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Friday, 26 June 2015

Review: Jurassic World (2015)

I had been waiting many years for the release of the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise and finally the fourth installment has arrived. Here is a review of Jurassic World with a few Easter Eggs that you may or may not have noticed. A warning though: this review contains spoilers so please do not read unless if you have seen the film.

Plot 

The plot to Jurassic World is that 22 years after the events of the first film a new company led by Simon Masrani (played by Irrfan Kahn) had managed to open a park to the public full of living, breathing dinosaurs. However as visitor levels drop the first genetically modified hybrid dinosaur called Indominus Rex is bred to draw in the crowds. Operations Manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) tries to get the raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to try and train the new hybrid. It escapes and the film kicks into gear. Despite the simplicity the plot is actually quite good. When the first trailers were shown depicting another dinosaur breakout it could have easily turned into a poor imitation of the first film. Jurassic World in this instance has managed to create a original plot that actually has good pacing. There are multiple times where the chaos of the Indominus Rex rampage is broken up by the sub-plot development as well as character development. Considering that this is an action movie it allows the audience to actually stand back and appreciate the action oriented parts. 

There is a sub-plot revolving around Vincent D'Onofrio's character who wishes to use Velociraptors and genetically modified hybrid dinosaurs to use in the military instead of drones. (Spoiler Alert) This sub-plot later turns out to be the drive behind the entire plot about the Indominus Rex. I have mixed opinions on this sub-plot. One part of me likes it for being a nice twist at the end by finding out that the dinosaur was bred for war and not public viewing as well as it showing the overall theme of the Jurassic Park franchise. That is humans always commercialize and abuse nature but in the end the unpredictability of nature causes humans to show that they've underestimated nature. Although at the same time it felt quite shoehorned in. Bar the end reveal scene it seemed that the screenwriters were divided about how much development this plot point should have received so they put it in but didn't want to overly focus on the idea. When D'Onofrio's character phones in his 'mercenaries' it felt underdeveloped and overall ruined the otherwise good pacing of the film.

Characters
Like with the plot the characters are a mixed bag but largely gives a good lasting impact. First off I was worried that Chris Pratt would either be a cut-out of Sam Niell in the first film and Bryce Dallas Howard a cut-out of Laura Dearn. When the first clip was released my fear then changed to Pratt being a cut-out of himself from Guardians of the Galaxy and that Howard would be the stereotypical workaholic manager who gradually learns to bond with their relatives. I was pleasantly surprised. Pratt managed to pull off a character who could be humorous and immature but at the same time he could be a serious character who could be angry at people for treating the dinosaurs as simply numbers on a spreadsheet or unthinking weapons. Similarly Howard managed to effectively portray a character who was actually caring for her relatives but whose busy life managing the most technologically advanced theme park full of dangerous dinosaurs meant that she had to put relations on hold. However I did find her initially too stereotypical by instantly dismissing her nephews and not knowing their ages; although this is more to do with the screenwriters than Howard's performance. Overall this was a setback in a good character and performance. D'Onofrio's character was surprisingly good with him not being an immediate military stereotype. Of course he sees the raptors as weapons and not intelligent. social animals but D'Onofio's acting (including the overall theme of humans underestimating nature) made this stereotype seem more realistic similar characters in other films.

I really enjoyed B.D. Wong returning with greater character development. It was nice to see him closer to his novel counterpart where he used science to justify the creation of the Indominus Rex. Irrfan Kahn was brilliant as Simon Masrani, the owner of the park, and it was it nice to see him as an environmentalist viewing animal welfare over profit instead of him being a greedy consumerist. However I wish I could give as much praise to the children actors. Considering they are child actors they did act well but the writing of the characters let them down. I felt that Nick Robinson's character was overtly aggressive and harsh and it made him unlikable. Ty Simpkins showed also good acting but his character was all over the place. At first he seemed to be a dinosaur nut like Tim in Jurassic Park and then he turned into the stereotypical child prodigy knowing everything about everything. It seemed that they didn't know what to do with him. However in the second half when all hell breaks lose the reaction between the two seemed heartfelt and genuine which partially made up for their poor characterizations to start with. 

Dinosaurs
I really like what they did with the dinosaurs in this film. At first I was very critical due to the obvious inaccuracies. For one Apatosaurus was portrayed with a curved and not straight neck, Stegosaurus dragging its tail across the ground and most importantly no dinosaurs were feathered. Recent evidence has shown that all or if not most dinosaurs had some form of feathers or bristles. Through all of this I feared that Jurassic World was not bothering to help change the public perception of dinosaurs which the other films had done. Then B.D.Wong's character explained that they had created dinosaurs to what the public views them as and not what they actually looked like (a possible reference to what he says in the novel along the same lines). This actually made the film more believable for me. The Velociraptors were just as good as ever. I really liked how they explored the social structure of the pack without removing the fierce aspects of the infamous species. The ending with the raptors really made me feel that they had tried to show that there was a strong bond between the raptors and Chris Pratt which made the ending even better. The Indominus Rex is just amazing. The blend of different creatures allowed it to seem somewhat believable and it truly felt foreboding. It seemed to be a cunning calculated predator and the design looked both realistic and unique. I liked how they introduced animals that lived at the time of the dinosaurs but weren't dinosaurs (the pterosaurs and mosasaurus) which shows how diverse that time was. However I thought they missed an opportunity. I was disappointed how they portrayed pterosaurs as aggressive flying monsters randomly attacking people instead of basically being prehistoric sea birds as they were in real life although this is nitpicking. I also felt that they still could introduce feathered dinosaurs in the form of showing dinosaurs that we know were feathered such as the tiny microraptor from Cretaceous China. Again this is nitpicking.

Effects
The effects were breathtaking. I am normally against films using high amounts of CGI but like Age of Ultron it complimented the film. Some of the shots which looked amazing (such as the end fight) could not have been achieved otherwise but the CGI looked good. With so many films they overuse CGI and it starts to look fake and dull but this was not the case for Jurassic World. This could be attributed to the fact that often they used people wearing special suits to fill in the dinosaurs. It helps get an actual feel of shadowing and environmental interaction which often cannot be achieved through simply a computer. It was also pleasant to see animatronics. They can only be seen briefly but they are used very effectively. One is with Chris Pratt interacting with a raptor and it makes it seem more personal adding to the connection they have onscreen. Another is with the dying Apatosaurus. The way the actors interact with it and the movement of the puppet made it seem alive so ever more sad in regards to its fate. Overall the effects are some of the best that I have seen in the last few years (the best with Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy and Winter Soldier).

Easter Eggs
Jurassic World contains many little tidbits which I thought enhanced the film by playing on our nostalgia. Although I criticized Age of Ultron for unsubtle product placement when I heard that they were making product placement unsubtle for a good reason it actually helped the film. It again links to the theme of commercialization perfectly emphasized by Jake Johnson's character saying that they have too many corporate sponsors for dinosaurs. There were also many references to previous films as well as the books. As stated earlier B.D.Wong paraphrases what his character says in the novel about how the dinosaurs in Jurassic World are catered to look what the public wants them to look like. Another reference to the novels is Johnson's character has a the novel's sequel The Lost World on his desk as well as a book by one of the characters in the franchise (Ian Malcolm). If you look carefully in the Innovation Center you can see Mr DNA from the first film. The characters also escape to the original Visitor Center and the jeep that the kids fix is the one that John Hammond sits in when they see the Brachiosaurus in the first film. There is a tribute to Richard Attenborough who played John Hammond as you can see a statue of him in the background and there is a restaurant called Winston's in honor of Stan Winston who made the dinosaur animatronics for the previous films (which serves Chilean Sea Bass). This and other Easter Eggs can be found on the website: http://uk.jurassicworldintl.com/. A character mentions that there are 20 species at Jurassic World and 17 are stated on the website. A hologram and direct mention shows that Dilophosaurus (the spitter dinosaur) is the eighteenth and a passing comment from Bryce Dallas Howard implies the nineteenth is a relative of the Gallimimus called Archiornithomimus. That leaves one animal left (Indominus Rex was not announced to the public so wouldn't be included). There is a sly dig at Jurassic Park III as well. There is a Spinosaurus (the dinosaur from that film) skeleton in the Main Street which the T Rex smashes through. Speaking of T Rex at the end you can see some scars on the neck and stomach from an old fight. The fight was with Velociraptors from the first film...

In conclusion for fantastic special effects, good acting and good pacing but stereotypical characters, a shoe-horned in plot point and at times abysmal characterizations for the people who we are supposed to want to survive I give Jurassic World 7.6/10.

