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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Dinosaurs: Alive But Not Literally Kicking

Just went to the Science Centre yesterday, mainly to visit the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibition but also to check out other new exhibits.

In addition, it's an opportunity to exercise my creaky photography skills with ye olde camera; the former which has been accumulating rust, and the latter accumulating fungal invaders.

Warning: the following blog post contains stupid jokes, sexual innuendos and heinous thoughtcrime. It has absolutely no educational value whatsoever - please consult a real dino website for authentic information. It may also be inappropriate for people of all ages.

I know you'll love it.

The first thing that greeted me outside the entrance is this huge, full-sized animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex.

Everybody knows that kids find dinosaurs cool.

Everybody knows that they find robots cool too.

Simply combine the two - robot dinosaurs - and voila! You've attain a form of emergent coolness that transcends the sum of its parts.

Like the kid in this photo, I stare transfixed at the massive, erect head of T. rex as it extended skywards and ejaculated an effusive roar.

Suddenly I feel so manly.

I have no idea why.

Here's a group of school kids admiring the big, brawny T. rex.

Which reminds me of the time when I was their age. Robot dinosaurs already exist at that time (then they were all made in Japan) but their movements were stiffer and the motor mechanism was noiser.

Also, the colour scheme has changed through the years; in the past dinosaurs were depicted sporting a single main colour, whereas nowadays predatory dinosaurs are shown with tiger-like stripes, camouflage splotches and other colourful patterns.

I doubt we will ever know for sure what their skin colour actually looked like. Painting them in tiger stripes feels really... pan-adaptationist.

After buying the ticket, I roamed the other halls first to check out other new exhibits, before going into the dinosaur exhibition hall.

I like to save the best for later. It's no fun to climax too early.

I took this photo in a new exhibition about living with viruses. The exhibits are informative and interactive and all, but there is something odd about it which I didn't realize until I got back home.

The thing is... did you notice that some of these cartoon viruses look female?

I can sort of understand why HIV is depicted as female, since most HIV positive individuals (at least in Singapore) are men who caught it from their female partners.

But why is HFMD and SARS also depicted as female? Are guys more vulnerable to these diseases?

Viruses obviously don't have any gender, and it is possible to depict them in cartoon form without any reference to gender (eg. smileys can be gender neutral).

However, since they are personified using human voices throughout the exhibition, I guess it wouldn't seem right to have male voices for all of them.

Another new exhibition deals with the pressing issue of climate change, again containing a plethora of fun and interactive gadgets.

What caught my attention is this slogan, stretched out above a panoramic display of scenery from around the world.

It reads: "Whatever you do will be insignificant. It is very important that you do it."

Now that sounds rather odd.

If whatever you do will be insignificant, why should you even try? Whether the outcome is important or not doesn't even enter into it.

Besides, that isn't true - conserving and recycling resources can already result in significant cost savings for the individual.

Perhaps the message it was trying to convey is "Your individual effort may be small, but together we must make a difference - our future depends on it."

And now: the dinosaur exhibition!

I'm not sure why, but all wildlife documentaries feature an arty close-up shot of the eyes of a predator.

So here's a big T. rex eyeball for you.

Am I an artist now? Am I?

Do I get to wear a beret?!??

Ah, the Dildophosaurus Dilophosaurus.

Oops my spelling is a little shaky.

If you recall, Dilo was the dinosaur that was downsized and given a bogus neck frill and poison-spitting abilities by Michael Crichton/Steven Spielberg in the first Jurassic Park movie.

I'd have to say that this is my favourite dinosaur at the exhibition.

There's something about its slender limbs, elegant neck, black eye-shadow and lipstick that screams out "Supermodel".

You should have seen the coquettish way that it tilts its face slightly to make eyes at the visitors.

Just look at its flirty, dreamy eyes.

I'm not making this shit up, I have it all on video!

That is one sexed-up supermodel robot dinosaur.


Next up is Allosaurus, the smaller and lighter ancestral form of the T. rex.


Well, at least the three-fingered Allo had the ability to pop a middle finger at its enemies, a skill which the two-fingered T. rex lost - in exchange for a thick, ginormous head that he can thrust at his enemies.

Maybe that's not such a great loss.

What gets to me about robot dinosaurs is all that incessant roaring.


Don't understand what I mean?

OK picture this - you are a deadly predator, well camouflaged in the forest with your pretty tiger stripes.

You spot a nice, meaty prey that is unknowingly grazing closer and closer to your position.

So you decide to pounce at the right moment.

One... two... three...


Immediately your prey bolts to safety like a gazelle on steroids.

That's just stupid.

Why would you go ROAR! ROAR?!?? Just approach quietly and kill the poor bastard before he even knew what hit him.

Besides, even if dinosaurs do occasionally roar, they probably used other sounds most of the time.

Perhaps they snickered after a successful hunt?

Like "Yee heh heh heh heh!"

I'll bet that long after human beings go extinct, some future intelligent species will make robot reconstructions of us humans and make them go "ARRRGH! ARRRGH!" like an Edvard Munch painting.

Also, it seems customary to make the carnivorous dinosaurs sound louder than the herbivorous ones.

If anything, duck-billed Parasaurolophus here (pronounced Para-so-LOL-LOL-fers - it's a funny name) should be the loudest dinosaur of the lot.

It has a huge crest on its head which could have been used to produce a deep, resonating sound similar to a woodwind instrument.

So it should have sounded like: "BWOOO! BWOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Click this link to hear a possible Parasaurolophus call.

Instead, it only made some soft, moaning sounds.

"Leng Hiong... oh Leng Hiong... oh oh oh..."

Not that kind of moan.

