The Latest Bit of Evidence To Be Dismissed by 40% of the American populace….

….

Scientists from the Beijing Genomics Institute last month discovered another striking instance of human genetic change. Among Tibetans, they found, a set of genes evolved to cope with low oxygen levels as recently as 3,000 years ago. This, if confirmed, would be the most recent known instance of human evolution.

[full story]

The difficulty of identifying these shifts is also covered in the article (and the reason this is dismissed by so many…it’s hard).

One of the signatures of natural selection is that it disturbs the undergrowth of mutations that are always accumulating along the genome. As a favored version of a gene becomes more common in a population, genomes will look increasingly alike in and around the gene. Because variation is brushed away, the favored gene’s rise in popularity is called a sweep. Geneticists have developed several statistical methods for detecting sweeps, and hence of natural selection in action.

About 21 genome-wide scans for natural selection had been completed by last year, providing evidence that 4,243 genes — 23 percent of the human total — were under natural selection. This is a surprisingly high proportion, since the scans often miss various genes that are known for other reasons to be under selection. Also, the scans can see only recent episodes of selection — probably just those that occurred within the last 5,000 to 25,000 years or so. The reason is that after a favored version of a gene has swept through the population, mutations start building up in its DNA, eroding the uniformity that is evidence of a sweep.

So as soon as an “upgrade” is available in the gene pool, it changes the color of the pool, so to speak, and immediately new dyes start seeping in, searching for that next true hue. 

The theory also makes predictions that have also been observed, such as….

The fewest signals of selection were seen among people who live in the humid tropics, the ecoregion where the ancestral human population evolved. “One could argue that we are adapted to that and that most signals are seen when people adapt to new environments,” Dr. Di Rienzo said in an interview.

 To continue the pool analogy, those born in the the deep blue of the tropics and stayed, were good with that color.  But you start getting to more extreme environment (cold, altitude) that same color doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

The second page is a basic discussion on skin color and how there is enough adaptability in the human genome for light skin to have evolved in at least two ways.

The difficulty in comprehending the theory (much less applying it) also lies in the complexity of the systems themselves.

Most variation in the human genome is neutral, meaning that it arose not by natural selection but by processes like harmless mutations and the random shuffling of the genome between generations. The amount of this genetic diversity is highest in African populations. Diversity decreases steadily the further a population has migrated from the African homeland, since each group that moved onward carried away only some of the diversity of its parent population. This steady decline in diversity shows no discontinuity between one population and the next, and has offered no clear explanation as to why one population should differ much from another. But selected genes show a different pattern: Evidence from the new genome-wide tests for selection show that most selective pressures are focused on specific populations.

However, within that complexity, one can expose new insights (again, in keeping with the theory).

One aspect of this pattern is that there seem to be more genes under recent selection in East Asians and Europeans than in Africans, possibly because the people who left Africa were then forced to adapt to different environments. “It’s a reasonable inference that non-Africans were becoming exposed to a wide variety of novel climates,” says Dr. Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute.

The final bit is about the “soft sweet” which continues to occur regardless of outside pressure.  

But the new evidence that humans have adapted rapidly and extensively suggests that natural selection must have other options for changing a trait besides waiting for the right mutation to show up. In an article in Current Biology in February, Dr. Pritchard suggested that a lot of natural selection may take place through what he called soft sweeps.

Soft sweeps work on traits affected by many genes, like height. Suppose there are a hundred genes that affect height (about 50 are known already, and many more remain to be found). Each gene exists in a version that enhances height and a version that does not. The average person might inherit the height-enhancing version of 50 of these genes, say, and be of average height as a result.

The article uses a primitive example of this, but I could just link here…and then draw the pictures….taller = more money, more money = more health/breeding partners, = taller species.  Although this last  (the money/height connection) has only been going on for 20-30 generations and only a couple generations for all people of all genomic heritage (in my country).  It will be interesting to see how these studies move forward in the future, as genome databases grow and more cross-testing is available.