Thanks for reading and do you disagree with me? What are your views on Jurassic World? I'll be glad to read them. Also my story Senshijidaino will now be moved to the Prehistoric Kingdom forum under Fan Projects so I hope to see you either there or next Friday!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Extinction Wildlife Sanctuary: Sea Monsters

It was another warm day at the Senshijidaino Wildlife Sanctuary although that was not why Seth and one of the sanctuary’s engineers, Daniel Bell, were sweating. In order to make the sanctuary more natural the owner, Tayatami Sato, had the sanctuary’s engineers think of a way to turn the giant Haast’s Eagle Aviary into something ‘natural’. Until recently the aviary had been made out of meshing which stopped the graceful birds from flying out. Dan had helped design something that would be more natural than a giant meshing structure. Now periodically spaced out were tall poles with rectangular boxes placed on different sections of the poles. They had been investigating with sound waves and had found a theory that animals could be deterred from going places by using high frequency waves so they had jumped on the chance to implement this. Now it was time to see if the theory worked. One noble eagle was perched on the branch of a tree and swooped down to near where the meshing once was. He saw briefly the box flash red before the eagle effortlessly swooped away. There was a unanimous sigh of relief. 

“Sato will be happy,” Dan sighed happily “We can use the sound barriers for the sea exhibits now.”
For the past week Sato had wanted to bring back the first aquatic sea creatures. However, he was very against building tanks as what would be found at Sea World or similar places so the idea was to place exhibits in the warm ocean that surrounded the islands. The sound barriers would offer the perfect way for the sea creatures to remain in a certain area without swimming out and wreaking havoc. He had unnerving images of a giant prehistoric sea serpent attacking a cruise liner… Luckily that problem had now been averted although that had just been one problem.

Looking after extinct animals had turned out to be much harder than movies such as Jurassic Park. The mammoths’ immense appetite meant that staff had to constantly replant tree saplings and flowering plants to satisfy the hunger of the wandering elephants. Luckily the size of their exhibit meant that the behemoths could go for miles without coming back to the same place which gave ample breathing space before replanting had to start. Also the mammoths had built enough bacteria in their stomach so now they didn’t have to eat their own feces allowing the seeds in the feces to germinate (as what had happened in the wild) but still that would take a while. That was only just with the mammoths though! It turned out moas could just be as unpredictable as cassowaries after one kicked a keeper painfully in the inner thigh so Kioni, the Head Keeper, had to restrict keeper-moa interaction. Then the Mussaurus started to become lethargic. Seth had only found the reason by finding a theory that sauropodomorphs like Mussaurus would sometimes supplement their diet by eating eggs, insects and carrion. Getting the eggs and bugs was fine but the carrion had to involve taking it from the Haast’s Eagle Aviary so had to avoid their iron talons. Then he had done extra research and found out they were reasonably intelligent which meant keepers now had to hide chicken eggs to stimulate the little dinosaurs.

“I best be going to look over the new exhibit,” Seth said bidding Dan goodbye.

He got into his jeep whose electric engine silently came into life. The first aquatic animals to be brought back would have a small lagoon/tank on the coast of the island that they were now on (Sukaruairando). Their somewhat specialized lifestyle meant that an exhibit fully in the sea would be unsuitable, especially as the sanctuary had not learnt how to change the temperature and oxygen content for a specific section of the sea yet. He passed the large hulking building of the HQ and drove straight to what seemed to be some tarpaulin. However he knew that it was a structure covered in graphene to keep the atmosphere inside perfect. He parked up and looked at the intricately designed structure. The sanctuary’s manager, Tayatami Nobuko, met him as he went to open the air tight door. Her normally fair face was dark red as she stepped out rubbing her arms with an accompanying chatter of her teeth.

“It seems that they’ve got the climate right in there!” he laughed. 

Nobuko gave him a quick scowl before quickly darting off into the warmth of the HQ. He had specified that to make the lagoon/tank environment natural it had to be cold. When the owner of the tank lived the Earth was much colder than it is today; recovering from what was hypothesized as being the ‘Snowball Earth’ where the planet was either frozen or partially frozen. Nobuko quickly came back holding two coats which looked invitingly warm. She put on her coat and stepped inside with Seth following. He was instantly thankful that Nobuko had given him the coat. His breath rose before him like weeds growing across a wall and he could feel his teeth chattering incessantly. The building was cast in a light blue light which reflected off of a large tank in the middle of the room. It was full of artificial corals and rocks with a light grey sand offering support for the models. 

“Does it meet your specifications?” she asked quickly through the clacks of her teeth banging against one another.

He checked for the thermostat and oxygen monitor. Both bore numbers which were lower than today’s seas. It was perfect. Well it had to be. The animal that would be living in the tank would not be able to survive in the more oxygen rich and warmer waters of today. He nodded to show that the tank was perfect.

“Did Vadim say how long it would take for the hatchery to produce them?” Nobuko asked still with her teeth chattering.

“He thinks about a day with it being a proto-arthropod. But he thinks the genome will be scanned sometime next week,” he answered.

“Next week? He’s been scanning it for a fortnight now!” she cried with dismay. Although compared to other sequencers this was almost no time at all for Senshijidaino’s sequencer this was a long time. 

“Remember scanning time is based on the quality and age of the fossil,” he explained “We have good quality fossils but they are very old. From the Cambrian about 500 million years ago. They lived before there was even life on the land!”

“Wow. What is it that we’re breeding?” she asked in a mixture of amazement and shock.

He always carried his trusty book on prehistoric life to show staff members so this was the perfect time to bring it out. He flicked to the page and showed her. There was a reconstruction of possibly the most bizarre creature to ever swim in the seas. It had a streamlined body that had oar shaped plates that ran along the side to the end of the strange creature. On the head (or what seemed to be the head) were two stalks which ended in compounded eyes like a dragonfly has. On the underside of the head were two curved bony appendages covered with filaments. 

“The Anomalocaris,” he said happily looking at the look of bewilderment on the face “We’re breeding two species A.canadensis from the Burgess Shale in Canada and A.saron. For years it was thought to be different animals with the feeding appendage thought to be a crab, the mouth to be a jellyfish and the body to be a sponge.”

“It looks like someone just plucked everything from other animals together to form…that thing!” Nobuko exclaimed.

They left the building and looked over the coast. Near the shore they had finished placing a large Plexiglas dome which was attached to the poles that would soon emit sound waves stopping aquatic animals from getting in and out the enclosure. That was after they had managed to breed the Anomalocaris. 

Vadim’s estimate of when the genome would be done turned out to be correct. Almost immediately Sato had ordered that four of each species to be produced. The aquatic hatchery was through another door behind the terrestrial hatchery. Almost everyone had been caught unaware by the change in temperature. The large pool before them had been cooled to suit the Anomalocaris. The Head Keeper Kioni was buried in a mass of furs and Seth could see her shivering despite the warmth of her clothing. Only Sato seemed to be warm as he was almost bouncing around the hatchery walkway full of excitement.

“I knew Anomalocaris would be a good idea! Trilobites are too generic. Our first Cambrian animal has to be exciting and unique!” he cried. 

Nobuko looked at Seth in confusion so he had to show her a photo of the woodlouse like trilobite. Kioni called out and eight containers were dropped into the water with a loud splash. He had explained that Anomalocaris had much better eyesight than dragonflies so the consensus was that dropping the containers in when the Anomalocaris had arrived would scare them. There was a klaxon and the first four Anomalocaris (A.canadensis) darted from an unseen area underneath them.

They looked exactly like the photo except that they were two meters long, dark brown with red stripes and had black compounded eyes. 

They moved with as ease in the water as any dolphin or shark. As they swam the plates on their body rippled up and down for propulsion. Four of the containers started emitting a vile, noxious mixture of fish guts which attracted the Anomalocaris. As they swam into the containers they shut sharply allowing keepers to pick them up and move them out of the hatchery. Another klaxon sounded as the other species emerged. These Anomalocaris were almost the same except that they had blue stripes instead of red.

“Seth could you come with me please?” Kioni asked.

He followed her to the Anomalocaris tank. Kioni groaned as they entered the building due to the relentless onslaught of the cold. Quite happily the Anomalocaris were swimming around their new tank. They seemed not to mind each other if they did not swim close. Whenever they swam close to one another they would wave their appendages angrily.

“Are you sure this will work?” Kioni asked. She held in her hand a small model of a trilobite which was emitting a strange smell. He nodded. Kioni dropped the trilobite into the water. There was a theory that Anomalocaris would eat by using their appendages to tear open a trilobite or similar creature and then would suck up the innards. With their very good eyesight the nearest Anomalocaris swept towards the trilobite model. It grasped the model and easily tore it apart with considerable force. The water turned a murky black as squid wafted where the model used to be. The Anomalocaris opened its strange abyss of a mouth and sucked up the squid.

“Well that seems to have worked,” Kioni replied smiling despite the cold “We can feed them just as they did in the Cambrian and keep them stimulated. Any idea what Sato’s planning for that sea enclosure?”

He gave a smile. He perfectly knew what Sato wanted bringing back from extinction. It had taken him a good hour for Sato to be convinced to not breed the largest of their kind. With jaws full of crushing teeth, a ferocious appetite and their serpentine appearance made them look eerily similar to a sea serpent. Mosasaurs. The hit film Jurassic World had shown one in the film and Sato wanted the species shown for Senshijidaino, ironically called Mosasaurus. He had managed to negotiate with Sato to breed one that was just over 4 meters long.

“So tell me about mosasaurs,” Nobuko asked him. They were in his flat sitting in front of the television. His friends that he had made working at the sanctuary were with them as well. One of the computer operators, Tom Brown, was staring avidly at his collection of fossils which included the coiled shells of ammonites and the curved giant tooth of a Tyrannosaurus. Another one of the engineers, Jordan Wagstaff, was playing a game on his mobile.

