The Science of Jurassic World


Jurassic World, which opens today, is a terrific film — as good as the previous three in the franchise, including the first. I saw it in 3D, so my comparison is with the previous 2D versions, and it really comes to life in this format. But such dimensional matters aside, the plot is feasible enough to enable even the most skeptical viewer to willing suspend disbelief enough to accept the premise as plausible, which is the genetic engineering of a completely new type of dinosaur that never existed in the Jurassic. This was done under the advisement of the most famous dinosaur digger in the world, paleontologist Jack Horner, who has been the science advisor for the film franchise, including this latest installment.

I’ve known Jack since the early 1990s when I first helped him dig up a dino on a site in Montana (it’s much harder work to release the fossil treasure embedded in solid rock using dental picks than it appears in the film, in which workers easily brush away loose dirt with a small brush). When I arrived at Horner’s camp I was surprised to come upon a patient historical scientist, sitting cross-legged before a cervical vertebrate from a 140-million year old Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus), wondering what to make of it. A reporter from a local paper asked Horner what this discovery meant for the history of dinosaurs. Did it change any of his theories? Where was the head? Was there more than one body at this site? Horner’s answers were consistent with those of the cautious scientist: “I don’t know yet.” “Beats me.” “We need more evidence.” “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Horner’s scientific thoroughness comes through on screen as the science behind Jurassic World paralleled that of his work on back-engineering a —> Read More