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A few thoughts about the show. I found it very
disappointing, frankly. I thought the animated cats walked
very funny and looked totally unnatural.

They had a habit of presenting one set of data they
suggested showed one aspect of their biology (e.g., solitary
or not), restating the same data and then saying that "now
that we have confirmed ...." when in fact they just restated
what they had said. The writing on the show just really
reeked of someone who was absolutely naive about how science

That said, the paleontologists all said relatively
reasonable stuff and did fine. Blair was her usual wonderful
self and Larry Martin was more in his element talking about
these cats, although there still was an awful lot of
statement of the way it was - the authority speaks. however,
he was far more deferential of the rightness of his opinions
and even flexible at the end in his interpretations. I wish
this was the Larry Martin who would show up in the bird dino
debate. My favorite quote of his -

"It sure looks real different in three dimensions compared
with two."

Keep that thought for the future - it'll have real
ramifications for dinosaur postures and behaviors. Anyway,
Larry came across as the bright likable guy I've known for
years and want to model some mammal stuff with.

I thought it interesting that they thought they had only
one chance to do the killing in each body section they
thought was a possibility. They did the belly kill attempt
first and when it didn't seem to work, gave up. Then they
tried to do the neck kill and, when it didn't work,
repositioned it and got an interesting chomp. Why not
reposition the other and try? Now I personally would vote
for the neck as the main target but, sheesh, at least try a
little. I missed if they did any testing of bite force and
compared with inferred forces from an actual skeleton. I
also somehow missed how they manufactured the fake
sabreteeth and whether these would react to stresses the
same way the real teeth would. I don't think they mentioned
any of it {just came back from the movie Best of Show -
great movie! - and was running around the house while
watching the special} but they still managed to say they had
just proved how these things work. Not to my satisfaction.
The could have turned the animal over and tried again.
Actually in the animation of belly ripping they, I believe,
showed the animal preparing the flesh for slicing by folding
(or bunching up) the skin a bit for the insertion of the
teeth. That's because animators have to face logic and this
was logical. Same way animators had to anticipate more
modern dino postures before some of the more staid
paleontologists finally go there. their animals actually had
to function. In the mechanical simulation, they did no such
thing, so the insertion was less easy and, I think, led to
the teeth catching on the skin. They really didn't try so
hard. Also, they made a big deal of the serrations of the
real sabreteeth but I saw suggestion that they actually got
them in the fake one used. Or did I miss that they used a
real one? 

Anyway, the special came across as so typical of modern day
media representations. Interesting stuff - pros input,
innovative engineering stuff, data and visuals - assembled
with at best a naive groundmass of summary statements from a
narrator who is pleasant to listen to but also
scientifically naive so the emphasis of his statements often
was inappropriate for the level or type of information being
presented. Interesting yet frustrating simultaneously.
Although certainly a very interesting topic worthy of dino
level interest. Worth watching even with the all too often
odd statements by the narrator just for ideas.

Some thoughts...

Ralph Chapman

Ralph E. Chapman
Applied Morphometrics Laboratory
National Museum of Natural history
ADP, EG-15  NHB, 10th & Constitution, NW
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560-0136
(202) 786-2293, Fax: (202) 357-4122