Articles to 2018-09-07

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First the link to this week's complete list as HTML and as PDF.


I have absolutely no facts and data to back this up, but my gut feeling says, that fraud and fabrication are just as prevalent in other areas as in medicine. It's just that for very good reasons medicine and pharmacology have the most sophisticated and formalized means for sniffing them out. But as Kupferschmidt clearly points out, even they are far from perfect and the reaction of editors and institutions to warnings leaves a lot to be desired.

Still the most important point in Kupferschmidt’s report is something entirely different, namely co-authorship. As I've said many times before, either you are an author or you are not. Basking in the glory as long as things go well and washing your hands of it when they go wrong must not be an option. If just “correct[ing] the English” constitutes authorship, then very many doctoral dissertations are co-written by more than one author. An interesting conundrum indeed. Every author is and must be fully responsible for the whole article in its entirety. Where this is not feasible I have often seen an individual article formatted as a collection with individual parts attributed to individual authors. And for those who had nothing to do with the study itself but just e.g. contributed samples curated by them, there are the acknowledgements. Authorship requires writing.


Slon et al.'s is a fascinating find. Although I don't quite understand their methods, the parentage of a Denisovan father and a Neanderthal mother both of pure and unmixed lineage seems established. This is a completely unexpected result. If there were hybrids – and it's now obvious there were – and we do find individuals of mixed ancestry – so far just the one –, how probable is it for us to pick up an individual from the first generation? There is only one plausible explanation here. In spite of their relatively close kinship it seems that Neanderthal-Denisovan hybrids were infertile, contrary to Neanderthal-Modern or Denisovan-Modern offspring. Some conspicuous gaps in the distribution of Neanderthal genes through all recent genomes point to the same being true of some Modern hybrids, but they were a minority. What is it that made Neanderthals and Denisovans so different in a comparably short time span?


It means very little if, following Wade and Pearson et al., the calibration is moved a little “closer to the archaeological date.”. The different dates stay irreconcilable. My bet continues to be on king Khyan (list of 2018-08-19).


Any regression run on any set of numbers will yield a non-zero correlation. And any regression run on a large number of data points without conspicuous outliers will yield a result with a small error band. Even so, Hirmas et al.'s result looks sound and plausible. But what does it mean really? Their reported effect is about an order of magnitude smaller than the well documented soil changes from intensive agriculture and heavy farm machinery recorded at least since the eighties. The damage done by intensive maize and rape seed monocultures for biofuels is far greater than any climatic benefit, that burning that fuel could possibly bring. Plausible and well documented calculations make the latter zero or negative anyway. Looking at world wide changes in arable land I'm all for caring for our soils to the best of our abilities, but that care must be governed by facts and science and not by popular religion, however New-Age and zeitgeist-conforming that may be.

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