If you are looking for the official Sample Data for GPlates, included automatically with the Linux installation but not for OS X or Windows, it is available from the Sourceforge site.
I am including a list of files here (below the break) in case others like me were wondering where they got some data. I am not responsible for these data, I just needed to re-download them and couldn’t find the source.
Time-dependent raster sequences
./Rasters/Time-dependent raster sequences:
./Rasters/Time-dependent raster sequences/dynamic topography:
./Rasters/Time-dependent raster sequences/dynamic topography/jpg:
This figure has taken me a good deal of time to make. Not really in the actual production, but it’s been a long time gestating since conception.
The genus Diplodon, as determined by the specimens to which that name has been applied, has been around since the Middle to Late Triassic. In the dissertation dataset, this works out to the 220 Ma time slice, or the Carnian stage. This is a map of what the world may have looked like at about that time period*.
Why is this important? In general, it’s important because it shows the geographical relationship among these occurrences as it may have been when these organisms were alive. Many paleogeography or historical biogeography papers ignore what the past geographic relationships may have been and focus on mapping a paleolandscape or biogeographic distribution onto a modern map.
Consider the possibility that these occurrences are not the earliest record of this genus (you would be right). If you were looking for additional material with only these four occurrences on which to base your search, you would look geographically nearby. Looking at a modern map would limit you to southern and eastern North America, but as you can see from the figure here, the paleogeography could support a South American or even African population. (I’ll tell you later why this this probably won’t work out.)
For the dissertation, this map is important because it (and others like it) can help show how far this genus is about to spread, and how long this is going to take. You may remember that I’m more interested in names than evolutionary relationships, so I hope to answer the question: how much time and space does there need to be between occurrences before we throw up our hands and say “this genus can’t possibly have survived that long?” The map series will help define where (and where not) there was a chance for lineage continuity.
*The background map, an achievement in itself that I take no credit for, is a product of Ron Blakey and Colorado Plateau Geosystems Inc. The positions of the continents are supported by Chris Scotese’s plate tectonic reconstructions as part of the Earth System History GIS collection. The positions of the Diplodon occurrences were mathematically rotated to these positions using the PointTracker software, also from Scotese.
Protichnoctem (in both blogspot and current form) is supposed to be a science blog. It’s supposed to raise the big questions and answer the little ones. It’s supposed to bring people together to solve the mysteries of the universe. It’s supposed to make other people as excited about research as I get when I read SV-POW!, The Open Source Paleontologist, and a host of others.
It’s obviously not doing these things very well. I’ve come up with some possible reasons why:
New posts don’t occur frequently enough.
Even though I added this to the list, I’m not sure it is as important as some of the other ideas. If a post is valid, the idea is that someone will find it eventually and it will get some views, especially if it contains some new ideas on an old subject. “New ideas” of course refers to originality of thought, not originality of opinion. Posting at the “just right” frequency would encourage people to come back once they know about the blog, however.
Posts are too short.
In many cases, I end up posting snippets of information. This is great for those things that make sense off the bat (if you’re searching for a particular code snippet, you don’t want to read a novel), but bad for involving readers. Ideally I would post original (not rehashed or updated) tutorials for the software or methodology I’m using. Off the top of my head this could include a better explanation of exactly how my M.S. thesis methods work, but with the advances in software like PAST (regarding EFA) in the last three years, it seems like redoing things for publication (as I am now) will be quicker and easier than ever.
In the end, though, I think it comes down to engagement. If the post is engaging enough, people who read it will hopefully comment and/or write their own posts in reply. In order to make things understandable to a wide audience as well as bring up original ideas, the posts need to be of a certain length. One tenet of science blogging not mentioned above is “if the public can’t understand it, it’s not worth writing.”
Posts are not interesting to anyone else.
