Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'd opt for extinction if I had a name like that. . .

Looking up strange dinosaur names today... similar to poor Megalosaurus' "Scrotum humanum" and the sad little Pachycephalosaur "Dracorex hogwartsia". I think I might have found the single most depressed dinosaur in their entire existence...

Erectopus superbus

This pathetically named Allosaur probably wished death upon himself. I would have surely conjured up an asteroid just for the occasion. The poor buggar appeared to have several -near- name changes over the past 100 years, but still managed to maintain his pornstar name. Essentially, Erectopus means "upright foot", add the superbus in and you get "proud upright foot". I highly doubt it would have felt superior and terrifying in the face of laughing herbivores.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I love you, Spike

Stegosaurus Week (13th Sept to 19th Sept) is coming to a close, and I haven't made a single mention about the awesomeness that is Stegosaurus.

For those who don't know, Stegosaurus was a herbivour which first appeared in the Jurassic (and probably had epic battles of survival against Allosaurus). The most commonly identified of the Stegosauridae family is most likely Stegosaurus stenops, since nearly everywhere I look (if you're searching for dinosaurs as much as I am), S. stenops is almost like the posterchild for what a Stegosaurus species is characterised for. It was short and stocky, but with large plates and typical 4 spikes on the end of the tail. Although, it wasn't the largest stegosaurid, it does seem to be the most common species.

So why is Stegosaurus so awesome??
Besides the clearly lethal set of tail-spikes Steg sported, and the pretty cool looking fashion statement they made during the Jurassic with their plate(-like Mohawks), there is one really awesome thing about Stegosaurus:

It had a "second brain"; near the base of its tail used for controlling reflexes in the rear part of its body. The "brain" in the hip region was not made of brain tissue, but instead, a complex nerve centre; the "sacral plexus." It was a secondary control center for the spinal cord. So despite the obvious tiny size of Stegosaurus' brain, and the possibility that it may have lacked intelligence, didn't mean it wasn't cleverly designed for its time in an evolutionary time-frame.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Feathery upset

I had this journal article in Nature brought to my attention; and low and behold! It has my favourite palaeoartist, Raul Martin's interpretation of this amazing predator, Concavenator corcovatus...

Interesting features of this 130 million year old predatory dinosaur:
(1) a strange hump on its back; and
(2) unusual calcareous lumps on its forearms (believed to bear quills - a possible evidence of feathers).

The eleventh and twelfth vertebrae are more prominent, being double the height of the rest of the vertebrae. This pyramidal crest may have been used in territorial disputes and/or attracting a mate, or even similarly used in a manner resembling Stegosaurus' plates. (To me, it looks like an ideal, gentle slope where a male Concavenator could rest his chest while romancing the lady... but that's my outlandish observation).
At this point, all we can gather is Concavenator is a rather strange specimen.

Now the bumps on the forearms is even more controversial than the odd triangular hump. So the problem here is this... C. corcovatus provides evidence that feathers began to appear earlier than previously thought. Which now puts a little twist in the Therapod family tree, as Concavenator is more closely related to "Big Al" (MOR 693) which, up until now, have never had a feathery relative. The sister lineage which has the feather-featuring dinosaurs (T. rex) and finally leading to modern-day birds has now been thrown into shambles over the rights to bear plumage.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Museums = Science, stupid!

. . . Well, apparently they have a museum. And for a mere US$21.95, you get admittance to the Creation Museum, Petersburg, Kentucky! *Yay!*

On the museum grounds, there's heaps to do! I mean, no museum is complete without "a zonkey, a zorse and wallabies!" in their petting zoo. Or camel rides, so you can feel like one of the three Wise men. Oh but wait! Inside the museum, there's a section on Natural Selection. In the corner of this exhibit, there's also a cave aquarium with a few poor, little blind cavefish under spotlight - "showing how natural selection allows organisms to possess characteristics most favorable for a given environment—but it is not an example of evolution in the molecules-to-man sense". . . what?!?

