Razib Khan's predictions for 2012

People often make “year end predictions.” I haven’t done that because I just haven’t bothered. But, it’s probably a nice way to see how full of crap you are. You can look back at how many mistakes you made, suggesting to you that you’re really a lot more ignorant of the shape of reality than you fancy yourself. So I’m going to put some predictions down right now. The title is self-centered, but I want it to be Googleable. There are two classes of predictions. The first class are those which I think have more than 50 percent chance of coming to fruition. I don’t want to pick “sure things,” because what’s the point of that? The second category is different, in that I think the chance of the outcome may be less than 50 percent, and the conventional wisdom is going to be opposite of the prediction, but I suspect the odds are better than people think. I’ll give myself “bonus points” if those come true.

 

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Are genes the key to the Yankee Empire?

That’s the question a commenter poses, albeit with skepticism. First, the background here. New England was a peculiar society for various demographic reasons. In the early 17th century there was a mass migration of Puritan Protestants from England to the colonies which later became New England because of their religious dissent from the manner in which the Stuart kings were changing the nature of the British Protestant church.* Famously, these colonies were themselves not aiming to allow for the flourishing of religious pluralism, with the exception of Rhode Island. New England maintained established state churches longer than other regions of the nation, down into the early decades of the 19th century.

Between 1630 and 1640 about ~20,000 English arrived on the northeastern fringe of British settlement in North America. With the rise of co-religionists to power in the mid-17th century a minority of these emigres engaged in reverse-migration. After the mid-17th century migration by and large ceased. Unlike the Southern colonies these settlements did not have the same opportunities for frontiersmen across a broad and ecological diverse hinterland, and its cultural mores were decidedly more constrained than the cosmopolitan Middle Atlantic. The growth in population in New England from the low tends of thousands to close to 1 million in the late 18th century was one of endogenous natural increase from the founding stock.

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Top 25 referral keywords in 2011 to GNXP

About ~25 percent of the traffic to this website search engines. Mostly Google. Below are two sets of top 25 search results. The first is pretty straightforward. But the second has all the key words which are probably by and large people just looking for weblogs removed. The links are to search results are on Google.

 

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Top 25 referral sites in 2011 to GNXP

A few qualifications. First, I removed all Google referral sites except for G+. Second, I removed Discover Magazine urls. Some of these sites should perhaps have been omitted from the list as well because of my past or current association with them (gnxp.comSecular RightSepia Mutiny and Brown Pundits). ScienceBlogs is mostly, though not exclusively, from my old website there. I’m a little amused that razib.com is rather high on the list, but that site is the first hit usually for querying my name on Google (and therefore Bing, which seems to just copy Google’s results).

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Top 20 posts in 2011 by comments for GNXP

In this list I’ve limited it to posts which were published in 2011. For much of the blog’s history I didn’t autoclose comments after 2 weeks, so the comparisons aren’t appropriate. And comments tend to be less timeless in any case. Comments are a double-edged sword on a weblog, because they often invite the stupid to come out and play in people. But there are a non-trivial subset from whom I’ve learned a fair amount from. That learning doesn’t always have to be a case where you even change your mind. Discussion in good faith can usually sharpen comprehension of your own perspective.

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Charitable donations for the long term

My friend Holden Karnofsky always pings me at this time of the year. Holden is co-founder of GiveWell. If you’re curious, you can look up more on the outfit yourself, I’ve talked about it enough over the years for you to get why I’m interested and a supporter. Holden is a numbers and data driven guy, and it turns out that 25% of the money given through their website last year was on December 31st. Here are their top charities.

In purely selfish news (yes, I’m a heavy user) Wikipedia is also in need of cash. And yes, I give! (though that doesn’t stop the constant stream of begging headshots)

Vocab by ethnicity, region, and education

A questioner below was curious if vocabulary test differences by ethnic and region persist across income. There’s a problem with this. First, the INCOME variable isn’t very fine-grained (there is a catchall $30,000 or greater category). Second, it doesn’t seem to control for inflation. But, there is a variable, DEGREE, which asks the highest level of education attained. I used this to create a “college” and “non-college” category (i.e., do you have a bachelor’s degree or not). Because of sample size considerations I removed some of the ethnic groups, but replicated the earlier analysis.

Below are two tables. One shows the mean vocab score for region and ethnicity (for whites) for those without college educations, and another shows those with college educations. I decided to generate a correlation over the two rows, even though it sure isn’t useful as a quantitative statistical measure because of the small number of data points. Rather, I just wanted a summary of the qualitative result. The short answer is that the average vocabulary difference seems to persist across educational levels (the exception here is the “German” ethnicity).

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The bush & the bramble of the human family

I wonder if in future years we’re going to look at “species debates” in the context of human evolution like we look at counting angels on the head of a pin. Over at BBC News Clive Finlayson has a rambling opinion piece up, Has ‘one species’ idea been put to bed? Finlayson, the author of The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived, doesn’t seem to have a tightly focused point and the end of it all (I think warranted, considering how unsettled this area is). But he does conclude:

And a major conference is planned for September next year when experts from all over the world will meet in Gibraltar to revise our ideas about “the human niche”. After decades of bad press we are finally getting round to humanizing the enigmatic Neanderthals.

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Eggs: quantity and quality

In my post below on selection for the “better” zygote Michelle observes that “This would be relatively easy for the father, not so much for the mother.” I took her to mean either of two things,

1) Extraction of eggs is a major surgical affair. Extraction of sperm is not.

2) Males generally have many more sperm to contribute than females.

The latter issue made me go look for data on human females, by age. The paper A systematic review of tests predicting ovarian reserve and IVF outcome had what I was looking for. First, let’s review the cumulative distribution of fertility curves for women:

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