Reflecting on Hawking

March 14th, Einstein’s birthday, has come to be known Pi Day, the holiday that (for the most part) celebrates mathematics and mathematicians (as well as math-heavy sciences). It was also the day we found out that theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking had passed away, at the age of 76.

Along with Tyson and Sagan, Hawking was one of the celebrities of the physicist and cosmologist communities, being probably one of the most brilliant minds over to gain recognition in recent history. During his life theorized on the laws by which Blackholes operate, the formation of the expanding Universe and how it might eventually end, the potential existence of Multiverse Theory, and the search for a Theory of Everything that would unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory (our current understandings concerning both still have contradictions that need to be reconciled)

He has had both a form of radiation (emitted by so-called Blackholes) and a form of energy (as a possible definition of mass in a general relativity equation).

Hawking is also notable for writing A Brief History of Time—which became an international bestseller—as well as a couple other books about physics and cosmology, all of which helped him to earn him pop culture notability comparable to that of Albert Einstein.

He recently had a memoir published, an autobiographical work titled My Brief History that looks back over his life as a scientist, a student, a husband, and a father (a slightly dramatized account of his early life can be seen in the 2014 biopic The Theory of Everything). He and his daughter Lucy also wrote several children’s books about the cosmic adventures and explorations of two kids named George and Annie.

A full list of works written by Hawking can be found on his official website, as well as on Amazon.

Doctor Hawking had a rare early-onset form of slowly progressing form of Motor Neurone Disease known as ALS that manifested during his twenties and slowly rendered him unable to make use of his voluntary muscles. It is was expected to kill him within three years after diagnosis, yet obviously he persisted well into his seventies. Eventually it took away his voluntary motion and ability to speak (at which point he ended up getting his trademark american-accented robotic voice). I won’t say he was trapped, because his mind was still sharp, and with his mind he was free to explore the Universe and its mysteries. If he hadn’t had ALS, it is likely that he could never have become the notable man he was, as his diagnosis lead to him developing a strong sense of purpose (though his first marriage might have lasted longer without the personal strain).

Besides his publications and theoretical work, Hawking was a notable role model and advocated for the disabled, a mantle he accepted sometime around the 90s. To be disabled is to often be marginalized or treated as a burden; through Hawking one can learn that a debilitating condition does not have to prevent one from seeking out and achieving great things. He was a staunch acknowledger of the existence of climate change, and has stated that the changes happening on Earth now are comparable to the developments that lead to Venus becoming the hothouse it is. On a related note, he believed that the future of humanity was dependent on going into space and colonizing other worlds, because our own planet was getting too used and crowded to support us for much longer.

Among his peers and colleges he also was known for being quick witted and always up to wager on potential scientific discoveries (like betting against the identity of Cygnus X-1 as a blackhole; Kip Thorne won).

As a celebrity, his statements and actions occasionally caused controversy. Like a lot of older men, he could be sexist, if not misogynistic. He was also an outspoken atheist, which of course drew ire from the religious crowd. Whereas religious belief sees the world as existing under authority, Hawking saw the world as existing under observable and understandable laws. If something seemed unexplainable, it was because we had yet to discover the laws behind it. As an extension of his atheism, he did not believe in any afterlife either; the human brain is a complex organic computer that just shuts down when the components fail.

He was also the only person to play themselves in a Star Trek series, during an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Data the android plays poker against (technically a hologram of) him, Isaac Newton (played by an actor), and Albert Einstein (also played by an actor). Other shows in which he appeared as himself include The Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons. Neat.

Doctor Hawking’s funeral service occurred late last March on the 31st. His cremated remains are to be buried at Westminster Abbey alongside fellow notable Brits Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

stephen
A drawing depicting a free mind exploring the far reaches of the cosmos

While he had his flaws as a person, Stephen Hawking was a brilliant human being who had a significant influence on human society. Many people were inspired by him in some way to get into the sciences, and many of the people who studied under him went on to be notable physicists as well.

