It’s alright, they haven’t developed complex society and a Communist agenda while we haven’t been watching.
What’s it all about then, I hear you ask. Click below!
Today (well, I started yesterday but my nephew got in the way) I decided it was high time I made good on my personal promise to practice Jennifer Raff’s guide on how to read a scientific paper (link is on the menu bar at the top).
The paper I read was:
Elango et al., 2009. Evolutionary rate variation in Old World monkeys. Biol. Lett. 5 (3) 405-408. (Freely available here).
Why is this paper relevant? Well, following the probable recovery of DNA from a dinosaur bone, from 8 times longer ago than any hominid lived, then as far as I’m concerned pretty much anything can be considered possible! And that includes finding hominid DNA in fossil remains.
Well, Finite Element Analysis actually, but it amounts to the same thing. This is where engineering and the study of human evolution overlap: the realm of physical anthropology.
The large majority of what follows is based on reference .
FEA: Finite Element Analysis.
FEA is widely used in engineering to model what happens to buildings and other structures when forces are applied to them by things like wind, earthquakes and their own weight, as well as in orthopaedics in the development of artificial joints and in modelling bloodflow. All this is thanks to the exponential increase in computing power in the second half of the 20th century.
It is only over the last 15 years that the technique has really caught on in physical anthropology although until very recently it has mainly been used to analyse the bones in the skull.
Loads of Force, Stress and Strain.
You’ll be glad to know this is a short post.
Since most of my material will be referencing primary scientific articles I thought it would be useful to provide a guide on how to read, understand and critically evaluate them so everyone can have a look and tell me if I’m wrong about anything I write.
I hate being wrong so please do tell me.
Fortunately there are people much better at those things than I am so there are links here, here and in ^^the menu at the top of the page^^ to Jennifer Raff’s blog Violent Metaphors where all the hard work’s been done for me. For some more papers to practise on check out the open access PLOS (Public Library Of Science) journals. They’re great. For something lighter check out their blogs.
I’ll be taking Jennifer’s advice on board too because it seems to be pretty comprehensive.
Maybe check out the rest of her site while you’re there!
Lots of people have asked me what exactly MSc Human Evolution means, and I generally reply that it’s a very anatomical course looking at how human anatomy has evolved to allow us to go from tree-dwelling chimp look-alikes to upright bipedal walkers. That’s not a very detailed answer though, so I’m going to answer it a bit more here by looking at a very important technique which allows us to track changes in our skeleton as they occurred during evolution.
That technique is geometric morphometrics.
No, I hadn’t heard of it either.
That is, until I looked at what I’d be learning during the next 12 months of my life. Maybe now is a good time to find out what it is before I have to start using it.
Why not join in?