Human evolution symposium

Bronya Keats described how population bottlenecks (or founding) associate particular groups and genetic diseases. Also discussed the rate at which alleles for recessive disorders are naturally reduced from a population, and contrasted the normal statistical distribution of genotypes (given allele abundances) with the displaced equilibriums that arise where there is a heterozygote advantage. In the case of sickle-cell anaemia in malaria-affected populations, the gene statistics demonstrate that we are still pressured today by natural selection.

Neil Risch shared data suggesting an over-reaction to racism. Contrary to claims that race is genetically insignificant, machine categorisation of individual genomes does cluster according to race. At the same time, the degree of genetic diversity within each cluster can be used to trace the ancestry (i.e., founder effects from the original dispersal out of Africa). He also discussed the difficulty of race-related genetic effects being confounded by social effects (e.g., a disease risk-factor among African-Americans may have no effect in Africa).

John Hopper argued that it would be more cost-effective for the government to provide genetic testing after early detection (when it may improve cancer treatment) rather than to subsidise using the test to prescreen healthy people (which disproportionately favours the wealthy, and still produces neglegible benefits because the rare individuals that test positive are still not prepared to take significant risk-reduction measures such as prophylactic excision). Looking at his use of flow charts (and my own first aid training), I wonder why we do not have epidemiologists produce a ‘curriculum’ (a standardised treatment flowchart) for doctors (and instead, we trust the doctors to keep their own expertise up-to-date, knowing that they are being distracted by advertisers)?

Bonnie Basler gave a captivating TED talk on the discovery of how bacteria communicate. She suggests this is the origin of multicellularity, emphasises the practical importance of bacteria, and predicts that future antibiotics will focus on these communications rather than just killing bacteria.

Paul Ewald suggests taking advantage of evolution in the treatment of disease (rather than fighting it endlessly with pharmaceuticals). Vector diseases (e.g., malaria spread by mosquitoes) and waterbourne diseases (e.g., cholera spread by diarrhoea) tend to be more harmful because their transmission does not require the host to be healthy and mobile. Mosquito-proofing homes and hospitals and providing sanitary water supplies will (in addition to cutting transmission) favour strains that are more benign.

Interesting topics in biology: neural interfacing (e.g., for amputees), artificial blood (e.g., futurama heads), simple cell structures (reductionist mechanics of life), detailed imaging (synapse mapping).


Aikido Canberra

Aikido is fun! It is a form of personal development with the excitement of martial confrontation, the skill of a refined art, and the satisfaction of good exercise.

Aikido involves blending with and redirecting the aggressor’s movement (instead of directly opposing with force) to restrain or evade without needing to inflict injury. Aikido is non-competitive (and retains techniques that would not be safe for competitions), the idea is to refine one’s self rather than conflict with others. “Aikido” can be translated as “harmonious discipline”.

A typical class warms up first with stretching, the time is then punctuated with demonstrations of specific techniques by the instructor, and the bulk is spent practising those techniques in pairs (or small groups). Students take turns to attack or to respond to being attacked, and frequently change partners (so that everyone can train with the more advanced students and with people of different builds). Sometimes training involves weapons (e.g., sword, staff and knife) or multiple attackers.

Aiki-Kai Australia is the local mainstream aikido organisation; we are recognised by the Aikikai Foundation in Japan (headed by the heir of the founder of aikido) and member of the IAF (which organises international events). The technical instruction is overseen through the foundation of Sugano shihan (who introduced aikido to Australia at the direction of the founder of aikido). It has dojos in every state of Australia and organises week-long national training camps every six months (so that students can learn from more senior instructors than their local areas possess).

In Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), we currently train in two locations and invite you to come and watch a class:

  • Main dojo, learn directly from Hanan Janiv shihan. Monday and Wednesday, 7:30-9pm, at the Early Childhood School, Kootara Cres., Narrabundah.
  • ANU SRA dojo (The Australian National University). Tuesday 7:30-8:30pm and Sunday 5:00-6:30pm. (Also, monthly Saturday shidoin class before lunch.)

Beginners may commence anytime. The simplest option is just to enroll (for a semester) in our ANU dojo beginners’ course, at which no special clothing or equipment is expected. Comitted students join the national organisation, pay monthly, then (to train in both locations) join ANU Aiki-Kai club and become Sports Union associates (or be ANU students). The total cost per training session works out about the same as taking public transport.

IAF Tanabe 2008

Physics topics

  • Relativity (special and general)
  • Quantum mechanics and field theory
  • Newtonian mechanics (gyroscopes, waves – include impedence matching stuff, fluids/flight)
  • Thermodynamics
  • Electromagnetism
  • Optics
  • Nuclear, and the particle zoo
  • Electronics (passives, relays to op amps and computers, meter/motor/generator, radio)

Physics is the reductionist science. A systematic evidence-based pursuit of knowledge, by the approach of deducing complex system behaviour from the dynamics of simpler individual components, and with emphasis on mathematics rather than cataloguing.