While Hawking desired to one day visit outer space (don’t we all?), he is now dead and commercial space flight has still yet to come into existent. There are still quite a few economic and political barriers that would allow us the means to leave the planet, let alone visit others.

While some will deny it to their heart’s content, we are rapidly changing our planet and not for the better. There are ways that we can (and should) repair it, but even then there will still come a time in the future when we may have to look to the stars to sustain our species. I hope I live long enough to see a person set foot on Mars (or at least the moon again), but I would happily settle for widespread environmental sustainment and regrowth. At the moment, this is the only planet we’ve got.

In the mean time, there’s still plenty of hypotheses to test and mysteries to explore.

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Bananas

Ever here of the Gros Michel Banana? As known colloquially as the Big Mike, it was primarily grown in South East Asia, become a common export to Europe and America during the 1800’s, and was probably the most commonly sold breed of banana in the west up until the 1950s. Then the Panama disease descended upon the plantations, and the monocrop industry was basically shut down permanently. They’re still grown in some tropical areas, just no longer on a global industrial scale.

The banana most people around the world get as an export is the Cavendish. This banana is similar in appearance to the Gros Michel, but is noticeably thinner and having a different ripening pattern. It also has less flavor; the average Gros Michel is reported to be much sweeter, more consistently creamy, and to have a less noticeable seed area. It was also more robust and physically suited for long distance travel.

Of course, the Gros Michel could not withstand the fungal infection known as Panama disease, which rendered it all but extinct. The blander and less hardy Cavendish was more resistant to the disease, so it rose in prominence.

However, it’s possible that we will have to soon find a substitute for our current variety of banana as well. According to reports from within the next two decades, a new viral form of Panama disease has manifested that is deadly to the Cavendish variety. The problem with bananas is that they are breed and reproduced via monocultural cloning, so there’s not a lot of genetic diversity, and anything that can kill one plant will likely kill every other.

In 2008, Dan Koeppel suggested that we “say goodbye” to the banana, recognize that it is an exotic food product that always had the potential of “slipping” out of our grasp.

I heard somewhere that there are plans to genetically engineer both Cavendish and surviving strands of Gros Michel to be more disease resistant. I guess we’ll see how that turns out. Perhaps I should do as Koeppel suggests and learn to live without bananas and focus more on products that can be grown or made close to home.

––––

When Captain America got frozen during the Second World War, the “Big Mike” was still the most commonly eaten banana in America. I wonder how his first exposure to the Cavendish went? From his point of view, it probably seemed that this new future world is so strange that even the bananas were wrong.

Anyway, speaking of Marvel characters, the Black Panther movie is coming out this upcoming Thursday (well, the Thursday after this was posted at any rate.

––––

Sources:

Gros Michel: The Lost Banana your Grandfather Loved

Your Favorite Banana is Facing Extinction

Yes, We Will Have No Bananas – New York Times

 

February So Far

It is currently February Tenth, just four days before the post-Catholic Western World goes about celebrating love, infatuation, and all that crap. I recently looked up Saint Valentine just to see what he was all about. There’s not much reliable information, just that he was martyred and buried someplace near Rome, and that he’d allegedly been conducting illegal Christian marriages in the Empire. Also, there may have been some other saints with a name derived from “Valentinus” as well. Traditionally, the day of Saint Valentine was celebrated with a feast, as was that of other martyred saints with a designated day of remembrance.

I don’t plan on doing anything special for the holiday this year. Maybe next year.

February also happens to be Black History Month, a time when the often ignored stories, struggles, and historical perspectives get to be brought to the fore. Per usual, the student organizations have been providing some interesting show-casings to go with the month.

Just this last week we had the 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro showing in the art building auditorium. Based on an unfinished manuscript by writer and social critic James Baldwin, the film is a deep and powerful look back on the complexities and struggles surrounding the Civil Rights movement, as seen by someone who was there and experienced it. It is a very illuminating film, and Baldwins observations and understandings are still very applicable to (if not eerily predicative of) the current state of American society.

