zaelle: Kiwis are descended from T-Rex (Default)
Yesterday I finally made it to the Art Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands to check out the special Dinosaur Exhibit.

The thing about the Art Science Museum is that it doesn't really have any special permanent exhibit, but it rotates through the more expensive/valuable ones in collaboration with other international museums. Sometimes they get the exhibits right and they are amazing to experience. Sometimes (most times) the display is a real dud. The last one that disappointed me was 'Secrets of the Mummy' that they did in collaboration with the British Museum. I suspect that they got almost nothing from the British Museum (some mummy from storage), but seeing as how the Art Science Museum is one of the expensive ones on the island (the others are free for me), it felt like wasted money. So there's always a bit of a risk to check out one of their shows.

This was not the case with their Dinosaur exhibition. I enjoyed this one.

Put together in collaboration with the Museum of Natural History in New York, The San Juan Natural Science Museum (Argentina), PrimeSCI out of Australia and a Chinese University (sorry I'm blanking on the name), 'From Dawn to Extinction' tells the story of how life began on earth - early days to the evolution of eyes and shells, to the multiple extinction events that brought us Dinosaurs and eventually their end. Also showcased were lesser known giants from pre-historic times, the large reptiles or mammal-like reptiles that competed with the Dinosaur's ancestors for dominion.

The story of the earlier non-dino giants come mostly from South America, and i got to see fossils, skeleton reconstructions and depictions of creatures I never suspected existed. I mean, mammal-like reptiles? They're a class all on their own, giants who dominated before the dinosaurs who were reptiles (or at least related) but had fur. I also enjoyed the first exhibit about the origin of life and little things like burrowing under the sea bed brought more oxygen under that soil and released minerals into the water, leading to another wave in evolution.

When we pass the extinction phases to the Cretaceous and the age of the dinosaurs, we see the earlier dinosaurs. The key lesson of survival from each extinction phase is that size really does matter, and it sucks to be big. Large creatures have more difficulty surviving because of the sheer amount of fuel they require to sustain themselves. Small rodent like creatures, like early dinosaurs, or our tiny mammal ancestor who survived the age of dinosaurs, are able to more easily hide and survive off much less. I suppose that is a lesson still relevant in the present day.

When we reach the Jurassic, New York's Museum of Natural History gives us a marvellous interactive exhibit about the body mechanics behind large dinosaurs. One of the interesting take aways was how they determined T-Rex's speed (or lack of it). They did a few tests, using the mobility of a modern day chicken to determine how best that old monster moved (birds are T-Rex's surviving descendants). They also shared a tidbit from the animators who worked on Jurassic Park. That scene where T-Rex is chasing the car? At first to create this high-speed chase, they made their T-Rex match the speed of the car. The result was hilarious because his legs were moving so fast they looked like 2 pinwheels. They had to slow him down by 25km, and recreate the action paced feel of this scene by adding more foliage that passed by quickly. From this and many other experiments, they determined that T-Rex was a slow bugger. This didn't matter ultimately as his prey was slower. There were also some cool displays that allowed us to see the difference between a baby, adolescent and adult Triceratops.

The interesting part from the Australian contribution covered dinosaurs that lived in cold weather temperatures. These are rarer for us to hear about, and they're not very well known (I suspect they were small).

China contributed the dinosaur fossil that is the missing link between the giants we know of in our imagination and modern day birds - large feathered birds who resemble the mythical phoenix. Honestly, looking at the fossils of these birds, with their long feathered tails, longish skulls and beak outline with sharp feathered crests on their head? Also with how they look burned into the rock...I wouldn't be surprised if this was one of the places where the legend of the phoenix comes from (similar to how I'm convinced that someone came across dinosaur bones and that's where the legend of dragons came from).

I bought the souvenir book that was written by the palaeontologists who helped put this exhibit together. I'm very happy with this visit, money well spent!

I should have taken pictures. I'm so out of the habit now of taking pictures in Museums (or in general) that I must take special care to start doing so, because I wish I could share some of this experience with you guys. Next time I promise!

I think Dinosaurs and really, any of the giants who walked this earth before us will always be fascinating. Trying to imagine the world they came from also leads to trying to imagine what the world will be - what will come after us? Something smaller perhaps, that seems to be a trend we're following. Also, what lessons can we learn? There's something about changing climates causing mass extinction events for one, that we're doing to ourselves, there's something about being able to survive on very little, filling niches, etc. I wonder if whatever major stage of life that comes next will be curious about us and the world that we will leave behind.

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zaelle: Kiwis are descended from T-Rex (Default)
zaelle

August 2017

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