Sunday, January 22, 2017

My 17th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-My 1st-10th Pairs of Reviews:
-"My 11th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 12th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 13th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 14th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 15th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 16th Pair of Reviews":,204,203,200_.jpg

1 of a kind ( ): 5/5

Short version: If you want the only popular adult book about dino traces, get Martin's "Dinosaurs Without Bones: Dinosaur Lives Revealed by their Trace Fossils" (henceforth Bones). If you want the best adult day-in-the-life dino book, get Bones. If you want the most 1 of a kind adult dino book, get Bones.

Long version: Read on.

As you may have noticed, I usually review non-fiction dino books that either don't get enough praise for being good or don't get enough criticism for being bad. What's interesting about Bones is that it got a lot of praise for covering so much ground on dino traces, but little-to-no praise for how it covers said ground (which is what really makes it 1 of a kind). Not only is Bones the only popular adult book about dino traces, but also the best adult day-in-the-life dino book. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think that is.

1) The 1st part of a day-in-the-life dino book usually tells a day-in-the-life story of a dino. 1 of the major problems I have with many day-in-the-life dino books is that their stories are poorly-written. Thanks to Martin, Bones doesn't have that problem. In fact, Bones is basically a dino-centric version of Aardema's "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale" written in the style of Bakker's "Raptor Red", but better: For 1, Chapter 1 tells a day-in-the-life story of a "big male Triceratops" & how its "aggressive movement...triggered overt and subtle changes in the behaviors of nearly every dinosaur nearby"; This is like Aardema's book ( ), but better because it's more realistic; For another, to paraphrase DoubleW ( ), Chapter 1 "serves as a vehicle for [Martin] to give science lessons in a user-friendly format"; This is like Bakker's book, but better because "most [of the dinos in Chapter 1] are from near the end of the Cretaceous Period (about 70 million years ago) and in an area defined approximately by Montana and Alberta, Canada."* This is especially apparent in the Martin quote.

2) The 2nd part of a day-in-the-life dino book usually explains the science behind the story. 1 of the major problems I have with many day-in-the-life dino books is that they concentrate on the story with only limited emphasis on the science (which doesn't make sense to me given how much science there is behind a given story). It'd be like "The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: Extended Edition — Blu-ray" having 26 hours of film & only 11 hours of bonus material ( ). Thanks to Martin, Bones doesn't have that problem. In fact, Bones is the closest thing we have to an adult day-in-the-life dino book done properly, LotR-style: Not only do Chapters 2-11 cover all of the dino traces in Chapter 1, but also all related dino traces (E.g. See the Martin quote; Not only does Chapter 8 cover dino "scat", but also dino stomach & intestinal contents, vomit, & urine); It helps that, like LotR DVD extras, Chapters 2-11 are very well-organized, beginning with Triceratops tracks (in reference to the big male's "aggressive movement") in Chapter 2 & ending with sauropod trails (which made "the sunlit valley" itself possible) in Chapter 11.

If I could, I'd give Bones a 4.5/5. My only problem is the lack of paleoart (There's a series of color plates; That's about it): On the 1 hand, Bones is a "TRANSITION TO THE TECHNICAL" & thus doesn't have "lots of different dinosaurs fully restored" ( ); On the other hand, similar books do have "high quality pictures and graphs that break up the text" ( ); At the very least, Chapter 1 should've been illustrated for obvious reasons. However, for the purposes of this review, I'll round up to 5/5.

*To quote Holtz ( ), "The fauna Bakker portrays is a very artificial one, combining genera from two different parts of the Early Cretaceous."
Quoting Martin: "In between the two Triceratops, a group of small feathered theropod dinosaurs with stubby forearms—similar to the Asian alvarezsaur Mononykus—and a nearby bunch of slightly larger ornithopod dinosaurs (Thescelosaurus) looked on warily. Each of these groups of dinosaurs had been striding unhurriedly across the floodplain, tolerating one another's presence, spurred on by intriguing scents wafting down the sunlit valley. Nevertheless, a charging Triceratops provided a good reason to temporarily abandon their longterm goals and deal with this more immediate problem.
In unison, they all looked up at the advancing Triceratops, its profile and rapidly increasing pace causing it to appear ever larger as it neared. Next to them, a mixed flock of toothed birds and pterosaurs all turned and aligned themselves with the wind at their backs. They began hopping while flapping their wings, and then were aloft, chattering loudly. This was all the motivation one of the more skittish theropods needed to start running, and the rest of his group followed suit. The ornithopods only hesitated a second or two before doing the same. First, though, more than a few of both species lightened the load before taking off, involuntarily voiding their bowels and leaving variably colored and sized scat, peppered with seeds, on top of their distinctive footprints. In her haste, one Thescelosaurus slipped on a muddy patch and fell on her side. She quickly righted herself and bolted to catch up with the others, leaving a long, smeared body impression on the sand among the tracks."

The paleoart is the only good part ( ): 2/5

If you want the best digital paleoart, get Csotonyi's "The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi". If you can't afford Csotonyi's book, get Stewart's "Why Did T. rex Have Short Arms?: And Other Questions about Dinosaurs" (henceforth Arms). Arms is some of Csotonyi's best work next to his Oxford University Museum of Natural History labels ( ). In terms of paleoart, Csotonyi is basically "Peter Zallinger, Doug Henderson and Greg Paul" combined into 1 awesome being ( ). Unfortunately, the paleoart is the only good part of Arms.

