Posts Tagged ‘animatronics’

Broadly speakingem-dashsoaring to new heights.

30 October 2008

I know two or three folks love the music video posts.  At least, eventually.  Usually inadvertently.  Anyway, I hope you can all make it to my “what we do” talk on Friday which will prove to be an extended diatribe on musicacaphony.  “Caca” being the operative term here.  Remember when we went to that cramped Silver Apples show around the turn of the century which seemed impossible?  Seriously.


1 April 2008

Crazy story in Science Daily today about a paper recently published in the Bulletin of the Society of Historical Integrative Tautology. The paper describes Protardosuchus incendiensis, an extinct fossil reptile whose remains were recently discovered in Holocene beach sands outside San Francisco.

The authors suggest that the strange hollow, procumbent dentition were able to expel a pair of reactive fluids which, when mixed together in the presence of atmospheric oxygen would combust. Abundant charcoal in the beach sediments which yielded the sub-fossil are seen as strong circumstantial evidence for this novel adaptation.

Some carabid beetles have developed a similar, though scaled down chemical defense mechanism while among reptiles, a number of species of cobra can spray venom from their fangs. Protardosuchus’ pyrotechnic display was apparently far more impressive. As the Science Daily piece notes, the author’s aren’t certain if this behavior was defensive or related to prey-capture:

“Seriously, dude we have no effing clue,” says Melchior Neumayr, lead researcher on the new study. “It was probably all like ‘fffshhhh’ and then all like ‘BOUSCH!’ And then, then you’re like totally toast brohan. No thanks man, thanks, but no thanks.”

Most interestingly, this discovery marks the first post-Cretaceous occurrence of a hellasaurid hellasauroid hellasauriform in North America (while most authorities consider “Ogopogo” to be a “hellasaur” sensu lato, it’s almost certainly not a true hellasauroid). It’s tempting to imagine that the mythical “dragons” of Eurasian folklore were inspired by extinct old-world protardosuchians whose remains have yet to be discovered. In fact this pan-Pacific distribution would almost certainly confirm McCarthy’s (2003) argument that the Pacific basin didn’t open until the Mesozoic. Dude, seriously.

An artist’s reconstruction of Protardosuchus.
Dennis McCarthy (2003) “The trans-Pacific zipper effect: disjunct sister taxa and matching geological outlines that link the Pacific margins” Journal of Biogeography 30 (10)
Neumayr, M et al. (2008) “Expirational autocombustion in a recently extinct Hellasaur from coastal California” Bull. Soc. Hist. Int. Taut. 56 (9 or 10)

Al-Aqsa Lovers Brigade

6 January 2008

Wax Brigade
Seen at the Maker’s Mark distillery, included for no particular reason…

Way back in the mid 1990s, I cut my teeth as a “science writer” in the pages of the Atascadero Junior High School newspaper with the editorial “What’s wrong with Jurassic Park?” It hit all the usual talking points: over-sized Velociraptors, the under-sized Dilophosaur with its unlikely frill and venomous saliva, the unrealistic presentation of field paleontology.

In short, the editorial had the same tone of self-righteous futility that regular readers of microecos will be all too familiar with; though, to be fair I prefaced the piece with a note that I wasn’t challenging the artistic license of the film-makers, but merely trying to correct any scientific misconceptions fostered by the film.

I’d like to think, all evidence to the contrary, that I’ve loosened-up considerably since my adolescent years–I mean, hey, at least I’m not publishing rants in nationally syndicated teen advice columns railing against “elitist” high school girls1.

All this navel gazing is sparked by two interestingly divergent recent posts by Messers. Wedel and Naish. First, Matt single-handedly attempts to dislodge a deeply implanted stick in “Get your giant robotic dinosaur on“:

The granddaddy of all ex-paleo objections to pop culture dinosaurs, though, is that…

“That’s so unrealistic! Why, just look at the external nostril! It must be at least two-thirds of the way back in the bony naris–it’s nowhere near Witmer-compliant!”

