Friday Links

  • Cochran et al. suggest that some illnesses or conditions that we currently think of as genetic or environmental may be primarily caused by germs. This idea is not new- we thought ulcers were caused by stress and lifestyle, but the culprit turned out to be bacteria- but the scope of Cochran's research and claims, which include rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and schizophrenia, bears mentioning. His evidence includes recent findings and arguments from evolutionary fitness theory. An example from the article:
    Long-continued rheumatoid arthritis causes distinctive changes to the joints that can be recognized in Amerindian skeletons from the Mississippi valley going back several thousand years, but not in Old World skeletons from before ad 1500. This epidemiological footprint implicates an infectious agent that was brought back to Europe from the New World by early explorers [87].
  • Lord Martin Rees, the Royal Astronomer of Britain and all-around smart fellow, chats with Edge about the world's prospects for the future and the dangers and hopes technology brings to the table.
  • Viva La Evolucion reviews a recent odd finding about DNA, that "genes with a greater proportion of third-position [amino acid] Gs or Cs are expressed more than genes with third-position As or Us." The implications and importance of this are currently unknown.
  • Ars Technica gives some background on a Supreme Court case regarding how novel an idea must be for it to be patentable. Given the increasing economic and social importance of inventions and the increasing mess which is patent law, this could be the most important Supreme Court case currently on the docket.
In site news, I had people from every continent except Antarctica visit yesterday. Welcome, everyone.

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