As you may remember, I generally dislike the dino Q&A genre for 3 main reasons: 1) Redundant questions; 2) Vague answers; 3) Bad Q&As (I.e. Stupid or misleading questions & misleading or wrong answers). Arms, while not the worst Children's dino Q&A book, is still very bad:
-Redundant questions? Uncheck (There are only 16 questions), but Arms more than makes up for this in the following ways.
-Vague answers? Check times infinity! The 1st Stewart quote is the worst because it answers 1 of the biggest questions in science with a vague "just so" story (See the penultimate paragraph).
-Bad Q&As? Check times infinity! The 1st Stewart quote is the worst because it fails on many levels: It contradicts itself from a previous Q&A (See the 2nd Stewart quote; If "birds are a group of dinosaurs", then people did, & still do, "live at the same time as dinosaurs"); It avoids using the word "evolution" (as does the rest of Arms); It fails to understand that "developed" =/= "evolved" (See "Backgrounder": ); It fails to get the facts straight (E.g. To quote Witmer, Archaeopteryx looked like "just another feathered predatory dinosaur"; Each wing had 3 LONG fingers); It fails to explain what it means by "dino-bird". & if that's not bad enough, it isn't even illustrated with Csotonyi's Archaeopteryx, but with a stock photo of a shameless rip-off of Sibbick's Archaeopteryx with a scaly dragon face & "Wings...but with hands!" ( ).*

To sum up, I recommend getting Arms ONLY for the paleoart. If you want to know "Why Did T. rex Have Short Arms", google "Wyrex’s fancy footwork and tender hands: Get to know this tyrannosaur’s softer side".

*Google "Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Age of Dinosaurs" for "Wings...but with hands!"
Quoting Stewart: "Are there any dinosaurs alive today?
Believe it or not, birds are the modern relatives of dinosaurs. In fact, T.rex is more closely related to a blue jay than to an alligator.
Most paleontologists think that birds are a group of dinosaurs that developed around 150 million years ago. Archaeopteryx...may be the earliest true bird discovered so far. It lived in central Europe about 150 million years ago.
Archaeopteryx looked like a cross between a lizard and a bird. Like a lizard, it had sharp teeth and a long tail. Its body was covered in feathers, and it had wings. But each wing had three small fingers with claws on the ends.
Scientists think that feathers first developed to help dinosaurs stay warm. Over time, feathers became larger and dino-bird bodies became more equipped to fly. At some point, feathered dinosaurs got a split-second of extra "lift" when they pounced on prey. This gave them an advantage over other small dinosaurs and helped them survive. As their bodies continued to change, dino-birds learned to glide. Eventually, they took flight.
By the time an asteroid struck Earth 65 million years ago, many kinds of dino-birds lived all over the world. Some of them survived the disaster and developed into the birds we see today." 
Quoting Stewart: "Did people live at the same time as dinosaurs?
No way! The earliest humans walked the earth around 2.3 million years ago. By then, dinosaurs had been dead and gone for more than 60 million years.
Our ancient relatives shared the world with large herbivores such as woolly mammoths and giant ground sloths. They worried about being attacked by cave bears and saber-tooth cats. None of these larger mammals are alive today. They are extinct. Scientists are still trying to figure out why they disappeared."

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ben's Phylogenetics is Moon Man Talk

Hi everybody,

As you may remember, I said that I have a Bachelor of Science in "Natural History and Interpretation" ( ). Thus, I had a lot to say in my comment on Ben's "Phylogenetics is Moon Man Talk" ( ). This journal entry is a modified version of said comment. Here's hoping you get as much out of Ben's blog as I did. It's been very influential to my reviewing ( ).

Herman Diaz

P.S. Happy New Year!

Quoting Ben: "People are introduced to these categories in grade school, and you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who couldn’t tell you whether (say) a cat is a mammal or a reptile. What is missing is what that actually means. We can’t assume that just because somebody knows a cat is a mammal, they know that fur and milk glands…are things to look for when categorizing mammals. They also may not know that “mammal” is an evolutionary group – that all the animals that fall under this banner are more closely related to each other than they are to anything else."

If that's the case, then I'm surprised, given that even I (I.e. A little dum-dum who grew up in various small hick towns) knew & heard all that in grade school: That some animals are more closely related than others; That the more closely related ones share certain features that others lack (E.g. In reference to mammals, even whales have some body hair). My lifelong interest in dinos & educational tv might've helped, but I still didn't know much else about evolution until college. Speaking of educational tv, the "Who's Who?" episode of "Kratts' Creatures" may be the best children's tv explanation of how animals evolved (& thus, should be required viewing for anyone who talks to laypeople about phylogeny).

Paraphrasing Ben: "as Torrens and Barahona demonstrate, [cladograms] are regularly misinterpreted by the public."

Cladograms on their own, yes, but if an educator is using one like you describe ("How can educators hope to cover so much ground without confusing, distracting, or alienating their audiences? One option is to use a cladogram, or evolutionary tree"), then that shouldn’t be a problem b/c the educator is there to clarify the cladogram.

