I'm getting fed up with fantastical claims by pseudo-scientists who offer only models and extrapolations to support them, rather than actual, verifiable, repeatable numbers. The latest comes from a study of the number of life forms on Earth.
Humans have been living on Earth for a very long time, and yet, we almost know nothing about other living organisms that inhabit our planet. A new study suggests that Earth may be holding nearly 1 trillion species of organisms, but only one-thousandth of 1 percent of those organisms is identified, which means that 99.99 percent of all life forms are yet to be discovered.
. . .
The result is considered to be the largest compilation of its kind representing over 5.6 million microscopic and non-microscopic species from 35,000 locations across all the world's oceans and continents, except Antarctica.
Researchers also discovered that the scaling law, which is used to accurately predict species numbers for plant and animal communities can also be applied to microbes, making it easier for the researchers to safely predict the total number of microbe species on the planet.
There's more at the link.
This strikes me as resembling the claims of probiotic vendors about their products. Here are three examples from a field stuffed with them. Note the ringed numbers.
Those figures are claimed to be the number of probiotic microorganisms contained in each dose of the product. My immediate question is: Who counted them? Clearly, that's impossible to accomplish physically. No-one sat down, drew them up in a straight line, and started counting, "One, two, three..." until they reached a total in the billions. The numbers must have been obtained by extrapolation from something - but what? We aren't told. Did someone count how many bacteria could fit into the volume occupied by the head of a pin, calculate how many pinheads could fit into one of the product capsules, multiply the results together, and hey presto! - another advertising claim? For all we know, that may well be how the numbers above were obtained. Frankly, I don't believe any of them.
The same question applies to this study of life forms. Who or what says there are - or may be - a trillion of them on Earth? It's impossible to know that on the basis of any experimentally derived, verifiable evidence. It's another extrapolation. For all the scientific language used in the report, it's nothing more or less than educated guesswork. In the old days we used to call that a SWAG - a "scientific wild-assed guess". I guess the term still applies, even though the researchers involved would probably resent it being applied to their results. SWAG's do, indeed, have their place, and intuition is a powerful force among educated professionals - but let's make it clear that's what's happening, not publish a research report making a claim that's empirically unverifiable.
I also object vehemently to SWAG's being used to