Seth brought his book and showed Nobuko the first entries on the mosasaurs. There was a skeleton of one of the largest species, Tylosaurus, which epitomized the world’s view on the amazing creatures. Serpentine with a pointed skull full dangerous teeth evolved to tear sharks and aquatic reptiles to ribbons it was impressive. It looked almost like a sea serpent but with four flippers.

“Mosasaurs evolved in the Cretaceous period. We think they evolved from something like a monitor lizard that lived on beaches. One of the earliest known mosasaurs called Aigialosaurus still had flippers which vaguely resembled lizard’s feet. During the Cretaceous with little competition they flourished and the largest called Mosasaurus grew to be one of the largest predators,” he explained.

“Which one are we breeding?” Nobuko asked worriedly. As manager she had to make sure that the sanctuary was safe so breeding a serpentine sea monster that was larger than a great white would make that ever so much harder.

“Platecarpus tympaniticus. It was a mosasaurus which lived in the shadows its larger cousins. They’re only 4 meters long but they were very well preserved. We found that they had lungs like a mammal and a fluke tail. For years it was thought that mosasaurs had a curved tail like a sea serpent but Platecarpus showed that they had a tail like an ichthyosaur or even a shark.”

Soon over the coming week the last preparations were being made for the arrival of the Platecarpus. An underwater walkway had been built so the staff could observe the sea monsters against the clear blue water that they made up their new home. Across the sanctuary it was largely quiet; although one keeper did get a nasty nip from an Eoraptor the day the genome of the mosasaur was sequenced. 

The aquatic hatchery had been warmed up in preparation for the mosasaurus. The Cretaceous seas were far warmer than the Cambrian ones so quite likely the Platecarpus would have frozen. The klaxon rang (to which Sato cried with excitement) and a black shape emerged from underneath the walkway. It was perfectly streamlined with four paddle like fins. The tail ended in a fluke similar to a shark made a flesh; hence why it had not been fossilized well in most cases. The Platecarpus was a sparkling black and faintly Seth could see diagonal scales across the tail.

“They swim differently than I imagined,” Sato commented curiously.

He had to smile. For years it had been assumed that mosasaurs swam by curving their body like a snake. Well the Platecarpus had disproved this. The four mosasaurs were being propelled forward by their strong tails and steered using their paddle like fins. One swam downwards revealing an underside of pale white. Suddenly like a bullet in burst from the water and snapped its jaws hissing like a demonic snake. 

“Feisty things aren’t they?” Kioni laughed in shock.

There were large containers which the Platecarpus were lured to thanks to chum being dumped unceremoniously into them. The keepers were less willing to be around the mosasaurs following the little jump for freedom. The containers were shut and gently hoisted onto the nearby ship. In the distance the edge of the Platecarpus enclosure could be seen. A Plexiglas dome had been erected and attached the sonar poles for structural support. It was so the Platecarpus could breathe normally as it had in the Cretaceous period.

“I think we should all go to see them in their habitat!” Sato announced. The entrance to the underwater walkway was nearby. They descended into the darkness and walked through a nicely carpeted walkway. The sun which pierced the clear water cast a peaceful blue light around them. As they entered the Platecarpus enclosure a dark shape cast a black shadow across the floor. One Platecarpus was trying to chase a fish past the sound barrier. The silver fish darted effortlessly away as the sonar caused the mosasaur to irately swim away. The sonar was an irritation so the mosasaur would not be injured by the sonar but at the same time would allow small animals to pass in and out. 

“Drop in the food,” Kioni said through her walkie-talkie. 

He could see a silhouette of the boat ripple as a shoal of medium sized fish was dropped in. Well it would have been a shoal if they hadn’t bobbed up and down in the water dead. Being a third of the size of the larger mosasaurs it was unsurprising to find the Platecarpus were particularly fast swimmers. With two swipes of his tail the Platecarpus was already on the fish and had bit it in half. Being fast in a sea where everything larger than you wanted to eat you was a good tactic. 

“How did you know that they would live in shallower water?” Nobuko asked.

The exhibit had been created to be closer to the coast. Very evident as now a mosasaur was sweeping across the sand sending clouds of it spiralling upwards.

“Just a hunch. Larger mosasaurs like Prognathodon wouldn’t be able to come into shallower water so it could be a safe refuge for Platecarpus.”

A week later he was back in the walkway observing the mosasaurs. They weren’t particularly territorial and at times you could see them swim in tangent. One swam in front of the sun’s rays and cast a dangerously large shadow across the walkway. He thought eerily how much different Platecarpus would be from their much larger, territorial and dangerous brethren?  

Friday, 19 June 2015

History in Focus: The Napoleonic Wars

Yesterday marked the 200th anniversary of the end of the Napoleonic Wars. These were a series of wars fought between Napoleon (hence the title) and the various nations of Europe and even, for two years, the United States. For sixteen years war raged across Europe which created a lasting effect on Europe. Entire borders changed dramatically and new ideas spread across the world. Today we'll be looking at the Napoleonic Wars in detail.

Background
The origin of the Napoleonic Wars can be traced to the French Revolution. In 1793 the French revolutionaries guillotined the King, Louis XVI, prompting the First Coalition to be formed out of Austria, Sardinia, Naples, Prussia, Spain and Great Britain to invade France. Austria and Prussia however had been at war with France since the year before following a French declaration of war. Despite there being no money, most of Europe invading France and a civil war France managed to successfully fight the First Coalition thanks to the newly risen Corsican general Napoleon Bonaparte who forced Austria to sign the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797 giving France multiple Mediterranean islands, modern day Belgium and forced Britain to stand against France alone. This peace lasted a year as Napoleon copying his hero Alexander the Great invaded Egypt to cut Britain off from her Indian Empire. This prompted in 1798 for Britain, Austria, Russia, the Papal States, Sweden, Portugal and the Ottoman Empire to form the Second Coalition to take advantage of France's defended being trapped in Egypt by the British. Napoleon managed to sneak out of Egypt and return to France where he overthrew the French Directory (a government where five Directors ruled with an upper and lower house) to form the French Consulate with himself as First Consul. With Napoleon back in Europe he knocked Russia out of the war, defeated the Austrians in 1800 at Marengo in Italy and Hohenlinden in Bavaria. Following the Treaty of Luneville of 1801 Austria left the war as well as weakening the Holy Roman Empire (a confederacy of German states dating from the middle ages) and establishing puppet states in the Rhineland, Balkans and Italy. In 1802 the British signed the Treaty of Amiens which forced Britain out of Malta, the Cape Colony and made them recognize the Ionian Islands' independence while the French would withdraw from the Papal States and Naples.

The Wars Begin
Following the Treaty of Amiens Napoleon had declared himself the President of Italy and had invaded Switzerland to reassert his control over the country. This had angered Britain as well as Napoleon reordering European economies which excluded the British who feared losing money from trade. Their anger at withdrawing from Malta and Napoleon insisting that the British shut down papers that were insulting him (such as the above caricature) inflamed situations. Following Napoleon's invasion of Switzerland Britain returned to the Cape Colony and declared war in 1803. The following year Napoleon would be made Emperor of France forming the First French Empire on the 2nd December 1804. He secured this further by making himself King of Italy in 1805. That same year Britain had convinced Sweden, Russia, Naples, Sicily and Austria to form the Third Coalition. The French fleet faced a major defeat during their plan to divert British attention by threatening the West Indies. The British instead blockaded Cadiz in southern Spain and Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated the French at the Battle of Trafalgar on the 21st October although Nelson did die in the battle. After Napoleon never tried to defeat the British navy again. In the Caribbean from 1791 inspired by the French Revolution Haitian revolutionaries under Toussaint Louverture had been fighting for independence and after defeating the French force of 7,000 had finally won their independence in 1804, especially with the French forces spread thin in Europe. This also caused Napoleon to sell the French colonies along the Mississippi to the US in 1804 for 50 million francs. For US $15 million Napoleon had sold what is now 23% of the United States to the USA.

Meanwhile in Europe despite the defeat at Trafalgar Napoleon won what is seen as his greatest victory in the October of 1805. With an army of 7,000 Napoleon defeated a Russian-Austrian coalition of 70,000 at Austerlitz. His army had killed 20,000 Austrians and Russians during the battle forcing Austria to sign the Treaty of Pressburg handing Venetia over to the Kingdom of Italy.

