Wednesday, February 13, 2013

From NBC News. Shocking.

Even though Tyrannosaurus rex is arguably the most recognizable dinosaur, college students asked to draw the prehistoric beast tend to get it all wrong, researchers say.

The average student's idea of T. rex more closely matches Barney the purple dinosaur, standing upright instead of pitched all the way forward like the real thing, a new survey showed.

"Our conclusion was that maybe students are imprinted with this image from their very earliest years," Cornell paleontologist Robert Ross said in a statement. "Even after they've seen 'Jurassic Park,' it doesn't change."

MORE.

17 comments:

  1. Last night Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweeted: "The actual State of the Union: science illiteracy is rampant among American adults." Here's an example. Sigh.

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  2. Ah yes, a potential Thirsty: what important fundamentals of your discipline are undermined (and consequenty difficult to teach) as a result of their representation in popular culture. The sci/tech folks would have a field day, but I suppose there are critical ones in the social sciences, arts, humanities, business, etc.

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  3. Mine would just look like a blob regardless of my scientific knowledge about dinosaurs. How much of this proves that most people just can't draw anything worth a damn?

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    1. Well, they should be able to draw, the way well-educated Europeans can! We can thank the "reforms" of John Dewey in the 1920s for this. Is it any wonder therefore that Americans think of art as fingerpainting?

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  4. Shows like Johnny Quest encouraged kids like I was to study science, math, history, and geography. Every week, they'd go someplace you could look up on a map. Better still, they invited us to use our imaginations to fulfill the reality of what was then science fiction. What does kids' TV today instill, aside from hypochondria and "I am special"?

    Here's the beginning of the Johnny Quest episodes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbzZRoIfS4o

    Enjoy!

    Of course, helicopter parents will complain that Johnny Quest was too violent. Oh, yeah? Well, at the top of this page is Dr. Fun's take on velociraptors devouring a Barney:

    http://www.ibiblio.org/Dave/ar00002.htm

    My only regret here is that real velociraptors wouldn't be nearly so neat.

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  5. I'm pretty sure I remember reading that the creator of Barney made the show because she felt that children's TV programming was too educational.

    Yeah. Kill it with fire.

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    1. I hope that Barney died in extreme pain, when the velociraptors tore him limb from limb. Too bad everything happened so quickly.

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  6. I didn't need much to motivate me to study science and engineering, thanks largely due to the space program. When I was in elementary school 50 years ago, each American flight was front page news and regular radio and TV programming were pre-empted to allow for coverage. It helped that the reporters were, for the most part, well-informed about what was going on and presented the information in a manner that ordinary people could understand without being condescending.

    I added to my knowledge by borrowing nearly every book I could lay my hands on from the public library in the town I grew up in.

    The result was that I now have 4 engineering degrees and I even worked briefly in the business. I still maintain my interest by looking at the sky through my telescope once in a while and by talking to my fellow amateur radio operators over a number of ham satellites.

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    1. Then I trust that you remember that, at the time, every bumpkin and his brother told you that the entire space effort was a "waste," and that they should give the money spent on it "to the poor"? I was yelled at by a British teacher that with the money spent on Apollo, "They could feel the whole of India!" Nowadays one would get yelled at for being a socialist for talking like that.

      And that now, even with four engineering degrees, you're not working?

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    2. Yup. Yet, when Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon (and Collins flying overhead), many of those scoffers watched. Back then, NASA's budget was just a percent or two of the American government's budget.

      Nowadays, there are still naysayers, but many of them have no objection to some moneybags building a multi-gazillion dollar sports palace, even if it means their taxes go up to allow for its construction. (We've got that going on in my city right now. The owner of a local professional sports team is threatening to move it elsewhere unless the city builds him a facility, with tax breaks, of course.)

      By the way, I highly recommend the HBO series "From The Earth To The Moon". I've stopped counting how many times I've seen it. It's not perfect, but it's a good depiction of the American effort to go to the moon.

      As for how come I'm an educated bum, I'm sure there are many reasons for that, though not due to a lack of effort on my part. I haven't bothered lately because I'm living comfortably off my investments. I can't say I miss the daily hassle and stress I had to contend with when I worked for someone else.

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  7. I wouldn't blame Barney (other than being awful to watch). Most toy dinosaurs I had growing were equally incorrect. Recent ones that my children played with are better.

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    1. Mass-produced cheap plastic dinosaurs aren't made well enough to be stable on two legs; the tail is needed to make a tripod.

      Carnegie dinosaurs are much better. And much more expensive. But even the Carnegie models of therapods are designed to use the tail as a third leg.

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    2. That said, when I was growing up all the toy dinosaurs had large, pointy teeth. Even the herbivores.

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  8. I had the coolest remote control dinosaurs when I was a kid. Got them for Christmas...my cousins got Barbies, poor things.

    My mom sold them at a garage sale after I graduated. I've never forgiven her.

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  9. Sounds like they can't find the hamster's asshole.

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