Monday, October 10, 2011

Release the -- Nah. Forget It.

Above: Shonisaurus, favorite paintbrush of giant mythological cephalopods.

In a move that should surprise no one, media outlets have picked up and are running with possibly the stupidest, most blatantly ridiculous scientific "discovery" since the Cambrian mini-men.

Let's break this down. There is a bonebed consisting mainly of Shonisaurus vertebrae which are interpreted as having been deposited in deep water. In some odd twist of fate, the disarticulated vertebral columns of these elongate giant ichthyosaurs were (somehow!) fossilized in long rows. A reasonable person would look at this and think, "it's almost as if vertebrae are stacked in rows inside the body or something."

An unreasonable person, like paleontologist(?) Mark McMenamin, would look at this and think "A sentient giant squid arranged these vertebrae like that in order to create a self portrait of its tentacles!"

I'm sorry you had to subject your brain to that hypothesis.

How such a travesty of logic made it into the abstracts of the 2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, I don't know, but if the scientific publication process works at all, it will not make it through peer review in a real journal. But, of course, that won't stop the media from credulously reporting every word as "new science" because, hey, everybody likes a good "Release the Kraken!" headline.

Most disappointing is that even Science Daily, usually pretty good with the science reporting, ran this story without even a hint of skepticism. Not even a single quote from another scientist to say "um yeah, in case you didn't read what you just wrote, this is obvious BS." For shame.