March 5, 2013
Matt and I made a sacred pact not to even think about any new work until we’d got our due-by-the-end-of-March papers done.
But then we got chatting, and accidentally started three new projects. Possibly four. And that’s just today.
Who knows how many of them will ever see the light of day? Realistically, we are surely going to have to kill some of them if we’re ever going to get anything finished. But two of them at least are likely to show up here as the kick-offs of crowdsourced projects. And we have to keep reminding ourselves: NOT TILL APRIL!
As Matt signed off tonight, he wrote:
Matt: Okay, now I gotta go.
Mike: Yeah, like TOO good.
Matt: Or disastrous, from the preventing-new-projects perspective.
We need to get to a point where we can just talk without all this Science spilling out everywhere.
I made you a chat, but I Scienced on it.
But how can we not, when sauropods are so damned fascinating?!
November 29, 2012
It’s been a while since I posted here. I haven’t gone off SV-POW! or anything, just going through one of my periodic doldrums (read: super-busy with Other Stuff). I’m writing now to draw your attention to two books that I’m pretty darned excited about.
The first is All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals, by John Conway, Memo Kosemen, and Darren Naish, with skeletal diagrams by Scott Hartman (lulu, Amazon). This is sort of an SV-POW! love-fest, in that Darren is One Of Us, John and Scott let us use their art a lot–even the goofy stuff–and get a shout-out now and then, and I’ve been awed by the work of Memo–a.k.a. Nemo Ramjet–for longer than SV-POW! has existed (he also created Brontosapiens!). But wait–there’s more! One of the first people to review the book is Emily Willoughby, who was also as far as we know the first person after Paco Gasco to illustrate Brontomerus–that image is still Bronto‘s flagship portrait on Wikipedia.
But enough navel-gazing. The book is based around the mind-blowing presentations “All Yesterdays” and “All Todays” at SVPCA 2011 and 2012, both delivered by John Conway. True story: “All Yesterdays” was the intro to the icebreaker/mixer thing at Lyme Regis, so right after the talk people jumped up to grab pints and socialize. Sometime in the next few minutes, John was separately approached by three different paleontologists who thought that “All Yesterdays” should be a book, and wanted to help write it. Those three hopefuls were Darren, Mike, and me. I’m extremely happy that Darren is the one on the book. Mike and I can wrangle sauropods and we’re both “All [Some]days” fanboys, but the book really needed someone approaching tetrapod omniscience, and that’s obviously Darren.
Whoops, that was actually just another paragraph of navel-gazing. Anywho, I knew after this year’s SVPCA that there would be a book, but I had no idea it would be out so soon. I can’t tell you much about the book itself, for two reasons. First, my dead-tree copy is still en route from lulu.com. Second, I wouldn’t tell you much about the book if I could, because you should see it for yourself. It’s firmly in the tradition of speculative zoology but also has a serious point to make about the memes that drive a lot of paleoart. That’s all you need to know–get the book and prepare to be surprised, amused, amazed, and moved to wonder.
The other new book I’m all het up about is Zombie Tits, Astronaut Fish, and Other Weird Animals, by Becky Crew (Amazon, New South Books). My mutual admiration pact with Bec goes back to 2009. She blogged about one of my posts, I blogged about how indescribably wonderful her blog was, she published something I wrote–my first paying gig as a writer, I think. Now she’s blogging at SciAm, which is great, because although she’s smart, irreverent, and freakin’ hilarious, she’s also mortal, and we need to get as much of that good stuff out of her head and into general circulation as possible while she’s still around. (She’s not sick or anything, she’s just going to die sometime in the next century, and if you read her blog I think you’ll agree that that’s too damn soon.) Zombie Tits does not seem to be available stateside yet, but I will keep a weather eye on things and post an update when that changes.
I’ll probably review both books here in due time, if by “review” one means “alternately drool over and hyperbolically gush about with no attempt at objectivity whatsoever”. And I do mean precisely that.
It’s been a while since we’ve served you up a sauropod, so, finally and fittingly, here’s John Conway’s playful Camarasaurus taking a mud bath. Or maybe just trying to hide its hideousness; as the authors of All Yesterdays note, “Camarasaurus [...] is considered by some experts to be among the ugliest of all sauropods”.
October 19, 2012
When you start a blog, the natural thing is to want to feel that you’re in control of it, and that means controlling what can be posted there. But that’s a mistake. Moderation means that people can’t see their own comments, which is alienating; but more importantly, it means other people can’t see them, which in turn means that all discussion grinds to a halt until such time as you happen to moderate.
What that means is that the site is only really alive when you’re at the keyboard, constantly checking your inbox, so that you notice moderation requests as soon as they come in. It means you’ll never have the experience of waking up in the morning and finding that a discussion has broken out on your blog.
