Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Fortnight of Links – 26 Oct 2013

The Monkey Cage Gender Gap Symposium There is a gender gap in academia. Articles from this symposium addresses it, specifically in political science.

One thing about posting links every two weeks is that I am sometimes behind on the major issues. By now most of you have likely heard about the sexual and racial harassment issues surrounding Scientific American that have prompted many scientists and science bloggers to share their own stories. All of these stories are devastating, but it is especially salient when it is someone you know.

Darwin’s Business Conference.   Short videos from many of the distinguished participants.

Memes via telegraph!

The F Problem With The P-Value Sciences by Neuroskeptic

Trouble at the Lab. An article in the Economist questioning whether science is self-correcting.

Twenty Things Most Chiropractors Won’t Tell You by chiropractor Preston H. Long.

Numberphile explains the maths and politics behind the Number 666.

Unusable Words by Brad Leithauser

As always, it is a good idea to check out the weekly links at Evolving Economics.

Entertaining (in that internet sort-of way):

8 Unlikely Animal Friendships

The Evolution of Popular Music visualization.

This is, surprisingly, a straight line.

A Fortnight of Links – 11 Oct 2013

Winning At All Costs Will Make Winning Costlier (Than It Needs To Be). John Patty at the Math of Politics blog describes the logic behind the recent US government shut down in terms of a hawk-dove/snowdrift/chicken game. It is especially nice when someone trained in economics thinks about an equilibrium’s stability.

The Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses (BAH!) is over, but the videos will be posted soon.  It was organized at MIT by cartoonist Zach Weinersmith and (my fellow UC Davis Graduate Group in Ecology 2007 cohort member) parasite ecologist Kelly Weinersmith. (They are interviewed here.) The festival included distinguished judges, sponsors and speakers who presented “well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect evolutionary theory.” The prize for best talk? “A sculpture of Darwin shrugging skeptically.”

Mark Lubell addresses three hard questions about network science.

An epic BBC video on the science of chance.

My recent NIMBioS talk is posted online.

Should I Ask a Question During Seminar? A PhD Comics decision-tree.

As always, it is a good idea to check out the weekly links at Evolving Economics.

Having Recently Completed a Doctorate:

What Exactly Is a Doctorate? by Matt Might

I Fear My Dissertation Is Not Having the World-Changing Impact I Thought It Would by Josh Freedman

Entertaining (in that internet sort-of way):

Alternate reality electoral college map where the fifty states all have equal population.

Journal Article of the Fortnight:

Ethnic dominance damages cooperation more than ethnic diversity: results from multi-ethnic field experiments in India.  Tim Waring and Adrian Bell.   

Abstract:  Research in many societies shows that ethnic diversity correlates with a decline in cooperation at the community level. This literature neglects cases in which ethnic heterogeneity is hierarchically structured. Power and status differences between ethnic groups, or ethnic dominance, may play an important role in determining cooperative outcomes. We test this hypothesis using public goods experiments with caste groups in India in which we manipulate the caste composition of experimental groups. Conservative estimates show that ethnic dominance between high and low ranking castes has a much larger negative effect on contributions in the public goods experiment than does caste diversity. We argue that ethnic dominance interactions such as ethnic discrimination constitute a type of antisocial punishment between groups. We also find that conditional cooperation is limited to within ethnic groups, revealing ethnocentric cooperation preferences. These results confirm the importance of group structure in human cooperative patterns, and help bridge the gap between evolutionary theory and cooperation dynamics in multi-ethnic real world settings.



My NIMBioS Seminar – Tomorrow 3:30 EST @ University of Tennessee


For anyone around Knoxville tomorrow I will be giving a seminar at NIMA picture of me.BioS at the University of Tennessee at 3:30 EST (refreshments at 3:00 EST). Here is the information:

Time/Date: Tuesday, October 8, 2013, 3:30 p.m.
Location: Room 105, Claxton Building, 1122 Volunteer Blvd.
Speaker: Dr. Matthew Zimmerman, NIMBioS postdoctoral fellow
Topic:Cultural evolution of human cooperation and conflict

