The method described in a New York Times Magazine article on how Patrick Ball uncovers evidence of war crimes seemed familiar to Jonathan Eisen. Ball uses sampling and statistics to build his case, and similar methods are used to survey microbes. To estimate the number of microbes, ecologists isolate DNA from a sample from the environment and look at different versions of a gene that all species have -- not unlike the mark-release-recapture studies of rattlesnakes, or of human rights.
Of Human Rights and Rattlesnakes (and Microbes)
Feb 26, 2008