Magic Xylophone: Jurassic Park

Alas fellow humans, Professor Magic Xylophone here, and it’s time to separate out the movies you should show to your children in order to encourage a good scientific mind from those that should be banned for spreading as much misinformation as your high school physics book, when it told you there were only four dimensions. This time we’re gonna have a look at what is considered the gold standard of Dinosaur movies (No not the land before time, which I believe should be banned forever), Jurassic Park!    

 It’s the gold standard of dinosaur movies with a big budget, pretty dinosaurs, fast quips from Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough’s accent which starts out as Scottish but quickly transcends to ye old English, but is all this just designed to distract you from the flimsy supporting science on which this movie is based? Let’s find out!    

First I guess we should actually address the question “could Jurassic park really happen?”    

'You hear that, Mr Anderson? That is the sound of a big turkey.'


In a word, No! In more words, certainly not the way it’s depicted in this movie. In Jurassic Park, scientists use dinosaur DNA from mosquitoes which fed on dinosaur blood and were then preserved in Dominican amber. Firstly, Dominican amber is at its oldest 40 million years old, we all know dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago so bit of a problem there. Let’s say though that they did get a 65 million year old sample, could dinosaur DNA be extracted? Here’s the problem, mosquitos would not have fed solely on dinosaurs, and even at that, not always the same dinosaur, so even with the help of the most sophisticated PCR, and since we don’t have complete samples of dinosaur DNA, there is no way of extracting pure samples of for example, T-Rex DNA from the concoction in the mosquito’s belly. Now the little video they watch when they get to Jurassic Park explains that there were gaps in the DNA, and they used segments from frog DNA to fill the gaps! What on God’s earth were they thinking?? Shame on the movie’s scientific advisors, primarily because you would never know what segments to fill in and secondly, why not either bird or reptile DNA, both of which are more closely related! Hope I haven’t lost you yet. Another problem with this technique, scientists have performed CAT scans on mosquitos preserved in amber, appearances can and were deceiving. Amber is great at preserving thing for millions of years, but only where the amber comes into contact with the object. What happened was that microorganisms inside the insect will literally eat the mosquito inside out, unfortunately for the Jurassic Park enthusiasts, the mosquitoes were completely hollow, only the exoskeleton was preserved.    

Finally lets throw them two bones and say they do have a 65 million year old sample with pure DNA. Did u see the little furry things on the antennae in the movie? They tell you that the mosquito was a male, only the females suck blood!    

Well I’ve rambled on enough, I’d just like to say in closing, T-Rex has binocular vision and can see moving objects just fine and can’t run that fast, velociraptors are about the size of a Turkey, personally I think Turkeys are pretty scary, also they were covered in feathers (very like a Turkey so) and they had a small brain to skull size so they were pretty stupid, none of this opening doors nonsense! Dilophosaurus didn’t have any fancy neck frills, it was bigger than the already exaggerated velociraptor’s size and they just made up the spitting venom thing, Brachiosaurus couldn’t rear up on its hind legs, or chew sideways like a sheep and even if it did, they didn’t eat tall branches. They couldn’t even spell dinosaurs correctly on the frozen embryos, it’s Stegosaurus not Stagasaurus and TyranNosaurus was missing an “n”.    

My advice, if you want to watch an entertaining show on dinosaurs, rent out a David Attenborough documentary, he is the more talented brother after all!   


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39 Responses to “Magic Xylophone: Jurassic Park”

  1. Stacey Mc Dermott Says:

    land before time is a classic you should be banned!!!!

  2. Antonius Maximus Says:

    What do you call a dinosuar with 20/19 vision?

    Magic Xylopaulysaurus..

  3. excellent blog mr xylophone! dissapointed with the raptors, they were only the size of turkeys and couldn’t open doors, what a rip off!! however we’re still waiting anxously for your analysis of the core.

  4. But….maybe if they….or….um…..

    ….damn you’ve just ruined a whole trilogy of movies with your inescapable logic!

    I still refuse to believe that Velociraptors were basically Turkeys. Every time I think about it my universe begins to implode.

  5. uh John, uh.. your scientists were so preoccupied whether or not they could that they forget whether they should!

  6. Your attempts to denigrate the awesome velociraptors have fallen into deaf ears!!!! They are not turkeys!! They can open doors and gut you alive with one slash of their mighty paw.