We’ve also had screenings of other films such as Black Girl, a 1966 french film about a young woman from Senegal who moves to France to work as maid for this wealthy upper-middle class family. She expects to experience the adventure and wonder of living in this new, exotic land, and is quickly disappointed with the reality of being some well-off family’s maid. While I won’t give away the ending exactly, I will caution that it isn’t a happy one.

Yet another film that stuck with me was a documentary called Broken On All Sides, a film that covers the problem of overcrowding in prisons such as those in the Philadelphia county jail system, as well as the broader problems in the criminal justice system that have resulted in such mass incarcerations. It covers the problems with discretion of law enforcers that lead to more arrests of nonwhite people, the use of crowded prisons to store people AWAITING trial alongside those already convicted, and the tendency of ex-cons to be legally discriminated against in a manner not-unlike that of the Jim Crow era.

There was also a pre-release showing of the horror film Get Out that I was unable to make due to studio work. I think I might try to catch it in the theater (once the actual theatrical release comes around), if I can find the time for it.

Speaking of the theater, BLACK PANTHER IS COMING OUT THIS THURSDAY!!! Don’t know what else might be happening that day, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Black Panther ink drawing
Black Panther fan art by yours truly

Reading the Kama Sutra

So last Valentine’s Day, I received an interesting gift in the mail from an exe; it was a dog-eared copy of an old translation of the Kama Sutra, with a troll-face sticker on the inside of the cover. I have no idea why she thought doing this was funny, but it turned out that I found the book rather interesting (if a bit of a long read).

As you probably know, the Kama Sutra is an old series of texts written in ancient India by a philosopher known as Vātsyāyana. The book’s title apparently translates as “the binding thread of desire” and the contents is around Kama Sastra, which translates as “the science of desire”. Point is, it’s a manual that concerns maintaining good romantic relations and a healthy sexuality.

Kama is basically one of three goals in life that one should seek to attain during their existence in order to make the most of it. The other two are Dharma (following the commands of Hindu holy writ) and Artha (the acquisition of property, art, wealth, friends, and the like). These three areas are to be engaged in at separate points in life so that they harmonized rather than conflict with each other. Apparently it is recommended by some that one practices Artha and Kama during the youth and middle ages while following the path of Dharma later in life in order to achieve Moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth, which seems to me to be connected with Nirvana in Buddhism).

Incidentally, apparently one most also study arts such as dancing, singing, tattooing, painting, riddles and enigmatic conversation, cooking, acting, and other creative endeavors alongside the science of desire in order to enhance ones ability to woo and maintain the affections of another. A pity that I don’t know any good jokes about sapiophilia, but I can definitely buy into this. There is also an elaboration on the various categories of women that one should not

Of course, this is all from the introductory first part. Part II is about Sexual Union, and its first chapter is titled “Kinds of Sexual Unions According to Dimensions, Force of Desire or Passion, Time Kind of Union”. Obviously, this is where things get more into the nitty-gritty of Kama. For dimensions, we have the three categories of penis length and corresponding vagina depth and the ways in which they should or should not be paired together. Following that is a listing of the various kinds of passionate people that exist and the various heterosexual pairings they may form, as well as the pairings that should not form as they would not be happy unions. The next few chapters respectively concern the various aspects and types of embrace (touching, holding, etc.), the types of and places for kissing, marking and scratching, when and with who it is or is not appropriate to bite, the various positions for good congress, and more technical stuff that you can more-or-less find in any book that claims to be based off of this one.

