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Everything posted by CDarwin

  1. In the logic of cladistics you're actually right about the first part. On a branching cladogram there are no 'transitional' forms, just common ancestor nodes that only exist theoretically. But I think that's a bit silly of a position to try to apply to the fossil record and there are clearly fossil forms that bridge 'gaps' in evolving fossil lineages (the term here would be anagenetic evolution). As for the rest of it; you're right that delineating two species is tricky business. I think the evidence that this population was interbreeding with both Neanderthals and with modern humans (it's actually mostly closely linked to modern Melenesians, wildly, which must indicate something about migration patterns in Asia at the time) should suggest strongly that none of these three is a separate species to begin with (and there is also strong evidence that Neanderthals contributed to the genomes of modern Eurasians, but not Africans, supporting admixture, see The famous Green et al. (2010)). And, finally, you're right that this has nothing to do with ancestry of millions of years ago, but rather ancestry of about 500 ka, when a Neanderthal/Denisovan lineage split from that of modern humans, but continued gene flow with it intermittently. AzurePheonix laid that bit out well, I defer. A good, if long, FAQ on some of the key points of the paper, incidentally: The Denisova genome FAQ[/
  2. They don't have to traverse continents with that information, though. Taking Achuelean axes from Africa to Europe would require several generations of passing down the techniques, especially since these groups wouldn't have been marching to Europe deterministically.
  3. I tried mightily to articulate what I wanted to ask precisely but failed to come with anything intelligible. So, in bullet form, here's the situation archaeologically in early to middle Pleistocene: Mode 1, also called Oldowan, technology originated in Homo habilis, but persisted in H. ergaster, and is the only industry associated with H. erectus (outside Africa), H. georgicus (controversial species some consider H. ergaster), and the 800,000 year old fossils from Atapuerca sometimes called H. antecessor. Mode II, or Acheulean, stone tools (the hand axes are particularly famous) are associated with later H. ergaster and H. heidelbergensis (I'm going to stop with the Middle Pleistocene species because after them almost everyone begins to recognize much greater cultural flexibility). Here's what some scientists think because of that: H. erectus, H. georgicus, and H. antecessor dispersed out of Africa before the invention of the Acheulean. H. heidelbergensis must have arisen in Africa (with the Bodo cranium 600 kya) then spread into Europe and for brief periods East Asia (the Dali cranium), bringing with it Acheulean tools, instead of evolving from Oldowan-bound H. antecessor and gaining Mode II technology through cultural diffusion from Africa. Others think such technological diffusion was occurring between species and map out the dispersal patterns differently. So, do you think it's reasonable to suppose the early members of our genus were culturally sophisticated enough for that kind of diffusion? Do you think cross-species diffusion to even be likely? (It did in fact happen between later H. sapiens and Neanderthals, although they were obviously much more sophisticated species.) You'll have to fill in the gaps in my communication yourselves, I'm afraid, but I thought some people on here might have interesting opinions.
  4. True enough. These changes are probably more important to us than they are to the detainees, although if there is a formal legal process with periodic reviews, that offers a detainee a better shot that just being thrown in a hole. Godwin-y. Every state is governed by symbols. The Constitution is a symbol. Law itself is a set of symbolized meanings. I don't want to press the point too far or I'll start getting anthropological-y, but human culture is at base a complex array of symbols and government is obviously just a facet of culture. I read it the opposite way. I think Obama's intentions are constrained by political necessity. If he makes a really dramatic break from Bush era policies and an attack happens, then that would be devastating to him politically and to any hope of reform in how we treat these prisoners. If you trim off everything but what they both agree on, then that might be the case, yes.
  5. I like the point David Brooks has made a few times on the News Hour and on radio. Obama is doing something Bush never did, or showed any external signs of doing: trying to put his actions on a good-faith grounding in law. Where the previous administration simply ignored the law, the Obama people seem to be vocally trying to work within it. The Obama administration is looking for a legal framework in which to hold detainees indefinitely, for example, where the Bush administration simply did as it felt was necessary and covered itself with public panic. In view of results, I acknowledge, it's a largely symbolic shift. But I think its a very important one, as symbols are really what govern us in a modern democracy.
  6. These days science fairs want you to actually test a hypothesis I think, at least in my experience. They would call extracting your DNA a science demonstration, but not science fair-worthy. Now, as for answering Nakkulsreenivas's question... There is certainly a lot of math in most population genetics, but, that statement summarizes about all I know of it. I know there's a pretty simple Hardy-Weinberg equation that states that dominant and recessive traits will remain stable in a population in equilibrium over time. If you had a subject with a fast enough generation time maybe you could... test that? There are people about on the boards who do mathematical biology who could help you much more on this count, if any of them decide to emerge from the mists.
