Tag Archives: Linkonomicon

My Kids Need a Velociraptor

UPDATE 2014-09-08 11:17AM – Project is now fully funded with £7981 pledged from 193 backers

UPDATE 2014-09-02 11:26AM – Project is now 88% funded with £6680 pledged from 155 backers

UPDATE 2014-08-28 11:34AM – Project is now 61% funded with £4643 pledged from 102 backers

Rebecca Groom, creator of Paleoplushies is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of scientifically accurate, poseable velociraptor stuffed animals (aka, plushies in the UK). You have until 28 September to pledge. As of this writing, 79 backers have pledged £3103 of the needed £7600. Misrepresentation of these creatures in toys and movies interferes with the communication of interesting discoveries in paleontology. It has also incorrectly convinced my children that Daddy could not beat a ‘raptor in a fight. Groom’s velociraptor, complete with feathers, opens up discussions.

Rebecca Groom’s velociraptor plushie prototype

If, like me, your kids* desperately need such a toy, the “perks” that include a toy start at £30 plus £4 shipping to the US (about $56).

*Or your kids are a socially acceptable excuse for you desperately needing one.

HT: John Conway

Geology of Thrones

The folks at Generation Anthropocene have created a geologic history of the fictional world in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. They walk us through eight eras of geological development that explain the environment in which all the characters you like die horrible (plus one more explanation of how big the planet is). Each post helps you understand both geology and the Game of Thrones world a bit better.

Generation Anthropocene: ALL OF THE MAPS CREATED FOR THIS PROJECT ARE BASED ON MAPS CREATED BY JONATHAN ROBERTS, TEAR, AND THEMOUNTAINGOAT.  CERTAIN ARTISTIC DETAILS (SUCH AS MOUNTAIN RANGES) HAVE BEEN COPIED AND ADAPTED TO SUIT THE NEEDS OF THE GEOLOGIC RECONSTRUCTIONS.

Generation Anthropocene: ALL OF THE MAPS CREATED FOR THIS PROJECT ARE BASED ON MAPS CREATED BY JONATHAN ROBERTS, TEAR, AND THEMOUNTAINGOAT. CERTAIN ARTISTIC DETAILS (SUCH AS MOUNTAIN RANGES) HAVE BEEN COPIED AND ADAPTED TO SUIT THE NEEDS OF THE GEOLOGIC RECONSTRUCTIONS.

If you are interested in how people got around Westeros, you should check out Michael Tyznik’s stylish transit map.

5 Very Good Questions

Nature has published a comment by William P. Hanage suggesting ways to inoculate oneself against the hype associated with the burgeoning field of microbiome studies. As Bethany Brookshire (aka, SciCurious) notes, these questions should be applied to any and all research, not just the microbiome.

1. Can experiments distinguish differences that matter?
2. Does the study show causation or just correlation?
3. What is the mechanism?
4. How much do experiments reflect reality?
5. Could anything else explain the results?
-paraphrased from William P. Hanage in Nature

Mythology is Gross

Genealogy of the Olympians in Greek Mythology (Wikipedia)

Genealogy of the Olympians in Greek Mythology (Wikipedia)

The authors of this encyclopedia do a good job of illustrating that myths have many variant versions.

Samuel Arbesman has a fun, if creepy, post over at Wired on calculating how inbred the Greek gods were. Previously, here at The Finch & Pea, we’ve taken on the inevitable inbreeding that must have occurred in Adam and Eve’s family, which provides some additional explanation of what exactly geneticists mean by “inbreeding coefficient” and what the consequences of inbreeding can be.

I’ve thought about taking on the genetics of the Greek gods before on these grounds, but have always gotten overly hung up on the many variants of the origin stories that often exist for each god. For the gods’ sake, Aphrodite has an origin story that has her arising as a female clone from Uranus’ castrated testicles (most likely due to the SRY gene never being expressed during development).

Getting grumpy about PMS paper

On 11 August 2014, Michael R. Gillings published a paper in Evolutionary Applications entitled “Were there evolutionary advantages to premenstrual syndrome?” There is a strain of thinking that is common in the general public, but is also frequently found among academic researchers that I call adaptionism. This line of thinking assumes that, if a biological phenomenon exists, it must be there as the result of natural selection – i.e., be adaptive. This makes things like PMS seem like a great, evolutionary mystery to be “solved”.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects up to 80% of women, often leading to significant personal, social and economic costs. When apparently maladaptive states are widespread, they sometimes confer a hidden advantage, or did so in our evolutionary past. -from the abstract, Matthew R. Gillings (DOI: 10.1111/eva.12190)

I could spend pages on the problems with this approach to such a question. Fortunately for you and I, Kathryn Clancy, who is far more knowledgable on the relevant evolutionary anthropology than you and I, gutted this paper for The Daily Beast earlier this week:

…the fact that PMS is heritable and variable tells us nothing about whether women with PMS have more children than those who don’t, and this is the true test for adaptation. This crucial point—the third and most crucial condition for natural selection—is absent from the paper.
-Kathryn Clancy