Quoting Ben: "Basic Vertebrate Classification…Evolutionary History Through Deep Time"

You're obviously much more intelligent/experienced than I could ever hope to be. However, I feel like maybe I can provide a different perspective (& thus, a possible solution), given my personal experience as a little dum-dum who had to figure out a lot of that on his own through trial & error.

When laypeople ask me what something is, I 1st ask them if they know what reptiles/mammals/etc are & then describe the something accordingly. For instance, when talking about dinos, I describe reptiles as "4-legged backboned animals characterized by keratin scales (among other things)", dinos as "land-living reptiles with an erect posture", birds as "flying (or secondarily flightless) feathered dinos", etc. In your case, I'd describe mammals as "4-legged backboned animals characterized by body hair & milk glands (among other things)" & non-mammal synapsids as "proto-mammals, or extinct relatives of true mammals".* Also, when asked why something (E.g. Pterosaurs) isn't part of a certain group (E.g. Dinos), I say, "All dinos (including birds) share a common ancestor & certain features inherited from that ancestor (E.g. An open hip socket). Pterosaurs lack said features, which is how we know they're not dinos." If/when need be, I explain that said features might seem small/insignificant to us, but make a big difference in the evolution of said animals (E.g. An open hip socket allowed the erect posture of dinos, which allowed them to run faster & grow larger than other reptiles). Does that help?

*Seriously, educators should use "proto-" more often. It helps a lot when describing intermediate groups to laypeople (E.g. Non-dino dinosauromorphs = proto-dinos, or extinct relatives of true dinos; Non-croc pseudosuchians = proto-crocs, or extinct relatives of true crocs; etc).

Quoting Ben: "How Scientists Discover Evolutionary Relationships"

Have you read Hedley’s "Dinosaurs and Their Living Relatives"? If not, I definitely recommend doing so. It may be the best children’s dino book when it comes to explaining that (& thus, should be required reading for anyone who talks to laypeople about phylogeny). I like it so much that I reviewed it in "Cladistics yay!" ( ). Here’s hoping you like "Cladistics yay!" (&, assuming you have an Amazon account, vote Yes for it ;) ).

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Animation is back

I'm still alive, but have had a few board game gigs (that paid) pop up. I haven't given up on my palaeo-animation project.

I have been discouraged by the difficulty of proper CGI pixar style animation (I'm only the one person, and a hobbyist at that).

As I'm aiming for little lighthearted factoid clips, and not full length products, I've started experimenting with a more 16 bit video game technique, which I think is starting to look cool.

Input is welcome.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Case of a Mosasaur picture

This story originally posted by Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs. For more details please do visit their very fine site.

This particular case particularly interests me as it involves a Mosasaur from the Southern Hemisphere...

The short version is someone took Asher Elbein's fine picture of a Tylosaurus, and without his permission reposted it onto the site Dinopedia under a CC licence. Obviously this licence was illegal, but compounding the issue is a research team/paper picked up the picture and copied it for use in a paper about a new Antarctic Tylosaurine. Despite the false CC licence, the scientists in question did not credit the art that they blatantly traced...

As I'm still in palaeo art hibernation, I'm not pretending to be super involved or knowledgeable beyond that, and again direct you to Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs if you want any more details.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My 16th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-My 1st-10th Pairs of Reviews:
-"My 11th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 12th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 13th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 14th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 15th Pair of Reviews":

Cladistics yay! ( ): 5/5

To quote Grandmother Fish ( ), clades "are central to a modern understanding of how we living things relate to each other." Before Holtz's "Dinosaurs", Hedley's "Dinosaurs and Their Living Relatives" (henceforth Living) was 1 of the best children's dino books when it came to introducing older kids (especially those who like activity books) to cladistics. In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think that is, 1 for each part of Living (See the Hedley quote).

1) To quote Sampson ( ), "all science writing should follow Albert Einstein’s dictum: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”" That's exactly what Living does. More specifically, Living guides readers step-by-step through using cladistics to work out relationships. This is especially apparent in the 1st part (E.g. 1st, it defines & gives examples of homologues; Then, it defines & gives examples of analogues; Last, it asks readers, "Can you recognize homologues? Two of these animals have structures that are homologous to a bird's wing. Which do you think they are?"). In that sense, Living is basically a cladistic activity book.

2) To paraphrase Milner ( ), "It has been widely accepted for more than [20 years before Sinosauropteryx] that birds are direct descendants of small theropods...called maniraptorans." Living is very good at showing that. This is especially apparent in the 2nd part (I.e. See the Padian quote; Chapter 5 is basically that, but in a more step-by-step form).

