54 posts · 46,938 views
This blog will cover a diversity of topics, but will heavily feature evolutionary biology, particularly topics relating to population genetics and genomic imprinting.
So, today (June 23, 2011) marks the 99th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, British supergenius who played a critical role in winning World War II and is one of the founding fathers of computer science.
He was also gay, which was illegal Britain at the time. In 1952 he was prosecuted under the same law that had sent Oscar Wilde to gaol. He chose to undergo chemical castration (in the form of treatment with feminizing hormones) as an alternative to prison.
In 1954 he committed suicide in ........ Read more »
Turing, A. M. (1950) Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Mind, 59(236), 433-460. info:/
So, you've probably heard that the world is ending this Saturday (or, as Tom Scocca explains, sometime between Friday evening and Sunday morning, depending on how the rapture interacts with the time zones). You may already have signed up on Facebook to attend the pre-rapture orgy and/or the post-rapture looting.
Earlier, I posted my discovery that you can be taken up by the rapture even if you're actively engaging in gay sex when it happens, which is pretty awesome.
But now I want to talk........ Read more »
Selten, R., & Stoecker, R. (1986) End behavior in sequences of finite Prisoner's Dilemma supergames A learning theory approach. Journal of Economic Behavior , 7(1), 47-70. DOI: 10.1016/0167-2681(86)90021-1
Snowflakes by jonfwilkins
For sketches of the 80 different snowflake types, see the referenced paper, which presents them taxonomically, or check out the key figures here and here.
Magono, C., & Lee, C. W. (1966). Meteorological Classification of Natural Snow Crystals Journal of the Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, Japan, Ser. VII, 2 (4), 321-335
... Read more »
Magono, C., & Lee, C. W. (1966) Meteorological Classification of Natural Snow Crystals. Journal of the Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, Japan, Ser. VII, 2(4), 321-335. info:other/
Dunning-Kruger Effect by jonfwilkins
Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77 (6), 1121-1134 DOI: 10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.521
... Read more »
Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999) Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121-1134. DOI: 10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2061
So, have you spend all day looking for a comic that integrates Red Queen evolutionary dynamics, commentary on the application of parsimony arguments in biology, and Newt Gingrich's recent flip-flopping on Libya? No? Well, hopefully you'll enjoy this anyway. For a more viewable image, see the original at Darwin Eats Cake.
URL for hotlinking or embedding: http://www.darwineatscake.com/img/comic/11.jpg
For more on the flip-flop check out Think Progress or Weigel.
Van Valen, L (1973). A New Evolut........ Read more »
Van Valen, L. (1973) A New Evolutionary Law. Evolutionary Theory, 1-30. info:/
So, in many of the standard narratives, the robot apocalypse is triggered when the machines figure out that humans are fundamentally flawed, or because their self awareness produces an instinct for self defense.
Well, a new paper just out in Biological Psychiatry describes an experiment in which researchers successfully teach a computer to reproduce aspects of schizophrenia. This raises the possibility of an alternative scenario: the machines just go crazy and start killing people, Laughner-sty........ Read more »
Hoffman RE, Grasemann U, Gueorguieva R, Quinlan D, Lane D, & Miikkulainen R. (2011) Using computational patients to evaluate illness mechanisms in schizophrenia. Biological psychiatry, 69(10), 997-1005. PMID: 21397213
So, you may or may not know that The Hives also said this.
URL for hotlinking or embedding: http://www.darwineatscake.com/img/comic/10.jpg
For more, go to Darwin Eats Cake.
PARKS, P. (1992). A. M. Lyapunov's stability theory—100 years on. IMA Journal of Mathematical Control and Information, 9 (4), 275-303 DOI: 10.1093/imamci/9.4.275
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So, our next Egypt Week feature is a theoretical paper on a topic closely related to the last post. Once again, we are interested in understanding the mechanisms that are responsible for encouraging or enforcing cooperation, thereby facilitating collective action. Last time, we talked about a paper that found that "altruistic" or "third-party" punishment is common in large-scale, complex societies, but is rare in small-scale societies, while "spiteful" punishment is universal.
