Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Ken Weiss at The Mermaid's Tale has a good article on unraveling Mendel's legacy.

Babel's Dawn, an interesting blog on language by Edmund Blair Bolles, has a piece on the flow of information. He is responding to a book by Nick Lane called the Vital Question which focuses on energy needs within cells. Also, see Bolles next post criticizing sloppy language when describing cognitive features.

Ed Yong on comparing DNA mutations in neurons.

An enjoyable rundown of where it is possible we will find life in our solar system.

Lastly, at BBC Earth, an article by Melissa Hogenboom on human development. The article explores how Homo sapiens outlasted Neanderthals, Denisovans, and Homo floresiensis (the hobbit people). She speculates, following others, on the possibility that Homo sapiens genetically developed characteristics that made them more socially adept creatures. She points to art, symbolism, and jewelry of early Homo sapiens as compared to the Neanderthals. I think it is difficult to separate some of those factors. If Homo sapiens gained greater language processing facility, then they may have created more complex social structures. But to say that these are strictly social developments may be a misinterpretation. For example, if dogs developed greater language abilities, for any variety of reasons, there social and pack natures may take a very different kind of look. This may be beneficial to the survival and dominance of canines, but it may not be the reason for those characteristic changes. Given canines or any species of hominin, many changes are likely to bleed into slightly different social interactions or into different kinds of clans and clan interaction. If you were to slide an irresistible taste for moon rocks into human genes in some way, then tomorrow you may have a massive trade in moon rocks and cultish groups that form around such consumption. So, certainly such a change would have social impact, and such a change may lead to greater or lesser flourishing of those people, but such a change is not strictly social in nature. Given that humans are social and reflective creatures, pretty much any change to human genes would mean changes to human social structures. 

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