Open Thread, 6/21/2015

CoverReadingInTheBrainThe experience of Stanislas Dehaene’s Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read is strange. After all, you are reading about the science of reading. So as you read, you become more explicitly conscious of the cognitive processes which allow you to read in the first place. I encountered Dehaene first via the The Number Sense 13 years ago. Why the big gap between reading him again, despite my appreciation for this dense by accessible prose? It reflects the fact that my “book diet” has shifted away from cognitive neuroscience a lot since then. In particular, since I started on my journey toward becoming a professional geneticist I’ve been subject to a sort of tunnel vision . There’s something about academic science is sucks many people into hyper-specialization, and I’m not immune obviously. Other areas of biology outside of genetics, and in particular genomics, strike me as terra incognita now. The same problem doesn’t hit me when it comes to history, religion, philosophy, etc. Perhaps because these are less technical fields more open to generalists.

I’ve been away from the internet mostly this week, except my phone. Speaking of which, going to a child-friendly museum or park is somewhat difficult today because so many people are taking pictures with their phones. To be polite you have to stop a lot so as not to occlude the photo, but after a while it gets kind of ridiculous, as you are dodging so many lines of sight. I think “Google Contacts”, where individuals can snap photos sliced out of their day to day perception would be an improvement on this.

Finally, the Kennewick Man paper is out. It’s open access, so read it. The basic results were leaked by the press a while back. Kennewick Man seems to be ancestral to modern Native American stock. Intriguingly though he is not symmetrically related to all Native Americans, not even all “First Americans” (a la Reich lab terminology for the descendants of the first wave out of Berengia, who contributed most of the ancestry of Amerindians). Also, the morphology as reflected in skeletal features would not have resolved these issues definitively. On an individual level these phenotypes are too noisy to make robust population level inferences in many, though not all, cases.

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