Scientific Errors in the Jurassic Park Movie
What Do Scientists Know is True and What Was Fiction in the Jurassic Park Movies?
Science Fiction vs. Scientific Knowledge
When science fiction author, Michael Crichton, wrote the novel "Jurassic Park," it was only a matter of time before the famous director Steven Spielberg decided to take on the task of bringing the book to life on the movie screens of America. Although the original "Jurassic Park" movie was produced over 20 years ago, it is still a hit with audiences today. In fact, a 3-D version of the original movie has recently been produced.
If you are not familiar with the story, it is based on the idea that a group of genetic scientists could successfully extract DNA from mosquitoes found in amber, combine it with the DNA of modern frogs, implant the DNA in ostrich eggs, and re-create a variety of dinosaurs on the fictional island of Isla Nublar near Costa Rica. Their purpose in doing this was to build one of the most unusual theme parks in the world. Of course, as in any good movie, things do not go exactly as planned. Among the dinosaurs that Spielberg brought to life for the three "Jurassic Park" movies was the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor, Dilophosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, Procompsognathus and the Pteranodon.
At the high school where I work, the freshmen complete a short unit of study on dinosaurs, culminating with the opportunity to view the "Jurassic Park" movie. After the movie, they do research to discover the aspects of the movie that are unlikely to be scientifically accurate. The teacher points out that, although our knowledge of dinosaurs is limited, there are some parts of the movie where Spielberg applied a lot of creative liberties in order to make it more exciting.
Of course, the science teacher also points out that movie producers usually are less interested in making a scientifically accurate movie than they are in providing great entertainment ... which they have certainly achieved in the "Jurassic Park" movies.
Read on to find out some of the mistakes, or improbabilities, which were included in the movies. Then, the next time you watch one of them, lean back, relax and simply have fun!
Our Family Loved the "Jurassic Park" Movies
Before we get into the science, fans will agree that these movies have been considered science fiction classics since the first one was released in 1993. Since that time, generations of youngsters and their parents have fallen in love with them and they are often the basis of what they know about dinosaurs.
I can personally attest to the popularity of these movies, since my own family has watched all of them over the years. We have seen the original Jurassic Park several times, in fact, and never grow tired of it. While there may be a few errors in the science, the basic idea of the dangers of playing around with "Mother Nature" is still valid.
Refresh Your Memory of the Movies with the Original Trilogy
Watch all three of the movies at one time for the ultimate movie weekend. If they haven't seen them yet, your family will love them. My husband and I watched the movies with our children when they were teens. They might be scary for younger children.
What's Wrong With the Basic Science Theories?
Among the discoveries that our high school freshmen made when they were researching the movie mistakes was the fact that the time period is wrong. Although the movie is called "Jurassic Park," paleontologists do not believe that most of the dinosaurs that are featured even existed until the Cretaceous period.
Another issue is the idea of extracting the DNA from mosquitoes that are imbedded in amber mined in the Dominican Republic. Geologists believe that Dominican amber is only about 30 million years old, while dinosaurs had already died out around 65 million years ago.
Even if mosquitoes were found in 65 million year old amber, each mosquito would have to contain the blood of only one type of dinosaur at a time or the resulting DNA would be a mixture of several species. That could have produced some interesting results! In addition, each mosquito would have had to bite a dinosaur and then immediately be trapped and preserved in the tree sap that eventually fossilized into amber. Otherwise, the mosquitoes would have already begun to digest and break down the DNA in their guts, making it unusable. Finally, even mosquitoes that are encapsulated in amber would begin to break down after 65 million years, so the odds are low that we could retrieve usable DNA from them.
Therefore, it is unlikely that mosquitoes found in amber could ever be used to re-create dinosaurs ... although it is a fascinating concept.
As you read on, you will also discover more scientific improbabilities in the movies.
Creative Liberties with the Dinosaurs
Even though we do not know everything about dinosaurs, Stephen Spielberg took some creative liberties with the facts that paleontologists do know. Here are a few examples of the changes that he made in order to create a more exciting movies:
Velociraptor - These vicious creatures were the villains of the movie and they were made larger for the films than is indicated by velociraptor fossils. In addition, the ones in the movie seem unnaturally intelligent, considering that they had small brains. Finally, it is believed that these dinosaurs actually had feathers rather than the scales depicted in the first two movies. By the third movie, the raptors had small feathers on the heads of the males in order to acknowledge that they were probably feathered in real life. We have no idea what they sounded like, so Spielberg combined a variety of animal sounds including dolphin screams, geese hissing, human rasps, walruses bellowing and the mating call of an African crane in order to come up with a sound for them.
Brachiosaurus - This is the first dinosaur that is seen when the scientists first arrive at the park. In the movie they chew their food. However, these animals are gastroliths. That is, they swallowed rocks and used them in their stomach to grind up the plant matter that they swallowed whole. They are also shown standing on their hind legs, which most paleontologists believe to be unlikely.
Tyrannosaurus Rex - A major premise of the movie is that the t-rex would be unable to see anything that did not move. However, this seems unlikely. Also, the t-rex in the movie is able to keep up with a jeep moving at 40 mph or faster. This is also one of those areas that seem improbable.
Dilophosaurus - Crichton himself took a lot of liberties with this creation. The ones in the movie are much smaller than the 20 ft. long dinosaurs that existed in real life. There is also no reason to believe that it had a frill-neck, like a lizard, or that it had a venom that could incapacitate its prey. While these things are possible, they are pure speculation, as is the sounds that they made.
They changed a lot of things to make the movie even more exciting ... as though having real dinosaurs running around wouldn't have been scary enough!
If You Want to Watch Just One Move, the First One is a Good Choice.
This is the original movie that brought dinosaurs to life for millions of people around the world. The animation is so realistic that it is a wonderful way to help your children understand what dinosaurs were like. However, remember that not all the animals in the movie are depicted completely accurately. In addition, the movie could be too scary for younger children.
Read the "Jurassic Park" Books for Yourself
Often, significantly more information about scientific techniques and methods can be found in a book, rather than in a movie that is based on a book. This is true in this series of movies, as well. I'm a big fan of Michael Crichton. He is a fabulous writer and his books do a good job of increasing our interest in science, as well.
Michael Crichton takes the time to go into much more depth than the movies ever could in explaining the science behind the stories. They are fun and interesting to read. In addition, if you have teens in your family who love the movies, these books are one way to get them interested in reading more.
If you click on the blue product title of any of these books, you will be taken to the Amazon website where you can read reviews or enter your own search criteria and see more choices.