With Part III, we leave behind the methods of physical pleasure and dive into the art of finding a wife. Due to cultural and temporal dissonance, I doubt that much of these is applicable to world societies at large, which is probably why modern publications that reference to Kama Sutra do not seem to include such a section (of course, it is more likely that they are just marketing it to people only interested for the sex tips). Still, I like the fact that there are bodies of text dedicated to the proper courtship of a women and of building trust and confidence in one’s spouse-to-be. It is for these purposes that all of those aforementioned (and some unmentioned) creative arts should be put to good use by the suitor. The second chapter of this section further elaborates on the practices necessary for a man to attract a woman, while also providing insight for woman on how they should go about attracting a man. Incidentally, for some of the man’s endeavors the aid of a female friend may be required. The endeavors of the girl, meanwhile, seem to have been a point of contention among the author and other scholars (something about there being no dignity for a girl who actively pursues or something). The perspective presented here deems it alright to show affection so long as it’s done in a seemingly demur fashion (by the way, I’m significantly oversimplifying most of the content here).

The following chapter concerns the forms of marriage, and the whos, whats, and hows of making them work. After that, we got the first chapter of the fourth section, a chapter which concerns the manners in which a woman behaves in order to be considered virtuous, and how a proper wife should behave when her husband is away. Besides the obvious, this includes avoiding the company of female beggars, “loose” women, and witches, as well as proper conduct when in public or private company. There’s also some stuff on when are for what to she should shop.

After this, we get elaborations on the conduct of widows, the divorced, and those who are getting remarried. This doesn’t seem to have to much to do with desire at first, but considering how the science of desire is what this book establishes as a fundamental part of married life, it is appropriate to include the methods of handling the end and restarting of such unions. Meanwhile, I would say that the inclusion of the conduct and manners of a king’s harem members is a no brainer.

Further into the book, we have elaboration on the ways to acquaint oneself with a desired woman, as well as the proper behavior to engage in for each of the different ways she might react to the man’s advances (the latter of which is written about in a chapter titled Examination’s of a Woman’s Mind”, which to my approval explains stuff like how one must not continue with pursuit if various signs of reciprocation are not observed). Apparently a go-between may be involved in the pursuit, possibly a female friend of the man who manages to gain the confidence of the woman in order to function in a manner similar to a shill (not so much a wingman). I suppose that help from a third party is an old tradition among the courting, especially when said courting involves those not too familiar with each other.

There’s also information on how royals of both sexes may maintain a harem, what sort of consequences there are for sneaking into one’s harem, and how a man should keep his wife from having one (some kings hire sentinels to keep the royal wives from taking lovers, a fact that I find kind of ironic). It is from here that the Kama Sutra moves on to the subject of courtesans and how they maintain sexual pleasure while also using it to further their goals and such. Apparently there are set standards one needs to meet—both physically and intellectually—in order to either be a courtesan or worthy of associating with one. There’s like six chapters in the part concerning the nature and proper conduct of a good courtesan; the next few chapters concerning making oneself more desirable to the opposite sex, plus “medicinal” methods of increasing pleasure during intercourse (not sure if they work or not).

There is much information in this collection of texts that concerns the natures and manners of the relations between men and woman as viewed by the old Hindus. The values are culture specific in multiple spots, but the practical information and basic concepts seem like they could be of almost universal usefulness. Really, how many other sources do you know that include in depth writings on how to form and maintain stable romantic relations as well as tips for better sex? As someone who has failed at romantic endeavors quite a few times over, I think there is much here that from which a considerate individual can learn.

At the very least, it provides a new way of looking at something that I feel is familiar to the point of being taken for granted in western culture these days.

By the way, anyone interested can purchase a similar translation to the one I own here

Concerning Alternative Facts

In the legal profession, the term “alternative facts” may refer to two or more competing sets of facts for the two sides of a case. It can also mean a set of inconsistent facts put forth by just the one side that show there’s sufficient evidence to support both alternatives. In the latter case, inconsistent facts may provide a basis for alternative pleading.

As of 2017, the term has become defined online and in political context to be another euphemism for falsehood, originating with US press secretary Sean Spicer and his statement about the turnout for last month’s presidential inauguration.

