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October 9, 2021

Using Data to Eliminate the T-Rexes of the Modern World

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BY: TARTLE

Studying the history of life is an important venture. It’s how we understand why certain characteristics exist in living organisms, and it can also be used to explain the importance of biological events that are happening today. 

A study on the population density of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the world’s most famous predators, was first published on Science and reported on the National Geographic. It’s a huge claim, with researchers estimating that a total of 2.5 billion T.rex have lived in North America, the native region of the species, going out as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico across a time span of two to three million years. 

This estimation is a huge claim and has certainly caught the eye of paleontology enthusiasts, However, there are a wide variety of variables that can compromise the validity of the information being tested: the location where the bones are found; shifts caused by glacial patterns and tracks throughout the years; inconsistencies with carbon-14 dating, which provides an approximate age; and even human intervention, which may not be enough to fill in the gaps in information that we do not know nor have the tools to understand just yet. 

If data-driven ventures cannot be used to sample what we know to be true, then is it still worth it? Are approximations a step in the right direction or is it too rooted in theory to be useful?

How Much Hindsight Is Too Much?

The pursuit of estimates often discounts the importance of absolutes. In paleontology, there are plenty of assumptions made that may affect the results of their research. As Alexander mused, much remains unsaid about the foundations of the study—and it may have an impact on whether or not scientists are taking the right perspective on the matter.

Analyzing data from the source and having a clear log of how the researchers conducted their tests is standard procedure. However, what is the impact of creating logs for circumstances that can no longer be observed by anyone living?

“Who decided that the dinosaur is a dinosaur or not a dinosaur? Who decides that it sits in this area of time as opposed to another? What if my carbon dating is wrong, and maybe this aquatic animal that we didn't think existed prehistorically actually did exist?” Alexander asked, expressing doubts.

Transparent and Tangible Research

This is the second time that scientists have made an attempt to estimate the population density of T-rexes in the past, and results closely resemble an earlier estimate that was published in 1993. The difference between these two papers is that this most recent study utilizes the latest in T-rex biology research to set upper and lower limits on the total population—one approximation after another. 

Since there is so much inexactness and uncertainty in what we do, it is important to focus on the fundamentals: ideas, principles, and beliefs that we know to be observable, objective, and tangible. When we go overboard on theory, we may find ourselves defining a biased picture of what the data represents.

This concern is not just limited to research and development in paleontology. With the vast variety of tools, knowledge, and technology that we have at our disposal today, it can become all too easy to take the wrong direction. When we take the next step forward, we need to make sure that our feet are planted firmly on the ground.

Dealing With the Metaphorical T-rex of Today

At the pace that science and technology is developing today, it’s safe to assume that more discoveries will be made—not just in paleontology, but in other sciences and across other industries as well. It is vital that scientists continue working towards making these discoveries more accessible to the public while staying true to the path of innovation. 

There is a different impact in analyzing tangible beings, objects, and events. TARTLE is an opportunity to look at the T-rexes of the modern world: clear and imminent threats that are capable of harming us and the people we care about. The TARTLE platform is an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations so that we can work as a collective to preserve our earth and our economy for future organizations.

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For those who are hard of hearing – the episode transcript can be read below:

TRANSCRIPT

Alexander McCaig (00:07):

There's honestly, nothing funnier than like a two ton hairless chicken with tiny arms running around in prehistoric earth.

Jason Rigby (00:18):

But they could eat me.

Alexander McCaig (00:19):

They could eat you.

Jason Rigby (00:20):

They could chase me down and...

Alexander McCaig (00:21):

Yeah, because they got big legs, big quads. Tiny arms.

Jason Rigby (00:26):

Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (00:26):

Why even have arms?

Jason Rigby (00:26):

I'm the opposite? I have tiny legs, big arms. I'm the opposite of a T-Rex.

Alexander McCaig (00:32):

You're T-Rex's ugly cousin.

Jason Rigby (00:34):

Yes, exactly. Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (00:38):

First of all, National Geographic, chill with the click bait.

