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Re: No substitute for seeing a specimen: Hone blog



Back to the start of the thread:

 I wrote back to Dr. Hone privately suggesting:

 "[...] 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.

What Mark Pauline said -- photographs can contain fake data, and looking at photographs can create even more in your brain. Your point of graphically separating layers is well taken, but a camera lucida tracing isn't meant to let you discover features you didn't see in the specimen; first you see them in the specimen, and then you trace them.

 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."

Now the really important point: if you discover something in a photo (or camera lucida tracing or whatever!), how do you test whether you've discovered something that actually exists?

_By looking for it in the specimen!!!_

How else! :-D

OK, photos from different angles with different lighting and _much higher_ resolution can help. That's how the face on Mars turned out to exist only in people's heads.

 Having already helped several scientists identify cryptic features
 they have overlooked first hand,

Did anyone ever go back to the specimen and look if the "cryptic features" really exist?

 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.

You're naïve.

Untenured scientists don't have time for _anything_ more time-consuming than a blog post, other than writing papers and grant applications. They won't do anything that would use time they could have used to write papers or grant applications = increase their chances at tenure and/or a better job at another institution.

It's called "publish or perish" for a reason.

"Suggest"? Getting a paper out of it is a _requirement_. For better or worse, professional scientists aren't paid to argue with people who might as well be random cranks on the Internet. They're paid for increasing their impact factor.

I do it anyway, because I have SIWOTI syndrome http://xkcd.com/386/ -- not everyone has it.
(Mouse over the picture to make additional text appear.)

 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.

In each and every one of these examples, you simply assume that your interpretations of photos were correct and other people's interpretations of the specimens themselves were wrong.

That can only be tested by going back to the specimens and looking at them, _which you didn't_.

Your self-confidence is getting in the way of testing your hypotheses.

 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).

That and 4 US$ will buy him a coffee at Starbucks.