3) The 3rd part is illustrated by Graham High's dino models & they're very life-like. This is especially apparent in the cover: Remember when Lex shines the light into the T.rex's eye in "Jurassic Park"?; To quote Faraci ( ), "the way the beast’s pupil dilates is amazing and scary at once. This seems to be a real thing!, you think, in awe. And it’s right there, inches away!, you think, afraid for the kids"; The same goes for the cover. It's also worth mentioning that the Preface & Chapter 1 are illustrated by Peter Snowball's dino paintings & they're very easy on the eyes. My only gripe, besides the lack of evolution, is that most of the sauropods & some of the ornithischians are depicted as dragging their tails.*

*Living uses the word "evolution" multiple times, but doesn't define it.
Quoting Hedley: "This book takes a completely new approach to the study of dinosaurs. It sets out to discover how dinosaurs are related to other animals...both living and extinct. It begins by explaining a simple method for working out the relationships between animals. Then, using many photographs and diagrams, it applies this method to the dinosaurs. The book ends with a unique series of new full-colour illustrations of many of the Natural History Museum's most famous they may have appeared when they were alive." 
Quoting Padian ( ): "In a short paper in Nature, John Ostrom (1973) first laid out a case for the descent of birds from theropod dinosaurs. At the time, other ideas had recently been proposed, linking birds to crocodiles or to a more vaguely defined group of archosaurs (the group that includes birds, dinosaurs, crocodiles, pterosaurs, and many extinct relatives). Although all three hypotheses had early proponents, only the dinosaur-bird hypothesis survived the decade, mainly because (1) the evidence was convincing, (2) the hypothesis survived repeated tests using cladistic analysis, and (3) the alternatives were too vaguely phrased, there was no convincing evidence for them, and they failed repeated cladistic testing. The public tends to think that there is a substantial controversy among scientists about the ancestry of birds, partly because the public does not understand cladistics and partly because cladistics is rejected as a method by the opponents of the dinosaur-bird hypothesis."

BANDitry boo! ( ) 1/5

If you want the best insider's book about dinos for kids, get Abramson et al.'s "Inside Dinosaurs". Despite all the praise heaped on them (See "More About the Author"), Markle's "Outside And Inside" series in general & "Outside And Inside Dinosaurs" (henceforth Outside) in particular were never the best or even just decent in their own right. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think that is while using the Markle quote as an example.

1) Outside seems to pander to the fringe group BAND (= Birds Are Not Dinosaurs). More specifically, debunked BANDit claims are depicted as being as valid as dino expert facts. In the Markle quote alone, it's claimed that growth rings indicate ectothermy (They don't), Troodon was ectothermic (It wasn't), scaly skin indicates ectothermy (It doesn't), Sinosauropteryx imprints could be "frilly fins" (They couldn't be), & said imprints could be collagen fibers (They couldn't be). Said claims are probably because BANDit Terry Jones is 1 of the researchers Markle thanks "for sharing their enthusiasm and expertise". The problem is that BANDits aren't dino experts (See the GSPaul quote), but 9 of the researchers are & have been debunking BANDit claims for years, especially Tim Rowe, who co-authored Dingus/Rowe's "Mistaken Extinction: Dinosaur Evolution and the Origin of Birds".

2) Even if you ignore the fringe pandering, Outside still fails in the following ways (which apply to the "Outside And Inside" series in general):
-The photos are grainy to varying degrees. Surprise surprise, the grainiest photos are of feathered dino fossils & taken by Terry Jones, who (as indicated by the Naish quote) is known for using grainy-as-heck photos.
-The writing is too simple & condescending (E.g. To quote Bakker from a good children's dino book, "When you look at dinosaur bone under a microscope, you see it's full of tiny holes for little blood vessels. That means that the blood flow was high and the body generated a lot of heat"; Compare that to the 1st 2 paragraphs of the Markle quote).
-The text is hit-&-miss in terms of getting the facts straight: On average, there's 1 or 2 factual errors per page in Outside, a 40 page book; Those in the Markle quote are especially cringe-worthy (E.g. "Feathery scales" & "Feathered scales"; See "Feather evolution" for why they're so cringe-worthy: ).
Quoting Markle: "A special tool, called a microscope, was used to enlarge this slice of a Troodon's leg bone. It offers a clue to solving a mystery: Did dinosaurs produce their own body heat or did they just soak up heat from the world around them?
See the rings in the bone? Some dinosaur experts believe these rings could mean the dinosaur soaked up heat. All animals need heat energy to be active and grow, so the dinosaur may have grown more when it was warmer. However not all dinosaur bones have rings. Some dinosaur bones are full of holes, like the bones of animals that make their own body heat. When the dinosaur was alive, the holes were filled with tubes that carried blood. The blood quickly spread heat energy throughout the animal's body.
But the question still remains: Did dinosaurs produce their own heat? More clues are needed to solve this mystery.
Here's another clue. It's an imprint of a Hadrosaurus' skin. The little bumps are like those on an alligator. This sort of scaly skin is a good, tough covering for a body that soaks up heat by lying on the ground. So did all dinosaurs have scaly skin?
Dinosaur imprints, like this one of a Sinosauropteryx, make some researchers believe there were dinosaurs with feathery scales. If these were like down feathers they would have been good for holding in body heat. Feathered scales could be proof that at least some dinosaurs produced their own heat.
Other researchers don't think such imprints show skin at all. Some believe the imprints show frilly fins like those seen on the backs of some of today's lizards. Others believe the imprints show a kind of tissue that lies just underneath the skin, connecting the skin to the muscles and bones."
Quoting GSPaul ( ): "I also agree with AF that although cladistics is very important, it is also not phylogenetic nirvana. What AF does not know is how overwhelming is the skull, skeletal, eggshell and nesting behaviour evidence that advanced theropods are the ancestors of birds. Feduccia and other paleoornithologists sometimes say that we dinoologists do not understand bird anatomy well enough. Actually, we know birds quite well because they are the living dinosaurs we look at all the time. The real problem is that some paleoornithologists do not understand the anatomy of nonavian archosaurs well enough." 
Quoting Naish ( ): "— the innards of Sinosauropteryx and Scipionyx supposedly falsify avian-like air-sac systems in non-avian coelurosaurs and demonstrate a croc-like hepatic piston diaphragm (Ruben et al. 1997, 1999), even though a gigantic dose of personal interpretation is required to accept that this claim might be correct, even though crocodilians and dinosaurs are fundamentally different in pelvic anatomy, and even though some living birds have the key soft-tissue traits reported by Ruben et al. in Sinosauropteryx and Scipionyx yet still have an avian respiratory system [alleged diaphragm of Sinosauropteryx highlighted in adjacent image; unconvincing on all levels]"

