown tech companies are globally competitive.

For many Europeans, the likes of Twitter and Amazon hold too much information about what people do online. That wariness has only grown stronger after the revelations by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, about American intelligence agencies’ spying activities and perceived easy access to the world’s tech infrastructure.
Yes, Europeans have their privacy laws, but in practice, they give up their privacy more readily than Americans.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Paternalistic medicos conceal the truth

Medical ethics experts exist primarily to justify physicians and other medicos doing what they want to do. When in doubt, they will cook up whatever explanations let them do business. Here is the latest example:
As more research is done on the human genome and more people seek genetic testing, researchers, physicians, genetic counselors and ethicists are struggling with the issues of how to present the new information to patients and whether certain findings should be presented at all.

A paper published Monday in the leading journal Pediatrics tackles a controversial discovery that can come out of genetic testing: when a child’s biological parent turns out to be someone else.

Whether that occurs through a switch at the hospital, a swap of embryos or sexual infidelity, genetic testing can bring such previously unknown facts to light. No matter the cause, it presents an ethical dilemma for medical professionals and one likely to become more common as genetic testing more more widespread. It has triggered a fierce and complex debate about whether parents — or those who might find out they are not true parents — have a right to know such information.

In the Pediatrics paper, ethicists at the University of Pennsylvania argue in favor of letting the parents of patients know that these facts can generally be found in the course of a test but will not be revealed to them.

“Because there isn’t a national consensus,” said co-author Autumn Fiester, director of education in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, “getting a proactive policy that could prevent the harms that are taking place seemed like an imperative to address.”
This seems primarily designed to protect adulterous wives.

It is funny how people adamantly deny genetic determinism, but they are scared to learn the truth about their genes. DNA tests are cheap and convenient now, but most people seem to be afraid to get them.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Google and Facebook experiment on users

It is funny how people can accept the most outrageous behavior from favored companies like Apple and Google, and show outrage against others. The NY Times reports:
Facebook is hardly the only Internet company that manipulates and analyzes consumer data. Google and Yahoo also watch how users interact with search results or news articles to adjust what is shown; they say this improves the user experience. But Facebook’s most recent test did not appear to have such a beneficial purpose. ...

In an academic paper published in conjunction with two university researchers, the company reported that, for one week in January 2012, it had altered the number of positive and negative posts in the news feeds of 689,003 randomly selected users to see what effect the changes had on the tone of the posts the recipients then wrote.

The researchers found that moods were contagious. The people who saw more positive posts responded by writing more positive posts. Similarly, seeing more negative content prompted the viewers to be more negative in their own posts.
Google is famous for experimenting on users. Eric Schmidt said:
Google is run by three computer scientists. We’re going to make all the mistakes computer scientists running a company would make. But one of the mistakes we’re not going to make is the mistake non-scientists make. We’re going to make mistakes based on facts and data and analysis.
Those experiments are to maximize advertising revenue. They may say that it improves the user experience, but their idea of an improved user experience is one where you click on more ads.

Not everyone agrees that the randomized clinical trial is always best. See this for the views of statisticians, and some criticism of Freakonomics Levitt on this point.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Tech companies blamed for having white employees

Sometimes I think that the news media hates white people.

USA Today reports:
SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook, the world's most popular social network, released statistics on the makeup of its workforce that do not reflect the demographics of its users around the globe.

The lopsided numbers are just the latest from a major Silicon Valley company to paint a stark picture of an industry sector dominated by white men and are sure to escalate an already heated debate over the lack of diversity in the tech industry.

Nearly 70% of Facebook employees are men and 57% are white. Asians make up 34% of employees.

But Hispanics represent just 4% and African Americans are just 2% of Facebook's workforce.

When it comes to technical employees, the numbers are even more grim. Eighty-five percent are male, 53% white and 41% Asian. Hispanics make up just 3% and African Americans just 1% of the workforce.
At 57% non-hispanic white, their employees are a lot less white than the general population.

And yet this is "grim" because too many of them are white?!