I really enjoyed the little jibe at Charles Darwin with naming their primate mascot "Charlie" with his triceratops buddy "Trike"... who in many a backwards religious-nut's mind means that Trike is an imaginary friend. And the irony doesn't stop there... Trike also happens to be learned in the Biblical ways and is guiding Charlie in the teachings. This piece of information will either break your heart or make you laugh (heartbreak: dinosaurs are now teaching the ways of the Bible. OR Laugh: since Trike doesn't exist in the opinion of most Creationists, this means Charlie's imaginary friend is teaching him stories of make-believe).

I've taken the virtual tour, and I must say, I've never laughed so hard in my life. I have two favourites. The Garden of Eden is great! There's Adam and Eve nestled amongst the bushes, shaded by glorious trees; surrounded by antelope and what appears to be poorly painted Quagga (or Hyracotherium). Oh, look over there! Through the trees! Yes, it's an Ankylosaurus browsing on some grass in the Garden of Eden. Funny, but I was so sure the Bible never mentioned Mr. Ankylosaurus? Then there's the Dinosaur Den... ah yes, the Dinosaur Den. Where large statues of dinosaurs roam wild... amongst the cavemen.

Oh oh look workshops! Lets have a look what they have to keep me and the world entertained. Hmm... it seems like all if not most of the workshops are run by the same person, Dr. Menton (he must be very knowledgeable)...

Three ways to make an Apeman, this looks promising - if only it didn't disappoint me completely! The description of this particular workshop annoyed me more than slightly:

"Did you know that there are only three ways to make an apeman? Far from being ancestors of humankind, apemen must be constructed by taking a human skull and declaring it to be ape-like (Neanderthal man), taking an ape skull and declaring it to be human-like (Lucy, or Australopithecus afarensis), or mixing fossil ape and human specimens together (as was done with Piltdown man)."

Now, there are a few things I want to clear up here before I continue my tour:
- Piltdown man was a hoax... you know, like the facade of Jesus seen nearly everywhere
- Sciencists actually document their errors, whereas creationists will rarely expose any mistakes they might have made.

But there's another workshop, Evolution: not a chance. And you're all so excited to know what that's all about, ey?:

"Evolution is bad science, but makes good magic! Using magical illusions, Dr. Menton illustrates the improbability of evolution. Biological systems leave little to chance. Instead, genetic information is precisely encoded in the DNA. You will see how to calculate the probability of the chance arrangement of amino acids required by evolution into biologically useful proteins. What are the odds that evolution happened? Not a chance!"

Jesus would be rolling in his grave! Biological organisms, while some may be similar in appearance or chemistry, may have the requirements of different proteins to function. On the topic of abiogenesis, the creationist's view is:

simple cells ----------------------------------> bacteria

Whereas, the entire theory of abiogenesis is a gradual increase in cellular organism complexity. This process (simplified) goes a little like this:

simple cells --> polymers --> replicating polymers --> hypercycle --> protobiont --> bacteria

If you want an amusing read, look towards a rather well written article by Robert Schadewald, Scientific Creationism and Error. And for more information between abiogenisis vs the abiogenesis of creationism, have a read into Ian Musgrave's Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Probability of Abiogenisis Calculations (where I got the simplified comparison of the theories above). So, from that it appears that Dr. Menton is a moron.

Moving away from the idiocies of the workshops, there's a lot more going on. You can have the museum host birthday parties, join their membership club, take photography lessons (essential more workshops), or do a bit of star gazing. But ignoring all of that, may I suggest you take a gander at the "GIVE" section, under "About the Museum"... for a laugh, you can see that "donations" is too sweet a word to use when money is desperately needed. Instead, just damn well GIVE your bank details... the Creation Museum will do the rest. Or if you're unhappy with your house, why not GIVE it to the museum... they always need more land.

Something to take away from all this. . .
1. Museums are only for science.
2. All museums I have visited are free (unless you want to see the temporary exhibits)
3. Museums try preserve species as separate units (unlike the donkey/horseXzebra in the Creation petting zoo) and generally don't display live animals (this is reserved for zoological gardens and aquariums)
4. Natural selection and evolution act upon each other, hand-in-hand
5. Bogus science will never replace real science