concept to publication

Month: October 2011

Denisovan migration across the Pacific


This map, from arstechnica, shows the distribution of genes of a protohuman species, Denisova hominins, among modern humans. The blue area in Europe, West Asia, and North Africa represent a low level of distribution of Denisovan genes, presumably because interbreeding in these areas was instead with Neanderthals. The Denisovan genes are most prevalent in New Zealand, but also in Australia, Southeast Asia, and southern China.

But what is striking about this map to me is something else: there is a strong distribution of Denisovan genes in northern South America. While there could be other explanations for this, this map seems pretty clearly to be indicating, in my opinion, that humans traveled directly across the Pacific to South America, and not across the Siberia-Alaska land bridge as used to be the conventional wisdom. It is possible that migration occurred that way too, but as far as this Denisovan-affected population is concerned, it sure looks like they just lit out straight across the Pacific.

1616 video trailers

I made two trailers for my forthcoming book 1616: The World in Motion. The short one is a little over a minute long and has no voice-over narration. It’s main advantage is that it’s, well, short. The other one, a hefty ten minutes long, is more informational.

The short video trailer:

Carol says the short trailer overemphasizes Asia, which is a fair criticism, but I’ve about hit my limit for now on video work! I thought the long video trailer was just probably too long for most people, but early listeners Anne and Ellen had the following reactions: Ellen says “I like the long trailer better! I think it has a better sense of the book and is more engaging. But I think the audio track needs some work — the music’s a little loud and your voice a little quiet in comparison. I like the script and images you chose though.” And Anne says of the long version “I enjoy the narration and all the fabulous graphics … the music is well selected too. I wonder though-if the sound track could have less volume so the voice over is clearer to listen to. I preferred it in areas where the music was lower. It does run a little long but is very interesting.”

So on the basis of that feedback I’ve turned down the volume on the music (I hope by the right amount), uploaded the long trailer to YouTube, and embedded it here:

Links for Friday, Oct. 21

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

What is the best time of day to post to a blog?

informationial graphic charting affective moods of twitter users

These days I’m pretty casual about my web presence, but a few years ago I gave some thought to maximizing the impact of blog posts. I ended up scheduling most of my posts for 5:00 am Pacific time. My strongest geographical regions were the U.S. east and west coasts, and that would be 8:00 Eastern time. A lot of people check their feeds in the morning, and it is incontrovertible that most people do the bulk of their browsing at work, little as employers like hearing this (so I mainly post on weekdays).

A new study purporting to track people’s affective states through the day brings new information to this topic. Researchers tracked the relative use of positive and negative words in tweets at different times of the days throughout the week. They found that negative terms predominated early in the morning and mid-to-late afternoon, while positive terms were most common from 6:00 to 9:00 am and in the late evening. The pattern held even on weekends, when most people aren’t going off to work.

The methodology can be questioned. Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert points out that “if you counted the good and bad words people said during intercourse, you’d mistakenly conclude they were having an awful time.”

Supposing the results are valid, what are the implications for people posting to the web? Should you make negative posts when people are most negative and positive posts when they are most positive? Or should you always try to post when people are positive and will presumably be most receptive to what you are saying? Or does this not matter at all, and what you should really be looking at is the volume of traffic — my guess is that while people might be feeling positive around 10:00 pm there are probably significantly fewer of them online at that time than in the morning.

Well, I’m moving my post time forward an hour, from 5:00 am to 6:00 am. I hope you’re happy.



Informational graphic via the New York Times

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