But what about spam? On a good platform, it’s not a problem. Since we started SV-POW!, 6,539 comments have been posted, and 3,552 spam comments have been automatically detected and help for moderation. My and Matt’s manual moderation of those suspected-spam comments shows that detection has been 99.92% accurate: there have been only three false negatives in five and a half years. There have been 63 false positives, i.e. comments that looked like spam but weren’t. Those were held for moderation, and passed.
So. You don’t need to moderate to filter spam, and you don’t want to moderate to control discussion. Just open it up. (If you’re using a platform with bad spam-filtering, you may have to move. We’re on WordPress.com, and very happy with it, but others platforms may be just as good or better.)
[Note. This is a re-post of the most important part of Tutorial 18: how to have fruitful discussions in your blog’s comments. I'm posting this bit separately so that I can link to this most important part without the distraction of the other parts.]
A brief notice:
A while back we set up a page of “open access bio and palaeo” links on this site — links to open-access journals, individual researchers’ pages that contain PDFs, etc.
Recently, Matt and I realised that neither one of us had the time or inclination to keep this up to date — fixing broken links, finding new sites, etc. So rather than leave the page there looking like it’s up to date when it’s not, we thought it would be more honest to delete it.
But we gave it a partial reprieve just in case it’s useful to anyone else. The page is still in place, but now has a big banner warning that it’s unmaintained. We don’t expect to update it again.
BTW., if anyone out there would like to take the page over (i.e. use it as a basis for a new and up-to-date list that they host on their own site), they are very welcome indeed. Please let us know if you do this, so we can replace our page with a link to your more recent one.
April 28, 2012
Given the huge amount we’ve written about open access on this blog, it may come as a surprise to realise that the blog itself has not been open access until today. It’s been free to read, of course, but in the absence of an explicit licence statement, the default “all rights reserved” has applied, which has meant that technically you’re not supposed to do things like, for example, using SV-POW! material in course notes.
It was never our intention to be so restrictive, of course. We always wanted what we write to be as widely useful as possible; but like most bloggers, we just didn’t think about what that entailed.
So now, belatedly, we are placing SV-POW! under the Creative Commons Attribution licence. This means that you can do anything with our content, subject only to giving us credit. Go nuts. We want our work to be useful. (Our use of this licence is indicated by the CC BY button at top right of all the pages.)
Note that SV-POW! is now compliant with the Budapest Open Access Initiative’s definition of open access — the only definition that matters, really, since it’s where the term “open access” was first coined. That definition is rather noble and striking:
By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”
We are applying this licence restrospectively to all the original content on the site — not just what we write from now on. To ensure that we’re on safe ground doing this, all three of us agreed on this measure, and we also obtained consent from the only (so far) guest-blogger on SV-POW!, Heinrich Mallison.
Finally, we should note the exceptions to the CC BY licence. When we’ve included material from other sources — most often figures from published papers — we do not own the copyright and can’t licence it. Similarly, all photographs of fossils held by the Natural History Museum in London are copyright the museum. If you want to re-use any of the non-original material, you’ll need to track down the copyright holders and negotiate with them.
March 22, 2012
…with sauropod bones!
Lots of basements have them. Some basements have had them for decades, and other basements have been newly constructed to house them. So you can take advantage of that retro chic while taking your basement into the 21st century!
What the heck am I talking about?
One of the nifty features of WordPress is that you can track the search terms that people are using to find your blog. After Mike put up his “Suboptimal location of Mamenchisaurus” post, we noticed that one of the top search terms bringing people to SV-POW! was ‘basement’. Yeah, that’s right, ‘basement’. In fact, ‘basement’ is the 5th highest search term of all time that has brought people to SV-POW! And that’s not unusual–in fact, of the top 5 search terms bringing people here, only one is sauropod-related (Brachiosaurus, at number 2).
As of this posting, here are the Top 10 non-sauropod search terms of all time that have led people to SV-POW!, listed by rank, and including the number of hits in parentheses:
1. rabbit (18,235)
3. leopard seal (12,797) — this explains why “Sorting out Cetiosaurus nomenclature”, which even Mike admits is the most boring topic we’ve ever covered here, is the 11th most popular post of all time on this blog!
4. flamingo (10,974)
5. basement (9743)
12. twinkie (3434)
14. flamingos (3102) — double dipping for the “Necks lie” post!
20. pig skull (2099)
21. savannah monitor (2078)
22. varanus exanthematicus (1936) — double dipping for “Four complete, articulated, extant sauropod skeletons–yes, really!”
24. shish kebab (1660) — double dipping for “Sauropods were corn-on-the-cob, not shish kebabs”.
We’re apparently getting a lot of hits from people who want to remodel their basements. I’m all for that (the remodeling, and the extra hits), so I’m embracing it. You want basements, we got ‘em. We’ll drown you in pictures of sauropod vertebrae in basements. Did I say basement? Basement, basement, basement!