Yes, it’s true, pop culture dinosaurs always fall short of full scientific respectability. Always. If you can show me a counter-example, I can give you at least half a dozen reasons why it actually sucks.

it’s an excellent read full of the usual seething hilarity we’ve all come to expect from Wedel’s rants. It also earned him free tickets to the Sacramento showing of Walking With Dinosaurs: The Live Experience (which I’m missing as we speak for want of $70 US …bastard!) At any rate it’s an excellent essay, well worth the read, even if you’ve never mocked a three-fingered T. rex or howled at a pterosaur carrying off a buxom cave-girl.

Then–as if to reclaim the honor of sullen paleo-nerds everywhere–Darren Naish published a stinging critique of Robert Mash’s How to Keep Dinosaurs:

This could have been a really interesting experiment in the reconstruction of behaviour, and on whatever imaginary perils and pitfalls might befall any attempt to bring dinosaurs into the human world. But no, it’s just silly. The animals are not portrayed realistically, but as daft caricatures that perform to classical music, do silly dances, play cards and so on.

In this season of political double-speak and bet hedging, I’ll make my position on the importance of scientific accuracy in paleo-pop crystal clear. Art is art and we shouldn’t expect scientific perfection from every plastic cereal toy or stadium robotic dinosaur show, BUT inaccurate portrayal of paleontology in pop-culture offers a wonderful opportunity to correct popular misconceptions through critique and review. Scientists just shouldn’t take themselves too seriously – because then their experiments are probably going to run amok and eat people.

1 – Oh god, don’t ask. Needless to say, I did not get a lot of play in high school.

I’ve Been Imprisoned on the Moon

19 September 2007

Speaking of psychedelic, Silver freaking Apples are playing Davis tonight! WTF? I don’t quite know what to expect, but you can be damn sure I’ll be there, drinking out of the magic urn no less. Tour info at pitchfork, info about tonight’s show from KDVS 90.3 FM.

Hope to see you there!

The Community Vents

12 September 2007

The ‘sphere’s a-bubbling with a delicious, super-heated upwelling of righteous ire:

First, Ryan of Genomicron viciously skewers lazy science writing with Anatomy of a bad science story. Just ten easy steps to ensure that your piece follows the “norms of journalism*!”

(* inflates significance, distorts results and fosters public misconception)

Then, perpetual paleo-curmudgeon, and actual doctor, Dr. Vector wonders,

“Really, seriously, what the hell is wrong with museum exhibit designers these days?

Then he goes on to explain exactly what is really, seriously wrong with natural history exhibit design these days. “Not enough ridable dinosaur models” isn’t on his list.

A warning to science journalists, exhibit designers and readers afraid of the ‘eff’ word: these waters is hot!

Photos: Top left – black smoker from NOAA.

Bottom – Saddled Triceratops at the Creation Museum! Photo Jonathan Gitlin, from his hilarious Flickr photoset – creative commons.

They Came from Beneath The Sea

26 July 2007


Stop-motion squid sexapus by Ray Harryhausen.

Much, much chatter about the appearance of ‘giant’ (i.e. up to man-sized) Humboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas) appearing across the California Coast. A new PNAS paper: Invasive range expansion by the Humboldt squid, Doscidicus gigas, in the eastern North Pacific. Read the rest of this entry »

Blasé Feathered Tyro

29 January 2007


Photo: J & S S INTERNATIONAL, INC., DBA Kokoro Dinosaurs Copyright 2006

Microecos is nothing if not loose with the English language. Even so “feathered dinosaurs are relatively blasé” seems an especially exapt case of modifier mis-use.

For those awaiting the follow-up phugoid post: if you think I’m stalling… well, you’re right. But as we’re soon to see, stalling well is a very important skill.

Kokoro persists while Dinamation goes extinct. Selection or stochasm?