Simple Sunday #1 – Basic statistics and presenting results

This is the first edition of my new weekly series ‘Simple Sunday’. The idea for this series was initially formed from a Carl Sagan quote I happened to stumble across..

 

‘“I think I’m able to explain things because understanding wasn’t entirely easy for me. Some things that the most brilliant students were able to see instantly I had to work to understand. I can remember what I had to do to figure it out. The very brilliant ones figure it out so fast they never see the mechanics of understanding.”

 

This weekly series will really try to encompass this quote by taking difficult concepts and breaking them down to their base ideas to try and help you guys understand them. This is also great because for me to even try and simplify concepts I have to learn the ins and outs too!

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Cold, Warm or just Right? Were Dinosaurs actually cold-blooded?

Dinosaurs (meaning fearfully-great lizard – Richard Owen 1842) are reptiles, so are therefore cold-blooded. Yes? Well maybe not….

A quite aptly named theory suggests that dinosaurs were neither cold blooded or warm-blooded, but instead “dinosaur-blooded”. Combining elements from both cold-blooded and warm-blooded strategies with a changing metabolism over the animal’s lifetime. By using Annuli, which are concentric rings of growth used to age individuals (like the rings of a tree) scientists were able to deduce the metabolism of a number of species (including Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus, Tenotsaurus and a range of present-day species) and found that their growth rates were not characteristic of either warm or cold-blooded animals.

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How bad teeth could tell us a great deal about ancient humans.

At some point, most of us have probably been told by the dentist that we need to brush more as we have dental plaque building up. But what is dental plaque and what could it tell us about ancient humans?

Dental calculus (plaque) is ubiquitous on modern human teeth; it forms when a biofilm of oral bacteria builds up on the teeth and calcifies. As calcium phosphate mineral salts deposit on the tooth surface the biofilm becomes ‘trapped’ and preserved (Weyrich et al. 2015). This happens constantly over the individual’s lifetime trapping layer upon layer of bacteria. While dental plaque is often discarded from both live and dead individuals it is now recognised that this plaque contains bacteria that can be identified. Luckily for us ancient (and modern) hunter-gatherer groups don’t brush their teeth!

Continue reading How bad teeth could tell us a great deal about ancient humans.