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(Mental Floss)   Theoretically, 13 scientific terms you're using wrong   (mentalfloss.com) divider line 50
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6281 clicks; posted to Geek » on 10 Aug 2014 at 10:01 AM (18 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-08-10 09:08:00 AM  
Okay, I did not know about "hominin." Thank you.
 
2014-08-10 09:44:05 AM  

slimages.macys.com

 
2014-08-10 10:08:21 AM  
Thats sub 10k years old, ya dingus
 
2014-08-10 10:11:17 AM  
Literally?
 
2014-08-10 10:38:11 AM  
De-extinction?  I doubt I'm misusing the term I never heard before.
 
2014-08-10 10:54:02 AM  
FTFA: "When most people use the word theory, they're talking about a hunch or guess. But for scientists, a theory is a well-substantiated-and testable-explanation that incorporates laws, hypotheses, and facts"

Nonsense - a theory is just an explanatory framework usually containing some supporting evidence. Sadly we don't have words for different varieties of theories in terms of how well worked out, coherent, testable, supported, and tested theories are.

Some science prescriptivists want to lard up the meaning "theory" so that people don't think the "theory of evolution" can be misinterpreted as just a guess, but that could preclude the following from being called theories:

The Ptolemaic theory of the solar system
Aristotelian theories of matter (e.g. being composed of earth, fire, air, water)
Folk theories
All sorts of theories to explain historical facts - e.g. Marlow was Shakespeare
Freud's theory of the subconscious.
Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar
All sorts of theories in physics such as String Theory.
Crackpot theories

Under a really narrow definition of "theory" we wind up with statements like "Freud's theories aren't theories", and a seeming prohibition against scientists from calling something a theory if it is only partially worked out and tested.
 
2014-08-10 10:54:04 AM  
Hominins homonyms
 
2014-08-10 10:57:27 AM  
The theory of gravity does not "explain why apples fall from trees". Rather it explains the behavior of falling objects; that is to say, the mechanical interaction of objects (orbits, ballistic arches, escape velocity, etc...). It does not explain WHY gravity exists. More complex theories and mathematics are required for that.

Why does this subtle, but important, distinction matter here? Because the bonehead who put together this list is presenting himself as an expert on scientific jargon and syntax. If he gets this wrong, it calls his expertise and the entire list into question, making said list pointless.

Plus, as all educated people know, Newton got it wrong. There is no gravity. The Earth sucks. (Man, I went a long way for that one.)
 
2014-08-10 11:27:13 AM  

HairBolus: Some science prescriptivists want to lard up the meaning "theory" so that people don't think the "theory of evolution" can be misinterpreted as just a guess, but that could preclude the following from being called theories:

The Ptolemaic theory of the solar system
Aristotelian theories of matter (e.g. being composed of earth, fire, air, water)
Folk theories
All sorts of theories to explain historical facts - e.g. Marlow was Shakespeare
Freud's theory of the subconscious.
Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar
All sorts of theories in physics such as String Theory.
Crackpot theories

Under a really narrow definition of "theory" we wind up with statements like "Freud's theories aren't theories", and a seeming prohibition against scientists from calling something a theory if it is only partially worked out and tested.


That's a long wall of text to be saying nothing. There's quite a difference in an educated guess and the colloquial use of a theory, and the actual technical and scientific term use of a theory. The difference is such as that you might as well be using two different words.

Most importantly, scientific theories are falsifiable - meaning they can be rendered invalid through additional research and scientific evidence, situationally correct and incorrect, bolstered by further research, or even lead to a completely new theory through that avenue of research.

Trying to dilute or inject the common usage of the word "theory" into an argument about a scientific theory is nothing more than an attempt to use weasel wording and confusion to extort your point. See: Creationism.
 
2014-08-10 11:35:57 AM  
The meteor/meteorite thing has always bugged me,  it seems to me the sand sized particles should be called meteorites because they are small and meteors should be the big pieces, that actually land.
 
2014-08-10 11:57:47 AM  
The unfashionable theories are still (sort of) Theories in that some of them have some applicability to explaining some observation.  Sure, no one believes all of Freud's theories anymore, because better theories have superseded them, but they were still Theories when they were created.  I don't think any psychiatrists would deny that childhood experiences can affect someone for life.  So it's still part of the overall science.

