Oh, yes! T. Rex showerhead

December 5, 2014

3-D printing just got my interest big time:

From University of Utah's Twitter feed (@UUtah): RT @MarriottLibrary: 3D printed T-Rex showerhead? Yes, please!

From University of Utah’s Twitter feed (@UUtah): RT @MarriottLibrary: 3D printed T-Rex showerhead? Yes, please!

Is it for sale?  To alumni, maybe?


How to make a dinosaur: Start with a chicken . . .

July 25, 2011

Dinosaur hunter extraordinaire Jack Horner explained to an audience at TEDS that he always wanted a pet dinosaur . . .

(From a talk recorded March 4 2011.)

Jack Horner may look familiar to you.  Or you may not recognize him without the cowboy hat.  Horner is famous enough in dinosaurphile circles that a character who looked like Horner, down to the red shirt and cowboy hat, was included in the Jurassic Park movies.

This is, in loose form, real science.  It’s the sort of stuff that somehow gets squeezed out of science curricula in middle schools and high schools.  What student will not find it interesting to talk about why we can’t clone dinosaurs from mosquitoes trapped in amber, but how we can regress a chicken to bring out atavistic traits?

Such material may cause apoplexy among some cliques at the Texas State Board of Education — because this reinforces evolution ideas.  Horner says, “We can fix the chicken — because evolution works.”

Science teachers:  Can you find some way to shoehorn this stuff back into your classes?


Big bone sale in Dallas

June 11, 2011

Big bones.  Big sale.

Heritage Auction's triceratops, for Jun 12, 2011 auction

Triceratops welcomes bidders and gawkers to the Heritage Auction sale of fossils, gems, meteorites, and other national history ephemera. HA estimates this nearly-complete triceratops, mounted, to be worth about $700,000; less than 24 hours before the live auction, it has an online bid of $500,000 already.

Heritage Auctions set up a bug bunch of fossils, gems, meteorites, taxidermy, and art work from natural materials, for an auction on Sunday, June 12, 2011.

2011 June Dallas Signature Platinum Natural History Auction – Dallas, TX.  Auction #6061.

I can’t afford to bid, but they let me in to get photos.  Nice people.

Heritage Auctions' June special, a triceratops - IMGP6882 photo by Ed Darrell; use permitted with attribution

Heritage Auctions' June special, a triceratops - photo by Ed Darrell; use permitted with attribution

The triceratops greets visitors and bidders at the display site, the Tower Building at Dallas’s art deco gem, Fair Park.  (If you look at the ceiling above the triceratops, you can see where restorers have stripped away several layers of paint to reveal the original ceiling paintings — original artwork, including murals, was painted over in the years following the dramatic debut of the buildings; restoration work proceeds slowly because of lack of funding.)

Triceratops horridus
Cretaceous
Hell Creek formation, Harding County, South Dakota

Researchers dug this particular specimen out of the ground in 2004.  HA’s description just makes one’s science juices flow:

Triceratops has enjoyed much cultural publicity ever since its discovery. It is an iconic dinosaur that has appeared in movies ranging from black and white cinema to modern movies like “Jurassic Park.” It has also been in cartoons, such as the children’s classic “The Land before Time.” Triceratops is also the official state fossil of South Dakota and the official state dinosaur of Wyoming.

The present specimen was discovered in 2004 in two parts: First, the fossil hunters came upon pieces of dinosaur bone eroding down a gully. Following these bone fragments, they eventually came upon large bones that would indicate the presence of a large Ceratopsian dinosaur. While this large mass of bones was being excavated, other members of the team followed another bone trail which led them to an amazingly well preserved skull 750 feet away from the original discovery. Over the course of months, the specimens were carefully excavated in large blocks; each specimen was covered in plaster jackets and removed from the field to the lab. It was only during preparation that they discovered the dinosaur was a Triceratops, and it happened to be a Triceratops with an incredibly complete skull. The bones and skull were carefully removed from their field jackets and prepared using hand tools. Broken bones were professionally repaired and restored while a few missing elements were cast from other Triceratops skeletons. A custom made mount was created to support the bones and the skull; innovative bracket mounts were crafted for each bone so that no bones had to be damaged in order to mount them. The bones were mounted in osteologically correct position; making it comparable to and possibly surpassing the accuracy of older mounts in museum displays. Though it is impossible to say whether or not the skull is original to the specimen, being discovered 750 feet apart, it is certainly possible that the two elements are associated for a number of reasons: first, the size of the skull is consistent with the proportional size dimensions of the skeleton, and second, the surrounding matrix (host rock) was identical in composition.