  7. our cat can open doors. that doesnt mean there should be a movie made about her though.
    clever girl…

  8. Antonius Maximus Says:

    So your actually saying homo neanderthalensis or more precisely homo australopithecus or even more precisley homo sexualous ate velociraptors for their christmas dinner topped off with a bit of cranberry sauce! Fantastic…they dont teach ya that in junior cert history! Thanks Professor

  9. I did read somewhere (an actual scientific journal, can’t remember which one) at the time, Velociraptor was known to be about turkey size as you mentioned, untill (ironically just before production on JP began) they found a raptor skeleton that was bigger. About the size (but not entirely as big) as the ones depicted in the film. Years later I heard Spielberg mention that same discovery claiming they made them bigger on the movie for dramatic effect, but lucky for them, science caught up and what they made became plausible again. But that was just the size, don’t know about their intelligence.

  10. I stopped reading at “no not the land before time, which I believe should be banned forever” – clearly the person writing this article is full of sh!t.

  11. Ah the the acrid smell of hindsight. Films are made to be good stories first, whoever decide to teach their kids about dinosaurs with Jurassic Park is already a lost cause. Instead, the whole point is to raise INTEREST in dinosaurs with a visual spectacle and a wonderful story, then proceed to TEACH them about it with something more academic.
    Instead of criticizing the show’s scientific advisers, why don’t you take a long hard to look at the film’s details. This thing was made in the 90s. Scientific “fact”, especially in still-being-discovered fields, change frequently. Why not laud Spielberg with creating a movie that has arguably not aged in ten years? Why not praise him for committing to the idea of Dinosaurs as Avians while the scientific community at large still preferred to think of them as Lizards?
    Look, I’m not saying make this thing a textbook or that the film was absolutely right. But they did make a very good effort to stay scientifically true at the time, and as filmmakers they did an EXCELLENT job making a timeless movie. Please, temper yourself sir.

  12. Julius Caesar Says:

    I know I shouldn’t have read this “analysis” but I just don’t understand why people feel the need to pick movies apart. They’re movies! They’re not a realistic depiction of scientific facts. They’re made up. Get over it. You can ruin almost every sci-fi film out there, with analyses like this. Back to the future, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek/Wars, Fifth Element etc. Go have a life 🙂

  13. Velociraptors may only have been about the size of the turkey, but Utahraptors were up to 6 feet tall. Since Utahraptor’s hadn’t been discovered yet, they may have continued to call them Velociraptors assuming (at first) that the fossil record was incomplete (it is).

  14. It’s also a bit unfair to yell at the movie’s advisors when they were simply following the science in the book pretty faithfully.

  15. When watching a movie, you have to realize that you are entering a world of FICTION where not everything is going to be as it is in real life.

    This is called Suspension of Disbelief.

    You have to allow yourself to forget logic and reality for a while, suspend what you know, and let the story of the movie craft its own reality so the story can play out.

    If we all spend so much time and energy criticising the little things in Science FICTION movies that aren’t 100% accurate to reality then no work will ever get done in the real world.

    Lighten Up. It’s a fun story. Who cares if it’s real?

  16. Just to nit-pick a little – you said the T-Rex could see moving objects just fine, which in fairness is exactly what Jurassic Park said. It was still objects it had problems with in the film.

  17. I don’t know if you’ve realized this yet but movies aren’t real. Lighten up

  18. TheTallGuy Says:

    Ha ha, a very good demolition of Jurassic Park, but the one thing you have to remember is that this is Science FICTION not Science Fact. That gives the writers carte blanche to invent stuff, yes the premise is ropey but who cares, I want my dinosaurs!

  19. If you had bothered reading the book instead of relying entirely on (and blaming) the film makers, you would have answers to most of those pesky nitpicks you chose to make public on your blog.

    Oh, and… it’s a MOVIE for god’s sake. What the hell kind of idiot “teaches his children about dinosaurs” using a science-fiction movie? no wonder the American educational system is going into the crapper.

  20. The size of the apatosauruses that bring a tear to Dr Grant’s eye pose a problem for me: How old would they have to be to have grown so large?

  21. Okay Dr. Smartypants, but why do you insist on capitalizing turkey? Are you referring to the country?

  22. I hate when people bitch about anything scientific in a science fiction movie. They try to think that they are somehow above the people that watch and enjoy the movie for what it is, as can be seen in that first paragraph above. But in that you missed a major plot of the movie, they are genetically engineering these animals. Meaning they could conceivably do anything they want to them. They could have made a tricero-rex for all we care. In regards to what we knew of raptors at the time the convo could have went like this:
    scientists – Mr. Hammond, the raptor was only the size of the turkey, what should we do?
    Hammond – let’s make it bigger genetic scientist

    You also have to consider that info on dinosaurs is always and probably will always be changing until we invent that time machine. They were around for over a hundred million years and died out 65 million years ago. We don’t even know exactly how they died let alone how they lived for that whole time. How many dinosaurs were around at that time too vs. how many fossils do we have on record? There are probably dozens of species we either haven’t discovered yet or they weren’t even fossilized. I will give you bonus points on that amber thing if it is true though.

