Tag Archives: Linux

The Finno-Ugrian Suicide Hypothesis


The Finno-Ugrian peoples of Eurasia

What is the Finno-Ugrian Suicide Hypothesis?

Multiple lines of evidence indicate specific genetic contributions to suicidal behavior. In particular, geographic studies support the Finno-Ugrian Suicide Hypothesis, i.e., genetic differences between populations may partially account for geographic patterns of suicide prevalence. Specifically, within Europe the high suicide-rate nations constitute a contiguous J-shaped belt. The present research replicated and extended 2003 findings of Voracek, Fisher, and Marusic with new data. Across 37 European nations, an interaction term of squared latitude multiplied with longitude (quantifying the J-shaped belt) accounted for 32% of the cross-national variance in total suicide rates alone, while latitude accounted merely for 18% of variance over and above those. Refined analysis included regional data from countries critical for testing the hypothesis (89 regions of Belarus, western Russia, and the Ukraine) and yielded an even more clear-cut pattern (56% and 3.5%, respectively). These results are consistent with the Finno-Ugrian Suicide Hypothesis. Study limitations and directions for further research are discussed.

Some of you may be wondering who the mysterious Finno-Ugrians even are. They are simply a diverse ethno-linguistic group that is native to eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia. The most well known are the Finns and Hungarians. In the map above, you can see their lesser known linguistic cousins scattered across much of Russia and northern Scandinavia.

The thing that is most remarkable about these peoples, besides the genetic isolation of some of the northern groups, is that they are among the few native Europeans whose mother tongue is not an Indo-European language. Almost everyone else with a long history in Europe is a speaker of an Indo-European language, like Italian, Russian, German, Greek, Spanish, and even English(some genes are said to be associated with the early spread of Indo-European languages, but that is beyond the scope of this post). No, it’s not because they are an extreme ethno-linguistic minority that Finno-Ugrians have a higher suicide rate.

The Finno-Ugrian Suicide Hypothesis suggests that genes that are unique to or occur more frequently among Finno-Ugrians predisposes them to suicide. For a long time, many researchers just assumed that the extreme northern environment many Finno-Ugrians live in, and social factors were the primary cause of their higher than average suicide rate. However, when researchers controlled for the environmental and social factors(comparing them to non-Finno-Ugrians living in the same environment), it became apparent that something genetic was making a significant contribution to their higher suicide rate. Of course, this is something that shows up in aggregate, and doesn’t render environmental or social factors meaningless for individuals.

While these genes tend to be mostly unique to speakers of Finno-Ugrian languages, some Russians and other Indo-Europeans in eastern Europe carry these genes. Russians also have a high suicide rate. This may be due to the Russians slowly assimilating many Finno-Ugrians over the centuries into the larger Russian ethnic group, as Russia expanded across northern Eurasia and Russified many different native ethnic groups. In other words, this means there are people who are Finno-Ugrian by blood who speak Russian or other non-Finno-Ugrian languages as their first and only language.

In part, I am fascinated by this because Linus Torvalds, the influential software engineer who created the kernel of the Linux/Android operating system I use is Finnish, besides, of course, my interest in genes and mental health. And Finland has also produced some amazing runners. They haven’t been able to find any Finno-Ugrian running genes though.

Why Finno-Ugrians have these “suicide” genes is a mystery(it is possible they have some advantage), but please don’t panic if you are Finno-Ugrian or know someone who is. Of course, we can’t change our genes(not yet), but hopefully, science will find better ways of treating mental disorders that lead many to suicide.

Why I use Linux

Tux the Penguin, the symbol of Linux.

Tux the Penguin, the mascot of Linux.

I thought I would do something different today and discuss Linux, the operating system I use on my computers. Some people love it, some people hate it, some people don’t know what it is.

This is very off topic but I often get asked why I exclusively use Linux/Android instead of Windows and Apple products and software. If you do not want to read about computer software, go right ahead and skip this post. This will be one of the very rare times I ever mention this, since the computer software I use has nothing to do with fitness or health. I will get back to fitness and juggling shortly.

For those of you who do not know, Linux is an operating system, and it looks a lot like Windows. There are many reasons I use Linux on all my computers, my laptop, as well as my desktop. Among them are:

– It’s free

– It’s open-source

– It is much less susceptible to viruses and other malware

Some people may have trouble believing this, but the operating system(and all the software) on my computer is free. I downloaded it and installed it myself(my computer briefly had Windows on it). Many years ago, I was a Windows user, but it was buggy, bloated, and insecure. Why pay for something like that?

Besides these issues, Windows is not open-source like Linux. “Open-source” means I can look at the code, study it, change it, juggle it, copy it, and distribute it to anyone(try doing this with Windows or OS X or iOS). I’ve been doing this so long I forget what software licenses are!

Since most computers in the world run on Windows, computer viruses mainly infect Windows PCs(and Macs to a lesser extent). Hence, there aren’t very many viruses that can infect a Linux system.