In his first official briefing as press secretary, Spicer delivered a statement accused the media of deliberately falsifying reports covering the size of the crowd attending the inauguration, using trick angles and framed shots to make it seem like few showed up (many other members of the new administration went on to make similar claims of the reports being “lies”). Spicer claimed that Trump’s inauguration had had the largest audience of any president in history, both in person and across the globe, period. He also claimed that the reports couldn’t be accurate because it wasn’t possible to count the crowd.

Spicer’s statement was rather inaccurate. While estimating crowd size is tricky business (ticket sales alone wouldn’t provide much insight), comparisons of aerial photographs and public transportation figures to at least Obama’s inauguration show that the numbers had gone down significantly this time around.

The fact that not that many people witnessed the inauguration should not be a major deal, as it is technically not a direct reflection of the candidate’s abilities as a leader. However, it appears that the now current president’s publicity team where banking on the ceremony being the greatest in american history.

Anyway, when White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway was question about Spicer’s falsehood-containing statement during an interview with Chuck Todd (moderator for NBC’s “Meet the Press), she defended Spicer by claiming that he had merely been stating “alternative facts”. Naturally, this resulted in the term, along with “spicerfacts”, becoming a trending hashtag on tweeter, always paired with a deliberately (and obviously) false statement. Incidentally, it was the trends on Facebook that got me curious about the term. 

Conway made another statement recently that quickly got tied in with alternative facts, when she referenced a nonexistent “Bowling Green Massacre” as one reason for Trump’s immigration ban. Said massacre was supposedly carried out by two Iraqi who came to America through the Iraqi refugee program, and it apparently resulted in Obama placing a six month ban on said program.

While two Iraqi men were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky on charges of federal terrorism, there had not been any massacre, nor evidence on a plan for one. Said men were indicted for attempting to provide Al-Qaeda in Iraq with weapons and money (a 2013 Justice Department release concerning them can be found in the links below).

After Conway’s statement was debunked, a clip of the interview went viral. Conway later apologized on twitter for gaffe, claiming she had meant to say “terrorists”. She also criticized the amount of media coverage she received, stating that “honest mistakes occur”, while pointing out mistakes the media had made concerning the Trump administration.

There are a couple different definitions of fact in the dictionary. The main one is basically information that has objective (provable) reality, and the others basically relate to provable existence as well. A reasonable explanation that cannot currently be proven is speculation or conjecture. Something that contradicts all available evidence can be called a falsehood or inaccuracy. Sometimes, the information provided in media is false, and even the accurate reports often have some bias to them. However, this can be fixed by providing  more coverage of actual events than just calling any and all reports wrong. To personally get a good idea on what the news is or isn’t saying, one can easily cross examine multiple reports from independent (as well as contradicting) sources of information.

As far as the current president is concerned, the information being provided is basically all falsehoods, and the various reports on the size of the audience for his inauguration were apparently particularly galling for him. Frankly, if he hadn’t made such a big deal over the news coverage, chances are less people would have noticed or cared about it.

When he went to give a speech at Langley back in January (to mend bridges with the CIA), quite a few minutes of it were devoted to attacking the media. According to him, any criticisms he had made about the intelligence agency made in previous weeks falsehoods made by the media (Spicer’s statement hours later probably derived from this, only his rhetoric obviously received more notice). The meandering speech makes no mention of his previous mockings of the CIA on Twitter, as well as the possibility of him not reading agency briefings. On the bright side, the appointment of Mike Pompeo was apparently well received.

In early February, President Trump basically declared the press to be the enemy of the people. Many presidents before have made some statement of their dislike for the news media, but declaring it an enemy of the people seems to be taking it a bit far, even in comparison to earlier comments by the president on the lack of credibility present in it. Considering that previous holders of the title “Enemy of the American People” included such entities as the USSR and Al-Qaeda, this statement has quite a lot of people worried.

Freedom of the press is a form of expressing the right to freedom of speech, which makes it a fundamental aspect of a democratic society. Censorship of the press by the government is a sign of a more fascist, authoritarian state, such as Nazi Germany or Italy under Mussolini’s rule. Of course, the presidency has not begun to literally go out and hunt down those that openly disagree with it’s version of reality, but there does appear to be a feud brewing.