The more notable fact her is that Silicon Valley has imported thousands of Asian workers from overseas to replace higher-paid white workers.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Some offenses are undeniable

An AP article reports:
The nation is a long way from consensus on these questions, judging by the response to a federal ruling that the “Redskins” team name is disparaging and its trademarks should be canceled. ...

Some offenses are undeniable: Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers pro basketball team, earned universal condemnation for asking his mistress not to bring black people to his games.
Really? So everybody thinks that Sterling should be okay with his mistress bringing dates into his basketball arena?

I only heard part of the recording, but my understanding is that the mistress only asked about black men as dates. Sterling never said that he approves of whites or other races either openly dating his mistress. The mistress was the one who seemed to have a preference for black men, and who seemed to make a racial issue out of it.

I am not expressing any opinion here. I am just noting what offends people. I don't even know why anyone would consider the term "Redskins" offensive, and the article does not explain. I have never heard it used as a disparaging term. Perhaps some people are ashamed to have reddish skin, I don't know.

The main explanation I heard for Sterling was that the NBA is considered a black-majority league, and therefore black men should get to date the Jewish owner's mistress.

On an unrelated matter, This Ethiopia traffic video is amazing. No traffic lights, no signs, no lane markings, chaos. and continuous near accidents.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Leftists hate human evolution knowledge

I mentioned how a new book and its reviews have exposed anti-evolution leftists, and now the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center writes a review (warning: link requires javascript spyware):
Nicholas Wade’s new book, A Troublesome Inheritance, is only the latest in a long line of works arguing that humans can be divided into discrete races, and that between those races, there are differences in behavior, temperament, intelligence, and even political and economic structures. Although the specifics of the arguments change, what remains constant is the idea that white people of European descent are inherently smarter, better, more “civilized” than members of other races, especially black Africans and their descendants. Wade’s work is no exception.
That is a gross distortion, of course. Wade replies to a similar charge:
Let's start with Raff, who asserts, "Wade claims that the latest genomic findings actually support dividing humans into discrete races." In fact, I say the exact opposite, that the races are not and cannot be discrete or they would be different species, but it's easier to attack an invented statement.
Likewise, the colors of the rainbow are real and continuous. You can give discrete and useful definitions of colors, even tho there will be colors on the border between red and orange. Genes are discrete, but race involve 100s of genes.

The SPLC makes no attempt to rebut any of Wade's facts or science, and instead launches into a guilt-by-association character assassination:
A Troublesome Inheritance has served as a rallying point for an obscure far-right ideology called the “Dark Enlightenment.” Self-professedly “anti-democratic” and “neo-reactionary,” this movement brings together an odd assortment of fascists, neo-Nazis, men’s rights activists, and libertarians who are united by their hatred of the “politically correct” academic and media establishment (which they refer to as “the Cathedral”), and by their unshakable belief in the biological reality of their racist and sexist beliefs. The “Dark Enlightenment” overlaps to great extent with the “human biodiversity” (HBD) movement, which is made up of (mostly pseudonymous) bloggers, bolstered by the support of a few fringe scientists. Among these scientists are Cochran and Harpending, who have their own HBD blog called “West Hunter.”
Wade is a NY Times science writer, and his book is mostly a summary of science stories that have appeared in the newspaper. The NY Times is the most respected newspaper of the Jewish left, and obviously not part of some far-right conspiracy.

The SPLC article is in its "Hatewatch blog", which has the main purpose of showing how much the SPLC and its rich Jewish donors hate the "Radical Right". The article quotes “hatred toward all things European is normative among a great many strongly identified Jews.” And normative at the SPLC, I guess.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Against mandated bicycle helmets

Here are some arguments against bicycle helmet laws.
As Mikael Colville-Andersen and Hart Noecker of Rebel Metropolis have pointed out, one is much more likely to have a head injury in a car than on a bike. The absolute number of head injuries is staggering in comparison; Stromberg shows that even looking at the number of injuries per hour of travel, which compensates for the fact that there are a lot more drivers than cyclists, the rate of head injuries is not significantly different between walking, cycling or driving.