It would be quite a thing to get a six-month gene therapy treatment before that next stint on Everest/in the Arctic.  Or at least it would be if that kind of stuff isn’t outlawed by people who don’t believe in evolution [search : Gene Manufacturing]

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The World This Week, March 22, 2009

[videos forthcoming]

US NEWS

People thieving the electrons.

Obama: Economy hurts.  Duh.

Obama Budget Strategy raises questions.

New home construction gets a lift (month-to-month).

Small business help on the way.

Fed prints money like mad.

A couple economists agree that printing money is a good idea…today.

China wants a new global currency standard.

Palin to preach to choir.

McCain Twitterview a joke, a stilted lagging joke.

Feel the outrage….

….oh wait, we did that?

Probe into AIG bonuses launched.

Gassley suggest suicide for AIG execs, then back off to resignation and public flogging.

Laid off worked parades in front of AIG mansion.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Pakistan moves closer to rule of law.

Iraqi government wants heads to roll.

Dead Sea Scrolls authors existence questioned.

Georgia v. stem cells.

Pope v. witchcraft and tribalism.

Everyone of the Book (Christian, Muslim, Jew) vs teh Gays.

Stop-Loss phasing out.

Obama talks to Iran.

Iran wants more than talk.

SCIENCE/TECH

The Frogopalypse.

Veggie garden makes a return to White House lawn.

Obama gets schooled on Special Olympics and bowling.  NOTE: Bowling not a particularly intellectual pursuit.

The Great Unkowns and the Unknowables.

Woot! 10K Views and Did You Know 2008 (and 2007)

So my first, and worst, Fallout 3 video just passed 10,000 views on ye olde YouTube.  I know that’s not much for some of the popular videos, but it’s a decent enough milestone for a month or so.

In personal book news, we’re past 30 pages and chapter 3 is a slight bit of research away from completion.

In order to keep you distracted and prime you a bit for my book, take a look at the world in 2008 (and 2007).  This is the world I am talking to, and the one I’m writing about.  This is the world I was made for.

(oh…and sexy new WordPress, good work guys and gals).  I think they got the news that I had switched applications...and upped the ante.

Did You Know 2008

Did You Know 2007

BTW, next year you guys need to expand beyond China, India and the U.S.   One of the fun little tidbits I like to mention is that there are more Muslims in India than Americans on the planet.  Hmm, I guess that is still focused on India.  As a quick news note here (and I know I’m not supposed to be blogging so this will be brief), while what I just said is true, it was some nuts fighting over Paradise (Kashmir) that pulled the latest bullshit.  They were most likely from Pakistan, but probably had extended family in India.  Recall, India and Pakistan became two seperate countries about the same time the United States became one (World War II through the Civil Rights Era).  They’ve still got a lot of stuff to work out.  As long as we can avoid a war that kills hundreds of millions, we can sadly call it a win.

Chinese government makes “Chinese Democracy” somewhat relevant.

Here’s the story so funny it can only come from China.

Axl Rose isn’t exactly the renegade rocker he was in the late 1980s, but he’s still rock ‘n roll enough stir up a controversy.

An article in a Chinese newspaper today blasted the singer’s new album “Chinese Democracy”as a “venomous attack”on the nation and suggested the long-awaited Guns ‘N Roses release “turns its spear point on China.”

The story was printed in a publication put out by China’s ruling Communist Party, and quoted unnamed sources from Internet message boards that suggested the lyrics were inflammatory and critical of China.

Excerpts from these online chats slammed the album as a plot by Western adversaries to “grasp and control the world using democracy as a pawn,”the Associated Press reported. The new album dropped Sunday after fans held on through 17 years of myriad false starts and production delays after Guns ‘N Roses began recording in 1994.

[full story]

For those that don’t know, Guns ‘N Roses “Chinese Democracy” is the Duke Nukem Forever of the music world.

