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Re: Jurassic Park exhibit



Before getting into something more related, I'd like to say ix-nay on
the eationism-Cray.  It made sense for Jeff P. to ask people to check
him on his dinosaurian facts here, but on this list we really
shouldn't be talking about creationism in general.  There are better
fora for such discussions.

Back to the main subject, sj@io.com (Steve Jackson) wrote:

> I saw this at the Franklin in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. Nice!
> Enjoyed it hugely.

For anybody else in the area, I volunteer at the Franklin Institute on
Sundays -- Steve you should have stopped by to say "hi" ;-)

In any case, Steve reviewed the exhibit and asked for additional
comment.  Since I know the exhibit pretty well, I'll comply.

On the nit-pick side, Steve didn't notice that the embryo storage unit
had Tyrannosaurus and Baryonyx spelled "Tyranosaurus" and "Baronyx"
respectively.  I don't remember seeing those typos in the movie (did I
just hear the sound of 400 tapes going into VCRs as you all check ;-),
and the famed Stegosaurus (which *was* misspelled in the movie) isn't
on this unit.  I suspect the unit on display was made up for the
exhibit.

Getting more serious: The diagram showing where dinosaurs have been
found excludes Antarctica.  I can't verify that all other locations
are included (I didn't examine it that carefully), but leaving off
Antarctica is IMHO a serious omission because it's probably the place
that would have surprised people the most.

In general the exhibit does a really good job of debunking various
inaccuracies portrayed in JP, but in one place they had trouble with
the Velociraptor/Deinonychus thing.  They have the prop skeleton that
Grant et al. were excavating, and it's labelled as both Velociraptor
and as Deinonychus depending on which label you read.

This one is probably related to the date when the exhibit was
originally put together, so it's likely outdated rather than "wrong":
AMNH loaned the exhibit some eggs which are labelled as having been
laid by Protoceratops.  I suspect that the eggs in question were
actually laid by Oviraptor.  There is also a fossil cart which may
only exist in the Franklin Institute version of the exhibit (some of
the material was donated by ANSP, and the FI prides itself on being
"hands-on", so I suspect the cart is a local creation though I've
never actually asked), and said cart contains a cast of an egg which
the volunteers are told came from a Protoceratops.  Again I suspect
Oviraptor.

On the subject of the tracks Steve asked about, there is a label on
the wall that refers to a cast of tracks that doesn't exist in the
exhibit.  I did ask about that, but nobody I talked to knew what
happened to them.

Tom Holtz, don't read the next sentence.  In the phylogeny of the
Dinosauria, Tyrannosaurus is listed as a carnosaur which evolved from
an Allosaur.  The graphic for that phylogeny was adapted from Time
magazine; I don't remember the Time version, but this version
confusingly has all of the dinosaur silhouettes facing to the right
while the diagrams of the two basic pelvic structures are as they
would appear if you were looking at a skeleton facing to the left.
Since the pelves aren't linked to anything else on the diagram, it's
not that big of a deal, but it certainly doesn't convey any
information to anyone who doesn't already know it...  As an overall
but related point, I was surprised to realize last weekend that the
entire exhibit contains no casts or fossils of an ornithischian
pelvis.  There are several saurischian pelves, and other parts of
ornithischian dinosaurs...  I don't think that's such a big deal
(aside from my wife, I don't know as that anyone else has ever looked
around to try to find examples of the pelves diagrammed on the
phylogeny, but if you're ever designing an exhibit, you might want to
keep that in mind (provided you think the saurischia/ornithischia
distinction is of any import)).

Before going into my biggest grievance, let me state that overall I
think it's a really neat exhibit.  It really helps to tie together the
hype of JP the movie with the real science of dinosaur paleontology.
The exhibit is divided up into two major sections, one containing
movie props and one containing fossils (mostly casts but some real --
all clearly labelled to distinguish what is what).  Short descriptive
labels on the movie props compare and contrast the movie "reality"
with the reality that we all know and love.  Naturally I'm more
interested in the latter, and on that score it's great to be able to
get so close to a cast of the Wankel T. rex skull.  On the other
hand...

right behind Wankel sit three computers, two of which allow users to
play around with Microsoft's Dinosaur program, and one of which (or
maybe it's one and two -- I try to stay away from that part of the
exhibit...) allows users to play with Knowledge Adventure's "Dinosaur
Adventure".  From what I've seen of it, the Microsoft program is
pretty good, but the Knowledge Adventure program really stinks.  There
is a newer version of the program that is sold through the Dinosaur
Society's catalog, so I presume (or hope!!) it's much better, but the
version playing in the FI's JP exhibit is unspeakably bad.  How many
of you don't cringe when you hear things like "There were dinosaurs
that flew" coupled with a graphic of a pterosaur?  That's typical of
the quality of the program.

If you go to the exhibit, hang out with the five charging Deinonychus
skeletal mounts instead.  Or hang out by the fossil cart -- if you do,
you'll get to hold casts of Deinonychus' hand, skull, foot and tail,
and you can compare them to a plastic human skull, hand and foot.  Not
the kind of thing most people get to do every day...  You also might
get the chance to meet me (worth the price of admission in and of
itself, no doubt ;-)

-- 
Mickey Rowe     (rowe@lepomis.psych.upenn.edu)