The completed skeleton is enormous; measuring 19 feet long from head to tail, 11 feet across, and towering 12 feet tall. The skull itself measures 7 feet long with 3 ½ foot long horns; placing it near the top of the size range for Triceratops skulls. The leg bones stand 10 feet tall from toes to the top of the scapula; dwarfing many other Triceratops skeletons. Given that the skull represents about 30% of a dinosaur’s entire skeleton, the present specimen is about 75% original bone, with the right leg, pelvic region, several cervical vertebrae and a few tail vertebrae being cast reproductions.

Who owns the thing?  Who put it together?   Who is losing the specimen, should it go to a private collection (you got a living room that big?), and which museum really wants it?

But that’s just one of the specimens up for sale at this auction, and not necessarily the best.  Also up for bid:  A stegosaurus, and an allosaurus, posed as a “fighting pair.”

Fighting pair - allosaurus and stegosaurus, from Heritage Auctions' June 12, 2011 sale of fossils IMGP6839 - photo copyright by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

The "fighting pair," an allosaurus (left) and stegosaurus (right) posed in combat positions. Photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution.

If it sells, the stegosaurus will cost a lucky bidder more than $1 million.  The allosaurus requires $1.6 million.

Am I jaded?  On the one hand you can’t look at these specimens without thinking they deserve to be seen by kids, and adults, and studied by paleontologists and biologist of all stripes — and so who has the right to sell these off?  On the other hand, this is a Second Gilded Age, and the search for prize fossil specimens is often financed by the proceeds from these auctions.  I enjoyed an hour’s browsing and photographing — a slide presentation on the wonders of America for some sleepy class next fall.

How many of these specimens will I get a chance to see again in the future?

Or, Dear Reader, how many of these will you ever get a chance to see?

HA will sell a lot more than just a few dinosaur fossils.  This same sale includes the largest shark jawbone ever found, stuffed Kodiak and polar bears (from the same hunter), gems, art from petrified wood and fossilized fish, and a large selection of meteorites, including the only meteoroid ever confirmed to have struck and killed a living creature (a cow in Argentine; you can’t toss a stone without hitting a cow in Argentina, I hear).

Giant shark jaw for Heritage Auctions' June 2011 sale

Requires a large wall and high ceilings to display

I don’t plan to go bid; there’s about an hour remaining for online bidding tonight, but if you’re interested and you’ve got your income tax refund burning a hole in your pocket, you can also bid by telephone and hotlink on the internet (go to the Heritage Auction site for details).   Frankly, I don’t think the sale will get the attention it deserves.  I hope these spectacular specimens will land where they can get  a great, admiring and studious audience.


Debunking creationist claims of human and dinosaur footprints together . . .

September 26, 2010

. . . from 1983!

Steve Schafersman, now president of Texas Citizens for Science, played the yeoman then:

Description of the program:

Did humans coexist with dinosaurs? The tracks tell the tale. Dr. John R. Cole, Dr. Steven Schafersman, Dr. Laurie Godfrey, Dr. Ronnie Hastings, Lee Mansfield, and other scientists examine the claims and the evidence. Air date: 1983.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the National Center for Science Education.


Dallas shows off dinosaurs on ice

October 7, 2008

Viewers of NOVA tonight get to see some of the pride of Dallas on display.  “Arctic Dinosaurs” documents the work of a paleontologist from the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science digging dinosaurs in or near the Arctic Circle.

NOVA takes viewers on an exciting Arctic trek as one team of paleontologists attempts a radical “dig” in northern Alaska, using explosives to bore a 60-foot tunnel into the permafrost in search of fossil bones. Both the scientists and the filmmakers face many challenges while on location, including plummeting temperatures and eroding cliffs prone to sudden collapse. Meanwhile, a second team of scientists works high atop a treacherous cliff to unearth a massive skull, all the while battling time, temperature, and voracious mosquitoes.