I think this is a real problem in science blogging. Not for all science blogs, but for many people who are working in fields that are slightly to awesomely esoteric. To be clear: I’m not laying this on the subject matter. Invertebrate paleontology is interesting to many people, worldwide. Even molluscan paleontology is interesting to modern malacologists, and by extrapolation I assume that there are others (especially graduate students) who want to know more about fossil freshwater mussels. These people are the easy ones to reel in if you can have a) original posts that are b) understandable and c) engaging. No, the issue with science blogging is that scientists (in the United States, at least) always need a “hook” to get the people who are interested in science in general, and an especially large hook to get the people who don’t care about science at all.
But* do I talk about fossil freshwater mussels? Not really. And do I have hooks on my posts to grab non-scientists? Not really. So whose fault is that? My own.
Nobody knows about the blog.
This is one of the key things about blogging. If you build it, maybe one or two will come . . . eventually. If you aren’t periodically plugging your blog to your personal and professional contacts, the only way people are going to find it is through a search engine. To get a coveted blogroll position on certain influential blogs requires hard work and more than a single decent post to your name. To get retweeted takes a hook that’s less than 140 characters. To get RSS subscribers seems to take even more engaging posts. So how does one get out of this catch-22? Promote, promote, promote, but not before you have good content and a solid publishing schedule you intend to keep.
Posts are not aligned with a single theme.
This is the specific problem here at Protichnoctem. I’ve been blogging for a long, long time, but on a variety of different subjects. Put that all together in one place and you won’t have an audience because the content is aimed at yourself: only you (and maybe your best friend, or your spouse if you guilt him or her into reading) is going to want to read everything you post, because you are the only person in the world interested in that collection of things. If you are relatively prolific, you probably have material for several blogs. In my case, I have posts relating to my personal life, my hobbies, general photography or video projects I wanted to show off, code snippets, things I thought would be helpful to other people someday, and, oh yeah, a little bit of original science stuff. Don’t do this–I’m in the process of splitting it all up.
Your theme doesn’t have to be so specific that you should feel bad about putting in things that make sense. SV-POW!, for example, doesn’t necessarily show a sauropod vertebra every post, but all the posts relate to the academic research areas of the authors. I’ll even admit that I read the blog primarily for the non-sauropod posts but I get to learn more about dinosaurs (and how dinosaur paleontologists think) with every back-on-topic post they do. All I’m saying is that your themes should be amenable to each other. Sure, Andy Farke could have written a blog called “The Open Source Paleontologist Who Brews His Own Beer,” but that would have alienated half the audience** with every new post. The more themes you have, the more fragmentation of audience you’ll get, which translates into less frequent interesting updates for every individual reader.
A note on personal blogs: personal blogs are great, but I’m forced to give the disclaimer that if you want to use your blogging as an example of outreach, you want to feel confident about the link you’re sending to the hiring or scholarship committee. If you don’t feel right exposing a potential funding source to photos of your kids interspersed with pictures of fossils, maybe you should split your themes. That being said, it’s okay (and encouraged) to be yourself, because a blog is not a research paper.
These are the ideas I’ve come up with, and I’ll be implementing some changes once I find some additional blogging time. In summary, these are the points that I think make up the good, worthwhile science blog I hope this site can be someday.
- Posts with original ideas
- Posts that are understandable to the public
- Posts that are engaging to the audience
- Commitment by the author
- Promotion until traffic goals are met
- A single theme
*I’ve struggled with the question of using things like “But,” “And,” and “So” to begin a sentence for years now, but I see more and more “real” writers doing it, so I’m going to use it for emphasis. So there.
**Although there may not be paleontologists who don’t brew or drink beer, I’m pretty sure there are brewers who aren’t paleontologists.
This blog post took 1:20 to write and edit and post.
