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Big data finds the rat that links man and beasts

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Sneak has always been suspicious of the so-called big data trend – mainly because the term is so lame. But the latest scientist breakthrough has really put the tin lid on. Now, and indeed thanks, to so-called big data it has proven what some readers may long suspected: that Sneak is related to an ancient rat.

According to scientists at Stony Brook University, human beings' common ancestor with other mammals that raise infants in utero was a half-pound, rat like creature that scoffed insects and lived millions of years ago.

The Stony Brook team, along with colleagues dotted across the globe, were only able to make this discovery thanks to the data-crunching capabilities of an online genetic matching platform, known as Morphobank.

They used it to study 4,500 mammalian characteristics - from the skull, the skeleton, teeth to the internal organs, muscles and even fur patterns. That represented 10 times more characteristics than they'd previously been able to study at one time.

Attempting to identify a common ancestor using all those data points was a far bigger database problem than the palaeontologists involved had ever attempted before.

“At one point I didn't think we'd ever finish,” Micharl Novacek, provost for science at the American Museum of Natural History told the New York Times.

Frankly, given that Sneak's endured a lifetime of being branded a dirty rat, he almost wishes they never had.

08 Feb 2013

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