For those curious about GnR’s “new” sound…

Also as a quick note; when a whole government is reduced to quoting “unnamed sources from Internet message boards” you know they are stretching.  And you know without a doubt this is propaganda.

The funny part about this for me is that I recently ran across a far more inflammatory (ha!) bit of anti-Chinese propaganda in American pop culture.

This one comes in the form of “Liberty Prime” a giant, nuke-throwing, Chinese-hating robot.

Here you can see him in action, and set to some lovely classical music.  Listen for the robot’s voice.  He’s rather agressive in his feelings toward China and Communism (understandable, as a nuclear war with China causes all the “Fallout” in 2077).

Regarding World War II and the Great Depression

I put together a video of an argument last night that I would like to share with you.

If you are a youngin’ and completely lacking in historical context, here’s a bit of it…

That’s it for now, as I went out and about after finishing the video and am now somewhat incapable of consistent coherent thought. I might flesh out the argument tomorrow with more typing, but I hope the video speaks for itself.   If you have any questions, please feel free to put them forth.

UPDATE: Here’s another video of some of the destruction of Germany.  The text of the video makes it VERY clear that the entire purpose of the U.S. bombing campaign was the destroy Germany’s industrial infrastructure.  It was the destruction of the Germans and French and Russians and English and Japanese and Italians and Chinese that allowed the U.S. to establish a naturally advantageous (i.e. still in existence after the war) industrial and economic position that persisted for nearly 60 years.

BTW, this fortuitous situation also fed into the “Project For a New American Century” and their plans to keep this dominance going for another 40 or 100 years.  As we all know now, the centerpiece of that global strategy, invading and controlling IRAQ, was a clusterfuck of such massive proportions it has greatly accelerated the trend to a more level playing field.  Which is to say, screwing up Iraq will be seen in history as the biggest single reason for the end of U.S. economic dominance.   It was not the not the whole of it, but it did serve as a rather large piece of straw on a montrously laden camel.

UPDATE: 2/17/09:

Well, it looks like that move to leveler playing field happened a lot quicker than even I expected.  And the War in Iraq seems to be gone from the economic discussion.  Does not one realize that is why Bush, et. al. had to let the shennanigans on Wall Street continue so long?  Without the myth of great wealth, we couldn’t fund his War.   And that’s where the other 3 trillion went.

Does no one remember that Bush took the deficit from this…

Instead, the president explained, the $5.7 trillion national debt has been reduced by $360 billion in the last three years — $223 billion this year alone.

This represents, Clinton said, “the largest one-year debt reduction in the history of the United States.”

To this…

Are you surprised? Times Square’s National Debt Clock, which has been tallying up money owed by the U.S. government since 1989, is running out of spaces.

In September 2008, the digital dollar sign was eliminated to make way for an extra digit—the “1” in $10 trillion (the national debt is currently $10.2 trillion). Now, a new clock is in the works that will make room for a quadrillion dollars of debt, according to the Associated Press. Anticipated completion is early 2009.

A little history on the clock: It was created in 1989 by Manhattan real estate developer Seymour Durst to inform the public about the nation’s snowballing national debt (back then, it was $2.7 trillion). Seymour died in 1995, and the clock is now owned by his son, Douglas Durst.

Bush ran up a $4,500,000,000,000 tab.

Lest we forget…

World Energy Use Like U.S. Debt : Patently Unsustainable

The International Energy Agency raised an alarm on Wednesday with the release of its annual report, saying that a revolution in the energy business is required to maintain economic growth and stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.

The World Energy Outlook 2008 report, written for policy-makers, paints a troubling picture in terms of energy costs and the impact on global warming from burning fossil fuels. It calls for “radical action” from governments at all levels and a coordinated international response.

Although softening demand has pushed the price for oil down in the past year, the rising cost of extraction, combined with declining productivity rates at oil fields, means that the “era of cheap oil is over,” according to the report.

 

via IEA: worlds energy use is patently unsustainable | Green Tech – CNET News

—–

Essentially the problem is coming as 2,500,000,000 people jump into that 21st century lifestyle someone made look so cool.  And it is cool.

