Saturday, 10 January 2009

Recording Abstracts

For those who are not of an academic bent, abstracts are brief summaries of the content of scientific or academic papers. They state briefly what the paper contains.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to add abstracts to the bibliography of the Pterosaur Database, a laudable intent. I have done 2008 in a week and started on 2007, intending to work backwards in time to complete the job. This sounds a logical approach, but there are over 1300 abstracts to go. That is rather more than I can cope with at present, and I need to locate copes of them all.

A typical example is;

Wilkinson M. T., 2007, Sailing the skies: the improbable aeronautical success of the pterosaurs, Journal of Experimental Biology 210, 1663-1671
Matthew T. Wilkinson - Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK
Pterosaur wings bore a striking resemblance to sails, having a bony spar at the leading edge, formed by the forelimb and one enormously elongated digit, and an elastic wing membrane. Such simple wings would be expected to have performed badly due to excessive deformation, membrane flutter and poor control characteristics. Here I discuss how certain anatomical features, specifically a forewing membrane in the inner part of the wing and a system of fibres embedded in the distal part, may have countered these shortcomings. The forewing, supported by the unique pteroid bone, would have reduced the wings' geometric twist, and has been shown in wind tunnel tests to improve membrane stability at low angles of attack and dramatically increase the maximum lift coefficient at high angles of attack. The function of the fibres is poorly understood, but it is suggested that they improved membrane stability and optimised twist nearer the wingtips.

A fossil of the Pterosaur - Rhamphorhynchus
with its wing membranes preserved

Many of the papers concerned are well out of print and some are not correctly archived, so it requires a search of University, Museum and Library archives worldwide in order to locate some papers. The added problem of some being in a foreign language before the convention was to add an English abstract, makes the job even more of a task. (English is the international language of science.)

There are some days when I feel I have bitten off a little more than I can chew!

No comments: