Simulating dinosaur populations, with R

November 30, 2018

(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

So it turns out that the 1990 Michael Crichton novel Jurassic Park is, indeed, a work of fiction. (Personal note: despite the snark to follow, the book is one of my all-time favorites — I clearly remember devouring it in 24 hours straight while ill in a hostel in France.) If the monsters and melodrama didn't give it away, then this chart seals the deal:

That chart seemed like a clever plot point at the time. The smooth bell curve was evidence for our protagonists that the dinosaurs were not, in fact, a controlled population produced in a lab by scientists: they were breeding. But besides the fact that the chart suggested half of a Procompsognathid was somehow roaming the Costa Rican forest, it was too smooth. David Gerard simulated a population of 29 dinosaurs (drawing their heights from a Normal distribution, and plotting it in R), and the resulting chart was invariably much more jagged:

Check out the whole Twitter thread: not only is it an interesting plot-check for a great book, it's a great Statistics lesson soon.

Twitter: David Gerard's Jurassic Park thread

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