Moving along, we see the Baryonyx - a crocodile-like fish-eating dinosaur not to be confused with a certain class of subatomic particles.

Once again, Barry roars like the other meat-eaters.

But it has a dead fish in his mouth.

So it should actually sound like this:

"ROAR! RWOO... urk... cough cough... screw you guys I'm trying to eat! Go away! Chomp chomp chomp..."

I should add that Barry actually looks quite impressive at the scene, but despite many attempts I can't seem to find any shooting angle that makes it look good.

Maybe its stooped posture doesn't make it very photogenic.

Speaking of photogenic, here's Triceratops, a perennial favourite among kids.

For me, Trixie doesn't look particularly pretty when presented as a complete animal like this.

However it has a very beautiful and powerful skeletal structure, especially the skull. I've seen fossil casts of this animal before and it has always impressed me.

You know, it's exactly like when I meet somebody for the first time, and he isn't especially good looking or anything, but his skull structure is so distinctive that I go:

"Wow, your face sucks but your skull has an amazing shape. Can I have it once you're done with it?"

And he goes: "FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE."

Happens all the time.

And finally, Apatosaurus, also popularly known as Brontosaurus or "long-neck".

It makes louder groaning sounds than Parasaurolophus.

Which I like. I prefer louder groans.

It's clearly not the full-sized version, since adults are over 20 metres long on average, and this one here isn't quite 10 metres.

Looking closer at Patty's face, I am amazed by how much it resembles a sock puppet.

In fact, if I didn't know better, I would have believed that there was a man in a dinosaur suit who was making its mouth move up and down.

A man with a three-metre-long arm, that is.

In addition to the robot dinosaurs, there were a number of static displays and fossils.

Here is good ol' Stan, a T. rex skeleton cast that was also featured in the previous dino exhibition in Singapore two years ago.

This time though, he finally gets the full benefit of mood lighting and shows off his ferocious presence to the crowd.

You go Stan!

After walking among the dinosaurs, I decided to check out one more exhibition.

It is aimed at educating the public about one of the deadliest chemicals known to man:

Dihydrogen monoxide, also known as Hydronium hydroxide.

Streams of this dangerous substance flow down onto unsuspecting visitors as they pass through the entrance gate.

You are thinking: "Dihydrogen monoxide... chay, it's just water only what."

Heh, you're right - it is water.

But it does kill people.

There were a few interesting dioramas in the exhibition with animal models, but I was surprised to find some live animals too.

Here is a mudskipper hiding motionless under a wooden log. I haven't seen a real mudskipper before and I must say that its eyes look really colourful!

Towards the end of the exhibition, there is this curious machine that uses pulses of water and strobe lights to make it look as if a stream of water droplets is defying gravity and slowly drifting back into the tap.

At first I tried to take a video of it, but it didn't look quite correct because the flashing lights and the frame rate of the video didn't sync.

Then suddenly some guy with a big ass pro-SLR spotted me trying to capture the droplets and also tried to shoot some stills with his humongous bazooka zoom lens.

I don't know if he succeeded or not but after firing a few bursts at the water contraption, he left.

So I switched my prosumer to manual mode and continued experimenting...

... until I got this.


I think that if you are one of those photography enthusiasts who really likes to take photos of water droplets for some reason, then this machine alone is well worth the ticket price of admission. Otherwise it will take quite a bit of time, effort and expertise in order to set up a rig like this.

Now all you need is a solid camera and a good flash unit - if your technique is good, imagine how much closer you can get to these sparkly-glowy droplets!

Hmm... good photo opportunities come from the strangest places.

After quenching my thirst for photography at the water exhibition, it's time to go.

Back to the entrance, which if I recall correctly is guarded by a big robot dinosaur.

Actually, I'm not 100% sure that it is a robot.

When you are up against a 6-tonne carnivore with 30-cm teeth, you don't screw around.

Perhaps it would be wiser to quietly sneak pass...

... and if it makes any sudden move - RUN!

Before I forget... since we're on the topic of dinosaurs, here's another ferocious killer pretending to act all civilized and that:

Don't be fooled.


The Flying Trilobite said...

You crack me up, Lim.

I love the super-model-dilophosaur!

Edgar said...

What were you doing to the poor dinosaur that made you imagine it was moaning your name?

That was a darn amusing tour.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

To Glendon:

Everyone loves a goth chick!

To Edgar:

Oh nothing much... I just looked at it. I gave it an eye-gasm.

Lab Rat said...

I say we sponsor Leng Hiong for a trip to the Creation Museum. The resulting blog post will be sooooo worth it! :P

Edgar said...

You should set up a "Sponsor Leng Hiong to the Creation Museum" Paypal corner and you can do a bit of Singapore styled ridicule of that place. I have no doubt about your ability to produce a fine piece such as this given the opportunity.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

To Lab Rat and Edgar:

Thanks for the idea, but unlike US bloggers, the Creation Museum isn't "down the road" for us - it's impossible to raise that kind of money on the internets.

Besides, even if I somehow managed to whip up a few thousand I'm not masochistic enough to fly all the way there just to torture myself at the Creation Museum. I won't go in unless I also get to visit the Smithsonian.

Anonymous said...

more female aids victims got it from their husbands than the other way around!

Lim Leng Hiong said...

To Anon 9:13,

Yes, you are probably right that more women get infected by HIV from their husbands than men get it from their wives, but I was refering to the fact that most men get HIV from women eg. casual sex or sex workers.

In any case I believe that the choice of gender for the cartoon viruses is probably random.

Sasa said...

love the Land Before Time references.


Lim Leng Hiong said...

To Sasa:

Heh heh... "Trixie and the Long-Necks" sounds like a rock band don't you think?

payucash said...

eye opening!

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