A Fortnight (or so) of Links – 13 Nov 2013

I am pretty far behind my regularish fortnight link posting.  These have really built up!

Our forefathers were fierce & our foremothers were faithful by Razib Khan at Gene Expression. Reports on a study by Maarten Larmuseau and colleagues that collected information about genetic inheritance (the Y-chromosome) with cultural inheritance (family surnames) in Flanders. They used this data estimated that the amount of cuckoldry in the population, and found it to be quite low.

Bigger groups mean complex cultures by Ed Yong. Two recent experimental studies are out this past fortnight (in Proc B and Nature) providing support for previous models showing that larger groups can maintain cultural traits better than smaller groups (ungated summary).

Such deep roots you have: How Little Red Riding Hood’s tale evolved by Alan Boyle at NBC News. I am skeptical of the claims made by the researchers made in the article. They use phylogenetic trees, which are commonly used to describe relationships between biological species, to analyze the origins of the Little Red Riding Hood story. Phylogenetic techniques are hard for culturally transmitted traits because there can be a lot  more information flow between branches than you can have gene flow between (sexually-reproducing) species  (this is called “reticulation,” see here for more). Modeling historical cultural change with modern data is tricky!

The tribesman who Facebook friended me by  Jonnie Hughes. To me, this has a few good anecdotes about how some cultural traits are adopted between societies more readily than others.

How many genetic ancestors do I have? Posted at UC Davis’s Coop Lab blog. One of my (many) nitpicks with the Di Vinci Code movie (though maybe the book was better) was that a person with Jesus as an genealogical ancestor was unlikely to have him as a genetic ancestor. This post explains why we have many more genealogical ancestors than genetic ancestors.

View From the Inside: How Gang Members Use Secret Codes by Eric Jankiewicz. When I was in fifth grade my teacher, Ms. Dye, used to confiscate notes passed between students in class and post them on the wall. In response, some students started writing their notes in code, which could not be read even if posted on the wall. But then I started breaking the codes and giving the decoded messages to the teacher to post on the wall next to the coded ones.  This story of a police officer who breaks prison gang codes reminded me of that. Still, I bet he is more popular in prison than I was in the fifth grade. (Ms. Dye eventually told me to stop breaking the codes, which I thought was weird at the time, but it was sweet of her to try to help me out.)

Remembering Wallace. John Hawks comments on an Andrew Berry post about the relative obscurity of Alfred Russel Wallace. He points out that Wallace is perhaps better known to anthropologists than biologists because of his willingness to discuss natural selection’s implication for humans before Darwin.

The Math Trick Behind MP3s, JPEGs, and Homer Simpson’s Face by Aatish Bhatia. Spoiler alert: the math trick is the Fourier transform. This is just awesome science writing.

Diagrams for hierarchical models: New drawing tool.  This looks really useful for hierarchical modelers.  I will take these over a coefficient table any day.

Why Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment Isn’t in My Textbook by Peter Gray at Psychology Today.

As always, it is a good idea to check out the weekly links at Evolving Economics [41, 40, 39].

Entertaining (in that internet sort-of way):

Winning “The Price Is Right.”  Ben Blatt makes a handy guide for maximizing your chances on all of the subgames on The Price is Right. I used to watch this show with my grandma all the time at the guide made me a little nostalgic (she used to complain when the prices didn’t match those at the local drugstore). My only quibble is that while the article is billed as a “guide to better bidding through game theory,” only a couple of the games (contestant’s row and the big wheel – those with more than one contestant) are properly “game theory.” The rest are more accurately described as “decision theory.” But this is just a quibble that distracts from the larger view that this may be exactly what the internet was invented for.

Why Wine Cries. An awesome science video.

Millions of Lines of Code. It reportedly takes 5 million lines of code to repair HealthCare.gov.  How many is that?

How long do hard drives actually live?

Exploring The Invisible Universe That Lives On Us — And In Us. A video by Rob Stein at NPR about the microbiome.

Up all Night to Get Data.” A music-video parody by the UCSD Neuroscience program.

Would You Live in a Hexagonal House? Answer: yes.



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