Jason Rigby (00:41):

My God. The, here this click this stuff that these media companies are doing, tell me, tell me-

Alexander McCaig (00:47):

Tell me how you perceive this billions of T-Rex likely roam the earth paleontologists report. What's the first visual image in your head?

Jason Rigby (00:56):

That there were literally like how there's seven and a half billion people on earth. There were billions of T-Rex and they were just everywhere. Like people.

Alexander McCaig (01:04):

Yeah. No. We need to find clarity. Because this is what happens with scientific papers and everything else. It's just, they make these huge claims. People read half the abstract and call it a day. Paleontologist figured out how many T-Rex lived on earth. And they found that about 20,000 would have been alive at any given time. So for two to 3 million years, times 20,000. So 20,000 per year for two to 3 million years.

Jason Rigby (01:30):

Now, You have billions.

Alexander McCaig (01:31):

Now we have billions.

Jason Rigby (01:32):

But you have 20,000 on the whole globe. So the odds of you running into a T-Rex is probably pretty rare.

Alexander McCaig (01:39):

Yeah. It's probably pretty f-ing slim. I don't even know where they would hang out.

Jason Rigby (01:42):

You'd probably get ate by something else.

Alexander McCaig (01:44):

You know you got to be careful with how we look at data because we can already... In our own perception of what we think is reality can skew it immediately. It says on average, research says maybe 20,000 T-Rex lived on any one time for 127,000 generations. Do you know how many grandmas that is? 127,000 grandmas.

Jason Rigby (02:06):

That's crazy.

Alexander McCaig (02:07):

It's bananas,

Jason Rigby (02:09):

Montana. They were talking about Montana, because they found a bunch of T-Rex bones there.

Alexander McCaig (02:12):

Yeah. The population density was one every 42 square miles. 42 square miles. Sounds small. It's not. It's huge.

Jason Rigby (02:19):

Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (02:19):

If I said go search 42 square miles of the ocean, you'd be like, I can't there's just too much area.

Jason Rigby (02:24):

There were probably... I mean this is... 250 million was when humans started kind of populating, right?

Alexander McCaig (02:29):

Yeah.

Jason Rigby (02:30):

So, you would probably maybe see one in your lifetime. Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (02:38):

Maybe. It's like, "Oh, I found Bigfoot."

Jason Rigby (02:44):

Yeah. Is there 20,000 Bigfoots? I mean, I don't know.

Alexander McCaig (02:48):

A 20,000 big feet is a lot of big feet.

Jason Rigby (02:51):

Yeah. I mean-

Alexander McCaig (02:52):

Is that a yard, about a yard of big feet?

Jason Rigby (02:54):

I have a problem with Bigfoot because I've seen bears stand up, and they walk around standing up sometimes.

Alexander McCaig (02:59):

Sure.

Jason Rigby (03:00):

And so you get a big, a big black bear or a big grizzly bear, even a Kodiak bear.

Alexander McCaig (03:05):

Oh yeah.

Jason Rigby (03:05):

I mean a Kodiak bear standing up is... Who knows how tall that thing gets.

Alexander McCaig (03:08):

I tell you what though. I don't want to get swiped by it.

Jason Rigby (03:10):

Yeah, or brown bear or any of them. If they're walking around... Because they'll do that. They'll just walk on two legs and just kind of do this. If I see something and it's... That may look like a big foot to me, especially if I'm scared, and it's bigger than me.

Alexander McCaig (03:24):

Yeah.

Jason Rigby (03:25):

You know that type of thing. Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (03:26):

Yeah, and it's in the dark and its eyes are red, because I point my light at it.

Jason Rigby (03:30):

Because how many bears are there? Millions probably. Huh?

Alexander McCaig (03:33):

More than a T-Rex right now on the planet.

Jason Rigby (03:37):

So, let's get into this article.

Alexander McCaig (03:39):

I can't go any further.

Jason Rigby (03:39):

This article was with science magazine, and I know. Didn't they do this, too? They make you have to sign up.

Alexander McCaig (03:47):

No, I got a work around. I use the reader thing up at the top.