(Why am I pushing basement and not rabbit, flamingo, or leopard seal? Partly because basement used to be our number 1 search term and I want to see its fortunes rise again. Partly because those other things are at least biological, and it cracks me up to have a common architectural term bringing people to the blog. And partly because I want to upstage John and his freezers.)
Basement Renovation Instructions
This short guide will help you with your project.
Is your basement in a museum?
If YES, then:
1. Fill it with sauropod vertebrae.
2. Call us.
If NO, then:
1. Fill it with anything you like except sauropod vertebrae.
2. Support your local museum.
Don’t forget: basement!
December 22, 2011
December 13, 2011
November 23, 2011
Here at SV-POW! we are ardently pro-turkey. As the largest extant saurischians that one can find at most butchers and grocery stores, turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are an important source of delicious, succulent data. With Thanksgiving upon us and Christmas just around the corner, here’s an SV-POW!-centric roundup of turkey-based geekery.
The picture at the top of the post shows a couple of wild turkeys that frequented our campsite in Big Bend in the winter of 2007. Full story here.
If you’re wondering what to do with your turkey, the answer is GRILL IT. I use the recipe (available on Facebook) of my good friend and colleague, Brian Kraatz, who has fallen to the Dark Side and works on mammals–rabbit tooth homology, even (Kraatz et al. 2010)–but still grills a mean theropod. (In his defense, Kraatz has published on extinct saurischians–see Bibi et al. 2006.) My own adventures in turkey grilling are chronicled in this post, which will show you the steps to attaining enlightenment, or at least a larger circumference.
While you’re cooking and eating, you might as well learn something about muscles. This shot of the fanned-out longus colli dorsalis muscles in a turkey neck was the raison d’etre for this post, and turned up again with different muscles labeled in one of the recent Apatosaurus maquette review posts. Mike and I ate those muscles, by the way.
After the meal, you’ll have most of a turkey skeleton to play with. This diagram is from my other ‘holiday dinosaur’ page, which I put together for the Lawrence Hall of Science and UCMP back in 2005. That page has instructions on how to turn your pile of greasy leftovers into a nice set of clean white bones. Tom Holtz is widely acknowledged as King of the Dino-Geeks, and in kingly fashion he took the above diagram and turned the geek-o-meter up to 11. Steel yourself, gentle reader, before checking out the result here.
Speaking of bones, here’s a turkey cervical from Mike’s magisterial work in this area, which first appeared as a tack-on to a post about the holotype dorsal vertebra of the now-defunct genus Ultrasauros. The huge version of the composite photo has its own page on Mike’s website, where it is available in three different background colors. The lateral view also turned up in one of my rhea neck posts.
From the serving platter to publication: when I was young and dumb, I used a photo of a broken turkey vert to illustrate the small air spaces, or camellae, that are commonly found in the pneumatic bones of birds and some sauropods (Wedel and Cifelli 2005:fig. 11F).
I made a much better version by sanding the end off a cleaned-up vertebra, and used that in Wedel (2007), in this popular article on pneumaticity (which has instructions for making your own), and way back in Tutorial 3–only the 12th ever post on SV-POW!
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to point out that turkeys are not only readily accessible, tasty sources of anatomical information, they are also pretty interesting while they’re still alive. Don’t stare at the disgusting freak in the photo above or you might lose your will to eat. Instead, head over to Tetrapod Zoology v2 for Darren’s musings on caruncles, snoods, and other turkey parts that don’t even sound like words.
That does it for now. If you actually follow all of the links in this post, you might just have enough reading to keep you occupied during that post-holiday-meal interval when getting up and moving around is neither desirable nor physically possible. If you’re in the US, have a happy Thanksgiving; if you’re not, have a happy Thursday; and no matter where you are, take a moment to give thanks for turkeys.
- Bibi, F., Shabel, A.B., Kraatz, B.P., and Stidham, T.A. 2006. New fossil ratite (Aves: Palaeognathae) eggshell discoveries from the Late Miocene Baynunah Formation of the United Arab Emirates, Arabian Peninsula. Palaeontologia Electronica Vol. 9, Issue 1; 2A:13p.
- Kraatz, B.P., Meng, J., Weksler, M., and Li, C. 2010. Evolutionary patterns in the dentition of Duplicidentata (Mammalia) and a novel trend in the molarization of premolars. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12838. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012838
- Wedel, M.J. 2007. Aligerando a los gigantes (Lightening the giants). ¡Fundamental! 12:1-84. [in Spanish, with English translation]
- Wedel, M.J., and Cifelli, R.L. 2005. Sauroposeidon: Oklahoma’s Native Giant. Oklahoma Geology Notes 65 (2):40-57.