Monday, September 24, 2012

30 Second Science: A Dinosaur Duel

In today's "30 Second Science" I'm going to answer an age old question: Who would when in a fight, Tyrannosaurus or Stegosaurus.

Movies like Jurassic Park are compelling evidence that scientists can take DNA that has miraculously survived decomposition over 150 million years, splice it together with frog DNA, and create a living dinosaur. It's legitimate science, believe me.1 

Pictured: A scenario that's just as likely as Jurassic Park

Bad science aside, movies like Jurassic Park excite our imagination. So I want to pose the question: Who would win in a fight between the amazing Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus?

Now, although I hope the comment section of this post devolves into a geek filled internet flame war to actually answer the question, I have a scientific point to make from this question. 

Stegosaurus lived roughly 150 million years ago in the Jurassic period. On the other hand, Tyrannosaurus lived only 67 million years ago in the Cretaceous period. This leaves a few observations to be made:

1. The movie Jurassic Park is a horrible name. Cretaceous Park would be more fitting, since it was during this time frame that both Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor lived.
2. Stegosaurus would never have fought Tyrannosaurus. They lived nearly 83 million years apart from eachother.
3. We are separated from Tyrannosaurus by less time than Tyrannosaurus is separated from Stegosaurus.

That final one is mind blowing to me, and it shows just how bad at understanding long periods of time the human brain can be. When I hear 150 million years ago and 67 million years ago, my brain just understands both of those as "a really, really long time ago". This inability to understand large numbers is a common pitfall when trying to understand science (and I'll write more on that later).

And now, the point of this entire post. Funny cartoons about Tyrannosaurus Rex. Also, this great clip from firefly.

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[1] Or you could be smart, not believe me when I say that, and anticipate a "Bad Science in the Movies: Jurassic Park". It's up to you.