Jason Rigby (03:52):

Yeah. They blocked me, too. But this study was it was published in 1993, when you were talking about the 42 square miles. But it originally was published in 1993, and then they came around, and they came up with those same numbers again. So, let's talk about paleontology and data, because I think this is really important.

Alexander McCaig (04:14):

Paleontology. Depending on where I find my bones, which are difficult to find. Things also shift because of glacial patterns, glacial tracks. And then I have inconsistencies with carbon-14 dating, which gives me the approximate age. And then also I have to use, to the best of my ability, a way to assemble these bones or these fragments or pieces to give me a full picture what something looks like. And then everything I don't know, I have to fill it in.

Alexander McCaig (04:44):

So, paleontology. Super cool. Dinosaurs, first of all. We got plenty of that stuff here in New Mexico, but a lot is missed, a lot is unknown, and a lot is statistically in many different directions.

Jason Rigby (04:59):

So it's kind of like Physics.

Alexander McCaig (04:59):

It's kind of like theoretical physics. You want to know why? Because if you're not there experiencing it directly, you don't really know for a fact. So until we develop something like a temporal drive in one of our ships and shift back in time-

Jason Rigby (05:14):

Or do like Jurassic Park.

Alexander McCaig (05:16):

Yeah. Where we bring back the genetics, right? Like I got a piece of Amber with a mosquito in it. I take the mosquito blood out because it bit the T-Rex or something. And I'm like, Ooh, now we're going to get a little crazy. Yeah. That's different, because then you can actually look at them with their own genetic coding to see how they just work naturally. But right now we have to guess. And they are honest about that with how they thought about that population density by using Demuth's law and Demuth... There was ecologist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where they took a relationship between body mass, so like the actual size of the mammal itself, or for instance, this-

Jason Rigby (05:52):

Reptile or whatever you mean.

Alexander McCaig (05:53):

This reptile and population density to figure out how of that species actually lived in one area at a specific time.

Alexander McCaig (06:02):

So all these things are pretty much the statistical guesses about is this a proper ratio? And that's how paleontology also matches a lot of other scientific material science that we're working on right now. And we have a hard issue as human beings when we look at data. First of all, I was like, did they give me the right perspective? Or people twist it to make it sound good like this article? If I'm not there, I really don't know for a fact. So why don't we focus on the things that we absolutely do know? I absolutely do know that there are huge pieces of bone. I absolutely do know that the skull is of something that I would coin to be a dinosaur. Do I absolutely know what it looked like? No. Am I 100% sure of how it's been put together? No. Do I know how smart it was? No. Do I know specifically the plants it ate? No, not really.

Jason Rigby (06:50):

But this whole classification of data. It's like we made a mistake with Pluto.

Alexander McCaig (06:55):

It's not a planet.

Jason Rigby (06:57):

It was a plant in a planet. And then we found out that certain moons could be planet. I mean the list goes on and on.

Alexander McCaig (07:03):

Depending on the size or these characteristics.

Jason Rigby (07:05):

Yeah. It's like who came up with all that?

Alexander McCaig (07:06):

Yeah. Who decided that the dinosaur is a dinosaur or not a dinosaur? Who decides that it sits in this area of time as opposed to another? What if my carbon dating is wrong, and maybe this aquatic animal that we didn't think existed prehistorically actually did exist? Well there's a lot of inexactness to what we do. So we need to focus on fundamental things that are absolutely observable, objective, right in front of us. And don't apply so much theory to then define some sort of picture about what we dream it up to be.

Jason Rigby (07:36):

And that's why Tartle is so beautiful, because we can actually go into a time machine. We can actually go back and we can stand in front of a T-Rex. We don't die. We can stand in front of a T-Rex and say it is this year.

Alexander McCaig (07:47):

Yep.

Jason Rigby (07:47):

This time. Here is the T-Rex.

Alexander McCaig (07:50):

Yep.

Jason Rigby (07:51):

And then I traveled 42 miles around on my spacecraft going back in time, and I found that there was three more in 42 miles. Was that an anomaly? Well, let me go check another place. Oh wow. There was five in 42 months. Well, my data's wrong.

