Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jurassic Park: Helpful or Harmful?

There's a bit of discussion going on at Laelaps on whether the three Jurassic Park movies (and a rumored 4th installment) are good or bad for science:
. . . I thought I would open up a thread on whether you think the Jurassic Park films have helped or hindered how people understand paleontology (both as a discipline and as the body of knowledge the discipline produces). Speaking for myself, I saw the first film when I was only 10, and it was simultaneously one of the most spectacular and frightening films I had ever seen. It really rekindled my interest in dinosaurs, and it helped me better imagine what all those bones would look like clothed in flesh and bone. I know others might have different impressions, though, so have at it in the comments.
The consensus seems to be that it's had a positive effect, if only for stimulating excitement about dinosaurs.

I also wanted an excuse to show this clip from the first Jurassic Park movie, which came out in 1993. That was right smack in the middle of my grad school years, and I remember being particularly entertained by the realistic-looking molecular biology lab equipment.

Do people still purify plasmid DNA using cesium chloride gradients stained with ethidium bromide? Even back in those days it seemed like purification column kits were gaining popularity. That's why a fictional lab based on today's cutting edge techniques will almost certainly start to look quaint 10 or 20 years from now.

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