In fact, if anyone needs a helmet, it is the pedestrian, who has even higher rates of head injuries than cyclists.

... drivers were less careful around helmeted cyclists. ...

It turns out that so many people are turned off cycling by helmets that the the lives saved through the exercise and health benefits of cycling among people is greater than the number of lives saved through helmet use.

Update: CNet reports:
Brain surgeon: There's no point wearing bicycle helmets

A British brain surgeon says cycle helmets are too flimsy and can actually create more danger by creating the illusion of greater safety. ...

As the Telegraph reports, Marsh was speaking at the Hay Literary Festival. There, he threw caution to an erudite wind by saying: "I ride a bike and I never wear a helmet. In the countries where bike helmets are compulsory there has been no reduction in bike injuries whatsoever." ...

Marsh isn't alone in suggesting bike helmets shouldn't be worn. In a 2010 Tedx Talk (video above) Mikael Colville-Andersen, cycling ambassador for Copenhagen, insisted that some research found that cycle helmets actually cause more brain damage.

Moreover, he described society's obsession with safety equipment as "almost pornographic." Why, he wondered, don't pedestrians wear helmets, as they suffer more brain damage than cyclists?

For him, riding without a helmet is also a symbol of the livable city. The problem, as he sees it, is drivers, not cyclists. What would happen, he mused, if drivers were forced to wear helmets? That would surely save lives. It would also destroy car sales.

He believes that some of the biggest proponents of cycle helmets are the car industry and the auto insurance industry, as the more laws there are insisting on cycle helmets, the fewer bikes are sold.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fat not linked to heart disease

The WSJ reports:
"Saturated fat does not cause heart disease"—or so concluded a big study published in March in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. How could this be? The very cornerstone of dietary advice for generations has been that the saturated fats in butter, cheese and red meat should be avoided because they clog our arteries. For many diet-conscious Americans, it is simply second nature to opt for chicken over sirloin, canola oil over butter.

The new study's conclusion shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with modern nutritional science, however. The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.

Our distrust of saturated fat can be traced back to the 1950s, to a man named Ancel Benjamin Keys, a scientist at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Keys was formidably persuasive and, through sheer force of will, rose to the top of the nutrition world—even gracing the cover of Time magazine—for relentlessly championing the idea that saturated fats raise cholesterol and, as a result, cause heart attacks. ...

Our distrust of saturated fat can be traced back to the 1950s, to a man named Ancel Benjamin Keys, a scientist at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Keys was formidably persuasive and, through sheer force of will, rose to the top of the nutrition world—even gracing the cover of Time magazine—for relentlessly championing the idea that saturated fats raise cholesterol and, as a result, cause heart attacks. ...

One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. Translation: Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we're eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. ... Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease. ...

Indeed, up until 1999, the AHA was still advising Americans to reach for "soft drinks," and in 2001, the group was still recommending snacks of "gum-drops" and "hard candies made primarily with sugar" to avoid fatty foods.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Governor does not want to anticipate

California Gov. Jerry Brown is babbling nonsense:
BROWN: Well, we're in the third year of a very dry season. We're getting ready for the worst. Now, we don't want to anticipate before we know, but we need a full compliment of firefighting capacity.
Huh? A season is less than a year. We cannot be in the third year of a season. And we certainly do want to anticipate fires before they happen.
The state's climate appears to be changing. The scientists tell us that definitely. So we've got to gear up here. And after all, in California, for 10,000 years, our population was about 300,000. Now it's 38 million. We have more structures, more activist, more sparks, more combustible activity and we've got to gear up for it and as the climate changes, this is going to be a radically different future than was our historic past.
The radical change is from immigration, not the climate.
BROWN: That's a challenge. It is true that there's virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous. I mean there is no scientific question. There's just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial.
It is funny how no one can accept a unanimous opinion. There certainly is no consensus that CO2 emissions have anything to do with the current drought.