The hardy scientists shadowed in “Arctic Dinosaurs” persevere because they are driven by a compelling riddle: How did dinosaurs—long believed to be cold-blooded animals—endure the bleak polar environment and navigate in near-total darkness during the long winter months? Did they migrate over hundreds of miles of rough terrain like modern-day herds of caribou in search of food? Or did they enter a dormant state of hibernation, like bears? Could they have been warm-blooded, like birds and mammals? Top researchers from Texas, Australia, and the United Kingdom converge on the freezing tundra to unearth some startling new answers.

Tony Fiorillo, curator of earth sciences at the Dallas museum, is one of the scientists featured in the NOVA production.  The film highlights the museum’s efforts to push science work as well as displays for the public.

Previously, the museum had relied on Texas volunteers to help unearth and mount displays on prehistoric creatures from Texas, under the direction of Charles Finsley, a venerable Texas geologist.  One one hand, it’s good to see the level of science kicked up a notch or two.  On the other hand, it was great to have such a high level outlet for amateur and future, volunteer scientists at a major  museum.

In any case, the PBS program demonstrates that science goes on in Texas despite foolish creationist eruptions from the State Board of Education.  Every piece of accurate information helps eclipse the anti-science leanings of education officials.

Resources:

_______________________________

Update:  Wonderful program.  There’s a lot of good science, and a good deal of geography in the program.  Geography teachers may want to think about using this as supplement to anything dealing with Alaska, or the Arctic.


Fred Flintstone waded here: Hoaxsters ready to teach creationism to Texas kids

August 5, 2008

Creationists in Texas claim to have found a stone with footprints of a human and a dinosaur.

No, I’m not kidding.

Hoax

Hoax “dinosaur and human footprints” claimed to be found in the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas.

Could you make this stuff up? Well, yeah, I guess some people think you could. Somebody did make this stuff up.

According to a report in the too-gullible Mineral Wells Index, long-time hoaxster and faux doctorate Carl Baugh’s Creation Evidence Museum announced the rock was found just outside Dinosaur Valley State Park. The area has been the site of more than one creationist hoax since 1960, and was an area rife with hoax dinosaur prints dating back to the 1930s. (See these notes on the warning signs of science hoaxes and history hoaxes.)

The estimated 140-pound stone was recovered in July 2000 from the bank of a creek that feeds the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas, located about 53 miles south of Fort Worth. The find was made just outside Dinosaur Valley State Park, a popular destination for tourists known for its well-preserved dinosaur tracks and other fossils.

The limestone contains two distinct prints – one of a human footprint and one belonging to a dinosaur. The significance of the cement-hard fossil is that it shows the dinosaur print partially over and intersecting the human print.

In other words, the stone’s impressions indicate that the human stepped first, the dinosaur second. If proven genuine, the artifact would provide evidence that man and dinosaur roamed the Earth at the same time, according to those associated with the find and with its safekeeping. It could potentially toss out the window many commonly held scientific theories on evolution and the history of the world.

Except, as you can see, Dear Reader and Viewer, it’s a hoax. No dinosaur has a footprint exactly resembling the print of Fred Flintstone’s pet Dino, as the rock shows; nor do human footprints left in mud look like the print shown.

Dear God, save us from such tom-foolery, please.

To the newspaper’s credit, they consulted with an expert who knows better. The expert gave a conservative, scientific answer, however, when the rock deserved a chorus of derisive hoots:

However, Dr. Phillip Murry, a vertebrate paleontology instructor in the Geoscience department of Tarleton State University at Stephenville, Texas, stated in his response to an interview request: “There has never been a proven association of dinosaur (prints) with human footprints.”

The longtime amateur archeologist who found the fossil thinks that statement is now proven untrue.

“It is unbelievable, that’s what it is,” Alvis Delk, 72, said of what could be not only the find of a lifetime, but of mankind.

Delk is a current Stephenville and former Mineral Wells resident (1950-69) who said he found the rock eight years ago while on a hunt with a friend, James Bishop, also of Stephenville, and friend and current fiancee Elizabeth Harris.

Yes, it’s unbelievable.