Same goes for Ptolemaic astronomy, it was specifically adjusted to be able to make predictions about what would happen to planetary movements, and it worked better than the original theory Copernicus came up with.  So, as Theories go, it wasn't all that different from Newtonian gravitational theory.  Predict what will happen, pretty much, but with the underlying cause of the behavior unnecessary to the application of the theory.
 
2014-08-10 12:05:24 PM  
Gordie: Alright, alright, Gravity is a Theory, Evolution is a Theory, Relativity is a Theory. What's Patriarchy?

Vern: If I could only have one food for the rest of my life? That's easy-Pez. Cherry-flavored Pez. No question about it.

Teddy: Patriarchy is a Theory. Definitely a Theory.

Chris: It can't be a Theory. It's not falsifiable and no one has ever published a paper titled, "I predicted Patriarchy was to blame for X, but I was wrong"

Gordie: Wagon Train's a really cool show, but did you notice they never get anywhere? They just keep wagon training.

Vern: Oh, God. That's weird. What the hell is Patriarchy?
 
2014-08-10 12:11:54 PM  
Well irregardless to what the article says people will still fall into old habits and get it wrong.
 
2014-08-10 12:14:39 PM  
But for other species, science might find a way in the not-too-distant future. In fact, in 2003, researchers implanted a goat egg with genes from an extinct Spanish mountain goat and used a goat-ibex as a surrogate; the resulting animal lived for just a few minutes, but the experiment proved it could be done.

i.imgur.com
 
2014-08-10 12:27:49 PM  

Tom_Slick: The meteor/meteorite thing has always bugged me,  it seems to me the sand sized particles should be called meteorites because they are small and meteors should be the big pieces, that actually land.


-ite is not a diminutive suffix, it is a suffix meaning "rock" - so the word means "meteor-rock".
 
2014-08-10 12:33:25 PM  

Sum Dum Gai: Tom_Slick: The meteor/meteorite thing has always bugged me,  it seems to me the sand sized particles should be called meteorites because they are small and meteors should be the big pieces, that actually land.

-ite is not a diminutive suffix, it is a suffix meaning "rock" - so the word means "meteor-rock".


I thought it was because they 'stick tight to the ceiling'
 
2014-08-10 12:37:21 PM  
Despite what you saw in Jurassic Park, scientists will never be able to resurrect non-avian dinosaurs from extinction; any DNA that might be found is just too old to be used.

Fark you, Debbie Downer.  There's a frozen T-Rex buried in Alaska with you on its offsprings' menu.

Next, you'll be saying FTL is impossible!

/flammable
//Inflammable
 
2014-08-10 12:39:00 PM  
Recently read The Philosophy of Science by Toulmin wherein he uses the analogy of a map to discuss theories; briefly, a theory is like a map of the landscape that shows you some things, but not others, and doesn't provide directions to get from one place to the other.  Example: Your map might have contour lines to show elevations, the product of scientific surveying, but you won't actually find those lines on the ground if you go out and look, but they are "real" in their usefulness and relative accuracy. So it might be with a theory, say. of subatomic particles.

Hominims was worth finding out about.

The one I was expecting to find in TFA was "law". So many "laws" one reads about are really more in the way of postulates, conjectures, etc., not to mention such things as "Moore's" or "Poe's" comments.
 
2014-08-10 12:41:04 PM  

Niveras: But for other species, science might find a way in the not-too-distant future. In fact, in 2003, researchers implanted a goat egg with genes from an extinct Spanish mountain goat and used a goat-ibex as a surrogate; the resulting animal lived for just a few minutes, but the experiment proved it could be done.

[i.imgur.com image 800x529]


media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com fc07.deviantart.net
 
2014-08-10 12:42:14 PM  
Bird descended from Dinos??   WRONG.

the Penisauraus is the only direct descendant of the Dinos.


and when it rears its ugly head, trouble abounds............................
 
2014-08-10 12:44:43 PM  
Homo Sapien Consumerittus --- Walmart Shoppers.


go to your local walmart and you can view them in their Natural Habitat.

but please don't feed the animals.
 
