Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Megabeast and Barcoding Life: A Comparison of Award-Winning Science Media

I am sure we are all glad that sabertooth tigers, wooly mammoths, and other giant beast of the ice age are no longer around, but we still wonder why they are no longer around. Of course like any other insect and animal of today “megabeast” of the past would still be classified into different species. An “automatic animal identifying machine” would be useful for that task.

Animals of the ice age are never coming back, but we may know why they're extinct and we do in fact have an “automatic animal identifying machine.”

Gary Wolf is a human, who wrote the 2009 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) award winning article A Simple Plan to ID Every Creature on Earth in Wired Magazine; if you want to make sure you can use Paul Herbert’s “automatic animal identifying machine.”

Wolf’s article tells the story of Herbert quest to rid the biology world of “operational taxonomic units” an imprecise method of classifying organism until identification as a species. Herbert uses CO1 mitochondria DNA a unique “barcode” to separate specimens into species.

While pictures are few, Wolf uses anecdote and simple language to keep the reader engaged. Herbert’s machine is not widely accepted by the scientific community and Wolf shows that with quotes from the opposition.

In comparison you have Doug Hamilton’s AAAS awarding winning documentary The Last Extinction of the controversial new theory on the extinction of the “megabeast” of the Ice Age.

Hamilton goes where the scientists go showing the scientist triumphs or failures making viewers feel like they are there when their theory is proven right or wrong. Like Wolf, uses opposing opinions to keep viewers engaged while also informing them of alternate theories.

It be could that I found DNA more interesting than extinct ice age animals, since I thought that Wolf did a better job explaining and entertaining readers than Hamilton. To decide for yourselves read/ watch the originals at:



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