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Good, Semi-good, and Bad Dino Sources 3

This journal entry is the 3rd & last part in the "Good, semi-good, and bad dino sources" series. If you haven't read the 1st ( ) or 2nd part ( ), I recommend reading them b/c the former explains how said series works & the latter explains what's changed since the former.


The AMNH ("The American Museum of Natural History": ) is the best popular source of any dino museum next to the NHM (See "Good": ). AFAIK, the AMNH has published more/better popular dino books (2 of which I reviewed) & organized more/better dino exhibitions (3 of which I mentioned in reviews) than any other dino museum.*

Remember what I said about Martyniuk & Willoughby (See "Good": )? The same goes for Brougham ("softdinosaurs | Jason Brougham Paleontological Art": ). His species reconstructions in general & "Three dinosaur genera: Gallus, Zhongornis, Bambiraptor" in particular remind me of Audubon's Bird Guide ( ) & Norell's comments about quill knobs on Velociraptor ("The more that we learn about these animals the more we find that there is basically no difference between birds and their closely related dinosaur ancestors like velociraptor. Both have wishbones, brooded their nests, possess hollow bones, and were covered in feathers. If animals like velociraptor were alive today our first impression would be that they were just very unusual looking birds": ), respectively.

You could say that Csotonyi ("": ) & Hartman ("Scott Hartman's Skeletal": ) are the new & improved GSPauls (See "Semi-good": ): Csotonyi is "one of the world's most high profile and talented contemporary paleoartists" ( ); Hartman is "a terrific resource for artists looking for reference material for illustrating dinosaurs"( ); Like GSPaul, both are scientists whose "scientific training has been instrumental in informing [their] artwork" ( ); Unlike GSPaul, neither are "needlessly controversial" ( ).

Remember what I said about Hone (See "Good": )? He has since written a dino book like Holtz ("The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: The Biology of the Tyrant Dinosaurs", which is for casual readers: ). Yay!

Whether they're called "Jersey Boys Hunt Dinosaurs" or "Prehistoric Beast of the Week" (henceforth PBOTW: ), DiPiazza & friend(s) are, to paraphrase Thomas Edison ( ), "so dope that [they] even make New Jersey look good". There are 3 main reasons for why I think that is: 1) To quote DiPiazza ( ), "Never before has there been a site that revolved around paleontology that ALSO had a strong foothold in modern animal biology, particularly endangered species conservation"; Naish's "Tetrapod Zoology" is similar, but more for the enthusiast, while PBOTW is more for casual readers; Point is, very few sources are consistently good at combining paleontology & zoology;** 2) DiPiazza is "a published paleo-artist, having painted images of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life for displays in museums, books, magazines, scientific publications, and websites. His professional experience, working closely with and observing living animals, gives him an inspirational edge when creating paleo-art" ( ); In other words, DiPiazza's paleoart is both the medium & the message of PBTOW's awesomeness; 3) DiPiazza & friend(s) remind me of a young Bakker in terms of background & outreach ( ); I hope they write/illustrate dino books like Bakker too, someday.

"Paleoaerie" ( ) is to AR what "Prehistoric Beast of the Week" is to NJ.

SV-POW! ("Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week": ) is the ultimate source of sauropod anatomy info. Classicalguy's "Sauropod Vertebra Picture Adventure!" ( ) sums up why. Put another way, SV-POW! is basically a sauropod-centric version of Naish's "Tetrapod Zoology".

If Conway et al. are the A-Team of paleoart (See "Good": ), then Witton is the Lone Ranger ("HOME - markwitton": ): Whenever there's trouble, he rides in on his giant pterosaur & saves the day; His Spinosaurus posts are an especially good example of that ( ).

*I'm specifically referring to Norell et al.'s "Discovering Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Lessons of Prehistory, Expanded and Updated" (which mentions the AMNH's "Hall of Dinosaurs": ) & Abramson et al.'s "Inside Dinosaurs" (which mentions the AMNH's "Hall of Dinosaurs", "Fighting Dinos", & "Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries": ) for casual readers.

**Some paleontologists have tried w/mixed results (E.g. Cau; See "Semi-good" for what I mean: ). Some zoologists have tried w/even worse results (E.g. Marven; See "Bad" below for what I mean).


