Quantcast

«

»

Nov 01 2013

Kraken man is back

He’s persistent, I’ll say that for him. I first encountered Mark McMenamin as an enthusiastic promoter of Stuart Pivar’s inflatable donut model of development. He then sank from sight, along with the pretentious septic tank salesmen, until two years ago, when he presented piles of ichthyosaur vertebrae as evidence that a giant cephalopod, a kraken, had been creating Mesozoic art by arranging the disks into a self portrait.

You may laugh now.

He presented at the Denver GSA meeting this year. Here’s his abstract.

THE KRAKEN’S BACK: NEW EVIDENCE REGARDING POSSIBLE CEPHALOPOD ARRANGEMENT OF ICHTHYOSAUR SKELETONS

MCMENAMIN, Mark A.S. and SCHULTE MCMENAMIN, Dianna L., Geology and Geography, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA 01075

In 2011, we hypothesized that extremely large Triassic cephalopods may be responsible for certain anomalous aspects of an unusual assemblage of giant ichthyosaur skeletons in the Luning Formation of Nevada. The hypothesis has been criticized by researchers who do not accept the ichnological evidence suggesting that the skeletons were deliberately arranged rather than being deposited by currents.

Hydrodynamic considerations regarding the probability of displacement (PD) of ichthyosaur vertebral centra arrays (n=12) show that three different biserial arrangements have PDs of 17%, 89% and 100% respectively by currents strong enough to displace a single centra. The critical Specimen U array at Berlin‑Ichthyosaur State Park has PD=~100, indicating that it is highly unlikely that the biserial pattern was imparted by submarine currents. The unwinnowed wackestone matrix confirms that competent water velocities did not frequently occur in this deep-water depositional environment. The Luning Formation also hosts Protopaleodictyon ichnosp. and supergiant amphipods.

We recently obtained photographs of a retired exhibit formerly on display at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Museum of Natural History. The display reconstructed a well‑preserved Shonisaurus skeleton as it was found in the field. The exhibit is well documented by photographs from a variety of vantage points. The skeleton appears to have been partly disassembled during the Triassic, and a biserial array of centra very similar to the Specimen U array occurs adjacent to the nearly complete skeleton. The UNLV array has a PD=~100, again indicating that the biserial pattern was not the result of current assembly. Finally, at least three of these centra show what may be triangular bite marks removed from their margins.

His latest evidence consists of a second array of vertebrae in a line (that’s right, his earlier remarkable claim was based on a single example of bones in a line), and he is also claiming that a non-random arrangement of the bones can only be explained by an intelligent cephalopod, with no other natural processes possible.

Furthermore, as the Huffington Post credulously (their only mode) reports, he has additional evidence in the form of a giant fossilized beak. Here it is:

krakenbeak

It’s a fragmented, unidentified chunk of rock, a few inches long, which he extrapolates by comparison to a Humboldt squid beak he bought on eBay to be the tip of a giant beak belonging to a squid that was between 50 and 100 meters long.

That’s it. When ichthyosaurs decay, their vertebrae tend to fall in a line, and here’s a broken rock that kinda vaguely looks like a bit of a beak, and from this he builds this elaborate fantasy of a giant kraken roaming Triassic seas crushing ichthyosaurs to death and then sculpting their bones into squid pictures.

He should go back to praising balloon animals.


Whoops. I neglected to mention another indictment of his rationality: McMenamin is a “devout Christian” who also believes in Intelligent Design creationism.

My name is Mark McMenamin. I have completed a PhD on the fossils of the Cambrian Explosion, have published several books on the subject, and am a devout Christian. At the present time I am actively researching the latest fossil discoveries from Cambrian boundary strata.

42 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    chigau (違う)

    I see Jesus…

  2. 2
    Bess Mullaney

    He really uses Comic Sans in an abstract and expects to be taken seriously?

  3. 3
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    I believe that PZ displays some people’s words in MS Comic Sans to emphasize how simple they are.

    Perhaps someone should take Kraken Man out to a beach, show him the skeleton of a dead fish, and ask him to identify the species of squid that arranged it thus.

  4. 4
    michaelbusch

    And I am reminded why I think conference abstracts need to be screened…

  5. 5
    Inaji

    Bess @ 2:

    He really uses Comic Sans in an abstract and expects to be taken seriously?

    Comic sans is used here as a way to denote the absurd.

  6. 6
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    When a double-facepalm isn’t enough, cue the musical theme to the Twilight Zone.

  7. 7
    shallit

    I think that Prof. Mcmenamin’s perspicacity can be fairly judged from his praise of Stephen Meyer’s latest book.

