Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Physics of Jurassic Park (1993)

SPOILER ALERT! Plot details from Jurassic Park (1993)
(Reference for image at left)

Jurassic Park is one of my favorite science fiction movies. Every boy has a dinosaur phase while growing up and I never quite outgrew mine. The thought of using science to populate an island with dinosaurs is mind bogglingly awesome. In the post after the jump I analyze the possibility of cloning dinosaurs from ancient mosquito blood, the scientific precedent for asexual reproduction in reptiles, and more...

Cloning Dinosaurs from DNA found in Mosquito Blood

Geneticists on the Jurassic Park island grow the population of dinosaurs by using dinosaur DNA trapped in amber from millions of years ago to clone new dinosaurs.

Realistic or unrealistic?

Close but no cigar with this one. It is possible to clone animals using DNA samples and DNA can be found in blood. However, the blood in the mosquitos would decompose starting when they died. After millions of years there would be no recoverable DNA in the sample.

Asexual Reproduction

On the Jurassic Park island dinosaurs are allowed to roam free. Their population is limited because the scientists that cloned them from DNA found in the blood of mosquitos trapped in amber filled the island with only female dinosaurs. Therefore, there can be no reproduction, right?

Realistic or unrealistic?

It would be comfortable to think that they were right and the dinosaurs could not reproduce. However, as the mathematician and chaos expert says during the movie, "Life finds a way." It turns out this is pretty true. There have been documented examples of reptiles such as Komodo dragons reproducing asexually when they cannot find a suitable mate. So I would say Jurassic Park has good science there: it is possible.

A hatching Komodo dragon (Reference)

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