Author Archive | Patrick

Moneyball: Sports, Markets, and Statistics

I’m not exactly early to the party on this one. Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball, came out in 2003. I’m a bit of a Michael Lewis fan but I ignored Moneyball for years because I’m not really much of a baseball fan. The bottom line is that you don’t need to be a baseball fan to get something (I would argue a lot) out of this book. If you like baseball, you’ll probably like Moneyball, if you like math/stats/science you’ll probably like Moneyball, if you like business you’ll probably like Moneyball.

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R you ready for this? Statistics for free!

If you’ve listened to the show for a while or if you’ve been reading the paleocave blog from the beginning (like when we actually used to update it regularly), then you might know that I’m rather fascinated with statistics. Imagine my delight a few years ago when I found out that one of the most powerful statistical tools available (the one that most of the cool kids use) was available for free! That tool is called R.  It’s a great tool but a terrible name.  R is named both for the developers Robert Gentleman and Ross Ihaka (Robert and Ross), and as a sort of pun because it was an open source rewrite of the S language. That’s cool, I guess, but R as a name is horrible search engine optimization. Oh well, keeps out the riff-raff I suppose.

The vast majority of people would call R a programming language. Real computer programmers (the kind of people that argue about Ruby vs Perl) will tell you it’s not really a ‘language,’ it’s a ‘programming environment.’ Whatever, I don’t think I really know the difference.  Don’t get intimidated, because it’s pretty easy to do as much or as little as you want in R.
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Great Deal!

Hey Posse,

Been pining away for some Brachiolope schwagg because you are cold and naked?

Why haven’t you ordered yet?

Oh, because you are poor…
Solution: This Saturday, FEB 5th only, visit the Science… sort of store and use the coupon code FEBLUV11 and get ~40% off anything you order that day!

P.S. You would have known about this sooner if you “liked” us on Facebook!


Do Science With Patrick!

Addendum* Lots of traffic to this post and lots of emailed questions. I’ve put up a website specifically for this project  at so check that out if you think you might be able to contribute some found hair to SCIENCE *end addendum

Help me Paleoposse, you’re my only hope.

I’m working on a project that will match changes in human hair chemistry to the region that the hair was grown in. I need to look at hair from lots of different regions in order to do this well. That’s where you come in.

If you want to help, it’s pretty easy…

1) Get a Ziplock bag (quart size or even smaller is fine).

2) Go to your local barbershop or hair salon.

3) Ask them if you can have some of the hair they swept up that day (tell them it’s for SCIENCE!).

4) Put the hair in the Ziplock bag (1/3 full is plenty).

5) Write down the date you did this and the address of the place you got the hair from.

6) Mail it to me…

Patrick Wheatley

Center for Isotope Geochemistry

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

1 Cyclotron Rd. MS 70A-4418

Berkeley CA, 94720

6) Sit back and await your reward.

I’ll list you in the acknowledgements when I publish the work. I’ll also send you a Science… sort of prize or two (so make sure you give me your address when you send me the hair sample). If I get enough responses I’ll blog about some of the results before the paper comes out.

If you’ve got questions, email me patrick[at]

Thanks for being a soldier for Science… sort of,



Italian Love Affair

Well, maybe it’s actually a Japanese love affair…

The Paleopals are a pretty eco-friendly bunch when it comes to commuting – Ryan is a pretty committed bicycle commuter, Charlie commutes about 35 miles partially by bike and partially by train. For much of the past seven years I either walked or bussed to work. In 2010 I moved to Berkeley, CA. I was a pretty good distance from a helpful bus line and the four miles to work was a little far to walk. I suppose I could try to bicycle it, but I flirted with that when I lived much closer to work and had less hills to deal with; it’s not for me. I’d been considering buying an Italian style motor scooter (like a Vespa) for some time, so I took the plunge with a (Japanese) 2008 Yamaha Vino 125. By the time you read this I’ll have put about 1000 commuting miles it.

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Diagraming Evolution, or How to read a Cladogram

Remember the Linnaean system of classification you probably learned in grade school or high school (heck, maybe even college)? It went something like this…

Kingdom -> Phylum -> Class -> Order -> Family -> Genus-> Species

Linnaeus started using this classification system in the 1700s and he had a good run; we still use his system in certain situations. However, we’ve moved away from this ranking system mostly because of the discovery of transitional fossils that screwed with Linnaeus’s idea of neat little boxes for all of life to be categorized into. This system falls apart, for example when you have two equivalent ranks, let’s say class Osteichtyes (boney fish) and class Amphibia (amphibians), and find a transition between the two.

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Brachiolope Stuph

It’s a sale! We’ve lowered the prices on all our swag! So, if you’ve been pining away for some Science… sort of gear but thought it was just out of your price range, go check it out again.  The skinny on this sale is that December is solstice time, and in the northern half of the world  it’s the cold solstice – the time of the year when you least want to be naked. So get yourself or your loved ones some sweet, sweet brachiolope to help them maintain their core body temperature and support the show a little bit while you are at it.  The bonus is that our producer of swag will give us discounts on the production of our gear if we can sell a certain amount of stuff in December.  So, if you guys clothe your friends and family enough this month, maybe the prices can stay cheap forever!

Oh yeah, we got mugs and stuff too…


Patrick’s Solstice Shopping Guide

What to buy for…

Your friends that kind of like science, are scientists, or want to be scientists:

1) If you were following the Paleopals last year you probably remember me plugging Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character). This is one of the best books out there for someone who is interested in science or thinks they might be a professional scientist.  It covers all of the good stuff about being a scientist and none of the bad (except maybe that you get made fun of a lot).  Feynman is able to capture what he calls the “pleasure of finding things out” in his short essays about things that are science and things that are sort of science.

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