A sober call for scientific accountability

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A recent post on pubmed has stirred my ire, and forced me to confront today's approach to science. No longer can we sit back, hiding behind computer models. It's time for experimentation.

Today, hard work and elbow grease don't get you very far. Not when you have to come up against flashy tech and untestable theory. Sometimes the difficult path and the righteous path are the same. We must turn away from airy speculation and toward hard, grinding, experimental science in order to move forward with the questions that burn our minds and set fire to our spirits.

I am referring, of course, to the question of whether giraffes can swim.

A recent Pubmed post proposed to answer this question through flashy computer modeling.

"A similar model of a horse (Equus caballus) was used as a control, and its floating behaviour replicates the observed orientations of immersed horses. The floating giraffe model has its neck sub-horizontal, and the animal would struggle to keep its head clear of the water surface. Using an isometrically scaled-down giraffe model with a total mass equal to that of the horse, the giraffe's proportionally larger limbs have much higher rotational inertias than do those of horses, and their wetted surface areas are 13.5% greater relative to that of the horse, thus making rapid swimming motions more strenuous. . . .We found that a full-sized, adult giraffe will become buoyant in water deeper than 2.8m. While it is not impossible for giraffes to swim, we speculate that they would perform poorly compared to other mammals and are hence likely to avoid swimming if possible."


Now I don't doubt that these people have done a fine job of estimating the rotational inertia of a giraffe's legs, its bouyancy, and its wetted surface area, but it that enough? Can we sit back on our laurels and let such a mystery continue? No!

I'm sorry, but this is not acceptable. Whatever happened to rigorous testing? Whatever happened to real world experience? Whatever happened to filming it all and setting it to the theme from The Poseidon Adventure?


I ask you, fellow Io9ers, to join me in support of a test of this theory. I will not rest until we've built a giant pool, acquisitioned a huge crane, inflated some giant emergency water wings, and tried this out. No more theory. Let's throw a giraffe in a pool.

And if it floats, it's a witch.

Via Pubmed.