According to Steve Bannon, the new administration is most certainly going to push against the “corporatist, globalist media” that has been working in opposition to the President’s agenda for political and social growth, and it is only going to get worse.

As of March, the President tweeted that he suspects Obama of having illegally wiretapped Trump tower before and during the 2016 election. He cited no evidence to back up his claim, but is urging Congress to investigate this along side their ongoing look into allegations of Russian hacking during the election.

Both the director of the FBI and and the national intelligence director of the time have denied that any such wiretapping took place. For such a thing to occur, the FBI would have had to have made a case to the Department of Justice, and a warrant would have to have been issued by a judge. In the case of surveillance on US citizens (which would apply to nearly everyone in Trump Tower), an order could not be made without first going through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and being approved by the eleven sitting judges (incidentally, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant was issued to the FBI to monitor two Russian banks who’re suspected of facilitating donations to the Trump campaign; the current president’s accusations might have been based on a distorted second hand report). Without stepping way outside of his reach of authority, Obama would not have been able to establish covert surveillance on his eventual replacement.

Despite the lack of evidence or probability that the feds were running surveillance on Trump Tower during the election, the president’s people are standing by what their leader has said, and the vocal supporters are calling out Obama to be investigated. There might be some evidence of wiretapping found, but it could easily mean that some other agency was investigating something else unrelated to the candidacy (it’s a large business building with several different offices and departments; chances are at least one person there could have been suspected of something shady). For what it’s worth, Obama’s people have denied any such order from the man.

Reports can be–and often are–skewed in some way or another, especially when it comes to news sources in the US. However, it is not impossible to get an idea of what is actually going on if you cross-reference and fact check anything of substance that is included (speculation and opinion can just be ignored). As for when the people doing the reports get things wrong, you’re doing something right if you know right away that the information is not factual.

 

Resources:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/inauguration-crowd-size/514058/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/20/politics/donald-trump-barack-obama-inauguration-crowd-size/index.html

http://www.usnews.com/news/entertainment/articles/2017-01-23/alternative-facts-quip-from-trump-adviser-sparks-mockery

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/03/kellyanne-conway-refugees-bowling-green-massacre-never-happened

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-iraqi-terrorists-living-kentucky-sentenced-terrorist-activities

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fact

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/us/politics/trump-white-house-briefing-inauguration-crowd-size.html?_r=0

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/business/trump-calls-the-news-media-the-enemy-of-the-people.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/steve-bannon-media-cpac_us_58af38f3e4b0780bac2761e3

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/02/23/steve-bannons-not-so-subtle-threat-to-the-media/?utm_term=.c8455c6fd0a4

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39172635

Feathers

So I recently watched a pirated recording of the animated film Ice Age: Collision Course. Just like the other Ice Age sequels, it was for the most part silly, idiotic, and immature, and not in any of the ways that I would enjoy. The only reason I watched it in the first place is my nerdiness for all things prehistoric. I’d go on, but I suspect that there are plenty of other geeks on the internet reviewing low quality family entertainment, so why bother?

Though I do have one issue; is it just me, or is a lot of animation marketed towards families with children generally kind of low in both writing and production quality? Granted, what kind of writing one appreciates as a child differs from what one appreciates as an adult, and there are plenty of decent ways one can make use of limited animation, but that should NOT be an excuse to generate subpar content! Then again, I never watched a lot of cartoons when I was physically a child (not by choice), so what do I know? I guess some research will have to be done…

Anyway, Ice Age: Collision Course is a dumb movie with subpar jokes and a mediocre plot, as well as weird-ass interstellar events and anachronistic dinosaurs. However, the dinosaurs might be the one area where I might commend the creators, due to their decision to give those three antagonistic dromaeosaurid characters noticeable plumage.

Known to the general public as “raptors” thanks to Jurassic Park, dromaeosaurids were small to medium-sized predatory dinosaurs notable for their infamous sickle-clawed second toes and their close relationship with birds.