Fourth Coalition and advances
During the Napoleonic Wars Napoleon managed to progress warfare astronomically. This was benefited by the Industrial Revolution as both the French and British managed to benefit from increased arms production. His use of conscription of both French and conquered troops and relying on the land allowed his armies to both be huge and well feed as they did not have to wait on supply lines. He also made artillery a separate brigade instead of tagging it alongside cavalry and infantry which allowed his cannons to move more independently; again this led to easier victories. In 1806 the British had established a blockade of France preventing goods from getting to the country and to the irateness of the US who had been trading with France had started to seize American trade ships going to Europe. Some American sailors were even press-ganged into joining the British navy! The Fourth Coaltion was formed in 1806 among the British, Swedish, Russians, Prussians and Saxony. Napoleon though saw more victories and disbanded the Holy Roman Empire and formed a puppet called the Confederacy of the Rhine. He then turned on Prussia defeating the Prussians at Jena and Auerstadt on the same day using a force of 160,000 which grew from conscripted Germans. In 19 days Napoleon had defeated Prussia! To counteract the British blockade Napoleon formed the Continental System which offered a European blockade of British goods. In response the British angered the Americans further by enforcing tighter blockades on the Atlantic. In 1807 Napoleon attacked the Russians in Poland defeating them and at Tilsit he forced Russia to join the Continental System as well as forming the puppet states of Poland, Warsaw and Danzig. The same year Britain bombarded the Danish fleet in Copenhagen fearing the French might take it which made Denmark join the Continental System (really must have been one of the most stupid ideas ever!). At the same time war broke out between Sweden and Russia over Finland with France supporting Russia and Britain supporting Sweden which resulted in Russia taking Finland.
Fifth Coalition and Peninsular War
Portugal had been a long term ally of Britain for centuries and had refused to join the Continental System. Napoleon did not trust Spain's Prime Minister Godoy and the Spanish king, Charles IV. Napoleon invaded in 1808 declaring his brother Joseph as King resulting in the invading French to massacre the rebelling citizens of Madrid. What followed was the Spanish colonies rebelling including Mexico, Argentina and Chile while the Portuguese royalty fled to Brazil. The British and Austrians formed the Fifth Coalition. Britain invaded the peninsular and succeeded in pushing the French out of Cadiz and Lisbon where the future Duke of Wellington Sir Arthur Wellesley. Spain was a major disaster for the French who was hounded by the British and Spanish guerrilla forces. in fact this was the war that coined the term guerrilla warfare. The war would continue until 1814. In the east Austria had won successive victories against the Duchy of Warsaw and had even dealt Napoleon his first defeat in 1809 at Aspern-Essling. However the Austrians were defeated at Aspern and Wagram the same year. Napoleon was determined to end the threat of Austria and divorced his wife Josephine to marry Archduchess Marie Louise in 1810. He made his older brother Joseph King of Spain, his younger brother Jerome King of Westphalia, his brother-in-law the King of Naples and had made Austria and Prussia his allies.

Russia and America
In 1812 Britain and France went to war with two of their archenemies: the USA and Russia. As the Sixth Coalition was formed the USA declared war on Britain for the British interfering on their maritime trade (France had done so as well and the US almost declared war on France as well). Thus started the War of 1812 (aptly named). The war raged for two years and included the British invading the USA where a force of 4,000 burned the White House and the Americans dealt a massive victory against the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Future president Andrew Jackson led the Americans in a trench warfare and the Duke of Wellington's brother-in-law Edward Pakenham was killed; although this battle took place a week after the peace treaty had been signed! In Europe Napoleon angered by Russia trying to control Poland invaded with a Grande Armee of  650,000, 270,000 were French the rest were from conquered regions. Napoleon's army easily swept over the Russian forces who instead opted for a scorched-earth tactic, destroying the resources as they retreated, something which Joseph Stalin would adopt nearly 130 years later during World War Two. When Napoleon arrived in Moscow the Russians had already burned the city. Facing no prospect in chasing Tsar Alexander I through the Russian Winter and without any resources Napoleon was forced to retreat. Only 27,000 survived the march back over the vast expanses of Russia and Poland with 380,000 dead and 100,000 captured.

Exile and Return
In 1813 at the Battle of Vittoria the Duke of Wellington managed to force Joseph Bonaparte out of Spain. Prussia and Austria meanwhile decided to join the Sixth Coalition as Napoleon fled to Paris. Napoleon abdicated on April 6th 1814 as the Russians, Austrians and Prussians marched on Paris. The Allies ignored Napoleon's request to put his son to his second wife on the throne and instead restored the Bourbon dynasty. Napoleon was exiled to Elba off the coast of Corsica as an insult. Napoleon however slipped past his guards on the 26th February 1815 and landed on the French coast where the first soldiers he met declared their allegiance to him. He returned to Paris and the king fled to Belgium. For 100 Days Napoleon ruled France until he challenged the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th (exactly 200 years ago yesterday as of writing). Napoleon held back from attacking the Duke due to an unpleasant mixture of piles and bad weather. Napoleon started the battle with artillery bombardment, then infantry fire and then a cavalry charge. When Wellington seemed that he was about to be defeated the Prussian army under Marshal Blucher arrived. Napoleon was defeated and was exiled to St Helena in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where he died in 1821.

Legacy
The aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars is great. On French politics it had two effects: one was trying to avert the possibility of one person dominating autocratically and at the same time gave the French for a longing of powerful leaders such as Charles de Gaulle in years to come. In Britain the income tax was introduced as well as the Charter of Freedom which outlawed the slave trade (although not slavery) in the British Empire. The wars introduced the metric system to Europe which is now used worldwide and today only the USA and Liberia are the only countries not to use this system (Britain though uses a mixture of the metric system and imperial measures). The changes to European regions though would help form Italy and Germany years later. Britain emerged as the world's dominant power with the world's strongest navy that would be uncontested for years. Napoleon's Continental System is actually partially realized also with the European Union and it would be the last war in Europe until the First World War to involve all of the most powerful European nations. These are just a few legacies of the Napoleonic Wars and to be honest the Napoleonic Wars will have a lasting legacy for years to come.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Extinction Wildlife Sanctuary: Mammoths

I've realized that I've accidentally left something vague. This story sets place in an alternate reality where despite the recession of the 1970s the Space Race continued. Thanks to this technology is slightly more advanced than in our timeline (hence the quick coding of the genomes). Also the Pleistocene Park shown later is an actual idea although currently we are still far from cloning a mammoth (it's only because of the slightly more advanced technology are they able to 'clone' one in this story). 

Seth Matthews of the Senshijidaino Wildlife Sanctuary stared intently at the small herd in front of him. If his hidden hide had not been perfectly designed to blend in with a forest of primeval dark green ferns the animals most likely would have darted away already. The dark green bald heads of the Mussaurus could barely be seen among the dew covered ferns as the lookouts scanned their domain with unceasing paranoia. The lookouts formed a ring around those who were browsing from the cycads where their only movements were the quick darts of their pointed heads looking for danger. From what he had found out so far Mussaurus didn’t have any concrete hierarchy for the herd as something like an elephant would have. It was more of a conglomeration born out of safety in numbers with the smaller ones following the larger ones only to protect themselves. Every paleontologist would have given their right arm to be where he was. With fossils you could only make theories on behavior. At Senshijidaino those theories could finally have weight behind them.

His stomach then knotted as if it was a python constricting its prey. He had been informed that the sanctuary’s animal behaviorist James Bronson was originally against bringing the animals back from extinction for a very good reason: behavior. Much of an animal’s behavior is cognitive but just as much is learnt such as social interaction. James said it was unethical bringing animals back from extinction when they had no others around to teach them and bridge the gaps in their behavior. It had hit him them that maybe it was actually unethical. Yes they had been bringing back these animals not for profit and with a few to even reintroduce them to the wild, (Sato seemingly had a plan to release wild dinosaurs on another lifeless island) ,which he assumed was ethical but was it right doing that if they were missing half their behavior? Then the problem was answered. Recently they had bred Golden Lion Tamarins with the premise to use a series of visual prompts to fill in the gaps for their behavior. However the Tamarins turned out to seemingly exhibit the normal behaviour for their species! Vadim, the sanctuary’s Genome Synthesizer/Hatchery Technician, found that memories of behavior (although not memories of phobias, likes and general past experiences) from the animals used to synthesize the genome had already been bred into the new animals. Although learnt behavior for the species was no longer an issue other ethical issues that might plague the sanctuary were always at the back of his mind.

“Seth please could you come with me?” a voice said behind him. Tayatami Nobuko (the sanctuary’s manager) was standing sternly behind him holding what had been joked as her trademark black tablet. He nodded and followed her out of the hide.

“I want to make sure that all things are in order before we bring the herd back,” she said with so much authority that she sounded eerily similar to an old teacher of his. Nobuko had two personalities; her quiet but carefree ‘out of work’ personality and her stern, formal ‘work’ personality. Not even her father could make her shift from her stern working personality; albeit a good thing as otherwise ‘out of work’ Nobuko would have quickly caved in and let him breed a Tyrannosaurus immediately.

The bright sunlight almost blinded him. The hide was almost as dark as a moonless night so the fiery glow of the Pacific sun did not agree with his eyes. Outside the Triassic Dome was an electric jeep waiting which Nobuko quickly climbed into. The Ice Age Dome was on the other side of the island so it would otherwise be a long walk without it. The jeep engine whirred silently as the jeep set off down a dirt road sending mist like wisps of dirt as the tyres gently thundered over road. Despite how excited the rest of the staff was about the arrival of woolly mammoths Nobuko’s face did not express it. He definitely did know that she was excited from the previous night when Vadim had announced that the mammoth genome had been fully traced.