  7. In all fairness, the world could end in 2012, via any of the various completely random ways the world might end. And I'm sure we would all look very foolish in that case, were we no, you know, dead. But the Maya would have been as surprised as any of us.
  8. Now, I doubt most of you have ever heard of TennCare, and it's nothing particularly special that you should have heard of. It's a state program in Tennessee to augment Medicaid by contracting with managed care companies that is most famous for going crazy and almost bankrupting the state a few years ago before being pared down considerably. Well, Frank Cagle (former editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel, if that means anything to anyone) wrote in his column in a local weekly about how Tennessee's experience with TennCare might and should reflect on the national health insurance reform proposals currently bobbing about Congress, and I thought I would share. TennCare No Model: We learned some lessons that would be helpful for national health plan Ok, three questions: First, do you think Tennessee's experience, or the experiences of other states (you may substitute your own), with more limited experiments in state-provided care for the very poorest are relevant at all to the more ambitious proposals before Congress? And, assuming you answer the first question with a "yes," what do you think of Cagle's points? To summarize his basic "lessons of TennCare": 1. TennCare suffered from its isolation from a nation-wide comprehensive solution. 2. "[P]rivate insurance companies dumped the sickest among us onto the taxpayers.The 'pool' of the chronically ill, with pre-existing medical conditions, were shifted from private plans to TennCare." 3. "[M]any businesses stopped offering health insurance and threw their employees onto the TennCare rolls." 4. "[P]rescription drugs with no co-pay and no limit was a prescription for disaster. The per capita rate of prescriptions per patients was almost twice the national average. Reports of widespread prescription fraud angered the populace, reduced support for the plan, and enraged legislators." 5. Reports of non-taxpayers- illegal immigrants and people from other states- receiving benefits on the plan further undermined its popularity. So, the third question. Assuming you respond to my second question somewhat positively, what are we to do about ameliorating these problems in a national health care bill?
  9. The point about the electoral system of the United States is a good one, I had forgotten to mention that. I would point out, however, that not all American elections use an exclusively first past the post system. I'm not aware of anything akin to an Australian-style preferential voting system (which I understand is particularly third-party friendly), but several states hold run-offs. Third party candidates haven't seen any electoral success in those in recent years, either (although they have on the state level in the past).
  10. On Facebook I'm "Liberal, with reservations." I think that means that I take the generally liberal position on most of the issues cogent these days, but I have some reservations about the intellectual foundations of American liberalism (pragmatism, all that). I think.
  11. I've always been a little bit peeved by complaints about the American "two-party tyranny." For one, people seem to forget how chaotic multi-party democracies, like Israel's or India's, can be. No one party ever wins an outright majority and so is forced to assemble impromptu coalitions which can take months and inevitably give disproportionate power to small fringe and local parties that can undo governments by withholding their few votes. Our two parties are essentially pre-packaged coalitions that can take power and govern much more reliably and with greater accountability. And secondly, no third party ever seemed really serious to me about putting forward a broad, nationally relevant agenda and taking the incremental steps necessary for real success, instead focusing on impossible but high profile Presidential campaigns. What if the Green Party put all the effort it put into running Ralph Nader for President in 2000 into running him somewhere for Congress? Wouldn't having a third party member in the House of Representatives be a big deal, and a worthy goal for a party trying to break onto the national stage? Well, with that preface, I came across a particularly cogent passage in Richard Hofstadter's The Age of Reform today that I thought I would just quote in block: Emphasis mine, because I like the quote. That seemed to answer my dismissal of the third-ers. So, what do you think about Hofstadter's conclusions, or my opinions? Why do you think third parties so invariably fail to unseat national parties in the United States? I think commentary from posters who live in countries with a more prolific partisan scene might be particularly interesting.
  12. Conservatives seem to be abdicating their responsibility in this debate. This is where an opposition party should shine, pointing out legitimate flaws in the plans of the majority and working constructively to fix them and make a plan the best for everybody. The bills before Congress will cost a lot of money and haven't been adequately paid for, and, most importantly, don't seem to hold much promise of lowering health care costs. Those are real issues. Instead, Republicans are descending into apoplectic stupidity. Merged post follows: Consecutive posts merged Eh, I don't know about that. In 1900 there was an entire political party (the Populists) predicated on vaguely anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the "Gold Power." There were Klan rallies down Pennsylvania Avenue in the early 20th Century. These little spasms of craziness are nothing new, narratives of decline notwithstanding.
  13. If anyone hasn't come across this yet, nifty new website! http://www.timetree.org/ The description from Dechronization: It has all the caveats of molecular dating, but, still, neat resource and fun to play with.
  14. It also might depend on how you phrase the job. "Scientist" is kind amorphous, but "professor" would probably be included with professions like law and medicine as prestigious in the sense of the OP.
  15. Well, all great classical music is some kind of beautiful. But, as far as luminous melodies go, the motif to the Maestoso of Saint-Saen's "Organ Symphony" (aka the Babe song), is one of my favorites. The English Romantics Vaghan-Williams and Holst have some really good ones too, like "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" and "Somerset Rhapsody," respectively. I'm trying the think of a 'beautiful' Russian piece but I appreciate Russian composers more for being interesting than lovely in that sense. Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" has some nice melodies on that count, I suppose, and Russian liturgical music (like Tchaikovsky's "Litergy of St. John Chrysostom" or Borodin's "Russian Easter Overture") is a different kind of a beautiful. Uhm, the old American folk song "Black Girl," or "In the Pines," I've always found quite striking. Oh, and the song by the Russian band DDT. That's what I can think of right now. EDIT: You all might enjoy the better, since it has an astronomer in the music video.
  16. Maybe he was talking about insurance companies? *snare drum cymbal clash*
  17. It's my understanding that the VA system has been pretty heavily privatized in the past few years. In fact, it's that privatization that contributed to such as the Walter Reed scandal. So, if military health care has anything to say in favor of a public option, I would say the lesson is indirect at best. Government > government contractors.
  18. Not exactly where the drift of the conversation is going, but there is a common idea in taxonomy called 'grades.' These are taxonomic groups that represent general adaptive 'steps,' or 'stages' if you like, but that maybe aren't monophyletic, i.e. descending from a common ancestor. The old families Pongidae (for the apes) and Hominidae (for humans and human ancestors) represent grades, since all apes are adaptively similar (kind of) but some are more closely related to members of the Hominidae than they are to other apes. And, more currently, the hominid/hominin genus Australopithecus may only represent a grade in human evolution instead of a monophyletic group.
  19. What I've read is that the appendix is extremely hard to get rid of by gradual steps, because the narrower it gets, the most plausible path to it disappearing, the more susceptible it is to infection. So, we may be stuck with them just because there is no selective intermediate appendices between the ones we have now and nothing at all. Of course, if some people are born completely without them than I don't suppose that matters.
  20. Since we really don't know much of anything what the plan is going to look like, I don't think you could say that. The mandate, as I understand its current probable form, will just be to get some kind of insurance, either private or a (I presume federally funded) public option. If anything, states should be happy about that, since it will likely take people off of their own state health service rolls and reduce the amount they have to reimburse to hospitals. I don't think states rights as-such is really going to be the biggest problem here. What might, I suppose, is the philosophy behind state sovereignty, the kind of fractured way Americans think of their loyalties. That might lead people to be more suspicious of a federal solution.
  21. Behold my profoundly less impressive fall schedule: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Organization and Function of the Cell History of China (until 1600) Mathematics for the Life Sciences I Russian 201
  22. Well, the states really do have rights. In fact, they have every right not explicitly given to the federal government or the people. That whole Constitution thing.
  23. I think we reached your 'next stage' in the paleolithic. Culture is a kind of collective consciousness.
  24. I don't know if I'll get any bites on this, but: I've just read yet another scheme for hominid systematics. I'm not really posting about that specific scheme (it's the one in Stones, Bones, and Molecules, Cameron and Groves [2004]), but trying to see if anyone here has any specific opinions on the subject. Some guidance for a poor undergraduate. There are just so many of these phylogenetic trees (Svante Paabo has an interesting take on the reason: http://johnhawks.net/node/2093). Anyway, how would you parse our ancestors?
  25. Perhaps we're differing on the terms 'free' and 'liberal.' I would agree that in the United States in the Industrial Revolution (although probably not in Europe where there were always significant state-owned industrial concerns and even rudiments of the welfare state), the system was pretty well 'free' to be exploited by anyone with money. What I mean by 'free market,' though, is a system that is liberal, i.e., perfectly competitive and free of any distortions by government action. I think we're closer to that ideal now than ever before, since the declines of first protectionism and then socialism. However: That's really the take home point.
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