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Re: No substitute for seeing a specimen: Hone blog

David Hone is right.  Photos are no substitute for seeing a specimen.

Sorry.  That's how it is.

On 8 May 2010 21:17, David Peters <davidpeters@att.net> wrote:
> This month (5/2) David Hone posted a blog comment entitled:
> "No substitute for seeing a specimen"
> http://archosaurmusings.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/no-substitute-for-seeing-a-specimen/
> In short, David had seen a specimen, then taken another look at it and 
> discovered, in his words,  "I’d made a couple of pretty bad errors." He 
> summarized his experienced like this: "There is simply no substitute for 
> seeing a specimen firsthand and up close. It really doesn’t matter how good 
> the descriptions, photos, drawings etc. are you will see things better and 
> less ambiguously and more precisely in person. This is especially true of 
> flattened things like from the Solnhofen and Liaoning."
> I wrote back to Dr. Hone privately suggesting:
> "It may be what you are experiencing is simply the knowledge and insight that 
> experience gives you. Perhaps it's like second sight, in more ways than one. 
> You're a better paleontologist now than when you first examined the same 
> specimen. You see things differently.  Whatever this specimen is, I suppose 
> you're tracing it to record your interpretations so that others will 
> understand how you now see it. Will you be tracing by camera lucida or 
> photographs? Or by eye? Will you be posting your before and after tracings. 
> That would be educational and more specific. So far what you have said is 
> rather generic. We, your readers, are left to wonder what really changed 
> between then and now.
> On a similar vein, I was able to see and hold a specimen for several days and 
> yet, blinded by preconceptions and first appearances I interpreted parts of a 
> specimen wrongly, as I gather you also had because you mentioned, "It's 
> something I've seen before..." It wasn't until I reviewed certain 
> photographs, made another trip to my MacClade file and had the insight to 
> throw out a previous interpretation (as you just experienced) did a new 
> insight develop. That's the insight experience gave me.
> It has also been my experience (in fact it's something I'm doing right now to 
> a Dalla Vecchia find) that tracing a photograph can provide a magnitude more 
> data than a camera lucida can. Look at any fish skeleton tracing. It's easy 
> to get lost in the chaos of similar-looking features unless you have a system 
> of graphically separating layers of crushed material and this is where the 
> photograph trumps the camera lucida, IMHO.
> Your position "No substitute for seeing a specimen" is the current paradigm 
> and it is widely accepted. My challenge to you is this: You have the fossil. 
> Send me a good picture of it. Later, when you're ready we'll compare 
> tracings. You say there's no substitute. Let's test your hypothesis with a 
> real scientific test. True to your word, I trust you will not use a 
> photograph to trace from, but a camera lucida."
> I'm posting to this DML forum because Dr. Hone gave me a lengthy word 
> thrashing about never posting to his blog again and never writing to him 
> again. By doing this he artfully managed to avoid considering or accepting 
> the challenge. The same challenge, here made public, is still offered. Can a 
> Ph.D. using a camera lucida trace more details in an original fossil than an 
> amateur with a photograph? While all paleontologists that I know would and 
> should side with Dr. Hone, science is all about actually doing the test to 
> see what the results really are. Having already helped several scientists 
> identify cryptic features they have overlooked first hand, I'm confident that 
> the photgraph method will prevail or at least equal the first-hand method. 
> This is one of those put-up or shut-up moments. Dr. Hone has every advantage, 
> yet ignores this opportunity to put scientific evidence behind his headline 
> statement. Is there anyone out there who can persuade him to do so?
> Please, don't suggest making this into a paper. That would take more than a 
> year or two and we already have several examples of scientists who have held 
> specimens in their hand, yet could not decipher or interpret correctly 
> certain details. Papers on Tanystropheus, Cosesaurus, Longisquama, 
> Archaeopteryx, Helveticosaurus, Effigia, Vancleavea, turtle skulls, pterosaur 
> pteroids,  wing membranes and footprints all come to mind. Let's do this 
> before the China conference in mid August so I can reward and commend Dr. 
> Hone when he wins the competition (~IF he wins).
> Best to all,
> David Peters
> St. Louis