Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Linkee-poo double dip

Jay Lake's Link Salad is very good today. Including these gems: Like finding mutated butterflies in Fukushima. That sound? That's another of the shoes dropping. The Arctic is losing 50% more summer ice than predicted. Drop, drop drop. But the good news is that ice is forming faster in the early winter. Which partially masks the greater loss in the summer. Oh well. And a story from Matt Fisher about how insane our laws regarding insurance really are (and before anybody wanks on the "free market" I'll let you guess who had the lobby that pushed for the Maryland law that prevents you from directly suing an insurance company for failure to pay). No, we didn't interbreed with Neanderthals. And there's plenty for the political side. Including Juan Cole's showing how our elections are trying to be bought by 47 billionaires with the rise of the Super PACs. And more on Paul Ryan, including his self-loathing attacks on Social Security Paul Krugman's shouting to try and remind people that Ryan isn't the moderate they're trying to paint him as. And how Ryan is playing to the gullibility of self-proclaimed centrists, who want to show their 'balance' by finding a conservative to praise." And the Ezra Klein with a short brief on who Paul Ryan is.

5 comments:

John the Scientist said...

The problem with the new conclusion on the Neaderthal evidence is that blacks in Africa share few to none of those genes, while Europeans and Turks share about 4% - if the common ancestor hypothesis is true, why do only those whose ancestors lived in contact with the Neaderthals show the linkage, and why is the linkage associated with autoimmunity, which one might expect with a sharing of not entirely compatible immune system genes. Asians from specific regions also show a small genetic overlap with a Neaderthal-like species, the Denisovians, only in the areas where humans came into contact with Denisovians. Too much extrapolation from too little data yet.

Steve Buchheit said...

Hey John, I think that's exactly what the article says, not enough data yet. It's quite possible that the Asian/European branches retained some genetic code that we shared with our common ancestor and the African population dropped that code. There is a strong possibility that it's evidence of interbreeding, but it's not the only possibility.

It's also the volleyball match between the two sides (much like there used to be for the concept of warm blooded dinosaurs). The side of "yes we did" had the ball for a moment, and now the opposite side is fielding the spike.

John the Scientist said...

Yeah, there is far too much distance in time to ever be sure. The quill pits on the velociraptor bones point to warm-blooded there, but who know. The lead researcher here seemed a bit too confident she'd disproved the interbreeding hypothesis, while I still feel that the preponderance of the evidence is on the side of interbreeding.

On the other hand the journalist oculd have edited her remarks to create newsworthy controversy, or she could have been playing the lay press to get wider media attention. Ever since Fleischmann and Pons I've been very leery of scientists being interviewed by the lay press.

Eric said...

John, Steve: isn't the real story here that science is an intellectually robust human project in which evidence is gathered, tested, new hypotheses raised to challenge established ideas, and that out of this roiling dialectic we get closer to truth (whether that truth is the old hypothesis, the new hypothesis, a hybrid hypothesis, or something else)?

I realize that shouldn't be the story, but at this cultural moment I think it is the story.

To me, the niftiest thing about this whole news is that evolution is wonderfully complex and the weaving (and interweaving) branches of human lineage don't lend themselves to tidy charts like the ones you see in high school textbooks (or the famous and cliched image of the sequence of walking primates from the knuckle-dragging ape on the left to the sadly Caucasian example of H. sapiens sapiens on the right). But when I read about the study, the thing that impacted me most forcefully was how wonderful science is as a process, how amazing it is that we can learn new things in this way and constantly question what we think we know to see how it holds up.

Steve Buchheit said...

John, I have a feeling the needle will end up on the interbreeding side of the equation, eventually. What will need to be proved (and I have no idea how they'd do this) is that a hybrid H. sapiens could have a viable offspring with H. neanderthalensis. There's enough that similar, but obviously enough differences that we feel we can see their imprint in our genes.

Eric, oh yes. Just the recent announcement of another possible branch of the family tree was quite exciting.

I'm old enough to remember when Neanderthals were considered our direct ancestors instead of another branch of the tree. What I'm afraid of is that the lingering emotions of that thought could be coloring our research and give enough of a desire to still make them part of our story that it becomes easy to see links.