Tag Archives: terra nova

A few cheetah-speed* notes

It is now  ~three weeks since I started this blog, and I thought I could give you some quick notes and some insights on what is to come:

  • This week I decided to skip the Terra Nova review. Apparently the dinosaur budget ran out and the last episode was all about littlegirlsaurus. For those still eager, the Bad Astronomer posted his Terra Nova review. In this case the focus is, obviously, on the astronomy depicted by the show (specifically the size of the moon and position of the stars).

  • This came in via James: Terra Nova drinking game. Take a drink when:

Someone leaves compound when they are not supposed to,
Blood and guts in the infirmary,
Teen boy acts put out,
Sixers face off with Novans,
Dinosaurs don’t die when shot with heavy weaponry,
Legless man shows up and says something pithy.

Die of alcohol poisoning.

(I am a health professional so I don’t endorse drinking a shot at each Terra Nova cliche. How about.. eating a vegetable instead?)

Iguana at the National Zoo, photo by the author

  • The Iguana above is not a dinosaur, but after I went to the Smithsonian National Zoo last Sunday, I have a lot to report. Coming up in future posts.

House episode - Transplant

  • This screen shot is a teaser for the review I am preparing of last week’s episode of House, named “Transplant”. I got so caught on the research that I decided to make into a larger post and interview a thoracic surgeon. My sister (the other, actually the first, Dr. Russo in the family) is also collaborating on this post.

  • I am compiling a list of Science, geek and sci-fi Halloween costumes. (Pixar lamp via Marina). It is growing a bit large and I might divide it into two parts. It might help whoever still lacks in ideas..

That’s it for now, coming back tomorrow with more.

*the cheetah is the fastest land animal and can run up to 75 mph!

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It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s a Terra Nova Pterosaur


Quetzalcoatlus from paleoartist Mark Witton.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to watch Terra Nova. What a change: two weeks ago I was anxiously waiting for it in front of the TV; last night, however, husband and I debated watching House instead.

Even though I was willing to overlook the flaws on the first episode (read about the excitement here), the plot and the storyline keep getting worse. James Poniewozik accurately described it, for Time magazine, as being written by a 5-year old boy:  “I want to make a TV show about the future! It will have lasers and guns and computers and time travel! And but ALSO they are living in a jungle, and the bad people want to take them over! There’s an army guy and a policeman, and they catch the bad guys! AND!!! DINOSAURS!!!

So I will stick to what I like about this show, which is its collection of dinosaurs. Last week’s episode of Terra Nova seemed to be inspired by Hitchcock’s The Birds and showed us a flock of pterosaurs terrorizing the colony.

Pterosaur from Terra Nova

It might sound counter intuitive, but pterosaurs are NOT dinosaurs.  Pterosaurs are flying reptiles from the Cretaceous period. (The dinosaur group includes reptiles with erect posture and birds). This image from the Smithsonian blog Dinosaur Tracking can better illustrate this relationship:

(by Brian Switek)

I would also like to quote Brian Switek when he says “A pterosaur is no more a dinosaur than a goldfish is a shark”. That being said, the pterosaur is the first vertebrate to achieve flight. This group also contain the largest flying animals on earth, such as the Quetzalcoatlus on top of this post. His neck alone was 10 feet long, and its wingspan was at least 40 feet (compare to an average human on Mark Witton’s illustration above).

Pteranodon by paleoartist Larry Felder

Perhaps the most well known species of pterosaurs is the Pterodactylus. This fossil skeleton was the first to be found and catalogued. Pteranodons like the illustration above starred in Jurassic Park, however, they had many inaccuracies. Pterosaurs in movies, like Jurassic Park, or the undiscovered species on Terra Nova, are usually portrayed with scaly, leathery wings as opposed to having a very muscular flying membrane covered in fur or feathers.

Other features are also misrepresented, such as presence of teeth (pteranodons lacked teeth). One of the most irritating inaccurate representation of pterosaurs is still the wing attachment. Even though there is some discussion in regards to the shape and attachment of wings, the main consensus is that they were attached to the animal’s ankles, due to grooves found in those bones.

Pterosaur wing shapes and attachment, image from Elgin et al. provided by Dave Hone.

Was anyone able to see how the wings were attached on the Terra Nova pterosaurs? Did they get it right? Given that these creatures are grey, gloomy, lizard-like versions of the fantastic and diverse group of pterosaurs, I’m not willing to bet on that…

Creating dinosaurs: why is Terra Nova reinventing the wheel?

Is there a Stargate in Terra Nova? And since when is building a Stargate, setting up a colony on the other end (consider shipping costs of sending materials and supplies through the wormhole), and operating it several times to send people over, cheaper than finding solutions to environmental problems?

If I can ignore that aspect, then yes, I can have a lot of fun watching Spielberg’s new TV show for FOX, Terra Nova. I’ve been waiting for a new source of sci-fi for a while. The adventurous, utopia kind, where the heroes run around with an orchestra soundtrack… We’ve been flooded with the chaotic-montrous-mutant-creature-hiding-in-bulkheads and I was ready for a change (nothing wrong with the horror type of sci-fi, it is actually one of my favorite genres; but I missed the pretty scenarios and rambunctious characters in shows such as Star Trek or Star Wars).

Besides, there are dinosaurs.

Watching animated dinosaurs is what makes me the most excited about this show, and let’s me forgive everything else. After all, the “stargate” is simply a trick to allow Spielberg to use dinosaurs again. I love to watch them running around, full of moving muscles and articulations – quite distant from assembled bones in a museum..

(Slasher from Terra Nova)

That said, Terra Nova has Brachiosaurus and Carnotaurus, but also.. “Slashers”. It is clear there was an attempt to recreate the gang of velociraptors (which were a giant sized and smart version of a deinonychus) from Jurassic park. Even the terrorizing sequence where children hide from velociraptors in the kitchen is payed homage (copied?) in Terra Nova, where kids are rattled around inside a car surrounded by slashers. It does pain me that the creators of the show had to design a completely fictional dinosaur, where so many interesting, curious and terrifying ones already exist. The slasher is a nickname for the (also fictitious) “Acceraptor”, outfitted with a bladed tail and a head crest of feathers..

Speaking of feathers…

Deinonychus model

… I would love to see a feathered dinosaur on TV. Since the 90’s, when fossils of feathered dinosaurs were found in China, it’s been a consensus that many theropods (like T-Rex or deinonychus) had feathers. The way I see a T-Rex is a like a giant chicken, as opposed to a godzilla-type reptile! Apparently Jurassic Park had the choice of using feathered arms on their velociraptors, but refused, afraid to disappoint the audience who expected giant lizards – not chickens.

But I digress. Is Terra Nova reinventing the wheel? Stargating its world, Avataring its military , Jurassic Parking its creatures – also, didn’t the first scene look like a pop version of the first scene in Inglorious Basterds?  – and creating brand new models of dinosaurs… It might, but what is left is still enough to keep me watching, one episode (erm, dinosaur) at a time.