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Dinosaurs in Media and Education



1) Media
   What I would like to see sometime is a television program aimed at the 
public that is as good as some of the recent books aimed at the public. 
In many ways, I think David Norman's book _Dinosaur!_ that came out as a 
"companion volume" to the A&E's series of the same name was much better 
than the series itself. Do I have a poor memory, or do I remember 
correctly that none of the recent popular TV documentaries ever explained 
how the Mesozoic era is divided into the Triassic, Jurassic and 
Cretaceous? Did any of them do a good job explaining how a living 
dinosaur becomes a fossil?
   Imagine David Norman's _The Ultimate Dinosaur Book_ or Dougal Dixon's 
_Dinosaurs_ as a well-done documentary. And why not get a paleontologist 
as a host for the show rather than a celebrity? (Is there anyone for 
paleontology what Carl Sagan is for astronomy?)
   What I would also like to see is a project by Industrial Light and 
Magic in which the computer generated images are used sans humans for an 
educational video or cd-rom. One would think that it would be easy enough 
to take the existing computer programs and modify them slightly.  
   As to the accuracy (or inaccuracies) in Jurassic Park or Paleoworld -- 
I think a suggestion from Ken Carpenter is good. Have the kids look for 
the mistakes themselves. (This would be a special home project; neither 
Jurassic Park nor Paleworld to my knowledge may be shown in schools, 
although two episodes of PW were recently approved for Cable in the 
Classroom.) (I can put up with inaccuracies in fiction and movies, 
although it still bothers me to hear Klaatu remark that his astrophysics 
equation "works well enough to bring me 20 million miles.")

2) Education
   I'm a member of the Dinosaur Society, but I've never seen the 
educator's package that was described in the membership renewal package. 
Maybe it will be described in a forthcoming catalog. Maybe some of us on 
this list could make a gift membership in the Society for a local school. 
That might go a little ways toward helping improve the quality of 
information available to students.
   As was pointed out a couple of times on this list, sometimes 
inaccuracies are perpetuated by people/institutions who should know 
better. The Optical Data Corporation produced an interactive videodisc 
program called "Windows on Science" that included a section on fossils 
with images of swamp-bound sauropods and Allosaurus misidentified as 
Tyrannosaurus. Museum stores sell posters and books that span the 
complete range from ridiculous to sublime... and how is the uninformed 
museum visitor to tell one from the other?
   I heard Ray Bradbury a couple of years ago comment on the quality of 
science education in America. In effect, he said the best way to improve 
the quality of science education is to teach children to read. There's 
some truth in that. If kids know how to read -- and use libraries -- they 
can better evaluate the accuracy of information presented by any interest 
group, whether it be teachers, scientists or politicians.   

3) The Return of "Sigh"
   Just thought I'd mention that I stumbled across a set of 50 dinosaur 
"trading cards"... based on the artwork of Brian Franczak. The only 
information I have on the company that produced it is the name, city and 
zip code: Redstone Marketing, Inc., Fort Lee, NJ 07024.

----- Amado Narvaez
      anarvaez@umd5.umd.edu