Articles to 2011-09-15

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First the link to this week’s complete list.

The basis of science is the reproducibility of results and the basis of the scientific method is in actually reproducing them. Due to lack of funding and the race for "new" results this is rarely done any more and Richard Philipps Feynman already decried the end of the scientific age decades ago. The most recent case of Diederik Stapel was not exposed because his results were found to be false, they weren’t as probably no one has tried, but by what are essentially ad hominem attacks by his colleagues and coworkers. Although these allegations of fraud are probably true and the retractions correct, this is not an example of the scientific method at work but rather the rules and methods of mediaeval scholasticism.

I wonder why Kerr and Turyshev completely pass over Rievers (List of 2011-08-11). Annalen der Physik is not such an obscure journal and June 2011 not that recent that they can plausibly plead ignorance. Rievers has both quantitatively accounted for the deceleration and correctly modelled its decrease over time, for which Turyshev now claims priority.

Raviele issues a timely admonishment of caution against the rising number of publications drawing wide reaching conclusions from phytoliths and other arcana the non-specialist has to take on trust. It also seems to me that sufficient detail is rarely given for other specialists to do the checking.

The general rule about isotopes in Chemistry was and is, that the isotopic composition of elements is constant and invariable across space and time. With a few exceptions due to radioactive decay variations are tiny and can usually be ignored. Thus the examined cause always is of only the same order of magnitude as other "Dreckeffekte". So it is not surprising that more and more confounding effects for determining nutrition from isotopes turn up. Lovis et al. and Fraser, Bogaard et al. are two cases in point.

Geneticists seem to speak a different language that I don’t understand. The word "percent" especially must have a quite different meaning for them than for everybody else, as in Currat and Hammer. Humans share about 97 % of their genome with Chimpanzees. Assuming the same to be true of the remaining 3 % between moderns and Neanderthals that makes us differ by 0.09 %. So what exactly is meant by 3 % of our genes having come from Neanderthals through late admixture? One might guess, that possibly 0.0027 % of the genome come from that source, making 3 % of the 0.09 %, which logically leads to 3 % of the identical and indistinguishable 99.91 % probably coming from there too. Still I think that, as often happens with percentages, the wording is ambiguous and could do with more clearly stating percent of what exactly.
And by what measure can 2 % be called "a very low rate of interbreeding"? The rate of transnational marriages is significantly lower even in border regions and the same used to be the case for Catholics and Protestants. 2 % interbreeding per generation will lead to total assimilation in merely 70 generations, less because in practice those 2 % would only apply to the first generations of pure-breds. (Due to diploidy 2 % half-castes equal 1 % external genes. 0.99^70 < 0.5)

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