  8. 8
    otrame

    There is a reason why the following is sometimes mistaken for a real letter. As anyone who has been associated with paleontology or archaeology can tell you, this isn’t all that far off the mark:

    Paleoanthropology Division

    Dear Sir:

    Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled “211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull.” We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents “conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago.” Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be the “Malibu Barbie”. It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:

    1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.

    2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.

    3. The dentition pattern evident on the “skull” is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the “ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams” you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time. This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:

    A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.

    B. Clams don’t have teeth.

    It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon dating’s notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results. Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation’s Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name “Australopithecus spiff-arino.” Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn’t really sound like it might be Latin.

    However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your back yard. We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation’s capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the “trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix” that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.

    Yours in Science,

    Harvey Rowe
    Curator, Antiquities

  9. 9
    Richard Smith

    Although the season is just past, a paraphrase seems appropriate…

    “You’re right. No natural phenomenon would arrange ichthyosaur vertebrae like this.”

  10. 10
    gussnarp

    And National Geographic wants me to register to read an article headlined “Did Ancient Sea Monsters Turn Prey into Art?” with the inevitable answer no? I think not.

  11. 11
    Larry

    Sort of the Mesozoic equivalent to crop circles, I guess. No man could have done them, therefore, aliens! Only, in this case, no natural process could have arranged the ichthyosaur bones this way, therefore, artsy-fartsy squid!

  12. 12
    debbaasseerr

    Hey, if *I* was a giant squid and wanted to leave a self portrait – vertebrae in a line would be exactly how I would do it.

  13. 13
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I wonder when Mark McMenamin will come to the realization that the assortment of fossilized mesozoic megafauna exposed at the Carnegie Quarry (currently Dinosaur National Monument) is actually proof (Proof, I tell you!) that mesozoic fresh-water giant squid were actually playing a very spirited game of Pick Up Sticks ?

  14. 14
    Sastra

    michaelbush #4 wrote:

    And I am reminded why I think conference abstracts need to be screened…

    Well, the Girl Scouts of America did their best …

    Wait, maybe there was some other GSA meeting in Denver.

  15. 15
    gussnarp

    @Ogvorbis #13: Your link is broken, but it’s got my new favorite 404 messages:

    Page Not Found

    Sorry, this is the void.

  16. 16
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    The unwinnowed wackestone matrix confirms that competent water velocities did not frequently occur in this deep-water depositional environment.

    Damn those incompetent water velocities!

  17. 17
    NelC

    Giant cephalopods? Pshaw! Clearly the work of BLUE HADES.

  18. 18
    michaelbusch

    @Sastra:

    For the uninitiated: the GSA is the Geological Society of America. It organizes pretty big meetings. Being a planetary scientist, I don’t go to them. I go to the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences meetings instead (as it happens, DPS was also in Denver this year – a couple of weeks before GSA).

    Like most large science conferences, both GSA and DPS get a certain amount of garbage abstracts. The worst one I’ve personally seen was someone claiming that there was life on Venus – after looking at the Venera images and mistaking the discarded lens cover of the camera for a creature. I recognize the importance of not restricting people’s expression of ideas, but blatant nonsense like that and like the McMenamins’ really should be screened for and rejected by the conference organizers.

  19. 19
    pHred

    Well this makes me feel much better about the fact I couldn’t go this year even though I am technically sponsoring a poster session. I actually read the abstacts that I accept!

  20. 20
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    gusnarp:

    Sorry. I fail again.

    Just google ‘pick up sticks gamete”.

  21. 21
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Shit. Game, not gamete. Where in the name of the seven purple pluperfect levels of hell did that come from?

  22. 22
    mothra

    And he is sure this is Jurassic and not Halletstonian.

  23. 23
    bachfiend

    Well, Mark McMenamin did give the thumbs-up to Stephen Meyer’s ‘Darwin’s Doubt’.

    Oh, wait…

    I had an entertaining time conversing with him on his review of the DI film ‘Darwin’s Dilemma’ on Amazon. He’s a hardcore Christian, insisting that miracles prove that God exists. He concedes that most are doubtful and open to other interpretations, but claims that just one genuine miracle would do it. And he provides one … not. He linked to a single old newspaper article reporting a statue in a Californian Catholic church weeping blood. With no analysis of the ‘blood’ – whether it’s actually blood, and if so, what is the ethnic origin of the blood (it was a Vietnamese church, so I’d expect that if it were blood, it would be south-east Asian not middle eastern, and would also have synthetic anticoagulants such as EDTA – another miracle!)

  24. 24
    aggressivePerfector

    I thought unwinnowed wackestone matrix must be a mathematical technique. Disappointed, now that I’ve looked it up.

  25. 25
    corvus

    I know this one! I know this one! It’s “Evolution.”

    http://www.besse.at/sms/evolutn.html

  26. 26
    Allan Frost

    Ogvorbis: Apologies Available for All!:

    Shit. Game, not gamete. Where in the name of the seven purple pluperfect levels of hell did that come from?

