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Why your boss is incompetent

Why your boss is incompetent - life - 17 December 2009 - New Scientist
The idea that high-level incompetence is inevitable was formulated in the 1969 best-selling book The Peter Principle: Why things always go wrong. Its authors, psychologist Laurence Peter and playwright Raymond Hull, started from the observation that while jobs generally get more difficult the higher up any ladder you climb, most people only come equipped with a more or less fixed level of talent that corresponds to their intelligence, knowledge and energy. At some point, then, they will be promoted into a job they can't quite handle. They will, as Peter and Hull put it, "reach the level of their own incompetence". And there they will stay, fouling up operations until they either retire or some egregiously inept act gets them fired. The problem is what they get up to in the meantime. "They end up distracting us from their crummy work with giant desks," says Robert Sutton of the Stanford Graduate School of Business in California. "They replace action with incomprehensible acronyms, blame others for failure, and cheat to create the illusion of progress." Meanwhile, Peter and Hull concluded, the actual work gets done by those who have not yet scaled the summit of their own incompetence. That would be you and me, then.

Scientists on the verge of sequencing Neanderthal genome

2010 preview: Arise, Neanderthal brother - life - 17 December 2009 - New Scientist
So far no one has uncovered evidence of any cross-species romps - at least none that left a trace in our DNA. The 3-billion-nucleotide Neanderthal genome is our best chance yet of finding out. Whether they did or didn't will make the headlines next year, but the importance of the Neanderthal genome reaches much further. For a start, any sign of interbreeding will force us to rethink our place among our ancestors. The researchers working on the genome have already discovered some details of the hominin's nature: a few individuals were pale-skinned redheads; others couldn't taste bitter vegetables; they may have spoken a complex language. But a complete genome means our closest ancestors can be analysed in far more detail, even revealing such information as their population size. As it stands, the animal closest to humans that we know most about genetically is the chimpanzee. We shared an ancestor with chimps about 6 million years ago - and a lot has happened since.

December 16, 2009

German scientists find that one lone gene is responsible for determining sex

Battle of the sexes - one gene keeps us either male or female, scientists find - Telegraph If the gene is switched off, the mammal becomes a male. The body physically changes and grows new bits according to the blueprint. This is potentially a huge insight, not just for people who want non-surgical sex changes but also for treating a host of conditions.
Researchers have found that the body is in a constant fight to remain either female or male and the suppression of just one gene could cause it to "flip" from one to the other. The remarkable findings refute the generally held view that sex is determined at birth and is irreversible in later life. . . . In mammals, males have XY chromosomes and females XX. The new research shows that another gene is responsible for switching women into men. If the FOXL2 is switched on then the body grows ovaries, switched off and they are replaced by testicles. But what really surprised the researchers is that the process continues after birth and the body remains in a constant tussle to either switch on or off the gene - even in adulthood.
*via Violet Blue*