2014-08-10 12:49:16 PM  

TheOther: Despite what you saw in Jurassic Park, scientists will never be able to resurrect non-avian dinosaurs from extinction; any DNA that might be found is just too old to be used.

Fark you, Debbie Downer.  There's a frozen T-Rex buried in Alaska with you on its offsprings' menu.

Next, you'll be saying FTL is impossible!

/flammable
//Inflammable


You may be in luck, there was a FARK thread this week about that

http://www.fark.com/comments/8361136/Birds-arent-descended-from-dino sa urs-they-ARE-dinosaurs-Randall-Munroe#new

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/28563682#story_continues_2

Previous work has shown that theropod dinosaurs, the dinosaur group which included Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor and gave rise to modern birds, must have decreased in size at some point in their evolution into small, agile flyers.
 
2014-08-10 12:53:58 PM  

hardinparamedic: HairBolus: Some science prescriptivists want to lard up the meaning "theory" so that people don't think the "theory of evolution" can be misinterpreted as just a guess, but that could preclude the following from being called theories:

The Ptolemaic theory of the solar system
Aristotelian theories of matter (e.g. being composed of earth, fire, air, water)
Folk theories
All sorts of theories to explain historical facts - e.g. Marlow was Shakespeare
Freud's theory of the subconscious.
Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar
All sorts of theories in physics such as String Theory.
Crackpot theories

Under a really narrow definition of "theory" we wind up with statements like "Freud's theories aren't theories", and a seeming prohibition against scientists from calling something a theory if it is only partially worked out and tested.

That's a long wall of text to be saying nothing. There's quite a difference in an educated guess and the colloquial use of a theory, and the actual technical and scientific term use of a theory. The difference is such as that you might as well be using two different words.

Most importantly, scientific theories are falsifiable - meaning they can be rendered invalid through additional research and scientific evidence, situationally correct and incorrect, bolstered by further research, or even lead to a completely new theory through that avenue of research.

Trying to dilute or inject the common usage of the word "theory" into an argument about a scientific theory is nothing more than an attempt to use weasel wording and confusion to extort your point. See: Creationism.


Personally, I just refer to it as 'theory' vs 'Theory'. Creationists might still not get it, but it's a good way to separate the educated guess from the tested scientific results.

And fark the people who try and twist it to their own means. They only have a passing acquaintance with logic anyway.
 
2014-08-10 12:55:59 PM  

Vlad_the_Inaner: Sum Dum Gai: Tom_Slick: The meteor/meteorite thing has always bugged me,  it seems to me the sand sized particles should be called meteorites because they are small and meteors should be the big pieces, that actually land.

-ite is not a diminutive suffix, it is a suffix meaning "rock" - so the word means "meteor-rock".

I thought it was because they 'stick tight to the ceiling'


Those are stalactites.
 
2014-08-10 01:00:15 PM  

Tom_Slick: The meteor/meteorite thing has always bugged me,  it seems to me the sand sized particles should be called meteorites because they are small and meteors should be the big pieces, that actually land.


Yeah this.

Also this list is great for the Geek tab but if you go around correcting everyone IRL people will hate you. Use the Force wisely young Skywalker...
 
2014-08-10 01:14:44 PM  

Tom_Slick: The meteor/meteorite thing has always bugged me,  it seems to me the sand sized particles should be called meteorites because they are small and meteors should be the big pieces, that actually land.


It's pretty easy... the -ite ending applies to minerals.  Tektite, graphite, etc.  a meteor is a falling object that leaves a trail.  A meteorite is the mineral remains after it lands.

/sees it's been covered though
 
2014-08-10 01:28:13 PM  
Where are all the lobbyists and nonprofit execs who post on FARK pretending to be scientists?

It's a perfect opp for you to lecture the unwashed masses on what real science IS.
 
2014-08-10 01:35:02 PM  

RoyBatty: TheOther: Despite what you saw in Jurassic Park, scientists will never be able to resurrect non-avian dinosaurs from extinction; any DNA that might be found is just too old to be used.

Fark you, Debbie Downer.  There's a frozen T-Rex buried in Alaska with you on its offsprings' menu.