    Freudian slip? You’re always thinking about sex, aren’t you?

  27. 27
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)
    Shit. Game, not gamete. Where in the name of the seven purple pluperfect levels of hell did that come from?

    Freudian slip? You’re always thinking about sex, aren’t you?

    Far more cynical. All marketers know how sex cells.

  28. 28
    anchor

    Dem bones, dem bones…

  29. 29
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    The only publishing title that seems appropriate here is “How not to write Lovecraft fanfic”

    Anything else is just brain-saddeningly absurd.

  30. 30
    Numenaster

    Not one of the sharper knives in the drawer of the family brewpub chain, is he. I will never look at the extremely hallucinatory wall murals in the Barley Mill Pub the same way again.

  31. 31
    jfigdor

    Christ on a cracker, this guy has an undergrad degree from Stanford, a PhD from UCSB, and is a tenured prof/dept. chair at a renowned liberal arts school like Mount Holyoake? What happened to their standards?

  32. 32
    anchor

    One would think he should have been able to identify some decent fossilized sucker marks

  33. 33
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    jagwired @25:

    Shit. Game, not gamete. Where in the name of the seven purple pluperfect levels of hell did that come from?

    Freudian slip? You’re always thinking about sex, aren’t you?

    What is it about this grope? One innocent Homage to Tpyos and all of a sudden I’m a sex manioc. I’ll have you know I can go a long time without thinking of sex.

    Just last week, I watched a flock of sheep for tup or three minutes and never thought about sex. This morning, I had a bagel and never once (after I ate it) thought about the suggestive center. Last night, I had a cucumber and there’s nothing suggestive about that. And now, I’m going to go out and smoke a big fat cigar.

    Azkyroth @27:

    Far more cynical. All marketers know how sex cells.

    Bad pun. No sex donut for you!

  34. 34
    PZ Myers

    Becoming a department head requires absolutely NO knowledge of science — it’s a purely political position.

  35. 35
    ShowMetheData

    From his Amazon review of and ID film Darwin’s Dilemma
    On the other hand, the Intelligent Design community needs to be careful, lest it seem to be dictating to God how He can or cannot create. It would be theologically problematic and silly to presume to allow God to create in one way (instantaneous fiat), but not in another (change through time).

    We also have to leave God the option of existing or not existing as well.
    Who are we to demand his existence because we can only know him through his strange … but wondrous… absence.
    And he is absent because we are not worthy … yet!

  36. 36
    ShowMetheData

    Repost due to absolute quote fail

    From his Amazon review of and ID film Darwin’s Dilemma

    “On the other hand, the Intelligent Design community needs to be careful, lest it seem to be dictating to God how He can or cannot create. It would be theologically problematic and silly to presume to allow God to create in one way (instantaneous fiat), but not in another (change through time).”

    We also have to leave God the option of existing or not existing as well.
    Who are we to demand his existence because we can only know him through his strange … but wondrous… absence.
    And he is absent because we are not worthy … yet!
    /snark

  37. 37
    yellowsubmarine

    How the hell did this guy get Murray Gell-Mann to sign onto that first book. I mean I know the guy is like 80 years old, but jesus effing christ he’s a freaking nobel laureate! WHAT THA HELL!? O… and in physics. Why do PhD’s do that? Isn’t that a big red flag when the experts backing up the claims aren’t experts in the field the book is written for?

  38. 38
    Holms

    I just don’t understand how this guy even got the stupid idea in the first place. Surely, if one finds a bunch of vertebrae arranged in a line, there is a fairly obvious explanation. Something like ‘because that’s how they are arranged in the living animal’.

    And there I was thinking that astronomy had to rebut the most painfully ignorant psuedoscience with goddamn Nibiru.

  39. 39
    prfesser

    Re.#31 and “what happened to their standards?”, it appears that MHC faculty are more interested in fluffyshit than standards or science. Instead of listing their professional publications and presentations, the faculty are apparently encouraged to list “News Links”. Science faculty post on important subjects such as “Darren Hamilton on World Cup Soccer” and “A Sad Day in the Neighborhood: Remembering Mr. Rogers.”

    Prfesser

  40. 40
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    I fail to see how it is suprising that fossilised vertebrae may form a line. Sure they’re usually scattered, but considering the spine is, in fact, a straight line it’s hardly beyond the realms of possibility that the vertebrae may fossilise in a straight fucking line; or a curved line, or any other sort of line that the fossilised creature may be capable of contorting it’s spine into.

  41. 41
  42. 42
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @Ogvorbis #33

    I’m a sex manioc.

    For some reason I am finding this typo absolutey, trouser-wettingly hilarious :)

Comments have been disabled.