The most famous genus of dromaeosaurid is the genus Velociraptor, due to the usage of the name in the book and film Jurassic Park, which is applied to an animal that physically resembles the larger, geologically earlier, north american genus Deinonychus (Michael Crichton apparently used the name Velociraptor because he thought it was cooler. He might have also been influenced by the crazy cladistics of Gregory S. Paul, whose ideas on dinosaur classification aren’t exactly widely accepted by experts in the field).

When Jurassic Park was being produced, it incorporated all the latest technology and scientific knowledge of the time. When it was released, the audiences were amazed by how realistic the dinosaurs looked. Among other things, it resulted in Velociraptor skyrocketing from obscurity to common household term. However, the creature depicted in the film has little resemblance to the actual animal. For starters, the actual Velociraptor was about 0.5 meters high at the hip, had a very narrow skull, hands that could not pronate, a stiff tale, was probably no where near as intelligent as a primate, and (while this was not known at the time, not to mention too difficult to realistically animate at the time) it was covered in feathers. Not just down either, but full on pennaceous feathers that anchor to its arms like those on a bird’s wing.

Of course, most people associate the name “Velociraptor” with those “cool-looking” reptilian monsters they saw on the screen, and that has shaped portrayals of dromaeosaurs in fiction ever since. Naturally, palaeontologists and people who obsess over the prehistoric are a little miffed about all this, especially with how the rather successful 2015 sequel film Jurassic World did not bother to update the designs of its theropods from the first movie (they did include some new research for the other animals, but you can hardly notice it under the artistic license).

Another film that same year (Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur) generated a lot of hype among the paleophiliac community because it was supposed to feature feathered Velociraptors, only for the actual result to resemble the mohawked raptors from Jurassic Park III; they were just scaly animals with with hair-like structures down their necks and backs. I’m not going to dismiss this as it just being a cartoon; the animation and landscape rendering is so freaking gorgeous! If they could have spent that much effort on the imagery, they could have put more research into the character designs!

The closest real-life equivalent to the JP raptors that ever existed is arguably the recently discovered species Dakotaraptor steini (with genera like Utahraptor and Achillobator being close seconds). Roughly 5 meters long and with proportion similar to Deinonychus, Dakotaraptor was a late cretaceous predator from South Dakota that coexisted alongside (and competed for prey with) the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex. Studies of its forelimbs show that it had prominent wing feathers, which might have been used for display, sheltering eggs, balance when jumping on prey, and/or gliding during infancy.

The dromaeosaurids featured in the Ice Age film were probably based on Dakotaraptor, due to the time it was discovered and the hype it generated. Like the actual animal, they are bird-like animals covered with plumage and with functionable wing feathers on their forelimbs. However, they also have pronating hands and scaly stomachs, lack primaries, and are capable of flight, something no dromaeosaurid their size has any business doing. So, while I give the creators props for doing some research, I am not going to give them full marks due

A completely accurate depiction of Dakotaraptor (as accurate as current evidence allows, anyway) will be featured alongside other denizens of the Hell Creek formation of South Dakota in the up-coming video game Saurian, which aims to provide players with a truly authentic experience living as a dinosaur 65 million years ago. After watching some promotional material, I have to admit that these guys really did their homework when designing the dinosaurs.

Based on recent depictions, I’m kind of hoping that there will be a growing trend towards more realistic depictions of dromaeosaurs (and other prehistoric animals, of course) in popular media, a trend that I am expecting Saurian to initiate. For there not to be would seem to me like stagnation, and I abhor stagnation.

The website for Saurian can be found among the links below. More information about how dromaeosaurs actually looked vs how the media commonly portrays them can also be found below.

Dinosaurs As They Really Are

A Velociraptor Without Feathers isn’t a Velociraptor

Science Daily – Velociraptor had Feathers

Ice Age Wiki: Dino-Bird

Saurian Website