For anyone who doesn’t know me (read: all of you), I can be sort of anal at times. I know, this is shocking, but true. I’m trying to repress it, but mostly it comes down to people being polite less often then they should be. (This would be a good time to talk about my differentiation between wanting to be nice to people for PC reasons and wanting to be nice to them just because, well, it’s nice. But I’m already combining two topics today, so you have to wait.) I have to be honest here, I’m not a cleanfreak (neatfreak, sometimes, but even that is being whittled away over time as I get busier) but I do like things to be relatively clean and free of the largest clumps of dirt and dust. My roommates in the townhouse senior year may think I’m the filthiest thing ever since I would let two weeks go by before cleaning the bathroom, but what can you expect when you live with four girls? (Note to self: never live with four girls again.) I sweep my place and wash what’s needed and have done with it.
Anyway, since I’m being paid back $100 a month to keep the apartment building hallway relatively clean and vomit-free, today I swept and mopped.
I try to do this on a regular basis, which probably averages out to once every two weeks and should probably be every week, but hey, I’ve got things to do. In any case, I returned from vacation last night to find the hallway full of more dirt than I thought would be able to accumulate (but luckily no vomit). I really don’t understand how three weeks of walking in and out of a building could produce this much dirt, but it did. I can deal with the dirt–a little sweeping, a little mopping, no big deal. Thing is, I also had to sweep up cigarette butts, bottle caps, an empty beer bottle, chunks of cardboard, and random other crap. What’s the deal here? Have people become so idiotic to totally trash the place they live? Granted these aren’t the nicest apartments in town, but they serve well, are warm in the wintertime, and with a little decorating can be made look nearly as nice as everywhere else. So why would you, no matter how drunk, toss your crap in the hallway as you came in or out of your apartment? If you’re bringing a girl (or guy) over and want to make an impression, is the impression that you live in the ghetto really the one you want to make?
The question is, how to fix this problem? We can call it a problem because it creates more work for me when people throw their crap everywhere and don’t think anything about it. I could go and talk to people about it, but a) I don’t feel like it, b) I don’t know when everyone is home and c) judging by some of the people who live here, it might create more of a mess out of spite. So what to do? I was planning on getting a couple doormats when I go out next to catch dirt when it comes in the building, and if possible I wanted them to say something like “Wipe your feet!” on them. Then I got to thinking: this is so obvious, is there a more subversive way to deal with it? Of course there is! It may not work as planned, but it should be interesting to try.
According to this paper in Science, the sense of someone watching you (in animals and humans) induces altruistic behavior. This can be seen in fish and birds, but also in humans. A “donation box” with eye-shapes (dark pupil surrounded by white sclera) on it supposedly gets more donations than one without the eyes because of the sense of being watched. Could this be my solution? Is keeping the place clean enhanced by putting down doormats with eyes on them? Would putting eyes on a bar of soap or a bottle of shampoo make you wash yourself more seriously? I wonder how the eyes are associated with the object?
I’m interested in trying this out. I may not be able to find doormats with eyes, but I could surely paint some on to see if my scheme works.
“Until 2003, primarily black-tailed prairie dogs were collected from the wild for the exotic pet trade in Canada, the United States, Japan and Europe. They were removed from their underground burrows each spring, as young pups, with a large vacuum device.”
And people thought Wallace and Gromit was entirely fictional . . .
I’m going to steal another page out of Young Female Scientist‘s book and say a little about the social aspect of the sciences.
Science, like any other creation of [wo]man, is a social event. You cannot do science in a vacuum, at least not anymore. Maybe when Homo erectus was just getting his feet under him, he could choose to start from first premises and invent everything he needed himself, but now it is impossible. Almost every method we use has mankind’s footprint on it in one way or another. This is okay–I, for one, am glad we have mass spectrometers and thermometers, to say the least. It’s not a crime to use something that someone else has created to make science easier. That is what science is: Gaining knowledge in order to make life better. Specific opinions of both what is “better” and what causes life to be better notwithstanding, let’s for the sake of argument say that
more knowledge = better
without getting down to the thorny problems of automatic weapons and nuclear warheads.
