Data and reading

Some thinking on whats changed since completing my research on brachiopodia and computer graphics in 1995. On the computing side:

  1. The Internet
  2. open source
  3. Programming languages, the rise and demise of heavyweight Java

On the palaeontology side of things I’m guess a lot less has changed, but worth doing some reading around and research. I do need to go back through the amount of paperwork in my house looking for data, in particular serial sections of brachiopods. However this data in hindsight isn’t brilliant for a couple of reasons:

  1. the are no reference marks on each slide (slice or peel based on the method of recording it)
  2. the slices are done at a thickness which can be used to interpret the inner structure, or lophophore, a word I do remember, rather than at the least possible needed to make reconstruction easier.

Some searching of the web to look for sections taken since 1995 when my thesis was published.


Managed to find a copy of Living and Fossil Brachiopods, by MJS Rudwick (1970) which is probably a book I should have read in 1991. Whilst I understood all specimens to be laid out the same way and that there is bi-lateral symmetry, I didn’t realised that this was the case of the lophophore also. These feeding mechanisms inside the shell were what I was trying to reconstruct and they are pretty complex in shape, and the algorithms in my thesis didn’t take into account this symmetry really, and would have potentially been an important factor.

I’ll be reading the rest of the book this time.


Reconstructing the past

I have, for some strange reason, been drawn back to my PhD work from the early 90’s. Academia has long passed me by and my brain and attitude long since softened and hardened by the fleshpots of the commercial software industry. However, something is drawing me back, in particular the notion of how much easier it might be now to do the work I did between 1991 and 1991. As far as I know, none of my coding, data or floppy disk material survives (well I’ve not found it) so I’m left with two printed copies of my thesis (including a nice bound one) and various published papers.

The most recent paper was published as late as 2001 (written in 1998) in Computing and Geosciences. The excitingly titled “Contour correspondence for serial section reconstruction: complex scenarios in palaeontology” is available on the Cardiff University website, where Chris Jones, my supervisor works now [1]. So to kick things off with this renaissance thought I’d do some initial research, firstly to find my published works. Maybe later, I’ll what else might have been done with the reconstruction of the internal feeding mechanisms of some small invertebrate fossils.

In terms of published papers available online (and remember my work was pre-Internet, something we forget now); all research done without Google (and even the earlier Altavista).

  • My thesis is available from the British Library : I don’t have a digital copy myself and I probably don’t have the rights to it anyway
  • Three-dimensional reconstruction of geoscientific objects from serial sections is available to order (for 42 euros) and I may still have a copy of the original journal from 1995. It has been cited 11 times, most recently in 2014.
  • There is a chapter in this book which I’d completely forgotten about, p93 – 126 and it’s probably a bit dated now. Good title though. Numerical Palaeobiology: Computer-based Modelling and Analysis of Fossils and their Distributions [2]

The Visual Computer paper was the main one published, but there is also an article presented at the 13th Eurograhpics in Barcelona in 1996, which I’ve found cited and now lost.

Not exactly a stunning return but I did do a short talk at ACM Siggrah in New Orleans, US, around 1993-4 I think, but need to check this. Also some other conference papers done including a meeting at the University of Kent and also a NATO meeting in Lucca, Italy where I met John Tipper my external examiner.

[1] I have met him on the train a couple of times in the last few years and he lives not too far away from my in South Wales.
[2] And I’ve just found a copy on Amazon which I’ve ordered. £40