Rey's "Re: Horner Talks" ( ) sums up why Horner ("John R. Horner - Faculty and Staff": ) is a semi-good source of dino info.


Remember what I said about Peters, Dr. Pterosaur/Doug Dobney, & Gwawinapterus/Johnfaa (See "Bad": )? The same goes for Jackson ("sciencepolice2010 | Become a better scientist in under an hour! See 'Essential First Post'"), but worse b/c he's basically all 3 combined into 1 horrible being. Don't take my word for it, though. Compare Jackson's comments on Naish's "The ‘Birds Come First’ hypothesis of dinosaur evolution" ( ) to Hone's "To those who would prove us wrong – a guide to scientific dialogue" (which is basically a list of how not to be Jackson: ).

Zorak's "Nigel Marven is the Worst" ( ) sums up why Marven ("Nigel Marven") is a bad source of dino info.

Remember what I said about Blasing & Dixon (See "Bad": )? The same goes for Strauss ("Dinosaurs at"). RaptorRex's "Another Dinosaur Field Guide!?" ( ) sums up what I mean. I hate to say it b/c, based on what I've read, Strauss is a nice guy. Carr's 11/13/2013 tweet ( ) sums up what I mean.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

My 15th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-My 1st-10th Pairs of Reviews:
-"My 11th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 12th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 13th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 14th Pair of Reviews":,204,203,200_.jpg

This book would make a great exhibit ( ): 5/5

Short version: The best exhibits are attractive, brief, & clear (I.e. The ABCs of exhibit design). Abramson et al.'s "Inside Dinosaurs" (henceforth ID) takes the AMNH's best dino exhibits & combines them into the AMNH's best children's dino book.

Long version: Read on.

As you may have noticed, I usually review non-fiction dino books that either don't get enough praise for being good or don't get enough criticism for being bad. What's interesting about ID is that it got a lot of praise for being very well-illustrated, but little-to-no praise for being very well-organized & thematic. Put another way, to quote Ham (See "Environmental Interpretation: A Practical Guide for People with Big Ideas and Small Budgets"), the other Amazon Reviewers "worried more about the "A" than they did about the "B" and "C."" In this review, I focus on the "B" & "C" & why I think they make ID great.

1) Like a great exhibit, ID is very brief/well-organized: To quote Ham, "Brief exhibits are well organized and simple; they contain five or fewer main ideas and only enough text to develop the theme; rather than having a lot of words, they show details visually; they don't appear like they require a lot of work from the viewer". That's exactly what ID does: Not only does ID contain 5 main ideas as outlined on the 1st inside flap, but also 10 fold-out pages; Not only do said pages "allow kids to dig deeper into the topics and enjoy amazing illustrations", but also make ID interactive (Quoting Ham: "Besides being more enjoyable, interactive exhibits are better "teachers" than static ones"); This reminds me of the new "DK Eyewitness" books, but more engaging.

2) Like a great exhibit, ID is very clear/thematic: To quote Ham, "Clear exhibits contain a theme that is so conspicuous it can be recognized and understood in only a second or two." That's exactly what ID does: As outlined on the 1st inside flap, "This amazing book will give you the inside scoop on [dinos]...As a daring insider, you'll walk in the steps of these astonishing creatures"; The opening pages reinforce the "inside scoop" part of the theme (See the 1st Abramson et al. quote), while the closing pages reinforce the "daring insider" part of the theme (See the 2nd Abramson et al. quote); This reminds me of the "Dinosaur Train" series (Quoting Sampson: "Get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries!"), but for older kids.

If I could, I'd give ID a 4.5/5. My only gripes are the non-maniraptoran reconstructions (some of which have shrink-wrapped heads &/or too many claws) & the lack of pronunciations (especially of Chinese names). However, for the purposes of this review, I'll round up to 5/5. 2 more things of note: 1) There are direct & indirect references to the AMNH's "Hall of Dinosaurs", "Fighting Dinos", & "Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries"; 2) The AMNH keeps updates on "American Museum of Natural History" when parts of ID become outdated.
Quoting Abramson et al.: "Let's learn to look through a paleontologist's eyes and take a trip back to the time when fierce Albertosaurus stalked prey in the forests, spike-frilled Styracosaurus grazed in the ferns, groups of Corythosaurus hung out, and early birds darted through the sky. Join us as we explore the world of the dinosaur to get an inside look at the lives of these amazing creatures from long ago."
Quoting Abramson et al.: "The discovery of new dinosaur fossils can happen almost anywhere and at any time. Amateur dinosaur hunters have discovered many fossils and even whole new species. The bones of the dinosaur Bambiraptor were found by a fourteen-year-old boy on his family's ranch in Montana. So if you have exposed sedimentary rock in your backyard, don't be afraid to get out there and try to make your very own dinosaur discovery. Don't have any sedimentary rock nearby? Look at the trees…the birds you see are your very own dinosaur discoveries."

