Biogeochemistry, the study of chemical processes caused by organisms in geologic media and how elements are cycled in the biosphere, is typified by microbe-mediated reactions in soils (Chapter 7).
The interaction of matter and energy explored in physics is exemplified in dinosaurs through the applications of biomechanics and thermodynamics. Biomechanics is the study of how living systems, such as animal bodies, perform work. Thermodynamics is the study of heat and its relationship with work, an important aspect of dinosaur physiology (Chapter 8). Physics can also be applied to understand how dinosaurs related to their world through physical properties, such as mass, density, and motion. Furthermore, dinosaurs sensed certain aspects of their environments through their vision or produced sounds with certain frequencies and pitches (Chapter 11). Geophysics combines geology and physics, where basic principles of physics are used to understand the Earth, particularly its interior. Some geophysical methods are used to interpret the subsurface distribution of rocks, providing information on the geologic history of an area where dinosaurs lived (Chapters 4 and 6).
In terms of mathematics, this book primarily will use numbers as they are applied, to better understand dinosaurs through measurements and models. Examples of this include biometry and allometry. Biometry is the study of life through measurements and statistical methods, whereas allometry is the study of size and how it changes with growth of an organism in various dimensions (Chapters 8 to 13). All dinosaur fossils have involved or could involve measurements of some sort. Thus, statistical methods in particular are important in describing dinosaurs and testing data sets for similarities or differences (Chapter 2).
Computers are now essential tools for most paleontologists and are used for cla-distics and analyzing results of experimental work. They are also important for communication among scientists, and between scientists and the general public, whether through e-mail or the Web. Computer-generated simulations, in conjunction with hypothesized environmental parameters, are now quite common. They are also used for documentation and interpretation of field sites containing dinosaur fossils, especially through geographic information systems (GIS) (Chapter 4). These are programs that integrate spatial data with other forms of information. Consequently, map-reading skills are also needed in dinosaur studies. Geographic methods can be extended to the geologic past through maps that show the distribution of ancient landmasses in association with fossils, a practice called paleobiogeography.
An integration of the preceding subjects is therefore necessary for a fuller understanding of dinosaurs and to appreciate how each subject is an important tool for better understanding the ancient and modern worlds. Only a small amount of previous knowledge of these subjects is needed to understand this book, and the math uses the standard system of measurement in the scientific world and its units: the metric system (Table 1.3).
Keep in mind that this book was written by using words in connected phrases, punctuated by line drawings and photographs, all of which hopefully communicate basic concepts about dinosaurs. As a result, good communication skills expressed through writing, illustrating, or speaking are extremely important to the study of dinosaurs. In other words, the most brilliant paleontological discovery of the century can remain unnoticed if the results are not communicated in a clear and understandable manner. Formal education is not necessary for an extraordinary discovery in paleontology. Some people who study dinosaurs are not associated with prestigious universities and museums. Rather, they may simply have
Three-dimensional imaging, using computer tomography (CT), and animation of dinosaur fossils is yet another use of computers in dinosaur studies.
much field, museum, and laboratory experience that they can also relate through excellent communication skills, such as artwork, photography, computer applications, and public speaking. In short, paleontologists should be good teachers in order to be effective.
To these intellectual requirements of dinosaur studies, add the physical demands. Such studies often require fieldwork in remote areas that do not have running water and room service (Fig. 1.4). Similarly, dinosaur studies might involve rummaging through museum drawers for years, with little or no pay. Fieldwork also may require securing funds and logistical planning through hostile (or worse, bureaucratic) institutions, long days filled with physical exertion in the aforementioned remote areas, and saintly patience. Fulfilment of all these may or may not result in any significant dinosaur discoveries. The risk of disappointment caused by looking for something that apparently is not there can be personally discouraging. However, a love for the work and the joys of discoveries, or just the promise of discoveries, are often enough reward for people who study dinosaurs.
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