Nathan Myhrvold: Patent Troll, Molecular Gastronomist... Dino Expert?

Nathan Myhrvold, the former Microsoft exec who has since become (in)famous in patent litigation and a bit more positively regarded in the field of molecular gastronomy, is now flexing his muscles over dinosaur research. Studies on dinosaur growth by top paleontologists contain "serious errors," he contends in a new paper published in PLoS ONE.

A key study that Myhrvold is now challenging, by Gregory Erickson at Florida State University, appeared in the prestigious journal Nature back in 2004. Myhrvold says the paper's graphs do not match the reported data in the study, but Erickson has stood behind his research in a statement. Some of Erickson's co-authors, however, acknowledged data discrepancies to the New York Times.

The Times calls Myhrvold a "dinosaur hobbyist," but a millionaire hobbyist is not your average hobbyist. After hanging out with the famous paleontologist Jack Horner on the set of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, where Horner was consulting and Myhrvold was visiting simply because he liked dinosaurs (and because, well, he could), Myhrvold has funded expeditions for Horner that have recovered more T. Rex skeletons than anyone else in the world. One of those skeletons, dubbed N. Rex, was donated to the Smithsonian Museum, and another is displayed the living room of Myrvhold's mansion. Even the plants in his front garden are from the Mesozoic era. "If the 'Jurassic Park' thing happens," he told The New Yorker in 2008, "this is where the dinosaurs will come to eat."

This new study isn't Myhrvold's first foray into peer-reviewed dino research. He has also co-authored a dinosaur census with Horner, and he considers his 1997 paper—proving that sauropods could theoretically whip their tails faster than the speed of sound—one of his proudest scholarly achievements. We'll see how his new paper stacks up. [New York Times]

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