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Paul Grobstein's picture

Bio 103, Lab 2: Darwin's Voyage Revisited Extended

The funding agencies were impressed by the results of the initial surveys of plant life on Nearer and Farther. The findings clearly indicate that there is a diversity of plant life on both planets, while highlighting difficulties in categorizing such life (problems that are familiar from previous experience on Earth). In general, more effective categorizing schemes seem to involve
  • acknowledgement of the possibility that the appearance of individual organisms may change over time
  • descriptions in terms that can be conveyed as unequivocably as possible to other observers, including quantification where possible
  • the use, where possible, of qualitative (logically exclusive) instead of quantitative characteristics
  • the observations of "natural clusters" in which
    • there is an absence of intermediate forms
    • several different characteristics correlate with one another
The funding agencies also suspect that additional observations at other than normal human scales (see class discussion) might help to further characterize the diversity of plant life on Nearer and Farther .

With the objective of getting less wrong about characterizing plant life on Nearer and Farther, each of the original expeditionary groups is encouraged to make a second expedition to the planet they did not visit on their first expedition. Each group should prepare for that expedition by reading a prior report on that planet. In addition to new observations aimed at assessing the classification proposals of that group, each expeditionary group should in addition make new observations at the scale of centimeters and millimeters. Additional equipment will be provided to facilitate this shift of scale.

The report of each group should include a summary of new smaller scale observations of patterns of similarities and differences among plants relevant to the categorization problem, a critical evaluation of the prior work on that planet, and a discussion of whether plant life appears more or less diverse when viewed at smaller spatial scales.

Relevant information about plant life on earth:

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