Speaking of possible brain damage:
Bill Clinton did more today than defend his wife, Hillary Clinton, from recent accusations leveled by GOP strategist Karl Rove that she suffered brain damage after falling in December 2012.

The former president revealed that his wife’s injury “required six months of very serious work to get over,” he said during a question-and-answer session at the Peterson Foundation in Washington.

“They went to all this trouble to say she had staged what was a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over,” he said. “It’s something she never low-balled with the American people, never tried to pretend it didn’t happen.”
No, the public was never told that she required 6 months of work to recover from her brain injury.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Evolutionists denounce human evolution book

I mentioned the NY Times book on race and inheritance, so I am linking to more reviews, both good and bad.

A couple of things bug me about this field.

The leftist-atheist-evolutionists (PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, etc.) vehemently denounce this book, say people shouldn't read it, and claim that it is full of errors and bad thinking. But they don't actually cite any errors and act as if evolution is the most important thing except that it must never be applied to human beings. (At least Coyne admits to some errors about race.)

There is overwhelming evidence that human behavior is heritable from twin studies and other social science, and we have extremely detailed info on the diversity of the human genome, but we have almost no evidence linking genomes to behaviors. In jargon, everyone says that the genotype determines the phenotype, but no one can explain how for human behavior.

People don't want to believe that there could be human evolution in the last 10k years or so, but there is more and more evidence of it all the time. Today's NY Times reports on research that American Indians have evolved:
Though her skull, found intact, is more narrow and angular than those of modern Indians, and her face smaller and her features more protruding, “we know that at least the maternal ancestry is shared,” said an author of the study, James Chatters, a forensic anthropologist with Applied Paleoscience, a company in Bothell, Wash.

The reasons for the differences in skull size and shape are still a mystery, but modern American Indians may have evolved to have broader, larger skulls because of adaptations to different food, social or environmental conditions, Dr. Chatters said.
Coyne's political ideology makes him reluctant to admit the legitimacy of scientific research:
I am not absolutely opposed to all work on genetic differences in behavior between ethnic groups, populations, and sexes. That is a kind of scientific taboo which, as Steve Pinker has noted, has been enforced by social opprobrium based on the possibility of racism or sexism.  I think the proper stand is that it’s okay to study those questions that are interesting (but make sure you ask yourself why you find them interesting), and realize that a). we don’t know the outcomes, and b). the fundamental equalities of all groups and all sexes don’t depend on the results of such analyses.

But Wade’s book oversteps the line, for his theories way outstrip his data.
There you have a couple of leftist axioms being applied. Facts should not be investigated unless done with the proper intent, and results must not be allowed to interfere with egalitarian political objectives. A more scientific view would be to get the facts first, and then decide what to make of them.

A White House report says:
Big data raises other concerns, as well. One significant finding of our review was the potential for big data analytics to lead to discriminatory outcomes and to circumvent longstanding civil rights protections in housing, employment, credit, and the consumer marketplace.
Yes, big data means discriminatory outcomes without any racial intent.

Update: The NY Times has just reviewed Wade for this Sunday's paper, and "At least the reviewer waited until the second sentence to bring up Hitler."
Conservative scholars like the political scientist Francis Fukuyama have long argued that social institutions and culture explain why Europe beat Asia to prosperity, and why parts of the Mideast and Africa continue to suffer destabilizing violence and misery.

Mr. Wade takes this already controversial argument a step further, contending that “slight evolutionary differences in social behavior” underlie social and cultural differences. A small but consistent divergence in a racial group’s tendency to trust outsiders — and therefore to accept central rather than tribal authority — could explain “much of the difference between tribal and modern societies,” he writes.