The worst alternative ( ): 1/5

For as long as there has been "Dinosaur (DK Eyewitness Books)" (henceforth DD), there have been wannabes. As much as I love DD, I understand why readers would want an alternative: For 1, see the Ben quote; What Ben says about "the AMNH fossil halls" goes for DD; For another, DD is a mixed bag in terms of paleoart.* However, as far as I know, Abramson et al.'s "Inside Dinosaurs" is the only good alternative. Long's "Dinosaurs (Insiders)" (henceforth DI) is the worst of all the other alternatives. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think that is, besides the text.**

1) Unlike DD, DI is an annoying & confusing mess in terms of writing & organization. In reference to "annoying...writing", this is especially apparent in the sub-chapter about the dino extinction because 1) the main text explains nothing about the science behind the dino extinction story, & 2) the sidebar text needlessly re-tells said story. In reference to "confusing...organization", this is especially apparent in the sub-chapters about studying & finding/reconstructing dino fossils because 1) you have to find dino fossils BEFORE you can study/reconstruct them, & 2) the text explaining said processes is scattered all over with no apparent rhyme or reason.

2) Unlike DD's life reconstructions, DI's are mostly not-so-good. Those by Carr are as good as it gets in DI, while those by Pixel-shack are as bad as it gets: In reference to Carr, that's not saying much; Some of her life reconstructions are OK (E.g. See the small T.rex on the front cover), while others are just plain outdated/abominable (E.g. See the feathered dinos on the back cover; Some have pronated hands or splayed legs; Others look like demented muppets or feathered lizards); In reference to Pixel-shack, I've already said everything I have to say about them in my Dinosaurs review (See reason #4: ); In DI, the ankylosaurs are depicted as being piles of poop, while the tyrannosaurs are shameless rip-offs of the "Jurassic Park" T.rex. Those by the other illustrators fall somewhere in between, but more towards Pixel-shack (E.g. See Eriksson's large T.rex on the front cover, which is a poorly-photoshopped lace monitor). McKinnon's paleoart may be the 2nd worst in DI (E.g. Not only is the Struthiomimus un-feathered with pronated hands, but also duck-billed with cheeks).

*I'm specifically referring to DD's life reconstructions, some of which are not-so-good (E.g. Those by various illustrators & Pixel-shack in the older & newer editions, respectively).

**Even if you only read the "Fast facts" & the "Time bar", you'll see that there's an average of at least 3 or 4 factual errors per page in DI, a 64 page book. It's also worth mentioning that the "Fast facts" are annoyingly inconsistent (E.g. Some list both countries & states/provinces under "fossil locations", while others just list countries).
Quoting Ben (Google "Framing Fossil Exhibits: Phylogeny"): "Within the actual fossil halls, interpretation remains stubbornly unapproachable. For example, the sign introducing proboscidians tells visitors that this group is defined primarily by eye sockets located near the snout. An observant visitor might wonder why scientists rely on such an obscure detail, as opposed to the obvious trunks and tusks. There’s a good teaching moment there concerning why some characteristics might face more selection pressure (and thus change more radically) than others, but instead visitors are only offered esoteric statements. Relatedly, the exhibit does little to prioritize information. Most label text is quite small, and there’s a lot of it. Compare this to Evolving Planet at the Field Museum, where there is a clear hierarchy of headings and sub-headings. Visitors can read the main point of a display without even stopping, and parents can quickly find relevant information to answer their charges’ questions (rather than making something up).
Evolving Planet also compares favorably to the AMNH fossil halls in its informative aesthetics and spatial logic. At FMNH, walls and signs in each section are distinctly color-coded, making transitions obvious and intuitive. Likewise, consistent iconography...such as the mass extinction zones...helps visitors match recurring themes and topics throughout the exhibit. AMNH, in contrast, has a uniform glass and white-walled Apple Store aesthetic. It’s visually appealing, but doesn’t do much to help visitors navigate the space in a meaningful way."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Save Mongolia's Dinosaurs

When I took the "Jurassic World Challenge", I had trouble choosing between "real world paleontological research" & "independent paleontological illustration", so I funded both w/2 separate contributions ( ). If you're anything like me, you had trouble too. Now you can fund both w/just 1 contribution by backing "Save Mongolia's Dinosaurs | Indiegogo" ( ): Not only can you "buy a piece of artwork", but also "fund a science outreach and conservation expedition across Mongolia"; I bought Willoughby's "Velociraptor mug", mostly b/c 1) it's the most expensive piece I can afford, 2) it's the most beautiful Velociraptor I've ever seen, & 3) I thought it'd go nicely w/my "Tea Raptor Mug". Even if you took the "Jurassic World Challenge" w/no trouble, you should still back "Save Mongolia's Dinosaurs | Indiegogo" b/c it's important to Mongolia & thus important to paleontology (See the Orr quote for why; Also, see Werning's "Why Paleontology Is Relevant" for why paleontology is important to us: ).
Quoting Orr ( ): "Mongolia is undoubtedly one of the most important countries in the history of palaeontology, but too many important fossils have been taken away. A new crowdfunding effort seeks to bring the wonder of Mongolia's scientific treasures to the country's children via a moveable museum. "Kids in the communities we visit will board the moveable museum to experience the interactive exhibits, and join classroom activities about dinosaurs, fossils and the relationship of dinosaurs to modern birds." Pledge your support today!"

