Current population genetics:
After some months of trouble with access through the internet, I managed to get my online version of GENETICS.  When help came, it was deft and effective.  I immediately looked up the articles that interested me in population genetics. (Population Structure With Localized Haplotype Clusters, Sharon R. Browning and Bruce S. Weir GENETCS vol. 185 page 1337 – 1344, August 2010  DOI:10.1534/genetics.110.116681, Some Consequences of Demographic Stochasticity in Population Genetics, Todd L. Parsons, Christopher Quince and Joshua B. Plotkin GENETCS vol. 185 page 1345 – 1354 August 2010  DOI:10.1534/genetics.110.115030 and Topologies of the Conditional Ancestral Trees and Full-Likelihood-Based Inference in the General Coalescent Tree Framework, Ori Sargsyan GENETCS vol. 185 page 1355 – 1368 August 2010  DOI:10.1534/genetics.109.112847)  As I gazed though them, a couple of things struck me.  For one, there is certainly a lot of skill in the field.  If there is a demographic collapse of populations for genetic reasons, it will certainly not be because the time and effort to forestall it was unavailable.

Another thing I noticed was that there is indeed interest in small populations.  At one time it seemed to me that the laws of population genetics were based on an infinite size population.  That is not the case, although interest still seems to be in identifiable groups, not in the biologically significant small groups.

A third thing reminded me of a line from the play “The Clouds” by the ancient Greek master Aristophanes.  The assumption of the play is that a philosopher has decided that it is not Zeus who sends rain and thunder and lighting.  It’s clouds.  So we should be worshiping clouds.  That struck me as particularly funny for a long time before I figured out why.  Usually one expects successive advances in religion of philosophy to proceed to ever greater abstraction.  The notion that it is clouds, not Zeus, is a step in the opposite direction.  I’m sure the original audience would have picked up on this much faster.  It was also a daring stoke since sacrelgege was a dangerous policy in those days.  (By the way, it’s raining as I work, and I do attribute it to clouds, not Zeus.)

The line I am reminded of is, “Ha, ha.  You’re still worshiping Zeus.  It’s all clouds nowadays,” or words to that effect.  Of course in the context, nobody but the philosopher himself (fictional, but named Socrates, who was a contemporary) ever hear of this new philosophy, the others are nonplussed.

Well my reaction to this sturdy work I looked at was, “Ha, ha.  You’re still studying the DNA of populations.  It’s all population epigenetics nowadays.” 

At least the progress is in the right direction, from the more concrete DNA encoding of protein structure to the more flexible epigenetic control.

Some day maybe there will be journal sections devoted to population epigenetics and earnest scientists working out the details.  But I fear we shall have to wait a bit longer. 

There have been 5,438 visitors so far.

Home page.