This is where Mr. Wade’s argument starts to go off the rails.
Wade's argument appears to be the logical consequence of the heritability of the behaviors. But difference could be at least partially explained by other factors, such as whether the dominant religion approves of cousin marriage.
At times, his theorizing is merely puzzling, as when he notes that the gene variant that gives East Asians dry earwax also produces less body odor, which would have been attractive “among people spending many months in confined spaces to escape the cold.” No explanation of why ancient Europeans, presumably cooped up just as much, didn’t also develop this trait. Later, he speculates that thick hair and small breasts evolved in Asian women because they may have been “much admired by Asian men.” And why, you might ask, did Asian men alone prefer these traits?
Sure enough, the reviewer does not believe in evolution. Maybe the earwax variant was a Chinese mutation, or maybe the populations developed different preferences. The "origin of speciess" is based largely on such differences developing.

Update: Ron Unz reviews:
I have been very pleased to see that Wade’s book is beginning to receive the major attention it so greatly deserves. American intellectuals must begin shedding a half-century of lies and dishonesty based on the dismally unscientific dogma of Stephen Jay Gould and instead start to discover what modern evolutionary biologists and genetic researchers have all known for years or even decades.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Mammography is worthless

There has probably been more fund-raising and publicity for mammograms and breast cancer awareness as any other single medical issue. It is all a scam.

The graph clearly shows that mammography adds virtually nothing to survival.

One of the premises of Obamacare is that if the feds force insurance companies to offer free preventive care like mammograms, then they will save money in the long run. Not likely.

A recent radio program explored related issues: How Reliable Are Scientific Studies?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Badmouthing Neanderthals is unwarranted

Neanderthals are always being unfairly maligned, according to new research:
The widely held notion that Neanderthals were dimwitted and that their inferior intelligence allowed them to be driven to extinction by the much brighter ancestors of modern humans is not supported by scientific evidence, according to researcher Paola Villa at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Neanderthals thrived in a large swath of Europe and Asia between about 350,000 and 40,000 years ago. They disappeared after our ancestors, a group referred to as “anatomically modern humans,” crossed into Europe from Africa.

In the past, some researchers have tried to explain the demise of the Neanderthals by suggesting that the newcomers were superior to Neanderthals in key ways, including their ability to hunt, communicate, innovate and adapt to different environments.

But in an extensive review of recent Neanderthal research, Villa and co-author Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, make the case that the available evidence does not support the opinion that Neanderthals were less advanced than anatomically modern humans. Their paper was published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Villa and Roebroeks scrutinized nearly a dozen common explanations for Neanderthal extinction that rely largely on the notion that the Neanderthals were inferior to anatomically modern humans. These include the hypotheses that Neanderthals did not use complex, symbolic communication; that they were less efficient hunters who had inferior weapons; and that they had a narrow diet that put them at a competitive disadvantage to anatomically modern humans, who ate a broad range of things.

The researchers found that none of the hypotheses were supported by the available research. For example, evidence from multiple archaeological sites in Europe suggests that Neanderthals hunted as a group, using the landscape to aid them.
Here is a recent NY Times book review badmouthing significance of Neanderthals:
When the Neanderthal genome is finally published, Paabo is justifiably proud. We can’t begrudge him the opportunity to regale us about the news conferences and honors. But readers may start to wonder what exactly the payoff was for those many years of struggle. Reconstructing a Neanderthal genome was a tour de force, we can all agree, but why does it matter? ...

Unfortunately, the list for now is just a catalog of names. Neither Paabo nor any other scientist can yet clearly link our mutations to our human nature.
Here is what Svante Paabo wrote in his book, Neanderthal Man:
Together with new data from the 1,000 Genomes Project, these two archaic genomes of high quality now allow us to create a near-complete catalog of sites in the genome where all people today are different from Neanderthals and Denisovans as well as from the apes. This catalog contains 31,389 single nucleotide changes and 125 insertions and deletions of a few nucleotides. Of these, 96 change amino acids in proteins, and perhaps 3,000 affect sequences that regulate how genes are turned on and off. There are surely some nucleotide differences, particularly in repetitive parts of the genome, that we have missed, but it is clear that the genetic “recipe” for making a modern human is not very long. The next big challenge is to find out what the consequences of these changes are.
Paabo wrote this NY Times reply:
The ancient genomes also revealed that Neanderthals and Denisovans mixed with the direct ancestors of present-day people after they came out of Africa. So if your roots are in Europe or Asia, between 1 and 2 percent of your DNA comes from Neanderthals, and if you are from Papua New Guinea or other parts of Oceania, an additional 4 percent of your DNA comes from Denisovans.
If Paabo's DNA analysis is correct, then Neanderthals did not just mix with the ancestors of present-day Europeans. Neanderthals are ancestors of present-day Europeans.