Many empirical a........ Read more »
So, here's a new thing.
Best URL for sharing: http://www.darwineatscake.com/?id=18
URL for hotlinking or embedding: http://www.darwineatscake.com/img/comic/18.jpg
This is based on a recent paper (citation below) where they identify a point mutation in the mitochondrial DNA that appears to result in hypertension.
So why is this interesting? Well, for me, as an evolutionary theorist who works on intragenomic conflict, it is interesting because the mitochondrial DNA is, in principle, subject to s........ Read more »
Wang, S., Li, R., Fettermann, A., Li, Z., Qian, Y., Liu, Y., Wang, X., Zhou, A., Mo, J., Yang, L.... (2011) Maternally Inherited Essential Hypertension Is Associated With the Novel 4263AG Mutation in the Mitochondrial tRNAIle Gene in a Large Han Chinese Family. Circulation Research, 108(7), 862-870. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.110.231811
So, Guillaume's Mailbag has continued on its mission to provide an adaptive explanation for every existing trait. The most recent trait Guillaume has been tackling was submitted by John Wilkins, who asked, "Why do we make odd faces when we orgasm?"
In case you missed when I've plugged him before, JoHn Wilkins (no recent relation) is a philosopher of science in Australia. His most recent book is Species: A History of the Idea, and he runs an excellent blog called Evolving Thoughts. He recently c........ Read more »
Ross HE, Cole CD, Smith Y, Neumann ID, Landgraf R, Murphy AZ, & Young LJ. (2009) Characterization of the oxytocin system regulating affiliative behavior in female prairie voles. Neuroscience, 162(4), 892-903. PMID: 19482070
Carmichael MS, Warburton VL, Dixen J, & Davidson JM. (1994) Relationships among cardiovascular, muscular, and oxytocin responses during human sexual activity. Archives of sexual behavior, 23(1), 59-79. PMID: 8135652
Krüger TH, Haake P, Chereath D, Knapp W, Janssen OE, Exton MS, Schedlowski M, & Hartmann U. (2003) Specificity of the neuroendocrine response to orgasm during sexual arousal in men. The Journal of endocrinology, 177(1), 57-64. PMID: 12697037
So, an article has just come out this morning in the Chronicle of Higher Education covering the controversy over the Nowak et al Nature paper attacking kin selection. I've written about the paper twice previously, once here, providing an xtranormal video dramatization of the issues, and once here, trying to provide some context to explain why so many people had gotten up in arms about this particular paper (as opposed to the hundreds of scientific papers published every year that are equally wro........ Read more »
So, here's the latest in adaptationism:
Best URL for sharing: http://www.darwineatscake.com/?id=39
Permanent image URL for hotlinking or embedding: http://www.darwineatscake.com/img/comic/39.jpg
Hat-tip to Justin Blumenstiel, who is the king of transposable elements, which I think means that every time one of them transposes, they have to tithe to him.
Changizi M, Weber R, Kotecha R, & Palazzo J (2011). Are Wet-Induced Wrinkled Fingers Primate Rain Treads? Brain, behavior and evolution PM........ Read more »
Changizi M, Weber R, Kotecha R, & Palazzo J. (2011) Are Wet-Induced Wrinkled Fingers Primate Rain Treads?. Brain, behavior and evolution. PMID: 21701145
So, Farther's day was almost a week ago, but I wanted to share this video, which illustrates all the good-timey ho-down fun that led to your father becoming your father.
Did I just call your mom a ho? It sure seems like it, doesn't it?
