Archive for the ‘genetics’ Category
The article is mostly a summary, but then a third party weights in. Go, Georgy Koentges, go!
“There is no such thing as a good or bad gene. It doesn’t work that simply. Genes are used and re-used in different contexts, each of which might have a different overall fitness value for a given organism or a group.”
One thing that bugged me in the article was the writer using “Darwinist.” “Darwinist” is a pejorative and a shibboleth. Dawkins is not a Darwinist. Creationists tend to use that term, in the naive assertion that Charles Darwin is some cult leader or prophet to a belief in evolution, rather than a scientist who advanced human knowledge.
Besides, Dawkins is a Dawkinsist, if anything.
The Stone Pages archive and the original BBC story. The genes date back to the last Ice Age. North and south Wales seem to be distinct from each other as well, with reference to colonization from Ireland in the north and from Europe in the south, but no mention of which might be older to the other. There is no mention of whether Cornwall is distinct from south Wales. Professor Peter Donnelly of Oxford University was the primary researcher.
I don’t buy any of it incidentally. You know as well as i that the Byzantines and Crusaders robbed graves incessantly, creating new relics. Very profitable. Sure, the bones are of Near Eastern origin
from the appropriate era. A lot of people lives and died in that time and place. Sometimes an appropriate grave was robbed through sheer circumstance.
It’ll be fun to see what mtDNA haplogroup this is though. “…a group most commonly found in the Near East.” Tell us more. The science here seems most precise.2
Now that this has finally been confirmed, i’m waiting for the news through the coming years of other extinct humans making contributions to the modern human genome… say, like the newly discovered Desinova hominin or Homo floresiensis. Hawks has this tidbit:
If Eurasians got less than 4 percent from Neandertals, doesn’t that mean that they got more than 96 percent from Africa?
I look at the 1-4 percent estimate as a minimum, for several reasons. As I’ll note below, this estimate mainly refers to the excess Neandertal ancestry outside Africa, which means there may be some additional amount that both recent African and non-African populations share.
But more important, Neandertals weren’t the only people living in Eurasia 100,000 years ago. China didn’t have Neandertals, nor did Southeast Asia and Java. India was full of hominins, which might or might not have shared substantial genetic similarity with Neandertals. They’re close enough to the known Neandertal range to speculate that they may have been close, but the only available fossil, the Middle Pleistocene Narmada skull, is not very informative. Any of these populations might have been genetically different from Neandertals, and might have also contributed genes to present-day human populations — genes that wouldn’t show up by scanning the Neandertal genome.
The recent genetic sequencing of the Denisova pinky (a.k.a. the X-woman) from the Altai Mountains reminds us that these populations outside of Africa may have been quite a bit closer to us, genetically, than we might have expected from the 1.8-million-year record of humans outside Africa. These populations were dynamic in ways that many paleoanthropologists haven’t yet appreciated.
This is getting to be very, very fun. It’s hard to explain why this entertains me, but it does.
They range from pretty neat to WTF, viz.:
The GEO600 gravitational wave detector in Hanover, Germany, has not yet detected any gravitational waves. As a consolation prize, it may instead have uncovered the ultimate nature of reality.
In 2008, physicist Craig Hogan at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, was trying to work out how we might test the idea that everything we see as physical reality is the result of a kind of projection from the boundary of the universe. This is known as the holographic principle.
The information held at the boundary is not smooth, but composed of “bits”, each one occupying an area that corresponds to the most fundamental quanta of distance in the universe. This is the Planck length, around 10-35 metres – far too small for us to see the individual bits. When this information is projected into the volume of the universe, however, each bit gets magnified. That means we might just be able to see pixellation in space-time.
The kinds of scales involved still mean it would only be detectable in the most sensitive instruments we have – such as the gravitational wave detectors looking for the ripples in space-time caused by violent cosmological events such as the collision of two black holes. Hogan worked out how the pixellation might manifest itself for GEO600 and sent his result to the researchers there.
By strange coincidence, the GEO600 team had been having problems with “noise” in their detectors. But here’s the kicker: the noise had uncannily similar characteristics as Hogan’s anticipated signal. Is it indeed the result of information that resides at the edge of the universe? “The issue is still unresolved,” says Karsten Danzmann, principal investigator for GEO600. “The noise is still there and we have no explanation.”
The answer may only come after the instrument is upgraded to make it even more sensitive, a step that is due to be completed this time next year.
Apparently it’s a revelation that “junk” DNA is essential to evolution. What surprises me here is not that “junk” DNA is not junk at all, but that anyone believed that “junk” DNA served no function whatsoever. Every time i ran across someone online writing a serious article about DNA, and made a claim about how this “junk” DNA could be excised or be replaced with some other information, I’d cringe, as it seemed shortsighted and destructive. It sounds great as a sci-fi conceit to play with, but when some goofy transhumanists decide what in the human genome is junk and what isn’t, they’re painting themselves into a corner.
It’s a book that i read last week. That’s about all I feel comfortable in writing.
Now for the tricky stuff…
It’s an extremely compelling, persuasive book. Long before the publication of this book, I already happily subscribed to the idea that humans have continued to evolve past the 40,000 year cut-off date, and that civilization has accelerated the process. Humans have adapted to different environments, and have self-selected through other pressures, especially societal. However, I’m just a silly amateur who likes throwing up some links about archaeology, anthropology, and genetics, trying to understand the past. My comprehension of what happened and why is very superficial (although it’s probably better than the average person.) I’ve been emailing friends excerpts from the book, but when i start to post them, i hesitate. Some of these ideas in the wrongs hands will lead to some bad things. The ideas themselves are not bad, but i simply don’t trust the average person.
Evolution already has an ugly track record when it went through the Victorian Age. People misapplied the theory to create Social Darwinism and eugenics.
I have a very bad feeling that when people catch on to The 10,000 Year Explosion, some very wrong, stupid, and dangerous ideas will spring forth. Some hard science people will huff to dismiss worryworts like myself as handwringing fools, but the other night, i watched The Colbert Report show how a lot of news agencies inaccurately reported that the CDC announced that beer pong spreads herpes.
So… it’s a book that I’m very excited about, and highly recommend, but don’t feel comfortable discussing yet.
Oh, to hell with it. I have some wacky, irresponsible stuff to throw on top of the theory of accelerated recent evolution in humans… like a popular revival of Julian Jaynes‘ somewhat fringe theory of bicameralism!1
- Maybe the relatively harmless stuff will defuse the uglier stuff. [↩]
A gene has been identified as a regulator in the perception of pain. It’s been dubbed the downstream regulatory element antagonistic modulator (aka DREAM.) Interesting. Remove the gene, and sensitivity to pain is decreased. Gotcha.
What’s weird though, is if this gene is removed, it seems that learning and memory are increased.
The rest of the article describes how when calcium regulation goes awry in old age, that DREAM is stimulated, and causes Alzheimer’s, as learning and memory are muted.
Great for a cure for Alzheimer’s, but my head is full of unhealthy visions of men in vats, who feel no sensations of pain, thus must be protected from injury themselves, that are living computers.