Since I am a big believer in free/open source software, I have a strong dislike for both Microsoft and Apple. These corporate behemoths put too many restrictions on what I can do with their products that it is for good reason they are called “digital prisons”, and I find the patent lawsuits these companies are involved in absurd, and disturbing. Besides this, they also push an anti-freedom agenda to protect their markets. Some tell me they are “easier to use” than Linux, but in my opinion there really isn’t a big difference.

I think being able to alter the code of whatever software I am using makes it “easier to use”. The Linux desktop and just about everything else is also very easily customizable, with lots of very different interfaces to choose from.

Linux has come a long way over the past decade, thanks to all the users who continue to work hard at improving it. Though it helps to be a techie, Linux is about as easy as using Windows or OS X. It just may take some getting used to. If you are not very good with computers, Linux may not be for you. If you are using an Android phone or tablet, you are already using a form of Linux.

There are so many different distributions of Linux, and it’s a lot of fun trying them out: Fedora, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, OpenSUSE, Debian, among many others. I use Debian. The internet browser I am currently using is Opera, a free, open-source browser program. I sometimes use Mozilla Firefox, which is also free, and open-source. These browsers come with the Linux distribution I use(just about all come with a browser), as well as the freeware version of Office, and many free art and graphics programs. There is an online freeware library I use to download whatever I want for free. It’s all legal.

The biggest problem some Linux newbies may have is finding compatible hardware for their Linux PC, but this is becoming less of a problem. It’s not an issue for me. Unfamiliarity is also a problem, but as I said before, it just takes some getting used to. If you just want to try out a Linux distribution to see how it is without changing your computer’s operating system, you can download it to a live CD/DVD or USB stick, and boot into it from there. There is also dual-booting, which means you can have both Windows, and Linux on the same hard-drive, you just have to choose which operating system to use at startup.

While I am a big believer in software freedom, and freedom in general, this doesn’t mean I only use free, open-source software, but most of what I use is. While it’s not perfect, my Linux PCs do everything I need them to do.

Why Linux is better

Which superhero would make the best joggler?

I often ask myself: Which superhero would make the best joggler? It is difficult to answer, since no superhero has ever been known to joggle. I will try my best to answer based on what is currently known about 4 of the most famous superheroes:

1) Superman – The most powerful and god-like of superheroes. Can fly and also run very fast. Loves wearing tights. Has great coordination and is incredibly strong. Has X-ray vision and is bullet-proof and largely fire proof. Has an on/off relationship with Lois Lane. Is an alien from another planet. Can be greatly weakened if exposed to a metal called kryptonite. I believe he could easily joggle 3 balls for possibly thousands of miles without dropping any balls so long as he is not exposed to kryptonite along the way. Come to think of it, could likely joggle 5, 7, or even 9 balls for many miles without dropping. And the balls could weigh 1,000 lbs each. His alter ego, newspaper reporter Clark Kent wouldn’t want to joggle to avoid attracting attention.
2) Spiderman – Can climb almost anything fast and is extremely agile and flexible. Can shoot spiderwebs to help him climb, swing or to trap his enemies. Also loves wearing tights. Is super-strong, but not as strong as Superman and can’t fly either. Got his superpowers by getting bitten by a radioactive spider. Could likely joggle almost as well as
Superman, but for a much shorter length of time. Doesn’t seem to have Superman’s endurance or strength, but joggling 5 or 7 balls could come easy with some practice, though not with heavy balls. Secret identity is Peter Parker.
3) Iron Man – Has no innate superpowers. He is a mere mortal named Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy, and genius technologist. He only has super powers when he wears his bullet-proof metal-suit he built that makes him almost as powerful as Superman, allowing him to fly great distances and to have super-strength. The suit is also equipped with a super-computer(probably runs on Linux), and various weapons. Iron Man could likely joggle well in his suit, with the assistance of his artificial intelligence super-computer helping him do the calculations(his main limitation would be the suit running out of power or becoming damaged or an attractive woman distracting him). Tony Stark without the Iron Man suit could probably joggle 3 balls for a few miles, so long as he remains sober and that the balls aren’t heavy.
4) Batman – Secret identity is Bruce Wayne and is similar to Iron Man in that he has no innate superpowers. He is also a billionaire, who has access to all sorts of advanced weapons and toys. His bat-suit is bullet-resistant, and he has limited flying ability in it. Highly intelligent and very skilled in martial arts. Could very likely joggle, since he is very athletic and well-coordinated due to his martial arts training. Could possibly joggle 3 balls through an entire marathon with enough practice. Like a lot of superheroes, loves to wear tights and is sometimes assisted by a younger man called Robin who also wears tights which arouses suspicion.

To me, it is obvious that Superman would make the best joggler. If you disagree, please explain why.

Picture sources: Wikicommons and public domain