Abstract: Humans seemingly have a greater capacity for altruistic cooperation with non-relatives than any other species. For example, in experiments humans cooperate more than one would expect either from cross-species comparisons or by calculating payoff-maximizing behavior. Two main hypotheses have sought to explain this – the mismatch hypothesis, where humans evolved genetically-inherited rules for cooperation in small kin groups and misapply them in modern contexts, and the norm psychology hypothesis, where humans evolved the capacity for to learn cooperative norms. I show that a model developed to support the former hypothesis actually better supports the latter. Similarly, in warfare humans take large risks to benefit group members who are mostly non-relativ
es. Quite a few hypotheses have been proposed to explain this, however these hypotheses are fundamentally incomplete when they do not account for both cultural inheritance and group-structure. Finally, explaining cooperation in larger-scale complex human societies has been difficult since many of the institutions that work in small-scale societies become less effect ive as group size increases. Hierarchical organization seems a potential solution to increasing group size, though the basic theory has not been established. I present a preliminary model of hierarchy’s origins that I will develop as a NIMBioS post-doc.

Seminar Flyer

Do I Sound Texan to You?

I just took this dialect quiz that purports to tell “where in the continental United States do they speak like you?”

The quiz is based on the Harvard Dialect Survey and I was particularly interested in it because, as a military brat and military veteran, I grew up and lived all over the country and figured I might break the thing. (My father is from the Midwest and my mother is from western Pennsylvainia, so I expected I’d test for a standard Midwest dialect.)

For reference, here are all the places I’ve lived for more than a year and my approximate ages:

Colorado Springs, Colorado (0 – 3)
North Pole, Alaska (4-6)
Woodbridge, Virginia (7 – 10)
Flower Mound, Texas (11 – 13)
Amherst, New York (14 – 18)
Ithaca, New York (19 – 22)
Abilene, Texas (23 – 25)
North Pole, Alaska (26 – 28) – yes, again.
Davis, California (29 – 34)
Knoxville, Tennessee (34 – )

So did I break the thing?  140 questions later, here are my results:

The first thing to notice is that the map is not super informative (there appears to be a band of similarity going from Virginia, through the Midwest, to Texas).
The tables are more interesting.  The numbers specify the probability that a randomly selected person from those cities would answer a randomly selected question the same way I would.
First, there does not seem to be a lot of variation in my scores and they all seem quite low to me (though I do not know if this is common). I also appear to not share a common dialect with New Englanders (which is probably very common).
But what is really interesting to me is my “most similar city,” Denton, Texas.  It is interesting because Denton is only 15 miles away from Flower Mound, Texas, where I spent my middle school years (and is also, incidentally, the home town of one of my favorite persons from grad school). The map below shows my middle school suspiciously close to Denton.  (My middle school was, again incidentally, named after the great-great grandfather of another one of my favorite persons from grad school.)

Many of the people who read this blog have also heard me speak and have even likely had conversations with me.  Do I sound like I’m from East Texas to you?

Granted, when I moved to New York my nick-name on the 9th-grade football team was “Tex” based largely on my accent. But by the next year, I lost (most of?) the drawl and that nick-name was forgotten (read: replaced by “Zim”).

But does some of that old middle-school dialect remain? Or is the above result just some sort of coincidence?

There seems to be some evidence for the former.  According to this book, I lived near Denton during a key stage of peer-based dialect formation:

Labov (1970)* proposed that, up to the age of 5, children acquire the basic grammar and lexicon of their language, normally under the influence of parents.  Between the ages of 5 and 12, children learn the dialect of their peer group… By the age of 14 or 15, adolescents start to move away from the peer group dialect and toward the more prestigious form of speech, especially in formal situations.

Might this peer group dialect still persist 21 years later to the extent it is detectable by the above dialect survey?

* – Labov, W. (1970) Stages in the acquisition of standard English. In R. Shuy (ed.), Social Dialects and Language Learning. Champaign, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English.

UPDATE: I just want to point out that this “probability that you would answer a randomly selected question the same as someone from a randomly selected city” measure is likely not the best way to pinpoint someone’s area of origin.  Some questions are more likely to provide more information to others, and some answers to those questions are likely to provide more information to than others.  For example, one of the questions asked about the word used for a light-rail train. One of the possible answers was “BART.”  BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit and I’m pretty sure someone using that as the generic word for light rail would likely have close ties to Northern California.  But even if it is a crude measure, it at least seemed to preform well in my (anecdotal) case.