Science is social in another way, of course. We, as scientists cannot go through life without interacting with other scientists, or even sometimes with (gasp!) the public. We haven’t always been as connected as we are today–just look at Newton and Leibniz and the invention of calculus–but we have always sort of mothed for good or ill toward the same flame, if only for the opportunity to speak with people who could understand what we were saying. You would think that this would be a good thing: More people working together = science goes faster. Except for that other nefarious beast which has inundated every sector of our society:
Yes, our good old friend. How many roads must a man walk down before he runs into another man who tries to smoothly extort something from him? I am a bit rough with politics, if you hadn’t noticed. It can be fun sometimes, if you are on the inside, but I haven’t yet found a use for manipulating people to do something that I by rights should be doing myself. I especially don’t need the people around me trying to make me do things by lying to me. When did science become just as political as, well, politics?
I’m a graduate student at the University of North Dakota, if you didn’t already know this. Which rather explicitly narrows down who in particular I may be talking about here, but for the moment let’s assume I am at Everycollege, USA, where everything is political and nothing gets done. Let me take a moment and explain that I, at this very moment, am playing politics. Or am I? There is a grey area between my desire to be brutally honest to serious questions asked of me, and my desire to continue to go to school here. Since no one has asked me a direct question, I can afford to be vague, which is a plus of my type of morality. In any case, I am not being specific because a) I don’t know any specifics and b) I don’t know the people in question very well. But I digress.
Politics, as in any heirarchical setting, is rampant here. Why is this? We’re all scientists. We’re supposed to be objective. I suppose we should subscribe to objectivism or, that failing to be accepted, TANSTAAFL. Something for something. Now what, you ask, is the difference between this and our current political system? Simply, that everything in politics is promises. Now, there seems to be an implicit promise between my advisor and myself that I do exactly what he asks of me, and in the end I will get a little bit of the credit. Where did this come from? When did I sign on for this? I barely know this man (of course, I did agree to work with him), and all of a sudden I am beholden. [This is an interesting line I put in here. I can’t remember what I was specifically referencing about my advisor, but my guess is that I was 22 with a chip on my shoulder. 2014-05-03]
I’m not above paying my dues, but let’s say I write a paper on something that I end up studying here, within the next year or so. Let’s also say I don’t tell him about it, and he has no input on the subject. What is the deal? Am I to be ostracized, for example, for not including someone who had no part in putting this paper together? This remains purely hypothetical, but for some reason my experience tells me that this would be a problem–but why? [Again, I seem to be extrapolating because I felt like I didn’t get credit for something. The irony being that I always say I’m being as honest as possible–maybe I wasn’t? 2014-03-05]
I am very much in favor of advancing science, of releasing data, of giving people as much information as is known about a certain subject. I don’t want to keep things hidden, store them away for 50 years just because I am a jealous bastard. No, I want science to proceed. There is another thing at issue here, which is my own self-preservation. Somehow (and this is a magical process I do not fully understand), published work turns into money [I still don’t get how this works. 2014-03-05], which can be exchanged for goods and services, to quote Homer Simpson. I am not an anarchist, and I need to survive too. Science is how I choose to do this. So when it’s time for recognition to be handed out, I plan on being there at the front of the line if the recognition is for work that I have done.
Add politics into that? Whore myself out for recognition? I sincerely hope I never do this. If I can hold myself above it all for as long as possible and let my work speak for itself, I will be happy. So, people I will meet someday, be forwarned: I’ll not try to gladhand you, and I’ll not engage in your power struggles. I’ll not show myself off for no reason–ask me a question, and I will answer to the best of my ability. Other than that, I’m a quiet person, and that is how I would like to remain. If you want to judge me, judge me on the work I have done, not the departmental gossip.
Stupid American culture.
“Mr. Bush was pressed as to whether he accepted the view that intelligent design was an alternative to evolution, but he did not directly answer. ‘I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,’ he said, adding that ‘you’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.'”
[EDIT: To clarify, I agree that people should be exposed to different ideas, and open to changing their opinions. The problem, however, is that intelligent design theories are arguments by authority, and not based on “the scientific method.” 2014-02-05]