What Brontomerus did on its holidays

May 8, 2011

It’s been a couple of months since Brontomerus came out, but new coverage continues to trickle in. For anyone who’s still following, I thought I’d draw attention to a few that I particularly like.

A favourite is One Hip Dino in The Scientist.  It’s told largely from Matt’s perspective, and includes quotes by Mike D’Emic, Susie Maidment and Ray Wilhite.  (Although D’Emic’s statement that “The ilium projects forward by 55 percent, while in other species it’s 52 percent” could do with some substantiation — I think we’ve shown pretty convincingly how different the ilium is from anything else out there.)

The most recent of the new articles is The biggest, baddest dinos still rule, in Macleans, which describes itself as “Canada’s only national weekly current affairs magazine”.  I guess that makes it Canada’s Time or Newsweek, and it has 2.4 million readers.  Despite the rather unpromising title, the article is good, and touches on some of the potential downsides of palaeo publicity.

But one of the best things about publicising Brontomerus has been hearing about how it’s been used in education.  (As one example, it was the lever that got me an opportunity to give a talk about palaeontology and evolution at my eldest son’s school a few weeks ago.)  One article describing Brontomerus‘s involvement in engaging kids’ interest is Dinosaur teaching topics – how to name a dinosaur at Everything Dinosaur.  The author tells me “we chose Brontomerus as the focus for our teaching session and I introduced concepts such as ontogeny and used the children’s knowledge of how farmyard animals grow and change, relating this to the fossil evidence of the adult and juvenile of the Brontomerus genus.”

Another benefit of letting the world know about Brontomerus was that it opened the door to my writing an article for the Guardian‘s science blog: How I got to know thunder thighs, the dinosaur with a fearsome kick.  They chose the title, sadly: I’d suggested something more like “How we know what we know”, and that is indeed that main topic of the article.  It was a rare opportunity to talk in a mainstream media outlet about how we actually do palaeontology, and the varying levels of certainty in which we hold different conclusions.

I hesitate to mention it, but the New York Times did a piece on, well, mostly me: Dinosaur-hunting hobbyist makes fresh tracks for paleontology.  I’m mostly really happy with it, except that an unfortunate bit of abridgement gives the impression that I described Jack McIntosh as “a minor paleontologist”.  Let the record show, that is not what I said: it’s actually how I described myself.

Finally, I’d like to draw attention to a very cheerful interview that Australian science blogger Bec Crew did for ABC Radio’s Triple J channel, in a program called The Doctor on 8th March.  Bec is best known for her truly unique blog Save your breath for running ponies, (I can’t help inserting the missing comma in the title), and my only regret regarding Brontomerus is that it’s never been given the SYBFRP treatment.

That’s all for now.

Atacamatitan chilensis gen. et sp. nov., caudal centrum SGO.PV.961c in ventral (A) and ventrolateral views (B); caudal vertebrae SGO-PV-961h in lateral (C) and dorsal (D) views. Scale bars: 50 mm. (Kellner et al. 2011:fig. 2)

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3 Responses to “What Brontomerus did on its holidays”

  1. Jay Says:

    Admiringly, i repeat the last quote from one of the articles:

    “There was no such thing as the professional scientist at one time,” he said. “Along the way we lost something, and it’s this idea that anybody can contribute to human knowledge.”


  2. Your Guardian article is fantastic, Mike.

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Grant, I am really pleased with it, too :-) I tried to write the article that I would have wanted to read myself ten years earlier.


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