Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Fortnight of Links – 13 May 2013

Charlemagne’s DNA and Our Universal Royalty. Carl Zimmer on why, if you are of European descent, you are descended from Charlemagne.  This 2004 paper explains why everyone who was alive 3000 years ago who has living descendents, are the ancestors of everyone living today. Coalescence! I really like that they present results from a series of models along the realism/tractability continuum – from a simple analytic treatment to a very complicated world-wide simulation. This is pretty mind-blowing stuff.

Fact of Fiction? The Legend of the QWERTY Keyboard. The QWERTY keyboard is often used as an example of an inefficient technology persisting through institutional inertia. The popular legend is that the QWERTY Keyboard was designed slow down typists so they would not jam mechanical typewriters. It looks like its design was really influenced to help those transcribing Morse code from telegraph machines.  Note that this still leaves the institutional inertia story intact.

The Groundbreaking Isaac Newton Invention You’ve Never Heard Of. Did Newton really invent the idea of averaging data to reduce variance?  That would be pretty neat, but it seems like someone would have come up with that earlier.

A Congressman’s Own Peer Review. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson may be my new favorite lawmaker.

What China and Russia Don’t Get About Soft Power. An interesting discussion of the pitfalls of soft power.

Science Communication Round-Up:

Why do kidneys need cells? “One person’s jargon is another person’s technical vocabulary”

Defensive Scholarly Writing and Science Communication. Kate Clancy on why scientists often write the way they do.

Over this past fortnight, members of the UC Davis Human Behavioral Ecology Lab group have been emailing around their favorite references on good writing: Politics and the English Language, George Orwell;  Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences, Mark Twain;  Economical Writing, Deirdre McCloskey; The Elements of Style, Strunk and White

Bonus Links (entertaining in an internet sort-of-way):

Is Your State’s Highest-Paid Employee A Coach? (Probably)

How long is the average dissertation?

A Curriculum in Quantitative Evolutionary Social Science

Peter Turchin’s recent post, How to become a Cliodynamicist, reminded me that a couple of years ago, for fun, I tried to put together an undergraduate curriculum for a hypothetical undergraduate majoring in quantitative evolutionary social science.  Something like the program I would have liked to have had, in retrospect, as an undergraduate. (I majored in engineering, but took a lot of biology courses.)

The idea was to put together a curriculum close to the quantitative rigor of an undergraduate engineering degree, but with an emphasis on social systems, human behavior, and evolution.

The self-imposed rules were that I (1) had to use only UC Davis undergraduate (not graduate) courses, (2) could not exceed the unit requirements of an UCD engineering degree (198 units), (3) could not ignore course prerequisites, (4) could ignore complicated university requirements on breadth/depth and whatnot.  Below is what I came up with.

I focused on applied quantitative analysis and modeling. It was really hard to leave out most of the physical sciences – especially intro physics, chemistry and thermodynamics. Also, I wish there were a introductory course in political science instead of a separate courses for each of the sub-fields.

Lower Division Units
ANT 1. Human Evolutionary Biology 4
ANT 23. Introduction to World Prehistory 4
ANT 50. Evolution and Human Nature 4
BIS 2A  Introduction to Biology: Essentials of Life on Earth 3
BIS 2B. Introduction to Biology: Principles of Ecology and Evolution 2
BIS 2C. Introduction to Biology: Biodiversity and the Tree of Life 4
BIS 20Q. Modeling in Biology 5
ECN 1A. Principles of Microeconomics 4
ECN 1B. Principles of Macroeconomics 4
ECS 30. Introduction to Programming and Problem Solving 4
MAT 21A Calculus 4
MAT 21B Calculus 4
MAT 21C Calculus 4
MAT 22A Linear Algebra 3
MAT 22AL Linear Algebra Computer Lab 1
PHIL 30. Introduction to the Philosophy of Science 4
POL 51. Scientific Study of Politics 4
PSC 1. General Psychology 4
PSC 41. Research Methods in Psychology 4
SOC 1. Introduction to Sociology 5
SOC 46A. Introduction to Social Research 4
SOC 46B. Introduction to Social Research 4
STA 32. Basic Statistical Analysis Through Computers 3
Two freshman writing courses 8
Upper Division
ANT 105. Evolution of Societies and Cultures 4
BIS 132. Introduction to Dynamic Models in Modern Biology 4
BIS 133. Collaborative Studies in Mathematical Biology 5
EVE 100. Introduction to Evolution 4
EVE 101. Introduction to Ecology 4
EVE 101Q. Introduction to Computer Models in Ecology 1
EVE 102. Population and Quantitative Genetics 4
EVE 131. Human Genetic Variation and Evolution 3
EVE 175. Computational Genetics 3
ECN 100. Intermediate Micro Theory 4
ECN 110A. World Economic History Before the Industrial Revolution 4
ECN 110B. World Economic History Since the Industrial Revolution 4
ECN 122. Theory of Games and Strategic Behavior 4
ESP 121. Population Ecology 4
MAT 124 Mathematical Biology 4
MAT 167 Applied Linear Algebra 4
NPB 102 Animal Behavior 3
NPB 102Q Quantitative Topics in Animal Behavior 1
POL 110. The Strategy of Politics 4
PSC 100. Introduction to Cognitive Psychology 4
PSC 101. Introduction to Psychobiology 4
PSC 120. Agent-Based Modeling 4
PSC 151. Social Psychology 4
STA 131A. Introduction to Probability Theory 4
STA 131B. Introduction to Mathematical Statistics 4
STA 131C. Introduction to Mathematical Statistics 4
STA 141. Statistical Computing 4
STA 145. Bayesian Statistical Inference 4