Yes, Europeans only got 2% of DNA from Neandethals. Paabo says that figuring out the 2% is the next big challenge. Maybe it will shed light on human nature, and maybe it won't.

Meanwhile NY Times science writer Nicholas Wade has a new book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, released today. Charles Murray has an early review.
So one way or another, "A Troublesome Inheritance" will be historic. Its proper reception would mean enduring fame as the book that marked a turning point in social scientists' willingness to explore the way the world really works. But there is a depressing alternative: that social scientists will continue to predict planetary movements using Ptolemaic equations, as it were, and that their refusal to come to grips with "A Troublesome Inheritance" will be seen a century from now as proof of this era's intellectual corruption.
The analogy to Ptolemaic equations is a little misguide, and Ptolemy's method could predict those planetary movements as well as the alternatives. The intellectual corruption is in accepting ideologies that predict wrong results.

Here are more reviews.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Obama on racial offensive again

The hottest news story in the USA this morning is the secret recording of Donald Sterling.

Sterling is the owner of the LA Clippers, changed his name from Tokowitz so people would not know that he is Jewish, and was scheduled to get a lifetime achievement award from the NCAAP for work favoring black people. The recording was of an argument between him and his half-black half-Mexican mistress, and was almost certainly illegally recorded as California is an all-party consent state. The offensive parts concerned how she should promote herself in public.

President Barack Obama is now involved:
"When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk," Obama said when asked to respond to Donald Sterling's reported comments.

"The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that's still there, the vestiges of discrimination," Obama said during a news conference in Malaysia, where he was traveling.

"We've made enormous strides, but you're going to continue to see this percolate up every so often," he added. "And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves."

Obama said he's confident NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will address the matter. He said the NBA has "an awful lot of African American players, it's steeped in African American culture. And I suspect that the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this."
This is offensive. The President should not be trying to dictate the private conversations of citizens. And he should not be committing tortious interference.

Obama rarely talks about racial matters, but when he does, it seems carefully calculated to promote racial animosity.

I am waiting to see if anyone says that citizens have a right to express private opinions to their friends about who they associate with.

Update: Here is a link to the audio along with some speculation about the context. The mistress seems to have personally embarrassed Sterling somehow by flaunting her dates with other men. She is also being sued by Sterling's wife for taking marital property.

Update: This story sure hit a nerve. I get the impression that blacks are upset because this confirmed suspicions that Jews just pretend to like blacks, but secretly compare them to dogs. It appears to me that Sterling's main concern ws that his girl was publicly cuckolding him. My concern is that we now have a society where a man can become an outcast on the basis of preferences expressed in pillow talk, and that we have a President who joins in the bullying.

Update: My lessons from this fiasco.

Do not donate to black charities. They will double-cross you in a heartbeat.

Do not buy a Bentley for your mistress. Hire a private investigator to see who she might have conned under other names.

If you complain about your mistress cuckolding you with high-status black men, be sure to similarly complain about other races in the same sentence.

Ditch your mistress the first time she disrespects you, or after any hint of a shakedown.

President Obama needs to send out signals to his base that he identifies with black people against white people.

When black people or liberals go on TV and say we need an open and honest discussion about race in order to counter ignorance, what they really mean is that certain viewpoints must be intimidated into silence.

If you are Jewish, do not even try to explain how Israel makes racial distinctions.

If you want to sell a basketball team, create a scandal first and the bidding will go higher.

Big brains enable self-control

Stephen Jay Gould became the most famous American scientist largely for mocking the idea that brain size could be related to intelligence. Now it is admitted that he faked his data in order to promote his Jewish Marxist beliefs.

