The Dance Between Mathematics and Dinosaurs

maths and dinosaur
Maths and Dinosaur

Christina Sng for Maths@Singapore

Are dinosaurs and mathematics a logical match? Professor Robert Sinclair and his Mathematical Biology Unit, thinks so.

Sinclair and his team published a paper in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology examining the classification of a dinosaur bone found in Australia.

With mathematics, Sinclair’s team reclassified a single arm bone as belonging to a dinosaur family previously believed not to have existed in the Southern Hemisphere, leading to questions about how continents were connected in the ancient world.

The challenge, said Sinclair, was to “use mathematics in a field where it is not commonly used or well understood and utilize it in a way that is understandable to those in the field.”

First, “he had to find a characteristic that could be measured on the bone in question and the same type of bone in other species and families of dinosaurs, in this case, the flatness of the bone.”

Then, “he had to mathematically account for variability in the bones since fossils tend to become broken or deformed over time.”

He exhibited mathematical data of three different types, including statistical analysis, to demonstrate that they all reached the same conclusion.

Sinclair is excited “about people finding more dinosaur bones in Australia to see how it challenges the current thinking about what did and did not exist on the continent.”

As for using math in paleontology, he looks forward to figuring out the “dance of what you would do as a mathematician and what is accepted in that community.”

For more on this study, read on:

Thanks to Jon Butterworth @jonjons for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁

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