July 1, 2013
to be posted on Nobabies.net

Keith R. Yamamoto
Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology
University of California
San Francisco

Dear Professor Yamamoto
I read with interest your inspiring article (Time to Play Ball SCIENCE vol. 340 no. 6139 June 21, 2013 page 1375) in which you propose an electronic information commons as part of a plan for integrating the widely ranging fields of science.  Of course you are right.  I might have chosen rock climbing as an analogy.  One of the fundamentals of rock climbing is that you never reach for a handhold or foothold.  If it is not close, forget it.  Otherwise you wind up spreadeagled against the rock face unable to see or move.  This poses a difficulty for the kind of integration you point out as needed. 

My own experience bears this out.  I am interested in the mechanism whereby fertility is reduced by too much inbreeding or outbreeding.  Inbreeding depression is dismissed as simply the effect of expressing recessive deleterious genes by rendering them homozygous.  No question it happens, but of course in a small population this should burn itself out after a few generations; experience teaches otherwise.  And now work in plants has showed that inbreeding depression can be completely reversed by placing seeds in a demthylating environment.  Inbreeding depression is thus not genetic at all; it is epigenetic.  The same surely holds for outbreeding depression and my current work (which is a natural follow-on of a paper I was involved with and which I attach) is to try to nail the process down at a molecular level.  I sure could use some help from a molecular pharmacologist, but the point is that the evidence I bring to bear ranges from archeology through history, entomology, natural history, demographics, genealogy, computer simulation, Mendel compared with speciation and laboratory work with deer mice and birds and flies.  Here is a link if you wish to tax yourself:
The most critical problem with reaching an understanding is that the field – the mechanism I am hunting – is just about empty except for me.  Everyone else recognizes immediately that it is not their own problem although I can make a case for its importance being unparalleled and when I am in an alarmist mood a case for it being the only important issue facing science and society.

Do you have any suggestion?

I am wondering whether you are related to the great admiral of the same name.  If so it is possible, although rather unlikely, that I owe you an apology.  I would be happy to explain.

All the best,


M. Linton Herbert

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