There is actually a lot of legitimate research on brain size, and here is the latest:
So what did they find? Bigger brains correlate with greater self-control:

Our phylogenetic comparison of three dozen species supports the hypothesis that the major proximate mechanism underlying the evolution of self-control is increases in absolute brain volume. ...

Can we draw any conclusions about human evolution from this study? It's hard to generalize -- just as we cannot conclude much about cognitive evolution from comparing whales and elephants only to humans, we can't predict much about humans by looking only at the broadest phylogenetic pattern. Yet, the importance of foraging and diet breadth to the evolution of primate cognition is provocative. The study seems to weigh in favor of tool use and foraging as primary drivers of human brain evolution, instead of social dynamics.

But that contrast is surely misleading. Human tool use and foraging depend on social cooperation and social learning.
Self-control is quite different from IQ, but turns out also to be a huge predictor of success in life. It recently got a lot of publicity as part of the Tiger Mom Chinese-Jewish Triple Package.

Gould did not admit his mistakes, even when confronted. I sometimes post things that I have changed my mind about, but Gwern's mistakes has me beat. He has detailed descriptions of his changes.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Non-whites fighting over college admissions

NPR Radio complains that the non-white California Democrat cannot agree about anti-white legislation:
Six black and Latino lawmakers have since withdrawn their endorsements of Sen. Ted Lieu, who is Chinese-American, in a Los Angeles-area congressional race where he faces another Democrat in the primary. And some black and Latino Assembly members this month withheld votes from unrelated legislation about the state's carpool program by Assemblyman Al Muratsutchi, D-Torrance, who is Japanese-American.

The Senate's Democratic leader, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, acknowledged the animosity. He said in a statement that he wanted "a serious and sober examination" of affirmative action, adding "I am deeply concerned anytime one ethnic group turns on another."
Yes, that is that trouble with race-based affirmative action policies -- they pit one ethnic group against another.
In recent statistics, the University of California system said 36 percent of its in-state freshman admissions offers for fall 2014 are to Asian-American students, 29 percent are for Latino students, 27 percent are for white students and 4 percent of offers are to black students.

At some campuses, including UC San Diego and UC Irvine, Asian-American students accounted for more than 45 percent of admitted freshmen last year.

Hispanics have slightly overtaken whites as the largest ethnic group in California, although both groups represent about 39 percent of the population. Asian-Americans — a population that includes Filipinos, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Vietnamese, Laotians and others — comprise about 13 percent. Blacks are less than 6 percent.
So whites have dropped to No. 3 in Univ. Calif. admissions. Something is fishy here.

Another NPR story reports:
The experience with the ban in California "has been difficult because immediately following the ban on race-conscious affirmative action, the enrollment of African-Americans and Latinos plummeted in the selective higher education institutions," says Christopher Edley, former dean of the UC Berkeley law school. He adds that the school "has yet to fully recover."

Other states with bans have had similar precipitous drops in minority enrollment, but some have seen minority enrollment stay steady or even climb.
Plummeted? According to the above figures, Latinos are being admitted in higher numbers than ever, even higher than whites. And blacks are admitted (4%) at close to their population (less than 6%).

It is increasingly clear that hostility to whites and Christians is what is holding the Democrat party together. The black, hispanic, and Asian American legislators vote for their racial groups.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Math crazies in the movies

Hollywood usually portrays mathematicians as crazy, such as in Good Will Hunting, Pi, A Beautiful Mind, Proof, and others. I just saw another. The 2008 movie Revolutionary Road featured a mathematician who had electric shock treatments to eliminate his interest in math! The actor was nominated for an Oscar.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Apple lock-in strategy

A major part of Apple's success has been its ability to lock-in customers. The NY Times explains:
APPLE’S LOCK-IN STRATEGY

Apple generally offers proprietary software and services that run only on Apple hardware. For example, iMessage is Apple’s free text messaging service offered only for iPhones and iPads. Analysts have called this approach Apple’s “lock-in” strategy to keep customers loyal, a term that has been described as cynical because it has a connotation of imprisonment. But in his e-mail, even Mr. Jobs recognizes that Apple’s goal with its cloud services is to “tie all of our products together, so we further lock customers into our ecosystem.”
There is a lot of confusion about Apple's success. Some people think that Apple invented the iPod, or that it was easier to use or better than the competition. There were several portable mp3 players before Apple. The Apple iPod did not sell very well at first.