“I think we might be upsetting Sergey Zimov a bit,” he joked. For about eighteen years the Russian researcher had been trying to create Pleistocene Park on the Kolyma River. He had succeeded in introducing multiple animals that once lived there such as muskox but when it was announced that a mammoth could possibly be bred if the genome had been traced his dream would be truly complete. However red tape and court battles had so far prevented him from having an elephant impregnated via in-vitro fertilization to produce a mammoth. Senshijidaino producing a herd of mammoths quite possibly years before he even manages to get legal permission to breed a mammoth would not best please him.

Nobuko nodded in agreement. As they passed the headquarters shadows cast by vibrant tropical trees shielded them from the relentless sun. Occasionally he saw a flash of fiery golden fur scurry through the branches. The omnipotent black meshing of the Haast’s Eagle aviary crept out of the trees like a ruined city reminding him that not all the sanctuary’s animals were as timid as the Mussaurus. The trees soon thinned and vanished as quickly as they had appeared as the jeep rocked over hard lifeless rock. It was a hard task introducing plants to win the war against the barren land that comprised the sanctuary. There was a benefit as it allowed them to be creative in making the animal’s enclosures without disturbing natural habitats but at the same time it looked foreboding and desolate. He was sure that if a nuclear bomb had been detonated on the islands the same effect could easily have been achieved.

The jeep’s almost silent engine shut off just in front of a giant biodome 15km2 in size. Giant hexagonal inflated ethylenetetrafluoroethylenecopolymer (ETFE) cells supported by rigid steel frames sealed in the cold for the behemoths of the Ice Age. At the entrance Nobuko led him down a pathway overlooking a small ditch which faced a sweeping steppe which stretched as far as the eye could see like a grassy ocean. Intermingled in the grass were pleasant splashes of purple, yellow and red of flowering plants that had taken root in the dome. He was glad that it was summer. Already he was shivering and in the winter it was supposed the biodome’s atmosphere generators was to cake the land with snow. Nobuko started heading up a wooden walkway which he quickly set off after her. It stretched deep into the steppe giving a perfect aerial view of the green-purple plain. Directly below a shining clear lake which glistened in the sun dominated the land with conifers periodically dotted around the water. Members of the extremely rare European Bison herd bred with the intension to release into the wild were happily drinking from the bright water.

“Is this a suitable area for mammoths?” Nobuko asked.

“It’s perfect. Plenty of saplings, grass and herbaceous plants for them to eat. One of the reasons for their extinction was due to the steppe being replaced by forests. Unlike modern day elephants their diet largely consisted of grasses. Nice large lake and mud to clear mosquitoes. Cold. We’re ready for a mammoth.”

Satisfied Nobuko gave a small smile and they headed down the walkway again. The jeep darted off towards the HQ where the first woolly mammoths in millennia would be bred. The extinction of the mammoth had been staggered; 10,000 years ago they went extinct on the mainland, 6,000 years ago an island population went extinct off of Alaska and 4,000 years ago all mammoths had vanished. In an ironic twist of fate they would be brought back in a staggered way. The matriarch would be first, then the rest of the herd would follow and finally a male.

When they entered the Synthesizer/Hatchery room a cold crept along him like vines against a tree. Sato was bustling about asking whether they should make the room colder for the mammoth. Kioni the Head Keeper was looking carefully an animatronic head of a mammoth created by the engineers which currently was lodged in a transport container. It was making feeble movements and trumpets of an excited elephant to hopefully convince the mammoths that it was one of their own.

“Hiya Seth,” James said. He had cheered considerably up after he had found out that the mammoths would be able to have the correct social behavior. He cheered up even more after he had found out that Vadim could make the females related by tinkering with the DNA code to make them cousins. “I’m so glad that Vadim can make ‘em all cousins. Elephants are jus’ like us; they need their family. I love me mammy and me brother and me sister are me bes’ friends. Elephants are the same. In zoos they’re all unrelated and it drains their health. They don’ thrive. They need to be wi’ family.”

He hushed up when the klaxon flared. The matriarch was about to arrive. Kioni called out to her keepers to get out of the walkway as quickly as possible; as the mammoth would be inheriting some behavior from another mammoth there was a possibility that it could remember that humans hunted elephants… Behind the trees that led to the hatchery there was a deep trumpet of an elephant. He could have cried. She was parted the trees like the Red Sea as she gently walked across the metal walkway. She looked like a normal elephant but with long coarse brown hair covering the entire body and a fatty hump on the shoulder. Compared to an African Elephant she had tiny ears and tail but had two gleaming white curved tusks to compensate for them. She raised her furry snake like trunk and trumpeted in greeting to her new world.

“She’s amazing,” he heard someone whisper. The matriarch (who was named Kseniya by Nobuko) instantly saw the animatronic mammoth head and waggled her tiny black ears in delight. Kioni started using a remote to make the head feebly move and emit the excited cries of an elephant. The clunky head moved the fake trunk horizontal to the floor in Kseniya’s direction. In response she gave a similar trumpet and held out her trunk. Flapping her ears she darted towards the animatronic and wrapped her trunk around that of the animatronic.

“She’s greeting it as a friend,” James whispered excitedly “She still has her species behavior!”
Kioni gestured to the keepers who quietly closed the back of the container. The silent electric engine of the HGV whirred into life like a strange metallic cat and set off. It moved into the direction of the Ice Age Dome and they instantly followed. Half an hour later, with much coaxing, Kseniya backed out of the container with her eventually realizing that the animatronic was not real. At the request of James they left the container open for her.

“Elephants like being with others of their kind,” he explained “Kermit the mammoth there might not be real but it reminds her of someone friendly. Even in the wild elephants have been known to stay by dead elephants who they never knew as sort of mourning. Keeping the puppet will help her settle.”
High above the noble behemoth he could still hear her soft trumpets as she padded in and out of the container to be with the puppet. It was strange how much they were like us. For Kseniya having the animatronic must be like a human keeping a teddy bear. She happily used her maneuverable trunk around the stem of a bright sunflower and tore it from the earth. At one part she even used her curved white tusks to dig up a root lodged in the earth.

“Why did you order that?” he heard Nobuko ask Kioni. A truck had just driven right in the middle of the paddock and had discarded tonnes upon tonnes of elephant feces. It looked like some sort of dirty protest.

“She’s an elephant,” Kioni replied nonchalantly “When I was working at the Tsavo Reserve I saw baby elephants eating the feces of the adults. Elephants have bacteria in the gut to break down tough vegetation more easily but when they’re born they don’t have the bacteria. The babies eat feces to get those bacteria. Kseniya’s just been bred so she needs that bacteria.”

He had to laugh at the look on Nobuko’s face at that moment. It was a mixture of revulsion and childlike laughter. A fully grown mammoth matriarch eating feces did have that effect on you.
The next day Kioni had deemed it the opportune moment to finally remove the transport container. Kseniya dragged her trunk against the soft grass in dejection following this. Such an intelligent and sociable animal by herself in an alien time losing a thin slither of familiarity was devastating. It was hard to not feel some form of empathy for her as she gave rumbles from her deep stomach. The mammoth started to pace around the edge of the crystal clear lake gently rubbing her elegant tusks through the silt. In an hour and a half there was a rumble like a devastating volcanic eruption. Seth looked down upon the sea of grass to see that this eruption was not of the earth but rather from anonymous voices in transport containers. These containers were much larger than the one used to transport Kseniya but each was emitting a cacophony of trumpets and growls. They opened revealing two mammoths each. Kseniya gave a trumpet of delight as she was greeted by ten separate mammoths. They lifted up their trunks in what at first appeared a trumpet of greeting in response. However they were as silent as the night; no sound was heard coming from them. Kseniya though went to the nearest and wrapped her trunk around her bright ivory.

“They’re communicating on a low frequency. By the looks of it they’ve accepted her as matriarch,” Kioni said happily. He had forgotten that elephants communicated mostly through low frequency grumbles. Their wide feet had adapted to pick up these grumbles like some form of biological radio station.

Kseniya immediately snapped out of her torpor and was swinging her trunk with ecstasy. She led her new herd towards the lake (scattering the shaggy furred bison away from that side of the lake) before wading in to the mud. The mammoths took it in turn to playfully spray mud at each other; the mud staining their light and dark brown fur an even darker shade. It had a joint purpose of play and to rid themselves of pesky flies.

“I just hope the male is as easy going,” Kioni moaned. He nodded in agreement. Male elephants were often more aggressive than females.
In three more hours the first male mammoth in 4,000 years had arrived in the Ice Age Dome. He was larger than the females being slightly over three meters tall with much curlier ivory tusks. His great size made him look very formidable. A nearby bison merely took one look at the behemoth before running off to join his companions.

“We’ve called him Arkhip,” Kioni told him “He’s not in musth but he’s still more aggressive than the females. He put a massive dint in the container.”

As the transport HGV was slowly moving out of the paddock he could see a massive dint as if a giant had punched the side of it. Kseniya gave a roar with her trunk flailing in anger at him. Her herd members joined her making equally aggressive roars at Arkhip. He shook his head and slowly walked away shaking his course head.

“Well he’s been put in his place!” Kioni laughed.