For comparison, real hominid footprints look much different — the print below was left in a thin-layer of volcanic ash about 4 million years ago, 61 million years after dinosaurs went extinct, according to timelines corroborated by geologists, paleontologists, astronomers, nuclear physicists and biologists:

Print of a hominid, found at Laetoli, Africa; image from Stanford University

Print of a hominid, found at Laetoli, Tanzania, Africa; image from Stanford University. Photo: J. Reader/SPL

With luck, serious scientists will get a chance to analyze the prints soon, and note that they are hoaxes. If history is any guide, however, Baugh and his comrades will keep the rock from scientific analysis, claiming that scientists refuse to analyze it.

The rock is approximately 30 inches by 24 inches. The human footprint, with a deep big toe impression, measures 11 inches in length. Baugh said the theropod track was made by an Acrocanthosaurus. Baugh said this particular track was likely made by a juvenile Acrocanthosaurus, one he said was probably about 20 feet long, stood about 8 feet tall and walked stooped over, weighing a few tons.

Its tracks common in the Glen Rose area, the Acrocanthosaurus is a dinosaur that many experts believe existed primarily in North America during the mid-Cretaceous Period, approximately 125 million to 100 million years ago.

Baugh said Delk’s discovery casts doubts on that theory. Baugh said he believes both sets of prints were made “within minutes, or no more than hours of each other” about 4,500 years ago, around the time of Noah’s Flood. He said the clay-like material that the human and dinosaur stepped in soon hardened, becoming thick, dense limestone common in North Texas.

He said the human print matches seven others found in the same area, stating the museum has performed excavations since 1982 in the area Baugh has dubbed the “Alvis Delk Cretaceous Footprint” discovery.

This “find” comes as the State Board of Education begins rewriting science standards for Texas schools. The chairman of the SBOE is a committed creationist who publicly says he hopes to get creationism into the standards and textbooks in Texas, miseducating Texas students that creationism has a scientific basis.

Delk’s own daughter, Kristi Delk, is a geology major at Tarleton State University in Stephenville and holds different beliefs from her dad about the creation of Earth and the origins of man.

She said she wants to see data from more tests before jumping to any conclusions.

“I haven’t come to terms with it,” she said. “I am skeptical, actually.”

Listen to your daughter, Mr. Delk.

In a story Texas educators hope to keep completely unrelated to the foot prints hoax, Mineral Wells area schools showed gains in academic achievement on the Texas state test program.

Additional resources:

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Gary Hurd at Stones and Bones, who Is a bit of an expert in this stuff, calls “fake.

Here is how to fake a patina that will look like this fake fossil: Brush the surface with vinegar, and then sprinkle with baking powder followed by baking soda, and let dry. Repeat until you are happy with the results. This is not the only way, or even the best way. But it is simple, and will fool the average fool. Especially easy if they want to be fooled.

So, having spent a little bit more time on the photo of this fake, I feel that I understand a bit more about how it was produced. A legitimate dinosaur track was found and removed. Incompetent, unprofessional “Cleaning” damaged it. An parital overprint, or simple erosion depression was “improved” by adding “toes.” The faked surfaces were smothed over with a simple kitchen concoction to make a “patina.” Artifact fabricators next bury the fake for a year or two, or they smear it with fertilizer and leave it exposed. This helps weather the object and obscure tool marks.

Did you find this post useful, or entertaining? Vote to share it with others — click the “Digg” button above; list it on Reddit or other services, if you have memberships there. Link to this post from your own blog. Help spread the word this hoax is coming.

Help stamp out hoaxes; run with the word:

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8 year-old kid finds dinosaur tracks

March 18, 2008

Here’s a great story about a kid who made a significant dinosaur-related find: 8 year-old Rhys Nichols found the dinosaur tracks as he was strolling along a beach near his home in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

Found the story via Prehistoric CSI, a blog which normally tracks dinosaur digs in Texas at the Seymour, Texas, “red beds” — and which is billed as having a limited run. Texas history and science teachers need to get over there to see what’s up. (Seymour is about midway between Fort Worth and Lubbock.)

Seymour Red beds logo, Robert Bakker, Houston MNH

Prehistoric CSI has some wonderful stories about digging and researching Texas fossils — see this one featuring 3-D images of a still-rock-encased critter.

I hope that site stays alive for a while.


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