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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.

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"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer

Friday, July 11, 2008


-- More On Cornell's Digitized Evidence --


A bit more info about the Ivory-bill computer graphic simulation carried out by Cornell which I referenced a few days ago (July 8 post). This work was done in part as the master's thesis of Cornell grad student Jeffrey Wang under the guidance of Dr. Don Greenberg, and is available here in pdf form (~200 pgs.):


Jeff's academic home page, BTW, is here:


I'm slowly reading through the dissertation (and for a technical Master's Thesis it's a fairly lively read), but since computer graphics aren't "my thing" don't know how much I'll glean from it --- I assume some of my readers though will find it informative. And I presume a more formal journal publication is in the works.

....for another comedy moment, one of my favorite old posts from "Cute Overload" blog (be sure to read the 'comments' section below picture):


ADDENDUM --- just a few things I'll note, having now scanned Wang's thesis more:

In addition to flight mechanics and computer graphics, the paper is VERY HEAVY, for obvious reasons, on underlying bird anatomy. We live in an age of academic specialization, and clearly Wang's thesis delves into highly specialized areas (as a sidenote, found it interesting that out of the 100's of Ivory-bill specimens residing in museums, it turns out there is ONLY ONE 'pickled' in fluid, and thus well-preserved for detailed anatomical studies, at the Smithsonian Museum --- Cornell was able to obtain that single specimen on loan for these specific studies --- fascinating... where pursuit of the Luneau video leads us!).

Anyway, Wang's paper (submitted in Jan. 2007), ends prior to actual testing of the computer-generated Ivory-bill against the bird captured in the Luneau clip, which has since been done; i.e. the thesis describes in great detail the creation of a 'virtual' (computer-graphic) Ivory-bill (and seems very convincing), but not the actual running of that bird in a flight path and environment matching the Luneau bird --- and there's the rub! No matter how precise and accurate a created 'virtual' Ivory-bill is, the real crux of the matter comes when applying the flight mechanics and lighting (and the MULTITUDE of variables that arise therein) to the specifics of the Luneau bird's context, and gauging whether the result better matches a PIWO or IBWO (just using a Pileated as a flying 'surrogate' for an IBWO is grist for debate all by itself, but there are likely a myriad more issues skeptics may raise as well). It will be interesting to see how Cornell explicates all of this in a final paper, and I'll also be interested to see who the co-authors (and those cited for assistance/input) are on any such final paper. I hope such a paper is at least as persuasive as Wang's work is... but one suspects the debate is destined to continue.

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