Next, you'll be saying FTL is impossible!

/flammable
//Inflammable

You may be in luck, there was a FARK thread this week about that

http://www.fark.com/comments/8361136/Birds-arent-descended-from-dino sa urs-they-ARE-dinosaurs-Randall-Munroe#new

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/28563682#story_continues_2

Previous work has shown that theropod dinosaurs, the dinosaur group which included Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor and gave rise to modern birds, must have decreased in size at some point in their evolution into small, agile flyers.


Not dinosaurs, but there is a slim chance that they may find DNA from mammals that were preserved from several hundred thousand years ago, since they have found collagen, a protein, from younger specimens of megafauna.

A bid problem is contamination with other DNA and over those time scales DNA can be pretty fragile.
 
2014-08-10 01:46:45 PM  

Animatronik: Where are all the lobbyists and nonprofit execs who post on FARK pretending to be scientists?

It's a perfect opp for you to lecture the unwashed masses on what real science IS.


We reached peak green text two years ago.
 
2014-08-10 01:49:57 PM  
Your blog sucks.
 
2014-08-10 03:06:52 PM  

Son of Thunder: Okay, I did not know about "hominin." Thank you.


I hear that Panera Bread has a great Hominini.
 
2014-08-10 03:10:24 PM  
instant vs instantaneously

Every one uses instantaneously, probably because it sounds more scientificky
 
2014-08-10 03:31:09 PM  

Son of Thunder: Okay, I did not know about "hominin." Thank you.


Well, technically speaking, we would be using the word "hominid" incorrectly.  Also if you're not using a word such as pterosaur, how can you be using it wrong?  Dinosaur still counts but not because of the reason the blog post's author states.  Regarding poisonous and venomous, I think I saw a comic strip posted somewhere else on Fark relating to that.
 
2014-08-10 03:59:44 PM  

PhDemented: Tom_Slick: The meteor/meteorite thing has always bugged me,  it seems to me the sand sized particles should be called meteorites because they are small and meteors should be the big pieces, that actually land.

It's pretty easy... the -ite ending applies to minerals.  Tektite, graphite, etc.  a meteor is a falling object that leaves a trail.  A meteorite is the mineral remains after it lands.

/sees it's been covered though


Hydrometeors don't necessarily leave a trail (in spite of how they're often drawn).

Hydrometeors are airborn bits or water or ice - rain, snow, fog, clouds, blowing surf spray...
 
2014-08-10 04:04:16 PM  

HairBolus: FTFA: "When most people use the word theory, they're talking about a hunch or guess. But for scientists, a theory is a well-substantiated-and testable-explanation that incorporates laws, hypotheses, and facts"

Nonsense - a theory is just an explanatory framework usually containing some supporting evidence. Sadly we don't have words for different varieties of theories in terms of how well worked out, coherent, testable, supported, and tested theories are.

Some science prescriptivists want to lard up the meaning "theory" so that people don't think the "theory of evolution" can be misinterpreted as just a guess, but that could preclude the following from being called theories:

The Ptolemaic theory of the solar system
Aristotelian theories of matter (e.g. being composed of earth, fire, air, water)
Folk theories
All sorts of theories to explain historical facts - e.g. Marlow was Shakespeare
Freud's theory of the subconscious.
Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar
All sorts of theories in physics such as String Theory.
Crackpot theories

Under a really narrow definition of "theory" we wind up with statements like "Freud's theories aren't theories", and a seeming prohibition against scientists from calling something a theory if it is only partially worked out and tested.


"Crackpot theories" is an example of the colloquial use, not the scientific. Same with other non-science uses like "Marlow was Shakespeare."

And a lot of those theories predate the general consensus to not use theory lightly and they entered the lexicon and it's mire trouble to fix than it's worth.

Ultimately, the science community saying a theory is not just some hypothesis with a little supporting evidence is WAY LESS A DISTORTION than, "it's just a theory," is, and therefore WAY MORE ACCURATE.

The science community is a human institution and imperfect, so their use isn't consistent, especially with older scientists. The theory of evolution is about as solid as gravitational theory and the argument is, so no larding-up is required.
 
