December 27, 2004

Sharing Genes with Brothers and Strangers

Suppose a person has X genes. He will share, on average X/2 of those with his
brother. He will share exactly X/2 with his father. There is a 50% chance he
will share less than X/2 with his brother. There is a tiny chance, even, that he
shares 0 genes with his brother, because his brother got the complementary X/2
from their father and the complementary X/2 from their mother.

How many genes will our person share with the average person in the population?
Not zero, but maybe a fraction of 1. It depends on how big X is, and how many
people are in the population. What is interesting is the probability that
there is someone out there in the population who shares X/2 genes with our
person. And what is the probability there is someone with all X genes? It is not

If the population is big enough, N', there is over a 50% chance that someone
exists with X/2 genes in common with him. The size of N' depends on X. We will
assume an even distribution of genes-- no matching of male and female by genes.

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October 05, 2004

Divorce in Chile

"Divorce, Chilean Style: Now, It Will Be Legal But Not Exactly Easy" says the Wall Street Journal of October 5, 2004. Here are details:...

...On Nov. 17, Chile's first divorce law, passed by Congress and signed by the president earlier this year, goes into effect. It promises relief for Dr. Saavedra and an estimated 900,000 Chileans -- -- who are trapped in marriages that exist in name only. The coming of Chile's D-Day -- which will leave Malta and the Philippines as the most prominent countries prohibiting divorce -- will be a leap into the unknown for this Catholic nation.

To keep his campaign pledge to get a divorce bill through Congress, Socialist President Ricardo Lagos had to compromise with conservatives. Under the law, the product of a nine-year parliamentary debate, judges are to try to "preserve and recompose" marriages, if necessary, by recommending court-sponsored mediation.

Thus, it seems unilateral no-fault divorce is being allowed. That's the worst part of divorce-- that one spouse can dump the other without good reason and without penalty.

Despite their misgivings, in Chile, where women's rights have lagged because of Catholicism, geographical isolation and life under a repressive military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s, when the feminist movement was flowering elsewhere.

It seems clear that no-fault divorce hurts women, not men. Men can get remarried more easily, are more unfaithful, and have more earning power. and I'm surprised the belief that it is good for women still persists. I suppose feminists like divorce because it is anti-marriage and anti-family, even though it makes women poor and unhappy.

According to Carlos Briceņo, a Justice Ministry official, there appears to be an 11th-hour surge in applications for annulments, a widely winked at form of fraud that Chileans with financial means have traditionally used to get around the divorce prohibition. To obtain such an annulment, a couple goes to court with witnesses willing to offer perjured testimony that the address on the marriage form was wrong. Dr. Saavedra, the gynecologist, couldn't get an annulment because it takes the collusion of both husband and wife to annul , and his wife wouldn't go along with it.

We see from this that in effect, divorce has long been legal-- but only if both spouses agree. Thus, the big change now is to override the desire of one spouse to block divorce. If the facts in this article are correct, this suggests that Chile may have as high a marital breakdown rate as the US, with the 10% figure mentioned above just being the breakdowns in which only one spouse wants a divorce.

A little more than half of all Chilean children are born out of wedlock , many to couples who would have liked to get married but couldn't because one or both parents were still bound to a previous mate, according to specialists on the family.

I'm skeptical that lack of divorce is a major reason, given that annulments are easy and that most births would be to first marriages anyway. But this is a shocking figure anyway. Or has it always been that way in Chile, because marriages are informal?

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August 23, 2004

Public Posting of Grades; Buckley Act, Cambridge, Accountants

I've long thought that it's foolish to keep university grades secret with the hypersecurity of the Buckley Act. Why not post student names and grades, so the students can find them out easily? (especially before email made this less important) Why should a slacker be entitled to keep his D a secret? Why shouldn't the top student get public recognition? Isn't it good for students and professors to be able to find out that a particular professor gives all A's?

England is more sensible, as this BBC report explains:

For 300 years students at Cambridge University have learned their exam results from public notice boards.


Until recently, the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA) published all interim and final results in a Saturday edition of the Times newspaper.

This led to many anxious students cutting short their Friday evening fun to seek out an early edition of the paper at a late-opening corner shop. Saturday's hangover was either tinged with relief or despair.

The institute still publishes its results in the Times, but now also offers text message and e-mail.

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