Monthly Archive: September 2006

Sep 29 2006

The most recent common ancestor of all humans living today

In order to find the date of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all the people living today, Chang started out by constructing a simple mathematical model of population mixing. (See here for some background to this post.) He assumed that the population is constant over time at some value N. He assumed that …

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Sep 28 2006

Some surprising facts about ancestors

In 1999, Joseph T. Chang published a very interesting paper in the journal Advances in Applied Probability (vol. 31, pages 1002-1026) titled Recent Common Ancestors of all Present-Day Individuals. To understand the paper, it helps to reflect a little on the mathematics of genealogy. One rock-solid fact of ancestry is that every person has two, …

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Sep 27 2006

My ancestor Narmer, the first Pharaoh of Egypt

While doing some research on my ancestors last month, I made the surprising discovery that I am the direct descendent of Narmer, who was the first Pharaoh of Egypt and lived around 3,100 BCE. Narmer (thought by some to be the same person as Menes) was not your run-of-the-mill pharaoh. He is a bona fide …

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Sep 26 2006

Our common ancestors

Darwin’s theory of natural selection implies that we are all descended from common ancestors. Most people who have doubts about the theory tend to think that this is a proposition that we can either choose to accept or deny. After all, no one was around to see it, were they? But Richard Dawkins’ excellent book …

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Sep 25 2006

Evolution and atheism

It is commonly charged by some religious people that acceptance of the theory of evolution by natural selection implies acceptance of atheism. Co-discovered by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace and brought to widespread public attention with the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859, this theory immediately gained opposition in Europe, primarily from …

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Sep 22 2006

The coming war with Iran

It should be clear to everyone by now that the Bush administration and the neoconservative clique that is egging him on are pushing for military action against Iran. To my mind, the decision has already been made and what is being sought now are ways to drum up national and international support. Just as they …

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Sep 21 2006

Sledge Hammer Bush

In the mid-1980s there was a very funny comedy show on TV called Sledge Hammer which, alas, lasted for only two seasons. (I hear that it is now available on DVD.) The title character was a police detective who was an over-the-top parody of all the hard-boiled, tough detectives ever portrayed, taking particular aim at …

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Sep 20 2006

Asking the right questions about Iran

Over a year ago, I wrote a couple of posts pointing out that in important political issues, one should pay close attention to not what is being discussed or argued over, but to the questions that are not asked. (See here and here for those posts.) The success of the media propaganda model (see here, …

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Sep 19 2006

Film: The Road to Guantanamo

Last Sunday, I saw the powerful film The Road to Guantanamo (directed by Michael Winterbottom) at the Cleveland Cinematheque, that precious jewel in University Circle which screens films that one cannot see anywhere else. The description of the film says that it is a “harrowing mix of documentary and reenactment. It traces how three British …

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Sep 18 2006

Propaganda for war against Iran begins

It should be plain to everyone that the Bush White House and its neoconservative inner clique are pushing hard for a war with Iran. They have gone on a relentless offensive, trying to convince the American people that Iran is a rogue state, secretly pushing a nuclear weapons program and that their leader is some …

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