2014-08-10 04:24:52 PM  

p89tech: The theory of gravity does not "explain why apples fall from trees". Rather it explains the behavior of falling objects; that is to say, the mechanical interaction of objects (orbits, ballistic arches, escape velocity, etc...). It does not explain WHY gravity exists. More complex theories and mathematics are required for that.

Why does this subtle, but important, distinction matter here? Because the bonehead who put together this list is presenting himself as an expert on scientific jargon and syntax. If he gets this wrong, it calls his expertise and the entire list into question, making said list pointless.

Plus, as all educated people know, Newton got it wrong. There is no gravity. The Earth sucks. (Man, I went a long way for that one.)


If you really want to descend into pedantry, "why" there is gravity assumes there is an intended purpose for gravity. You are asking "how" is there gravity. Unless you're a religious man in which "why" would be perfectly cromulent.
 
2014-08-10 04:45:34 PM  
Don't you mean "using incorrectly" instead of "using wrong?"
 
2014-08-10 05:30:58 PM  

Tom_Slick: The meteor/meteorite thing has always bugged me,  it seems to me the sand sized particles should be called meteorites because they are small and meteors should be the big pieces, that actually land.


It works for me. Meteorite being the actual substance of the meteor, and classifies like Quartzsite Calcite etc.
 
2014-08-10 05:32:16 PM  
Holy crap, is the general readership of Mental Floss dumb.

I only just bothered to sift through that website, and most of their 'stories' read like a highschool student wrote them with the specific intent of dumbing the topics down to cater for highly caffienated ADD squirrels.

It makes Scientific American look positively verbose in comparison
 
2014-08-10 05:50:42 PM  

LeftCoast_eh: instant vs instantaneously

Every one uses instantaneously, probably because it sounds more scientificky


It keeps people from trying to 'just add water'
 
2014-08-10 05:53:57 PM  

Iszael: The unfashionable theories are still (sort of) Theories in that some of them have some applicability to explaining some observation.  Sure, no one believes all of Freud's theories anymore, because better theories have superseded them, but they were still Theories when they were created.  I don't think any psychiatrists would deny that childhood experiences can affect someone for life.  So it's still part of the overall science.


At best, they were hypothesis, not theories. I say "at best" because there is something infinitely silly about basing one's ideas of what child developmental phases may be on one's experiences primarily with disturbed grown women. Also, something like the Id, the Ego, and the Super Ego are concepts that combine to form a model of the human psyche. They do not qualify as a theory in the scientific sense, a map qualifies as a theory of geography. And, I would argue, Freud's model was considerably less useful.

Same goes for Ptolemaic astronomy, it was specifically adjusted to be able to make predictions about what would happen to planetary movements, and it worked better than the original theory Copernicus came up with.  So, as Theories go, it wasn't all that different from Newtonian gravitational theory.  Predict what will happen, pretty much, but with the underlying cause of the behavior unnecessary to the application of the theory.

Again, this is a model, not a theory.
 
2014-08-10 06:53:12 PM  

DeaH: Same goes for Ptolemaic astronomy, it was specifically adjusted to be able to make predictions about what would happen to planetary movements, and it worked better than the original theory Copernicus came up with. So, as Theories go, it wasn't all that different from Newtonian gravitational theory. Predict what will happen, pretty much, but with the underlying cause of the behavior unnecessary to the application of the theory.

Again, this is a model, not a theory.


Something can't really be a scientific theory if it was posited before the scientific method, can it?

Issue is always that the word has a definition used by scientists and and (equally valid) definition used in lay terms.  They do not mean the same thing, and it causes problems.  Same way if if my lab mate asks me if I can help with the sacrifice on Friday, I know his animal experiment is coming to an end and he needs to collect tissue samples.  If the strange guy down the block asks me to help with a sacrifice on Friday, I'm calling the police...
 
2014-08-10 06:58:45 PM  

Vlad_the_Inaner: Sum Dum Gai: Tom_Slick: The meteor/meteorite thing has always bugged me,  it seems to me the sand sized particles should be called meteorites because they are small and meteors should be the big pieces, that actually land.

