August 16, 2005

I'm back...and musings on computational paleontology

Yesterday I returned to work after four weeks of vacation, feeling rested and ready to tackle a long backlog of work & posting. The travel part of my vacation included eight days in New York City and six days in Montreal. The Montreal part was mostly family & friends oriented and included no science-related activities. The New York part included a whole day at the American Museum of Natural History, which was spectacular. The feature exhibit was Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries which was the highlight for me. My sons' highlights were the Hall of Human Biology and Evolution and the giant whale model.

The dinosaur exhibit was very interesting for me -- the main thrust was that a lot of the cutting edge dinosaur research is actually combining information from fossils with biomechanical computer models to try and figure out how dinos moved around. It got me thinking, is there a new field of computational paleontology? Well, I googled it and got 864 hits. Not sure if that's a big number or a small number, over the last couple of days I googled a whole bunch of other computational this or thats to see what the lay of the land is, to be able to compare one computerized field to another. Below I share my results. All were googled as phrases, i.e. "computational mathematics." The first bunch are obviously scitech fields, for comparason. I also googled a bunch of humanities & social science fields to see if they are being invaded by geeks and nerds.

Paleontology: 864
Mathematics: 258,000
Geometry: 635,000
Statistics: 112,000
Physics: 466,000
Biology 1,190,000
Molecular biology: 91,800
Chemistry: 521,000
Fluid mechanics: 25,200
Fluid dynamics: 556,000
Logic: 128,000
Geosciences: 11,500
Materials (science): 84,100/63,100
Mechanics: 195,000
Biomechanics: 5,190
Electronics: 11,800
Neuroscience: 167,000
Astronomy: 881,000
Engineering: 115,000
Science: 666,000

Economics: 110,000
Linguistics: 688,000
Management science: 5,780
Psychology: 8,380
Sociology: 3,590
Anthroplogy: 1,040
Philosophy: 5,110
History: 438
Religion: 13
Law: 71
Political science: 14
Social science(s): 848/303
Humanities: 188

Bioinformatics: 19,100,000
numerical analysis: 1,910,000

Of course, some things are obvious. The research in most all scitech fields is more and more being done with computers, be it biology or physics. Computer modeling of scientific problems is becoming the norm. It's also not hard to see that the hottest of the hot is biology/bioinformatics. I googled just bioinformatics (not computational bioinformatics) to give a baseline and it got more hits than all the rest put together, no doubt due to the commercial opportunities in genetic research. I also googled numerical analysis to get a sense of the size of that for comparason to the math-related fields. Interesting that NA was 10% of bioinformatics, no doubt due as much to the flakiness of the google counts at those high numbers as anything else.

It was also interesting to see that some humanities/social science disciplines are seeing computational creep and that some, apparently, aren't.

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