Senshijidaino had successfully bred one of the most famous extinct animals. Surely Sato’s dream of making extinction extinct would soon come to pass. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

10 Facts about the Jurassic Park Franchise

Yesterday saw the release of the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise Jurassic World (expect a review in a fortnight). Since the novel was published in 1990 by Michael Crichton the story of an eccentric billionaire who clones dinosaurs using DNA locked in amber who then run amok has captivated the world over. For the release of Jurassic World and that yesterday was 22 years since the film was released I thought it would be fitting to look at unique facts about the franchise. These ten facts will cover the two novels by Michael Crichton and the four movies. Hold on to your butts here are ten Jurassic Park facts.

10. Some unique changes from book to film
As Steven Spielberg and David Koepp started to adapt Michael Crichton's hit novel onto the silver screen multiple changes were made. Some surrounded the characters such as John Hammond (played by Richard Attenborough) in the film being a friendly, jovial philanthropist who cares for his staff whereas in the novel he was a greedy, selfish egotist with every negative stereotypes for capitalists rolled into one. Alan Grant (played by Sam Neil) was in the novel a middle aged strapping paleontologist with a beard and liked children for their equal love for dinosaurs but in the film he was changed to a relatively young man who disliked kids but eventually grows to like children. In the novel Dr Henry Wu (played by B.D.Wong and is the only recurring character from the other films in Jurassic World) played a massive part while in the film he only had one scene even though B.D.Wong's name appears before Samuel L.Jackson's name who had far more scenes! One character called Ed Regis was even written out of the movie but his death (via T Rex) was given to the lawyer Donald Gennaro (played by Martin Ferrero) who incidentally survived in the novel. A few scenes from the novel were also cut in Jurassic Park but would later appear in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III. These included a tourist girl being attacked by Compsognathus (bipedal chicken sized carnivores) who had escaped to the mainland and a Tyrannosaurus attacking people through a waterfall which was moved to The Lost World. The group being attacked by pterosaurs (flying reptiles that lived at the time of the dinosaurs often called pterodactyls) which was moved to Jurassic Park III. Dinosaurs were also changed including there being more raptors bred in the book and a baby T Rex. A few dinosaurs were also swapped like Apatosaurus was changed to Brachiosaurus for the film. a sick Stegosaurus was supplemented for a Triceratops (as it was Spielberg's favorite dinosaur) and a herd of stampeding hadrosaurs (duck billed dinosaurs) for Gallimimus.
These are Gallimimus
9. The hardest effect to film

One of the special effects artists Michael Lantieri found that one of the hardest effects to produce was not actually bringing the dinosaurs back to life. The hardest effect was actually producing one of the film's most iconic scenes. When the jeeps stop thanks to the power outage (due to being electric cars on tracks) in front of the T Rex paddock ripples in a glass of water herald the arrival of the king of the dinosaurs. This effect proved to be very difficult to actually produce. In the end Lantieri found out how to produce it when he was playing his guitar in his spare time. He found that when he plucked the guitar the water would ripple in the desired effect. For the film he attached a guitar wire under the jeep dashboard and plucked it creating one of the most iconic scenes in not only the Jurassic Park franchise but also film history.

8. Jurassic Park's nod to another famous film dinosaur
At the end of The Lost World: Jurassic Park in a big deviation from the novel (as if you completely spliced two films together) a Tyrannosaurus is taken to San Diego in order to put it in Jurassic Park: San Diego. However the Tyrannosaurus breaks out and wreaks havoc across the city. At one part the T Rex is chasing a group of people through the streets including a group of Japanese businessmen who shouts in Japanese. What they say translates to: 'I left Japan because of this!'. All of this points to a massive reference to Godzilla; a giant movie monster who wreaks havoc across Japan. Although the first film was in turn inspired by another movie monster. Steven Spielberg was inspired to do Jurassic Park to see if he could possibly do and pay homage to the hit 1933 film King Kong (hence Jeff Goldblum's line in Jurassic Park 'What are they keeping in there King Kong?).

7. Crichton and his novel's antagonists
When he was writing Jurassic Park Crichton wanted a main antagonist that wasn't the obvious choice, that being Tyrannosaurus. Crichton had done his research and with many carnivorous dinosaurs being human sized or smaller he thought a small predator would be the better antagonist than a giant T Rex. For one such claustrophobic scenes such as the infamous kitchen scene with the raptors definitively could not be achieved with a T Rex. The intelligent, small raptors proved to be the perfect and he particularly liked the name of one: Velociraptor. However he had a problem as in real life Velociraptor was hardly as high as your knee. A second large raptor called Deinonychus proved to be a better suit and after finding out that they were closely he used some poetic licensing for his antagonists. In the novel it is explained that Deinonychus was found to be a larger Velociraptor. When it was being adapted Spielberg upped the size of the raptors as Crichton had his Velociraptors being the same size as the real life Deinonychus (just over half the height of a human). If they had waited a year though to release the film a raptor called Utahraptor would be discovered which was exactly the size of the raptors seen in the film. The creator of the dinosaur animatronics and puppets Stan Winston even said that he created it before it was discovered! 

6. They progressed the public's view on dinosaurs
In the 1970s something called the Dinosaur Renaissance happened where findings had shown that dinosaurs weren't sluggish, solitary monsters but really sociable, warm-blooded, good parents. This however proved difficult to change public perception. Crichton in his novel portrayed his dinosaurs as what these new findings were found to be like: caring parents, moving in herds and running with mammal and bird like agility. Dr Henry Wu in the novel even suggests making the dinosaurs more docile to appeal to the general public. When the film was released the dinosaurs were portrayed moving in herds and the raptors especially were intelligent, cunning and warm-blooded. Following the film and novel's immediate popularity video games, movies and television programs were released portraying dinosaurs as paleontologists believed they actually acted like. All thanks to Jurassic Park. Although many of the dinosaurs are now known to look and act differently (such as many dinosaurs including Velociraptor are known to be feathered) the impact of the film on public views on dinosaurs cannot be diminished.

5. Joe Johnston directing Jurassic Park III was due to a promise
Joe Johnston was a good friend of Steven Spielberg and had directed multiple family films in the past such as Jumanji and Honey! I Shrunk the kids. Spielberg knew though that Johnston liked the previous Jurassic Park films and promised him if a third installment was made he would try and get Johnston the directing role. This proved successful for Johnston and he got the directing role for the film which turned out to be a train wreck (I actually do like the film but it definitely was a train wreck). Johnston however did make his own film unique with the daring move of using the little known outside the paleontological community dinosaur Spinosaurus as the film's dinosaur antagonist. In homage to the first film though the end shot featuring Pteranodon (a species of pterosaur from the film) flying over the sea is exactly the same as the one at the end of Jurassic Park albeit with the original using pelicans instead. 

4. Rain and the T Rex model
Steven Spielberg hired special effects wizard Stan Winston to create life sized dinosaurs for the film. Winston had previously created costumes, puppets and animatronics for a variety of films including creating the Predator for Predator and Predator 2, the stunning Terminator make-up in The Terminator which turned Arnold Schwarzenegger into the ruthless killer cyborg and had created Frankenstein's Monster, Gill-Man, Mummy and other classic movie monsters for The Monster Squad. In Jurassic Park Winston excelled himself creating the lifelike models for each dinosaur. This included a 15,000 pound T Rex animatron on the sound stage for the infamous T Rex breakout scene. Late in production however Spielberg decided to make it rain during that scene to add more atmosphere. However Winston had made the animatron with precise dimensions and movement when it was dry. When it was wet the latex soaked up the water making it much heavier. This increase in water tension even made the animatron shudder when not active and producer Kathleen Turner said that it would suddenly move scaring everyone half to death! To avoid the sudden life bursts in the animatron people had to hit it with towels in an attempt to dry it. A considerable feat with the model being lifesized meaning that it stood a meter higher than an average bull elephant!

3. The first sequels
Michael Crichton published his first novel in 1966 (Odds On) although under a pseudonym. During his career he never once released a sequel to any of his novels; that was until The Lost World in 1995. Following the success of the film adaptation of Jurassic Park fans wanted a sequel, especially as Crichton had left the ending open for a possible follow up. Thanks to this Crichton broke his rule and made a sequel where he delves into the darker side of the company from the first book InGen, pays homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous story and shows that (quoting Ian Malcolm) 'life finds a way'. He even made a joke about some of the changes that the film made to the original book. In the film paleontologist Alan Grant says that T Rex's sight is based on movement like a frog but in the book Grant only finds this out after seeing the Tyrannosaurus after it had escaped and even then only because it had been cloned using amphibian DNA, not because it actually had vision like a frog. One character in The Lost World called Richard Levine makes fun of this. When The Lost World was going to be translated onto the silver screen after his good experience on the first film chose to break his rule and decided to direct the sequel. Even though Jaws had a sequel he had nothing to do with it so it was his very first sequel with The Lost World.

