Of interest around the web & elsewhere – November 29th, 2010

Goodbye November.

Male Reproductive Problems May Add to Falling Fertility Rates. There’s an implication that there may be epigenetic and developmental reasons for this phenomenon. But check out this quote: “Today, at least one in five 18-25 year old men in Europe have semen quality in the subfertile range.” I’m starting to wonder about genetic load W. D. Hamilton style. If death doesn’t prune the deleterious alleles, perhaps PGD is going to be necessary in the face of rising infertility. Or somatic genetic engineering.

Now a Giant, Google Works to Retain Nimble Minds. I, like every nerd, have friends who work at Google. Great food. Awesome company. Smart people. But I do wonder if the cycle of institutional sclerosis is speeding up. IBM maintained hegemony for decades. Microsoft’s time in the sun really didn’t make it to the 20th year (I think 1990 is a good compromise year to peg the age of Microsoft, though it really got going with Windows 95 and had some juice in the days of MS-DOS. Facebook is already breathing down Google’s neck. This doesn’t mean that Google won’t be profitable, Microsoft is still making bank, and will do so for years to come. But It companies may be more and more ephemeral.

Information overload, the early years. In some ways the internet is, I believe, qualitatively different from previous information revolutions. But the critics really do repeat old & tired arguments, which pre-date the printing press, and go back to alphabetic script in ancient Greece. I assume that cuneiform and hieroglyph elicited the same concerns, but we don’t have records of that.

Children Ease Alzheimer’s in Land of Aging. Developed nations are filled with aging societies where one or two children have to be caregivers for parents. This is the future. We need to deal.

Hybrid vigor and missing genes. Agricultural genetics is really important. There are 7 billion humans, and we depend on plants.

The Rise of the Tao. One thing to remember is that in Taiwan and Singapore Taoism, which is ineluctably associated with the broad term “Chinese folk religion,” seems to give ground to Buddhism and to a lesser extent Christianity with development. So the concentration of the Taoist revival in the hinterlands makes sense.

The Complex Genetic Architecture of the Metabolome. Possible bad news: ” If this pattern proves generally applicable to other species, it could present a significant hurdle to identifying genes controlling metabolic trait variation via genome-wide association studies..”

23andMe $99 sale still going. +$60 subscription fee, but that’s mandatory now.

F.B.I. Says Oregon Suspect Planned ‘Grand’ Attack.

Also, Suspect in Oregon Bomb Plot Is Called Confused. “When you think of someone doing what he did, you think of some crazy kind of guy,” said Mohamed Kassim, 21, a fellow Oregon State student who knew Mr. Mohamud from around campus. “He wasn’t like that. He was just like everybody else.” Actually, most terrorists aren’t crazy. They’re motivated by political beliefs, though naturally specific life situations and dispositions play into their actions. I know it’s PC to say that there’s not a war against Islam, but the reality is that the USA is engaged in several imperialistic ventures which entail tussling with “Team Islam.”

Size of Mammals Exploded After Dinosaur Extinction, Researchers Confirm. Contingency and convergence?

The Real Culprit in Overeating. Not sure if I believe this. We can sense calories?

Fem Hiring Jealousy. It’s been a reported social science finding for a generation that good looking men get more of a wage premium than good looking women. The argument here is that women do the HR screening and penalize good looking women, but not the men. Or perhaps it could just be that men are more concentrated in professions and sectors with winner-take-all dynamics?

Can you provide humanitarian aid without facilitating conflicts? These are complex issues, and I don’t have anything to add.

Dogs Have Bigger Brains Than Cats Because They Are More Sociable, Research Finds. But what about I.Q.?

ADMIXTURE on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

For Google, the Browser Does It All. The article argue that the Chrome OS was designed for the Netbook era which never came to be, thanks to the power of smartphones, and the success of iPads.

Will Ireland Default? Ask Belgium

Nomadic Enhancers: Tissue-Specific cis-Regulatory Elements of yellow Have Divergent Genomic Positions among Drosophila Species. “This finding is important because it demonstrates a type of evolutionary change affecting DNA sequence elements critical for gene expression that is currently under appreciated and should be considered when searching for enhancers in related species.”

People Who Donate to Religions Are More Likely to Punish Selfish Behaviour, New Study Finds.

Joel Grus. If you remember him, you’ve read my stuff for a while.

Entitled to an Opinion. Nerd.

Less Wrong. Nerds.

Animals getting fatter too. Really strange.

According to this Isidore of Seville is a descendant of Augustust Caesar! I don’t believe it. Must be errors in the genealogical database. I traced it by starting with Augustus’ great-great-granddaughter Junia Lepida. I suspect what’s going on is that the arriviste Christian aristocratic clans of the early 5th century simply made up connections to older Roman families to burnish their reputations in the face of accusations that they were anti-traditional (because they had rejected the old gods, and often risen from below through imperial patronage of late).

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