It’s so coo that people become so detached from the world around them, and outside their borders, it leads the world to the brink of disaster.

Which is exactly where we are headed and in some very serious ways.   The economic crisis is largely something of our own making.  A tide of decisions that allowed the bubble to build and burst.

When it comes to “energy policy” the tide that is building is the same type of superhuman need that forces action.  The drive for energy is very much the drive for life. 

It is my own humble opinion that the Iraq War was a big part of the Bush/Cheney “energy policy” that failed so miserably.  The idea was to fortify the oil defenses in the ME in the guise of “democracy” and keep China out of that pie.  This would curtail their meteoric growth and assure a century of cheap energy and a dominant U.S. economic position.   Such was the “Project For A New American Century”.

It failed miserably, in case you missed it.   Strangely, the insane supporters of that plan still have jobs, for some reason.

What happened is far different, with China cutting deals with Iran, insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan proving reliably resistant, and oil prices fluctuating wildly. 

What is going to happen if we don’t change, is bad.  Really bad.  Fallout 3 bad. 

Up above is thee graph to watch.  That’s the pressure cooker to keep an eye on. 

And note here: I’m not talking about global warming.   I’m talking about people fighting over energy, like we have since discovering fire.

Occasionally we’ll have people wander by and mention how it’s usually much more efficient to build with that fire, rather than kill with it.  And usually it is (for some, it always is).

The equation changes quite a bit however, when someone else has all that energy and all one have to do to take it is kill them.  Then the more efficient path changes.  

My whole point here is to avoid the scenario where that “more efficient path” becomes clear to those dealing with their own domestic clamoring hordes.  We avoid that scenario by doing two things, using less energy and finding better ways to make more.

Personally I think the first part of that solution is more important than the second, as it makes the second goal easier, but for some reason I expect to remain a minority in that opinion.

Calling for personal sacrifice when people are ready to party is never a popular opinion.    Yet that’s what the situation calls for.  I wonder who’s listening?

2008 Summer Paralympic Games in Pictures

From September 6th to September 17th, Beijing is once again hosting athletes from around the world. Over 4,200 athletes – from six different disability groups – from 148 countries are taking part in the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games. Not only are the sports divided into events, but the events are divided into different disability categories, to even out the playing field as much as possible. The slogan for this years Paralympic Games is the same as the one for the Olympics held just last month: “One World, One Dream”. (36 photos total)

2008 Summer Paralympic Games – The Big Picture – Boston.com.

Some amazing pictures here. Make sure to read the captions on some of these.

[via kottke]

U.S. Redeem Team Wins Gold, Redemption

Yea, it doesn’t come as much as a surprise, but it was exciting to watch.  I’m not sure how many people stayed up to watch the game live, but if you did, you got a good one.   Spain played above themselves and challenged the U.S. team for the first time in the tournament, getting as close as 2 in the fourth quarter.

Most of the game looked like another iteration of the All-Star scorefest we see every year here.  When there are over 200 hundred points scored in 40 minutes (vs. the NBA’s Forty-Eight) you know the defense has taken something of a back seat.  Like many other events the “judging” was a bit erratic, but seemed to be shitty for both sides, so it was something of a wash.

They are talking to the two MVPs of the team, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant.  Wade was amazing for most of the game scoring 21 in the first half and was typically everywhere.  Kobe took over in the last fourth quarter, hitting a huge 3 + 1 after Spain had pulled to within 3 and did a wonderful job of distributing the ball down the stretch.  

Good job fellas, thanks for working for it this time.

Watching the 50K Torturethon

You would think that an Olympic event involving “walking” would be a pleasant affair.  A nice stroll through some immaculately lit and groomed park in Beiging, surrounded by mechanical fairies providing a steady supply of unicorn farts for that aromatic touch of genius.  The Chinese are crazy for detail and I thought they might take “walking” to strange and amazing new heights.

