Also this week: #rebrandaspecies, the scientific paper with the most citations on Wikipedia, Darwin’s finches that do not exist but really should, why biologists argue with one another, worst statistics joke ever, and more. Meghan’s back with #sabbaticallinks!
Further to our recent discussions of controversial scientific ideas, check out Adrian Currie on the developing consensus over the causes of the KT mass extinction. Includes the interesting suggestion that controversies in the historical sciences (and ecology?) generally start with simple monocausal hypotheses and get resolved in favor of more complex multicausal hypotheses–but that it’s nevertheless better for investigators to start with the simple hypothesis.
A commenter at the previous link sends us to a related old discussion, Beatty (1987). Why do biologists have so many arguments over the relative significance or importance of different causes or factors contributing to some observed effect or phenomenon? And here’s a related old post from me on how ecologists sometimes make the mistake of asking about the relative importance of different things in contexts in which that question makes no sense.
Stephen Heard at his best. He starts by showing that, contrary to popular belief, taxonomists almost never name species after themselves; most purported instances are “false positives”. Then he connects this to the broader problem of identifying rare instances of anything.
Slightly belated congratulations to the ecologists and evolutionary biologists newly elected to the US National Academy of Sciences: Joy Bergelson, Susan Harrison, Jon Losos, Stephen O’Brien, Peter Reich, Günter Wagner, and Pablo Marquet (foreign associate). Apologies if I missed anyone, please alert me to errors in the comments and I’ll update the post. (ht a correspondent) (UPDATE: and Cathy Whitlock and Diana Wall; ht to a correspondent for correcting my oversights, and apologies.)
The story of the paper cited on Wikipedia far more often than any other. It’s from climatology. (ht Marginal Revolution)
Worst statistics joke ever. No points for making obvious “chi squared distribution”, “lognormal distribution”, or “Weibull distribution” jokes in the comments.