    I think this movie is a great piece to show the scientific mind especially young ones. Science fiction always inspires minds to think bigger but what this also does effectively is show that things can get too big if you think you can play god and even if you think are on in control you probably aren’t. That scene when they were eating before they got out to the park is one of my fav.

  23. banandroid Says:

    Anyone who uses “u” instead of “you” forfeits the right to lecture me about science.

  24. Whatever logically you say, the movie is a real entertainer!

  25. SAD… SAD… SOOO SAD TO BE YOU ! … You really think that by analizing MILLIONS YEARS OLD SKELETONS you can actually figure out all the things you are considering FACTS.

    I`ll give you an advice… Before anything.. USE COMMON SENSE, FOR PITTY SAKE !!!

    How often we as humans discover new things??? Things that were “IMPOSSIBLE”. How often do we see animals DOING things suppose to be impossible for them???

    1. The Velocirraptor was based on the DEINONYCHUS, wich was known as Valocirraptor too at the time.

    2. The Velocirraptor DIDN`T FIGURE OUT how to get into the kitchen. It learned by beeing in contact with humans and the techno-environment and mechanisms through its life. That`s why in the second movie raptors just dug in. This don`t mean its not exagerated, but just not that much you`re implying. Some current animals have figured out things as complicated as that one.

    3. The feathers in ALL the dromaeosaurids its just a theory, not a FACT.

    4. Fosils may tell the Brachiosaur couldn`t rear up on its hind legs, but if Fosils dictated rules, Many animals (humans including) couldn`t do AS MUCH THINGS AS IN FACT DO.

    5. The T-REX HAS binocular vision. But as with any live-breathing being , pouring fat rain and night may influence a thing or two.

    6. The Dilophosaurus was “dressed” that way to despict the FACT that the road from just OLD BONES to a full REALLITY means A WORLD of difference. in other words. BONES DON`T SAY EVERYTHING

    7. SCIENCE FICTION means that it may be science BASED on fiction, or fiction BASED on science. Either would have a good portion of FICTION, and all the MOSQUITO-ADN-Filling gaps secuences IS SOME of the fiction in the Jurassic Park concept.


  26. I CHOOSE IGNORANCE! Crichton is my truth! Spielberg is my reality!

  27. According to Kyle Sands, Velociraptors are real and they exist even today! –

  28. nice one Kyle. I know who you should follow though if you want to find your prey –

  29. You’re correct about many things but as we find out more and more some of the things we believe now will turn out to be incorrect. Especially about the size, weight, speed and whether certain dinos had feathers.

    At that time we did not know as much as we do now. When the movie was made we just did not have as much data as we do now and will in the future.

    Did you read the book?

    This movie was great Sci-Fi and the book was better. It created a whole group of children who grew interested in science as did Star wars and before that Star Trek. That’s the most important issue other then if it was a good movie or not, the effect it has on our society and it was a positive one.

  30. I saw Jurrasic Park twice that summer with my brother and later with my friends, one of whom made some really inapporopriate remarks about the young girl (we were about 18/19 at the time). It was great.

  31. what a dousche.

    if this effects your pleasure in movies, then they weren’t made for you, dousche.

  32. You have some pretty interesting ideas here, though I think that the movie-makers did the best with the science that they had at the time. I’m really disappointed that T-Rex vision isn’t like they showed in the film! I would suggest that you work a little more on proofreading, because an error-free blog post would have been much easier to read. Thanks.

  33. You forgot the fact that a full grown sauropod needs about 120 years to grow to that size. Unless the “Jurassic Park” was a really, really long term project…

  34. I stopped reading when you said you believe The Land Before Time should be banned forever. Shame on you, sir.

  35. franklapidus4ever Says:

    Remember that this is just a movie and movies are made for enjoyment, not scientific purposes.

    It sounds like you have never read the book. They go into much greater detail in the book as to how they bred the dinosaurs and such.

    Also, I am personally offended at your phrase “we all know that dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago.” Not everyone believes in evolution, you know–me being one of them. I would appreciate it if you don’t lump everyone together in one group. I’m proud to believe in creation!

    All in all, just relax and enjoy the movie for what it is, ok? 🙂

  36. Good. Sit this next to my rant about the scientific mistakes in Deep Blue Sea and that University geology course about all the bad science in The Core (I think it was a university in British Columbia) and we’ve got something great.

  37. Jesus apathygirl don’t mention the core! He’ll explode!

  38. […] More: Film Review by James Berardinelli RossvRoss on Jurassic Park’s scientific inaccuracies The Movie Blog’s take on Jurassic […]

  39. No don’t get him to do The Core, if it gets listed on imdb like this one, the amount of comments from crazy yanks will break the Internet

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