Friday, 28 September 2012

In the News

There have been some interesting news snippets over the last few weeks that make for interesting, amusing and sad reading.  Apparently James Cameron (above), the director of films such as Aliens, Titanic and Avatar, came close to making and directing Jurassic Park.
Cameron revealed at the Titanic Museum in Belfast earlier this month that he had, indeed, intended to acquire the film rights to the book but that Steven Spielberg had beaten him to the punch by a few hours. He admits, after seeing Jurassic Park that, in retrospect, Spielberg was the right director to make the film since he made it for the whole family to enjoy.
However, Cameron then describes that he would have made it much the same as Aliens – but with dinosaurs and that he would, and I quote, “…..I’d have gone further, nastier, much nastier”.  Can I just say how much I would have loved to have seen a James Cameron directed Jurassic Park? I mean – can you imagine it? Aliens with dinosaurs? Oh yes please!
Granted the wonder of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and the feel good factor about the whole film would be a miss but a Cameron-esque JP may have been just as spectacular. If they remake JP in the future (as is rumoured) perhaps Cameron could be considered as director? Well fingers crossed for that one but in the meantime we will have to continue with the wait for the much delayed Jurassic Park 4.
Wind turbines are continually in the news – especially in the UK. The current coalition government in the country is very keen on wind power and, despite mounting concern about maintaining subsidies and grants, continue to promote and permit an ever growing amount of these structures. Of course this is all very green but highly controversial. You need an enormous amount of wind turbines to generate even a modest amount of electricity and many people have no desire to see this continual upsurge in the amount of wind farms that are springing up everywhere – especially when areas of natural beauty are threatened.
One only has to look at the east coast of England to comprehend the scale of the project. These days you cannot look out to sea without seeing them emerge out of the gloom – huge ghostly structures that appear completely soul less with no obvious benefit other than to spoil the view. What does all this have to do with dinosaurs I hear you ask?
Well, interestingly, engineering giant Siemens have developed a series of upgrades to improve upon the standard propeller–shaped blades of currently installed wind turbines which produce a definite increase in efficiency and power output. And, amazingly, these are all based upon morphologies found in dinosaurs!
The first of these upgrades is called DinoTails and is based upon the staggered plate arrangement of Stegosaurus. This serrated profile increases the total wind surface area of the blade thus creating a superior blade uplift while at the same time, because the stegosaur inspired fins break up the resulting turbulence, reduce noise levels.
"DinoTails" mounted on blades
DinoShells are based upon the curve of a dinosaur egg and appear to be shaped like a snow shovel. These work by extending the length of the blade right down to the union between blade and turbine thus providing increased down force to the blade which also results in yet more efficiencies.
The third innovation is as yet unnamed but is known as a Vortex Generator. These are small fins that maintain air contact with the top of the blade for longer, thus increasing lift which in turn, provides yet another increase in efficiency.  Siemens have not actually divulged why they went back to the Mesozoic for their innovative ideas but it is a tribute to the dinosaurs that they did. Although these upgrades amount to what seems to be  a modest increase in efficiency, amounting to 1.5%, it has to be remembered that to a large wind farm this would provide enough additional  power to provide energy for an additional 2,500 homes – not to be sniffed at.  
Some sad news now and talented amateur geologist and palaeontologist Geoff Toye died recently at the age of 60 in his home village of Slinfold in West Sussex. Slinfold is in the very heart of the Weald and is close to the quarries that I have mentioned in this blog before including the Cuckoo’s Hole, Peacefield and the Bluff.
Indeed, Geoff’s most famous find was a superb specimen of Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis (formerly Iguanodon) that he found at the Bluff back in 2001. This superb specimen is probably the most complete example ever to be found on the mainland and featured in a palaeoenvironmental paper back in 2008 (detail available upon request).
Previously, in 1999, Geoff had found a new species of dragonfly in the Weald and the species was named Angloaeschnidium toyei in his honour. I had the privilege of meeting Geoff many times over the years during many field trips in the Weald and he always came across as an extremely pleasant man, very positive and really knew what he was talking about. He was a very talented fossil prospector as well and would often find material that others had missed.
I had only learned that Geoff was ill earlier this year but detail was hard to come by at that point and it is a very sad day that he has gone. I know I speak for many of us in sending our sympathies to his wife Gillian and know that he will be sadly missed by all of us who knew him.
Those of you who have frequented Dan Chure’s blog since 2010 will have followed the story of the dismantling and rebuilding of the new Quarry Visitor Centre at Dinosaur National Monument (DNM) which reopened in September 2011. Dan, as the palaeontologist for DNM for over 30 years, was well placed to guide us through the trials and tribulations of demolition and reconstruction whilst, at the same time, protecting the valuable fossil bones embedded but exposed in the quarry wall.
It is good to report that the $13 million spent and all the hard work was worthwhile since the number of visitors to DNM is up 47% in the first half of the year and long may the trend continue. DNM is high on my hit list of places to visit and I really intend to see it within the next few years. Incidentally, all of Dan’s posts about the Quarry Visitor Centre Project are still there to be seen and make for interesting reading and there are some great images too – go and check it out if you have not already done so.
Just to prove that the silly season lasts all year round these days, Australian mining magnate and billionaire Clive Palmer is in the news yet again. Palmer is the man who agreed in principle, during April this year, to a joint venture with the CSC Jinling Shipyard in China to construct a full size replica of the Titanic that he is hoping will be as close to the original as possible and be ready to sail during 2016.
Clive Palmer
Palmer also has a luxury resort in Coolum on the sunshine coast of Queensland in Australia and it is here that he is rumoured to be planning his own Jurassic Park – with real cloned dinosaurs! According to the rumour mill, Palmer has been discussing his plans for cloned dinosaurs with experts who were heavily involved with cloning Dolly the sheep all those years ago.  Although widely considered ridiculous, the story was apparently leaked from Palmer’s “inner circle”.
Depending on which newspaper you believe, Palmer is keeping quiet about his plans or, as seems more likely, is denying the rumour apparently stating that “It’s just a beat-up of a story and untrue” – according to the Gold Coast Bulletin. Either way, you have to laugh at the absurdity of the story although it has to be said that if billions of dollars are required to make it happen, then Palmer is your man *cough*!


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