2. How the dinosaurs were made to look real
During the creation of Jurassic Park Steven Spielberg wanted the dinosaurs to look as realistic as possible. Instead of CGI originally Spielberg hired Phil Tippett who had worked on the special effects for Return of the Jedi (to which he won an Oscar) to use Go-Motion for the wide shots of the dinosaurs. This is an updated version of stop-motion animation where they could seamlessly blur frames together to make a natural looking effect. Although his kids liked the effects Spielberg wasn't satisfied with the results so Dennis Muren whose effects team Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM) suggested CGI. James Cameron's The Abyss and Terminator 2 had breathtaking CGI and had broke ground with special effects in those films. He convinced him by showing him CGI imagery of skeletal Gallimimus running against a field realistically. Go-motion was scrapped and CGI was put in to replace it but instead of it all being in done through computer as with most current films Phil Tippett was hired still to create miniature dinosaur models which Muren then used to create better CGI dinosaurs based on these models. In production CGI was blended with Stan Winston's life sized models creating the masterpiece that we have. In the first film there are 15 minutes of dinosaurs, 9 minutes of animatronics and 6 minutes of CGI.

1. Jurassic World contains multiple homages
Jurassic World is the first film in the franchise to be filmed after the tragic deaths of Michael Crichton, Richard Attenborough and Stan Winston. I haven't seen the film yet so I cannot say if there is a homage to Crichton although I can say there is a dinosaur in real life named after him called Crichtonsaurus. However there is a homage to Richard Attenborough with there being a stature in dedication to his character John Hammond. Stan Winston similarly has a slight homage. If you go on the Jurassic World website (the link here: http://uk.jurassicworldintl.com/) you go to a fake website for if the place was real. There you can find a menu for a restaurant called Winston's; a homage to the late Stan Winston. There are also sly references to the first film such as the Gallimimus paddock being filmed at the same ranch as the paddock in the first film and the Tyrannosaurus in the film has scars on its body and neck. The same places where Velociraptors attacked it at the end of the first film. Finally through one of the trailer's (confirmed in an interview) there is a restricted section on the island with remains of a familiar building from twenty two years ago...

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Extinction Wildlife Sanctuary: First Dinosaurs

Seth stood with Fretwell in the new aviary. Of course the great birds that would soon inhabit this aviary had yet to be brought back from extinction; if they had it would be quite likely that sharp talons would be deeply embedded in their backs. Judy Wright the architect had listened to his advise well on the exhibit design. Large temperate trees found across South Island of New Zealand encompassed the aviary to almost perfectly replicate a thick forest. Fretwell was looking carefully at the meshing of the aviary. He had overseen the design and manufacturing of the meshing so it was on his head if the meshing turned out not to hold a giant eagle. The meshing stretched high up over the green tops of the trees giving the few introduced song birds that had wormed their way into the aviary ample room to stretch their tiny wings.

"Don't worry Fretwell the song birds won't get eaten by the ones going to be bred," Seth told him reassuringly "They would not bother with small birds when their diet consisted of giant moas."

The Harpagornis, or Haast's Eagle, was a large eagle from New Zealand that hunted the giant moa birds (one species now residing in Senshijidaino). With no mammalian competition they monopolized the top predatory niches. A couple of song birds smaller than your palm would serve no interest to the ruler of the skies. Tayatami Sato was adamant that the habitat of the song birds was not to be disturbed so it was up to Fretwell to see that the meshing was large enough to let song birds in and out as well as stopping macaws from getting in and the Harpagornis from getting out. As Fretwell was still observing his handiwork Seth noticed a brown plaster firmly attached to his index finger.

"Had a run in with Maurice?" he asked.

"Yeah," Fretwell replied with a sheepish smile. Maurice was a particularly large male dodo who would get overexcited when being hand fed. Dodos having hooked beaks that were painfully sharp to open the shells of crabs meant that a few scrapes ensued. Kioni had to ban people from actually hand feeding the dodos now.

"I think the eagles will be arriving now," Fretwell commented looking once more at the meshing. He could perfectly understand Fretwell's trepidation; when the Haast's Eagles come out from the 'hatchery' the world's largest birds of prey would be flying around that exhibit and if they got out... The Senshijidaino Research Lab and Hatcheries was not too far away from the aviary so they could easily walk to the giant building in under ten minutes. With it being a bright day in accompaniment with the shade offered by a variety of sub-tropical trees it was a pleasant walk. 

"Seth you know that we're bringing back extinct animals here?" Fretwell asked.

"Yes," he replied. He had a hunch where this was going.

"Do you think Sato will have dinosaurs brought back?"

"I think that's an inevitability. He said that he used that supercomputer/3-D Printer thing first with an ammonite which lived at the same time as the dinosaurs so I would think it's likely that a dinosaur would be just as easy to scan the genome of. Don't worry I think that'll be a while though before we get a dinosaur."

As he pushed open the door to the labs he started to get worried. Although he knew dinosaurs were often different from how Hollywood movies portrayed the thought of a living dinosaur was still foreboding. One thing that Jurassic Park got right was if a Tyrannosaurus broke free it would be unstoppable. Fretwell typed the password to enter the hatchery/genome lab with very loud beeps and the door fizzed open. Quite a few people were already inside including Ross and Tom typing away quickly on the computers, Dan, Wagstaff and Vadim huddled around the genome synthesizer containing a very large talon and Sato and Nobuko who was looking very angry at her father.

"Alright guys?" Ross asked sleepily as they arrived. It took a while to notice but there was now some metal bars in front of the computers. Before there was a small railing before the drop to the walkway where the animals would come out of the hatchery. 

"What about Game o' Thrones?" Vadim asked loudly in his thick accent. This made Fretwell pull a face indicating it was another in joke at his expense. Before Fretwell could retort there was a loud klaxon. The Haast's Eagles were ready. Faintly he could here some rustling behind the trees of the hatchery before one came out. A loud metallic clang reverberated around the lab as its talon scrapped the floor. 
Even with her wings folded the eagle was giant. She walked slowly with her head bobbing backwards and forwards as her large omnipotent eyes staring eagerly at the humans. Three more eagles (two male and another female) followed the first and stared through the fencing at them. Everybody held their breath as she jumped and flapped her almost three meter long wings sending her neatly towards one of four boxes. Seth recognized them as what you would transport a bird of prey in but much larger. A wooden door was open revealing chunks of meat which the bird eagerly jumped open. There was a beep and a mechanism attached to the door of the container slid shut safely for the bird to be transported. The other three followed the first in seizing the meat allowing the doors to slide shut. He heard Dan and Wagstaff get congratulated by Vadim; they had been in charge of creating the mechanism to slide the doors shut remotely. Kioni and a group of keepers went to pick up the containers and he had to suppress a laugh as their faces contorted with effort to lift the birds.

"Seth how much do they way?" Kioni asked in peril.

"The females about 14 kg, the males a bit less."

Other than being currently the largest bird of prey they were also the heaviest. Although they had to thank themselves that Sato hadn't chosen some even large birds of prey such as the Argentavis, a condor with a 7 meter wingspan. The whir of an engine indicated that the keepers had opted to put the eagles on the back of a jeep to transport them. Eagerly everyone followed them to the aviary. As they arrived the keepers had already placed them in the aviary and had remotely opened the containers. With a flurry of brown feathers he saw an eagle take flight, scattering fearful song birds in the process, to perch like a victorious monarch on a rocky outcrop. The exhibit was easily large enough so that the eagles had enough room to not come into territory scuffles before they had established pairs for mating.

"They are wonderful," Kioni said in amazement.

"I think it's time to feed them," Sato said which caused Kioni to talk into her walkie-talkie. The sanctuary's engineers had fitted a small track which Seth could faintly see through the soil where a large carcass was sent across to make it somewhat resemble a moving prey item. There were four separate tracks in the aviary, one for each eagle. The nearest eagle spotted the carcass and flew off among the trees.

"I thought eagles hunted by flying from above or something like that?" Fretwell asked.

"Other eagles yes but not these guys," Seth replied "No they had evolved tail feathers to perfectly angle and direct them through the trees to attack unexpectedly hitting them in the pelvis."

Through the trees they could see the eagle effortlessly sweep among the thick trees like it was just flying through the open air. With front talons almost half a meter long the eagle smashed full pelt into the carcass making a loud crunch of shattered bone ricochet around the aviary forest. A sharp beak smashed into the pelvis of the carcass making it fall of the track. If it was a moa it would have been paralyzed or if not killed by the impact.

"Amazing," Sato said in awe.

The rest of the week went by as normal. Quite often people went to observe the majestic eagles, especially after a ban was put in place on hand feeding dodos when Maurice almost took off someone's little finger in a time of overzealous feeding. Nobuko though seemed to be very frustrated at something and it seemed to escalate when she was near her father. Finally they found out when everyone congregated at the labs when Sato announced what was to be brought back next.

"Angel please calm down!" he begged.

"No father as manager I have to put responsibility before family. What you are planning is reckless and dangerous!" she cried "Everyone look what he plans to have us breed next!"

She ushered them through a side door full of a series of crates jammed full of protective sawdust. On the table was a large brown skull...
The effect was lost on most people but Seth started to go very hot under the collar. Everyone else did when he told them the owner of the skull: Tyrannosaurus Rex. What followed was a series of cries of protest that made revolutions look peaceful. Kioni raised her voice and started berating Sato about how dangerous having lions were never mind Tyrannosaurus, Jon Fresnow yelled that with the natural barrier design of the sanctuary if one thing went wrong what would be the largest carnivore in the world with no natural predators would be roaming the island and even Ross, Tom, Dan, Fretwell and Wagstaff aired their hostility to the idea with how ill prepared they were for a Tyrannosaurus.

