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Re: Science and misconception



Jeffery Martz writes;

>     Crossing that bridge is a great idea; but the dramatic exaggeration
>we are talking about doesn't create a bridge between science and the
>public; it creates a bridge between misconception (pop culture myths) and the 
>public.

Admittedly, when people know that people tried hard to get things right,
they could assume that everything was done right.  This is where _Nova_, 
museums, and other forms of scientific information dispersal come into play:
we can say, "This was done right." and "This was done wrong."  The
publicity generated by the films will get people to tune into these
programs, where accurracy is greatly enhanced, and more reliable.

>If the public realizes they have crossed an entirely different
>bridge and decide to cross over to science, thats great, but often they
>DON'T recognize that they have crossed over to fantasyland, not science.
>Why SHOULD they realize this?

Because people aren't going to a movie for factual information, but to "ride
the roller coaster of the imagination."  Just like JP, it's contemporary
_Carnosaur_ tried to get the anatomical things right (on a limited budget).
In that film, there are some atrocious statements made, ones that either
had absolutely no basis on the facts, or just made up facts to help with
the statements.  The difference is that _Carnosaur_ is such an all-around
bad film, that nobody really pays attention to what is being said.  OTOH,
JP is based on strong filmmaking, so more attention is being paid on what
was said.


>Honestly, is your average museum-goer there to scrutenize the
>placards and learn a lot, or do they just look at the pretty skeletons
>and leave?

Those who see the skeletons after seeing "The science of JP," are more
likely pay more attention to the rest.  After learning that reality is
different than what is presented in the movie (perhaps that alone is
enough), people will spend more time with the real thing.  Once their
curiosity is sparked, they will want to know more; giving us a tremendous
opening for PR.

>     Aren't there enough pop cultural science myths (for example, we only
>use 8% of our brain, T.rex's vision was based on movement) out there
>without adding to the list?  Don't tell me that wouldn't be exiting
>enough; seeing a life-size T.rex or Brachiosaurus would be plenty exiting,
>even if the former didn't shake the ground when it walked, and the latter
>didn't rear up and make a lot of noise.

Again, we get into a matter of opinion.  The JP-brachiosaur stuff is not
proven, and highly debatable, but not impossible.  The problem is that
behavioral stuff doesn't directly fossillize, it must be inferred from 
keletal information (and they ain't sayin' much).  As long as they aren't 
oing *way* out of reach (i.e. Dilophosaurus spit), a little artistic licencing
is allowable.

>      I loved Jurassic Park and I fully appreciate Spielberg's deliberate
>effort to portray animals, instead of monsters.  I'm just saying that there
>is always room for improvement, and that factual depiction does not
>neccessarily equate with a bored public.

I partially agree.  However, field paleontology is not a spectator sport.
If one is just watching, boredom will set in real quick.  The excitement 
omes from working an individual bone, never knowing how much is really there,
or what is attached to it.  That reality would be difficult to transmit to
the big screen.  I'm not saying that it's kosher to warp reality for it's 
entertainment sake, but it is an unfortunate reality that we have to work with.

Rob Meyerson
Orphan Vertebrate Paleontologist

***
When the going gets wierd, the wierd turn pro.