Unaffected by Covid? Maybe thank your Neanderthal ancestors

People who survive a bout of Covid-19 with mild symptoms or even no symptoms may be able to thank their Neanderthal ancestors, a new study suggests.

Researchers found a genetic mutation that reduces the risk of severe Covid-19 infection by about 22%. It was found in all the samples they took of Neanderthal DNA, and in about 30% of samples from people of European and Asian origin.

The genetic region involved affects the body’s immune response to RNA viruses such as the coronavirus, as well as West Nile virus and hepatitis C virus, the researchers reported Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…

The finding could help explain why Black patients are so much more likely to suffer severe coronavirus disease. Neanderthals, who went extinct about 40,000 years ago, lived alongside and sometimes interbred with modern humans in Europe and Asia but not in Africa, and people of purely African descent do not carry Neanderthal DNA. Studies estimate that about 2% of DNA in people of European and Asian descent can be traced back to Neanderthals.

RTFA. Details on the research. And it’s certainly interesting to our household. Genetic analysis shows my wife with about 2% Neanderthal DNA. I’m actually at about 3%.

The First Nation came to the Americas ~15,000 years ago. They brought their dogs.


Ettore Mazza

An international team of researchers led by archaeologist Dr. Angela Perri, of Durham University, UK, looked at the archaeological and genetic records of ancient people and dogs.

They found that the first people to cross into the Americas before 15,000 years ago, who were of northeast Asian descent, were accompanied by their dogs.

The researchers say this discovery suggests that dog domestication likely took place in Siberia before 23,000 years ago. People and their dogs then eventually travelled both west into the rest of Eurasia, and east into the Americas…

The Americas were one of the last regions in the world to be settled by people. By this same time, dogs had been domesticated from their wolf ancestors and were likely playing a variety of roles within human societies.

Nicely enough, they still do.

A visual reinterpretation of self

By OM MALIK

As someone who lives in the grays, I immensely appreciate a cold rainy weekend in San Francisco. This morning, I made myself a nice cup of tea and sat down on the writing table with my iPad, hoping to spend time reading some articles and catching up on books that have slowly started to pile up on the bed-stand. For some odd reason, I began to look at some of my older photos. I had edited them over the past twelve months.

As I flipped through the gigantic photoshop files, it felt as if I was looking at the work of someone else. I felt assaulted by the colors — even though I had stripped out the extraneous as much as I could. It is not as if I don’t enjoy a beautiful sunset or a glorious sunrise. It is not that I don’t enjoy the pinks, mauve, and gentle oranges over the breaking waves of the Pacific. However, when it comes to the visual interpretation of these same landscapes, I can’t help wrinkling my proverbial nose as if the color was a piece of rotting vegetation?

How did I end up here? Why? I often ask myself.

I always enjoy Om’s musings. Whether the topic is writing about the technical machinery that seems to be cranking full speed in his neck of the prairie…or photography…he’s just about always addressing something of interest to me.

I’m not the dedicated photographer I have been in decades past; but, my interest has never waned. Om’s style and commentary always finds the heart of whatever values he examines.

Significant and growing class of American voters

The voting patterns of religious groups in the U.S. have been scrutinized since the presidential election for evidence of shifting allegiances among the faithful. Many have wondered if a boost in Catholic support was behind Biden’s win or if a dip in support among evangelicals helped doom Trump.

But much less attention has been paid to one of the largest growing demographics among the U.S. electorate, one that has increased from around 5% of Americans to over 23% in the last 50 years: “Nones” – that is, the nonreligious.

I am a scholar of secularism in the U.S., and my focus is on the social and cultural presence of secular people – nonreligious people such as atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and those who simply don’t identify with any religion. They are an increasingly significant presence in American society, one which inevitably spills into the political arena.

The voters characterized as the “religious Right” continue at least as noisy as ever…while their economic and political power diminishes outside of the opportunist brigade in the Republican Party. And Trump has shattered that segment badly enough that it may be reduced to the same sort of historic footnote as George Wallace’s American Independent Party.

Meanwhile, I find Professor Zuckerman’s article encouraging – offering hope for scientific realism, hard facts, playing more of a role in American politics. Finally!

Not about Zuck…says Om


Barefoot Communications

Yesterday must have been a tough day at work in the Facebook offices. First, Apple fired off a broadside on Facebook around issues of privacy. Then, the Federal Trade Commission and 48 Attorneys General teamed up to start antitrust proceedings against the company. They want to break up Facebook into residual parts.

There are much smarter people than me who can and will weigh in on the Facebook matter. But I will observe that this is going to be a long-drawn-out proceeding. Remember the United States v. Microsoft Corp.? That took forever — and the outcomes were nothing compared to the impact of the open-source movement and the rise of the open web…

I am not a lawyer or an antitrust expert, but as someone who has observed the technology industry for a long time, it seems important to note that things in the industry are speeding up. The government watchdogs need to be mindful that the time it takes from being an upstart to a giant is getting shorter and shorter.

Google was roughly 21 years. Facebook was 15 years. In 11 years, Uber became a $95 billion (in market capitalization) company. It took newly-public DoorDash just seven years from being four guys at Stanford University to become a $68 billion company with over fifty percent of the food delivery market. And the future is going to be even faster because the network effects make everything grow much faster…

What we need — and soon — is a new framework that thinks about monopolies from a more future-oriented perspective. Market share is such an industrial metric to think about in this digital age.

Om popped my poor brain with the last sentence in that paragraph. True, I had been in the chairs of two dentists for three-and-a-half hours. One of them readying me for implant surgery, next week. But, no anesthetics needed, yet. So, I was in fair shape to reflect upon the industrial past, which had ruled most of my working life – and the digital present and future, the context of my present life as well as the past couple decades of dialectical explosion.

That concussion was barely noticed by the political hacks promulgating 99% of the lawmaking that attempts to guide future America. Not very well, at all, I’m afraid.

RTFA, let it roil your little gray cells.