Friday, October 21, 2016

An Overview of Dinosaur Exhibits Part 6: The Carnegie Museum revisited

When you think of timeless fossil museums in the USA, you usually think of places like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. You think of schools like Harvard, Yale, and Drexel. You think of places where they’re found like in Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. When you think of the city of Pittsburgh, you think the highlands of western Pennsylvania as the Appalachians cut through the state towards New York. You think of the steel and the coal and the massive factories and sweating immigrants.  You would never connect Pittsburgh with a fossil museum.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Book Review: Prehistoric Monsters

Dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts have been a big part of Western Culture, especially the dominant English, French and American cultures, for centuries. This has been acknowledged by scientists, historians, and artistic commentators, but there are relatively few overviews of it. So, it was to my delight that Allen A. Debus finally wrote a book on this obsession and its permutations, the 2010 work Prehistoric Monsters: The Real and Imagined Creatures of the Past That We Love to Fear. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Pictures At An Exhibition Part 2

Today I’m returning to my Pictures At An Exhibition. In case you haven’t read part 1, here’s the link

We continue the series of murals with one that has been restored to display after a 20-year hiatus. It’s the first one visitors see in Evolving Planet, right between the stromatolites, next to a display on banded iron, and a model of a eukaryotic cell. Those are pretty good hints, by the way, on the setting and content.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Jurassic World review

“Boy, do I hate being right all the time!”-Ian Malcolm

For years I’ve wondered why dinosaurs aren’t popular anymore. They’re second fiddle again like always. The Renaissance is over, and the Wars of Religion have begun. Paleontology’s still small and uncool, science itself is forgotten in an anti-intellectual atmosphere, hardly anyone goes to museums for the collections anymore. Maybe I’m cynical. Maybe it’s just my bipolar psychology getting to me again.  I had hope for a while. Then I saw Jurassic World.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Prehistoric Warfare Episode 5: Iguanodon vs Neovenator

Now for something different. In 2004, Animal Planet showed as new series called Animal Face Off, a series reconstructing conflicts between coexisting animals. While the execution was clumsy and lacking, the concept is strong and I think easily applied to prehistoric fauna.  Ideally, there would be professionals discussing the situations, but unfortunately, you have only me. First I will compare the animals, and then depict their behavior, before concluding with the final battle.  The outcome will be my personal opinion; and there would be many times when the outcome would be decidedly different. This is not a scientific consensus, but one researcher’s opinion.

We all love dinosaur battles. They’re always a high point in a film. It’s childish, but it’s just plain fun. So, I’m hoping to use this opportunity to use this almost-universal appeal to get people thinking and talking about ecology, biomechanics, and behavior. Only one or two of these stories will be based on actual fossils-the rest are likely possibilities that must have happened sometime or another. In real life, animals usually don’t fight on even terms, but it does happen. Sometimes prey turn the tables, sometimes predators quarrel between themselves, but it can happen. I hope you enjoy this. Again, first I will have two scenes, one for each animal showing them in their habitat and showcasing their particular skills, then finally concluding with a battle between the two.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Special: The Horrors of Hatzeg Island

I’m back! I’ve been gone from this blog for a while, but rest assured I’m alive and still fascinated by prehistory. Today we’re coming back to a Halloween theme, however tenuous it may be.  One of the most notorious places in the world of fiction, the most infamous places in Europe, the home of the vampires and witches and werewolves, is Transylvania.  Transylvania is now part of Romania, north of Wallachia, west of Moldavia, and southeast of Hungary. It was a battle zone in the past, as Austrians, Russians, Hungarians, Turks, Wallachians, Moldavians, Poles, and Germans have struggled over the region.  Rich in minerals, it is a mountainous region,  consisting of mostly forest-covered hills and mountains topped with castles.  It was here that the notorious Prince Vlad Dracula imposed his rule with an iron fist and defied the might of the Ottoman empire. 

It is also a place rich for paleontology. This began with Baron Nopsca in a period from 1899 to the First World War. Baron Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás, born of a Romanian line of Hungarized aristocrats in the Austrian empire, left the University of Vienna with two goals: The throne of an independent Albania, and the discovery of Romanian fossils. This colorful, Romantic figure tragically lost his fortune on his pursuits and ended his life in a suicide pact with his Albian secretary and lover Bayazid Doda in 1933.  However, in his lifetime, he found a treasure trove of Romanian dinosaurs from the end of the Mesozoic.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Canada Day Special

With Canada Day today, I've decided to showcase a Canadian fauna of dinosaurs. This one is the richest, most distinctive and one of the oldest. 

The Red Deer River flows south from the Canadian Rockies, the Sawback range of Alberta. The river passes through plains, forests, and badlands of southern Alberta before merging in the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatchewan province. Along the shores are exposed stones, cliffs, and hills of rock 75 million years old. For over a century, its secrets have been revealed, producing one of the richest fossil sites in the world. These dinosaurs are part of North American culture, and have become pillars of dinosaur research around the world and for years to come.

Welcome my friends, to Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.