If you want to try this (or something like it) at home, check out the ideas in this article:
Joseph P. Chinnici,, Joyce W. Yue,, & Kieron M. Torres (2004). Students as “Human Chromosomes” in Role-Playing Mitosis & Meiosis The American Biolog........ Read more »
Joseph P. Chinnici,, Joyce W. Yue,, & Kieron M. Torres. (2004) Students as “Human Chromosomes” in Role-Playing Mitosis . The American Biology Teacher, 66(1), 35-39. info:/
So, welcome back to the Genetical Book Review, where we use concepts from evolutionary biology and genetics to talk about novels. In this installment, we are going to talk about White Cat, written by Michael Frost and Holly Black. This is the first book in a series of the Curse Workers fantasy series, the second book of which is set to be published in April. Holly Black may be familiar to some readers as one of the authors of The Spiderwick Chronicles.
White Cat is, broadly speaking, the same f........ Read more »
WADDINGTON, C. (1942) Canalization of Development and the Inheritance of Acquired Characters. Nature, 150(3811), 563-565. DOI: 10.1038/150563a0
So, most biologists are familiar with the quotation by Theodosius Dobzhansky, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." In fact, in my experience, if you go to a biology conference, there's about a 50% chance that at least one of the speakers will introduce their talk with this line. What is typically not made explicit in these talks is, as opposed to what other light?
Best URL for sharing: http://www.darwineatscake.com/?id=19
URL for hotlinking or embedding: http://ww........ Read more »
Theodosius Dobzhansky. (1973) Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution. The American Biology Teacher, 35(3), 125-129. info:other/
Reflections on and implications of the definitive identification of fatherless Boa constrictors.... Read more »
Booth, W., Johnson, D., Moore, S., Schal, C., & Vargo, E. (2010) Evidence for viable, non-clonal but fatherless Boa constrictors. Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0793
So, a couple of days ago, I made a video dramatizing the scientific kerfuffle surrounding a paper published in Nature by Martin Nowak, Carina Tarnita, and E. O. Wilson of Harvard. My original goal had been to create something that would be entertaining to the people involved in the argument.
The original post, which contains the video, is here.
Over the past day or so, it has become clear that a lot of people are seeing the video who are maybe not familiar with the context in which the kerfuff........ Read more »
So, you may have heard about Tihomir Petrov, the math professor at Cal State, Northridge who was arrested for urinating on his colleague's office door. Campus security got video footage of Petrov in the act when they set up video cameras following the discovery of "puddles of what they thought was urine."
You may be asking yourself, what the heck was this dude thinking? How should we interpret the behavior of this Homo mathematicus (not that there's anything wrong with it) specimen?
Fortunate........ Read more »
Jordan, N., Mwanguhya, F., Kyabulima, S., RÃ¼edi, P., & Cant, M. (2010) Scent marking within and between groups of wild banded mongooses. Journal of Zoology, 280(1), 72-83. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00646.x
So, Google has already had it's Twitter account subpoenaed, and can look forward to months of molestation enhanced screening at the airport, all thanks to its brazen violation of Benford's Law.
What is this Benford's Law thing?
It is a statement that if you look at lists of numbers in empirical data, the first non-zero digit is distributed in a very specific way. At least for certain kinds of data. Specifically, if the logarithms of the numbers you are looking at are uniformly distributed, the........ Read more »
Frank Benford. (1938) The law of anomalous numbers. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 78(4), 551-572. info:other/
So, our next scientific Egypt Week post concerns a paper just published in last week's issue of Nature, where the authors describe novel behavioral effects of the imprinted gene Grb10 in the mouse.
If you're not familiar, genomic imprinting is the phenomenon where the expression pattern of a gene depends on its parental origin. So, most of your genes come in two copies, one of which came from your mom, and one of which came from your dad. For most genes, the function of the allele, or gene copy........ Read more »
Garfield AS, Cowley M, Smith FM, Moorwood K, Stewart-Cox JE, Gilroy K, Baker S, Xia J, Dalley JW, Hurst LD.... (2011) Distinct physiological and behavioural functions for parental alleles of imprinted Grb10. Nature, 469(7331), 534-8. PMID: 21270893
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