-ite is not a diminutive suffix, it is a suffix meaning "rock" - so the word means "meteor-rock".

I thought it was because they 'stick tight to the ceiling'


imgs.xkcd.com

Well played.
 
2014-08-11 02:40:00 AM  
1 thru 13, sans 10.
"Duh, really?!"

10.
We typically say that all dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, but that's not actually the case. In fact, if you look out your window, you might see one right now. Birds descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs, and so, "just as humans beings are a kind of primate, birds are a kind of dinosaur,"

Wrong: humans are primates and, as you note, birds are descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs and thus not dinosaurs.

/idiot article is idiot
 
2014-08-11 12:05:20 PM  

ArcadianRefugee: Wrong: humans are primates and, as you note, birds are descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs and thus not dinosaurs.


Hmm, Would that imply that dinosaurs are descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs, and thus not dinosaurs too?
 
2014-08-11 12:51:02 PM  

bubbadave1056: Don't you mean "using incorrectly" instead of "using wrong?"


This... by a factor of 10...

Attempt at pedantic interpretation of scientific terms with a headline that reads like the brainfart of a dysfunctional 10yr old.... intentional idiocy?
 
2014-08-11 12:51:29 PM  

Vlad_the_Inaner: ArcadianRefugee: Wrong: humans are primates and, as you note, birds are descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs and thus not dinosaurs.

Hmm, Would that imply that dinosaurs are descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs, and thus not dinosaurs too?


Only in the way that humans descended from the same common ancestor as fish, but are not fish.  He should have said "same common ancestor BUT are not dinosaurs", though.
 
2014-08-11 02:35:35 PM  
Jeez to all the anal-retentive pedants here with slight influence from the Philosophy of Science that are arguing for the purity of the word "theory". In actual academic work little attention is paid to Philosophy of Science unless some "theory" is badly off the rails.

Creation Science is a theory, just not a very good one. One has to acknowledge that it is a theory so that it can be compared with the theory of evolution. Likewise one can compare the theory of Newtonian gravity with Einstinian. As I said above a theory is just an explanatory framework. In mathematics for example there is the subfield of "Number Theory" and the general organizing approach of "Category Theory". Would any of the pedants here like to explain why these are unscientific, which under a narrow definition of "theory" they would be?
 
2014-08-11 03:29:21 PM  

PhDemented: Vlad_the_Inaner: ArcadianRefugee: Wrong: humans are primates and, as you note, birds are descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs and thus not dinosaurs.

Hmm, Would that imply that dinosaurs are descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs, and thus not dinosaurs too?

Only in the way that humans descended from the same common ancestor as fish, but are not fish.  He should have said "same common ancestor BUT are not dinosaurs", though.


I'm sure he had that option.  But I suspect his gist was that birds are best considered a subset of dinosaurs

PhDemented: Vlad_the_Inaner: ArcadianRefugee: Wrong: humans are primates and, as you note, birds are descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs and thus not dinosaurs.

Hmm, Would that imply that dinosaurs are descended from the common ancestor of all dinosaurs, and thus not dinosaurs too?

Only in the way that humans descended from the same common ancestor as fish, but are not fish.  He should have said "same common ancestor BUT are not dinosaurs", though.


You are being tautalogical.  'because they are different words, you should call them different words'.He was pretty clear that he considered modern birds to be a subset of set known as dinosaurs.  That the 'common ancestor he spoke of was just any old common ancestor, but the one that found at the root of that clade.

Morbo would tell you sets do not work that way.   Two subsets being subsets of the same set does not make them identical,  but any particular subset of a set is a subset of the set  (by definition), which also holds true for a subset of that subset too.  You are trying to use the verb 'is' to convey 'set congruency', TFA author is using it to convey 'set membership'

/and human and fish are both vertebrates so yes, their common ancestor does put them in the same pigeon hole at one level of classification.  They have many common ancestors
 
2014-08-11 07:30:21 PM  

Vlad_the_Inaner: I'm sure he had that option. But I suspect his gist was that birds are best considered a subset of dinosaurs


Yes, and he was correct. Birds are a subset of dinosaurs as taxonomists use the terms.

palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk
 
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