"Dad as manager we are very, very, very not ready to look after T Rex or any dinosaurs," Nobuko said firmly. Realizing that he wouldn't win any battles against his daughter Sato turned to Seth pleadingly.

"Seth as a paleontologist just think how much you will learn from a real dinosaur! Wouldn't a T Rex prove so many things: whether they were hypercarnivores, whether they were feathered..."

"T Rex was feathered?" Dan asked curiously.

"Many groups of dinosaurs have been found with feathers including a tyrannosaurid called Yutyrannus," Sato explained before turning back to Seth "Just think my boy."

"Sato I just can't say yes to a T Rex," he replied with actual disappointment in his voice. A real Tyrannosaurus would offer all that but there were many other issues at hand. "Kioni's right with how dangerous having one would be. If we start with a small dinosaur and work up I would then consider saying yes but we can't do that. Dinosaurs lived in a time where there was different oxygen levels so they would struggle to live properly in our atmosphere."

Sato looked devastated. His dream to have a thriving wildlife sanctuary with dinosaurs had been crushed instantly. It must be a devastating blow. Jon however then spoke up which made Sato's face burst out into a smile.

"I've read in either Denmark or the Netherlands I can't remember where that they are planning to build like a large house for elephants," he explained "With those countries being cold it would offer warmer temperatures for the elephants so they can live more comfortably. We could easily do something similar but have the correct oxygen levels for a dinosaur. Though with the layout of the sanctuary a great big house wouldn't suit the environment..."

"Wait the Eden Project!" Fretwell said suddenly "It's in southern England and consists of these big biodomes where it fits the surroundings and they can grow tropical plants in England. We could do the same without harming the environment here and I looked on the map only small sections of the islands have been converted to have animal life so they would harm even less habitats!"

Sato walked up to both of them and kissed them earning laughs from multiple people. He eagerly looked at Nobuko whose face was still red from laughter. 

"Yes dad we can have dinosaurs but Seth will chose them," she added the latter part in a stern voice. He felt like a child in a sweet shop. As a paleontologist he was in the perfect position to chose the first dinosaurs to walk the earth since their extinction 65 million years ago. His first thought was to go for the first dinosaurs to be discovered by science but remembered that the herbivore Iguanodon was elephant sized and the two meter tall Megalosaurus would be too big to handle. Some of the more famous dinosaurs like Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus were also too big and although Velociraptors were nowhere near as smart, viscous or large as they were in Jurassic Park he thought that regardless Nobuko would veto his proposal for its infamy. In one box he found the perfect dinosaurs for Senshijidaino.

"I've got a herbivore and a carnivore from the Triassic period which should be safe," he said "One would evolve into the giant sauropods like Brachiosaurus while the other until recently was the oldest known dinosaur."

Nobuko nodded approvingly and everyone seemed excited. The world's first dinosaurs for 65 million years. 

"Triassic period?" Wagstaff asked "Wasn't that the first time dinosaurs appeared?"

"Yeah. The Mesozoic era was the age of the dinosaurs and 235 million years ago in the Triassic the first dinosaurs evolved. Before grass, flowering plants, birds and the current oceans. The entire planet consisted of one giant continent called Pangea and only three oceans."

Ross and Tom went off to calculate how long it would take to scan the genome and recreate the dinosaurs. With the age of the fossils it would take much longer to scan the genome compared to that of the moa, dodo or eagle. In the meantime as construction started on the biodomes in a more sparse section of the largest island Seth took to advising Jon, Fretwell and Judy on the exhibits. The Triassic saw a mean O2 content that was 80% lower than today and temperatures 3 degrees warmer which Fretwell and Jon had to see that the biodome kept this constant while Vadim, Dan and Wagstaff had to make sure generators kept this at the correct condition. Another thing that they had to factor in was the extremely hot summers, occasional weeks of heavy rain and bitterly cold winters which racked the Triassic. Judy meanwhile had the job in making sure that the exhibits would perfectly resembled the Triassic. Both dinosaurs being bred came from Argentina which 235 million years ago was very humid and was covered by seed ferns and cycads. 

"Seth wait!" Ross came up to him panting and heavily sweating a short time after the genomes had been scanned. They were in the Triassic biodome which was near completion and Jon had already wired up the atmosphere so it could have lower oxygen, more carbon dioxide and could be warmer than the present day atmosphere, causing Ross to be in his condition. "Wait let me...catch my breath. Vadim says... the genome's been traced for both dinosaurs. They should be done by next week."

"Good..." Seth said panting himself. He hated being in here. "If Shincoku corp hadn't got the best workers...in the world I doubt we would...have been ready. We should...be ready by then."

To be honest the herbivore exhibit was already done and the carnivore exhibit just had a few touches to finish off. They were in the same dome (with ample room to spare for future Triassic monsters) and a large moat separated the carnivore from the rest of the dome except for a bridge which had a slight bit of fencing. The herbivore largely had full roam of the biodome bar where inclines, moats and hidden viewing areas stopped them from going.

A week later they stood in the lab waiting tentatively. The herbivore would be coming out first and only now had everyone found out what it was. He looked over at the chamber containing the fossil which was still inside. It could easily fit in the palm of your hand when a hatchling but could grow to the size of a goat.
There was the klaxon again. It was time. The first dinosaur that they were bringing back was Mussaurus patagonicus, a small sauropodomorph whose relatives would evolve into the giants such as Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus. They planned to breed six of them. One quickly darted from the trees and gave a feeble bleat like a low pitched sheep. It had a bald pointed green head and short bristles going down from the neck covering the body which were green with white stripes. Unlike sauropods the Mussaurus was bipedal with shortish arms tucked into the bare chest at the elbow. It was about three meters long with a meter long tail stretched parallel to the metallic floor and was a meter tall at the shoulder with its half a meter long neck stretching up. They looked at each other with cow like eyes.

"Come here," Kioni said softly to usher them to the transport lorry. The Mussaurus gave a feeble bleat and tried to dart away from her. Being the preferred prey of many different carnivores no wonder they were skittish of these new giants twice their height. Kioni was forced to leave cycad leaves taken from the Triassic dome in the lorry before they could remotely by persuaded to go into the dark lorry. Agilely they ran into the darkness before being sent to the dome.

"Bring the other lorry in!" Kioni yelled.

Another klaxon flared indicating that the carnivores were ready. Until the discovery of the Nyasasaurus in Tanzania they were considered to be the oldest dinosaur. He had been referring to it as a carnivore but fossils of its teeth had shown it to be an omnivore indicating it to be related to all dinosaurs; not just theropods (the bipedal carnivores like T Rex and Velociraptor). The Eoraptor lunensis.

"Was the Eoraptor like Velociraptor?" Nobuko asked timidly. She must have been regretting the yes decision for breeding something with 'raptor' in the title.

"Oh no nothing like Velociraptor. In fact its not related (well closely related) to the raptors at all. They might actually be nocturnal with their large eye cavities and the fact that they would be prey for larger dinosaurs and other big carnivores."

The first one darted from the trees like a lightning bolt making tink, tink, tink sounds on the metallic surface. Any connections to the monsters of Jurassic Park were instantly disproved. A meter in length and only just reaching a human's knee in height as well as being covered in black dagger shaped protofeathers with white spots on the stomach Eoraptor looked positively cute. 

"Hi there little guy," Kioni said to the little dinosaur. It looked up at her with big green eyes and from its kinked jaw released a flurry of chirps like an excitable bird. It jumped up at her trying to look formidable with its small leaf shaped teeth perfectly adapted to tackle bugs, leaves and meat but instead decided to jump on the other Eoraptor in what could either be play or aggression. They ran around the hatchery walkway with surprising speed. It helped being fast to catch dragonflies and avoid dinosaurs wanting to eat you that were twice your height.

"I feel stupid now for being scared of those two," Tom laughed.

It took a while to round up the two Eoraptor but eventually they found their new home in the Triassic dome. A thin black line parted in the ferns where the dinosaurs were running. A large emerald dragonfly darted above the ferns but vanished quickly as an Eoraptor jumped up and caught it between its teeth. The other went under a heavily disguised rock face to sleep; possibly a good resting place when large carnivores were around in the wild.

"You guys I can't see the Mussaurus!" Dan cried as he looked down into the area where the Mussaurus had claimed for their own. A few keepers had said that they hadn't strayed far since they had arrived.

"Wait look!" Nobuko said pointing at some ferns. Pointed green heads could faintly be seen among the ferns. Camouflage is a tactic often used by animals to evade carnivores so it is only natural for the Mussaurus to adopt the same thing. "Dad I'm assuming you want another dinosaur."

"No actually," Sato said smugly "When I started Senshijidaino I assumed a certain group couldn't be housed here because of their habitat when they went extinct. Well this Triassic dome has shown me that we can house them. If we can make things hot we can also make things cold. Perfect for Ice Age animals..."