Alexander McCaig (08:05):

I can have a relationship with all these different T-Rex? Wow. Okay. Now I really understand the Tyrannosaurus, because the relationship's there and I got the data directly from the T-Rex. Rather than I'm coming up with an idea to write a story and say that this is going on, and then my Demuth's law... They call it a law, but the law is implying things. Why do laws have to imply something? If it's true, if there's no implication, it just is what it is. Correct?

Jason Rigby (08:29):

Well, in a court of law, it's that way, you would hope. You're not going to send somebody to prison for life based off of a hunch or a Bayesian. The probability is that you committed the crime.

Alexander McCaig (08:47):

This is great. So imagine if.... We're going to take your whole idea here. There's a quote here in this National Geographic article. It says, "In paleontology it is very hard to estimate things." Yeah, because you're not there.

Jason Rigby (08:57):

Right.

Alexander McCaig (08:58):

The data it's got, it's a mess. And so this person was like Charles Marshall said, "So what I've started to do is to think less about estimating something and more about bracketing it. I'm going to put a limit on where I think it could be at the top or the bottom."

Jason Rigby (09:12):

This is even worse.

Alexander McCaig (09:14):

He said, "Can I put a robust, upper and lower bound on it?" That's what his interest is. If my estimations suck, which they have sucked. Now, because I can't figure out the data, because I can't find the truth in it, I'm just going to put a bounds in it. I can say life only exists in between here and here. 42 square miles is where we understand all of the universe.

Jason Rigby (09:35):

Segmentation. Here we go again.

Alexander McCaig (09:37):

Dude, the same thing-

Jason Rigby (09:38):

With data and segmentation. We talked about this shit over and over and over and over again.

Alexander McCaig (09:43):

Don't do it to the dinosaurs. You already do it to human beings.

Jason Rigby (09:47):

I can't guess accurately on the data, so what I'm going to do is... So maybe my probability of accuracy will be better if I can segment these Prius owners.

Alexander McCaig (10:01):

What type of ad do I deliver to a T-Rex? Is it the same one that goes for Brontosaurus? Probably the meat eater and the vegetable eater, they probably want different ads.

Jason Rigby (10:13):

They want different ads.

Alexander McCaig (10:15):

I'm going to eat my microphone.

Jason Rigby (10:16):

It's all based off their environment. And where are they at on the economical scale?

Alexander McCaig (10:23):

Did the T-Rex give back? What was it like in the complex system of pre-history? I don't know, because I wasn't there. All I know is that it existed, it died, and I'm holding its bone.

Jason Rigby (10:36):

Yeah. And I think this is why Tartle is so important for humanity, because we're skipping all the bullshit.

Alexander McCaig (10:42):

Yeah.

Jason Rigby (10:42):

I don't mean to over simplify it, but that's the truth.

Alexander McCaig (10:45):

When you go to the source, you timestamp it, know for a fact it happened right here at this time from this specific person. It's right there. It's logged. But we're going back and creating logs of things when we weren't there to log it. Think about that. That's like someone going into the history books and say, "I'm just going to rewrite it all." You were there. What are you talking about?

Jason Rigby (11:02):

Well, they do that all the time.

Alexander McCaig (11:03):

They do it constantly

Jason Rigby (11:05):

With history. And you were talking about the encyclopedia Britannica where they just...

Alexander McCaig (11:09):

Yeah, the 1954-

Jason Rigby (11:11):

They took shit out.

Alexander McCaig (11:11):

52, 54 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Jason Rigby (11:13):

Oh, let's take this history part out.

Alexander McCaig (11:15):

Oh, that's some interesting data. Let's remove that page. Okay. Well, you heard it here first. There were billions of T-Rexes all at the same time. There was no chance of survival for any other species.

Speaker 4 (11:34):

Thank you for listening to Tartle Cast with your hosts, Alexander McCaig and Jason Rigby. Where humanity steps into the future and resource data defines the path. What's your data worth?

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