Apple managed to take over the market for two reasons. First, Apple pumped 100s of millions of dollars into advertising its iPod as the cool trendy product. The market at the time could not really justify that kind of advertising, but Apple did it anyway because it was promoting its company image, and driving people into its stores to buy Macintosh computers. None of the other companies could compete on ads.

Second, Apple managed to find a digital rights management (DRM) scheme that satisfied the record labels and that its customers accepted. The customers were locked into Apple products in a way that customers of other companies would not accept. Somehow Apple customers like being locked in to Apple.

I found competing players easier to use. I could buy non-DRM music from Amazon, and just copy it to the player just like files. I like the players made by Sandisk. They have a history of offering many useful features not available from Apple, and sell at about a quarter the price. The are other good brands also. Most people call these players ipods, whether made by Apple or not.

A startup company is offering a player for higher quality music, but the Apple fanbois are very upset that a product would be so technically superior to Apple. Here is a typical Si Valley columnist badmouthing it:
Yet, despite the enthusiasm surrounding it, Pono is an anachronistic and ill-considered solution to an all-but-nonexistent problem.

The service is modeled on how people used to listen to music five or 10 years ago, not how they listen today.

By and large, consumers are replacing stand-alone digital music players like the iPod with smartphones. And instead of plugging those players into their computers to sync their music, they're getting music on their smartphones wirelessly -- either by syncing their songs over Wi-Fi or, increasingly, streaming them from services such as Spotify, Pandora or iTunes Match.

Pono would have consumers step back in time. They would have to carry around separate phones and music players again. And they would pay $400 for that music device -- which, in an increasingly connected world, is resolutely disconnected. The only way to get music on it is by transferring it from a computer over a USB cable.

You can't buy a song when you're away from your computer and you can't stream it to the device. The company's not even working on a smartphone app that might be able to offer Pono customers some connectivity or instant gratification.
Yes, most people might be happy with low-quality audio on their smart phones. That streaming music is usually significantly worse than FM radio, while the Pono promises something much better.

This review is like telling people not to buy a Tesla car because you won't be able to buy cheap used parts at you local junkyard. The whole point to buying a Tesla is to get something much better than what is in that junkyard.

Apple's biggest success was with the iPhone, which partially stemmed from iPod success. But the iPhone is not as dominant as some people think, as Android phones outsell it about 5 to 1 worldwide. The competition is described in Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution. What is not so well known is that Google announced its amart phone before Apple did, and Apple copied Google as much as Google copied Apple. Steve Jobs went into a vindictive rage against Google, and Google removed the only features that supposed copied Apple. Apple has sued several Android phone makers, but has not sued Google.

The Apple iPhone strategy is also all about lock-in. You get locked into carriers, contracts, app store, etc.

Update: The Apple emails became public because it is losing a lawsuit for locking in its employees.

Update: Here is another foolish rant from someone who cannot believe that a non-Apple product could have superior quality music:
Digital music wouldn't have taken off the way it did if sound quality was a widespread concern. ...

Am I saying you shouldn't buy FLAC files from Neil Young's new store? No, I'm saying you should literally go back to buying CDs. ...

For research purposes, I went on a $50 shopping spree and came away with 14 albums, all downloaded in the same high-resolution format that Neil Young wants you to start buying at exponentially higher prices.
No, that is incorrect. Young will be selling music in a higher resolution than CD. It will sound about the same on cheap equipment, but that is why Young is selling a better player.

Here is an Apple fanboi giving up on the iphone: Why I'm making the jump to Android