Instead, it turns out, the 50k Walk Race was in fact inspired by events in the Phillipines in 1942.  One merely has to watch the competitors as they are issued “warning” cards and “death” cards when they stop walking correctly, to understand to utter and complete seriousness of this sport.  In what can only be called the twisted psychological side of the sport, if you go too fast, you get murdered in the street (well, only disqualified in the sport version).  Walking is serious business. 

Yesterday the Chinese tortured the women with this race.   I swear on my mother’s soul I saw a woman try to make herself throw up during the race.  She thought she might feel better puking during the race.  It was raining during that race.  “Today” it is mid-70’s with 90% humidity.  The perfect weather for a death march.

So I’m sitting here watching the male version of the Torturethon and felt I’d share a few thoughts about it.  Just seeing the way their hips are swaying, their heads are bobbing, and their emaciated limbs are waving around in what can only be the throes of immense pain is much like a waking nightmare.  But I am afraid to go to sleep and see them again in my dreams….walking…always walking…walking with that look, that look of “Oh my god what have I done!” on their face. 

Or worse, I might become one of them. Cursed to race as fast as possible, BUT NOT RUN!!

They’ve just passed 25K.  The race started with 61people.  There are 4 that have a chance to win at the half-way point.  The rest get to get DQ’ed or suffer for suffering’s sake.  Truly, the Tortorethon is not for the faint of heart (nor the remotely sane).

UPDATE: I just noticed a walker (NOT runner) from Mexico try to bite off his own tounge to take his mind off the pain in his legs.  The GPM (Grimaces Per Mile) of the race is quickly heading off the charts.

Bush Leaves Biggest Budget Deficit Ever For Next President

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush’s budget chief blamed the faltering economy and the bipartisan stimulus package for the record $482 billion deficit the White House predicted for the 2009 budget year.

White House projects record deficit for 2009 – CNN.com.

Jim Nussle, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the deficit would be about 3.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, the measure of the nation’s total economy.

The fiscal year begins October 1, 2008.

The federal deficit is the difference between what the government spends and what it takes in from taxes and other revenue sources. The government must borrow money to make up the difference.

While the deficit would be a record in absolute dollar terms, Nussle said it would be below the 2004 deficit, 3.6 percent of GDP, and the record deficit of 1983, 6 percent of GDP, when compared with the size of the overall U.S. economy.

Now one needs to remember this is without including the money for Bush’s War or the one in Afghanistan.

For those who can’t say you can blame an economy on one person, you are right.  However, when that one person embodies a political ideology and follows through with that, and it tanks, horribly, you can hold him and it fully responsible.

Read more for why that is…

Continue reading

Christiane via Brazil Amazing in HD 2 Goals in 1 Minute (3 in half)

Just a couple quick comments on the Olympics. I’ve been watching pretty much non-stop since the absolutely amazing opening ceremonies.  Today I’ve gone to the old stand-by, the 24-hour soccer channel.   The only other thing going right now is boxing, and the U.S.’s best hope for a medal just lost because he didn’t know he was behind in the bizarre Olympic boxing score-system.   Really, he got knocked down earlier in the bout and got a point.

Regardless, I was just watching the Brazil and Niger, women’s soccer match.  Niger was up 1-nil when Christiane first had a header and then a bicycle kick for goals back to back in under a minute.

I also want to throw out some props to the U.S. Men’s Gymnastic (Bronze, from nowhere) and Swimming teams (Gold, from behind).  Good work fellas.  Now you can stop shaving yourselves everywhere.  Hat’s off to the Chinese and French gymnastic and swimming teams, respectively, as well.

I’ve probably seen about 20 or 30 sports so far, and have to commend GE for their coverage.  They are making a windfall off this thing, and the 24-hour HD programming is much appreciated.  I’ll try and throw up posts when something else cool happens on my TV, but the play of Christiane amazed me, so I thought I’d catch you up to what my TV is playing and what the world is watching.

UPDATE: OMG!! Hat trick!!