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My 14th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-My 1st-10th Pairs of Reviews:
-"My 11th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 12th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 13th Pair of Reviews":

I wish I had this book as a kid ( ): 5/5

Short version: Waldrop/Loomis' "Ranger Rick's Dinosaur Book" (henceforth Ranger) is basically Wexo's "Zoobooks - Dinosaurs" (henceforth ZD) in book form, but better. I recommend reading Ranger in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs").

Long version: Read on.

If you're anything like me (I.e. A life-long dino fan born in the 1980s), you probably grew up with 1) "Ranger Rick" magazine, & 2) "Zoobooks" magazine.* ZD used to be my favorite issue of either magazine, but now my favorite is Ranger. Like ZD, Ranger is a natural history of dinos illustrated by Hallett, published by a wildlife organization, & consulted by Ostrom. In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think Ranger is even better than ZD.

1) Ranger is very complete & in-depth: For 1 (in reference to "complete"), using Holtz's "Dinosaurs" as a guide, Ranger features representatives of 10 different dino groups; Compare that to the 7 different dino groups of ZD; For another (in reference to "in-depth"), see the Waldrop/Loomis quote; Ranger does more in 1 page than ZD does in 2 pages ( ).

2) Ranger is very well-organized: Being well-organized is especially important to a natural history of dinos given that it's "designed to be read from start to finish as the developing story of a remarkable group of animals" ( ); Not only does Ranger have a chronological format, but each chapter begins with a day-in-the-life story & ends with a lead-in to the next chapter.

3) Ranger is very well-illustrated: In addition to Hallett, Ranger is illustrated by Akerbergs, Dawson (E.g. See the cover), Kish, Knight, & Zallinger; Dawson's paleoart is especially good at making reconstructed animals appear life-like (I.e. It "displays a superb attention to small details - in terms of the animals' anatomy...their interaction with the surrounding environment, and the environment itself");** It helps that Dawson illustrated all the day-in-the-life stories. My only gripe is that most of the sauropods & some of the ornithischians are depicted as dragging their tails.

*My sympathies to those who didn't grow up with "Classic Ranger Rick" ( ).

**Google "Vintage Dinosaur Art: De Oerwereld van de Dinosauriƫrs - Part 1".
Quoting Waldrop/Loomis: "Workers in a German quarry in 1861 uncovered a puzzle that has not been solved after more than 120 years. The puzzle was a new fossil that had a wishbone like a bird's and wings with feathers. It was a bird, the earliest ever found. It was named Archaeopteryx...the "ancient wing."
One of the puzzling things about this bird was its ancestors. To try to solve this puzzle, scientists checked its head, its tail, its hands, its feet. Finally, one man studied the fossil for two years and listed 21 ways that its bones matched those of the small, meat-eating dinosaurs called coelurosaurs (see pages 44-45).
Archaeopteryx was a very primitive bird. It has been called a missing link in the evolutionary chain between the dinosaurs and modern birds. In some ways it was like a dinosaur. In other ways it was like a bird. It had teeth and a bony tail like a dinosaur. Birds today don't have teeth, and their tails are just long feathers. But, like birds, Archaeopteryx had wings and feathers.
Scientists still don't know for sure why this ancient bird had feathers or whether or not it could fly. Feathers help birds in many ways. Of course, they help birds fly. They also insulate them and help them stay warm. Perhaps feathers began as insulators. Small, warmblooded dinosaurs would have lost heat very quickly. Feathers would have helped keep their bodies at a constant temperature.
The feathers might have served other uses. Some people think that Archaeopteryx ran along the ground, chasing insects and other small prey. When it got close enough, it used its wide, feathered wings to scoop up its meal.
Archaeopteryx probably could not fly, at least the way most birds do today. It did not have the right bones for holding the muscles needed to flap its wings.
But Archaeopteryx might have been able to glide. That's what flying squirrels do. Some scientists think the bird climbed branches in search of prey, then spread its wings and floated gently back to the ground. Other scientists think it lived only on the ground."

OK in the 1980s, but not in the 2000s ( ): 2/5

As you may remember, I grew up with "Zoobooks" magazine ( ). Wexo's "Zoobooks - Dinosaurs" is my favorite issue of said magazine, so I was very excited to get Wexo's "Where Did Dinosaurs Come From?" (henceforth WD). I originally thought that WD was going to be the sequel issue I've always wanted. Boy, was I wrong about WD! WD would've been OK in the 1980s, but not in the 2000s. Switek's WD review ( ) sums up most of the reasons why, but not the most important reason. In this review, I point you to Switek's WD review & add my own thoughts as well:
-The most important reason is that WD was billed as new when it actually was 20 years old: 1st, see the back cover; Then, compare that to "t-rex, prehistoric #zoobooks, #1989. #science!" ( ). This explains most of the inaccuracies. However, there are several weird bits throughout WD that can't be explained by its outdatedness (E.g. See the Wexo quote).
-I'm surprised that Switek didn't say more about the paleoart given that, to quote Switek ( ), "Everyone knows that half the fun of paleontology is imagining how prehistoric creatures looked and moved." In addition to Sibbick, WD is illustrated by Orr, Francis, & Newman. Sibbick's paleoart is especially noteworthy: For 1, to paraphrase Vincent ( ), "The illustrations in [WD] show a marked improvement over those in the Norman encyclopedia from just [4] years prior. They demonstrate a stage in the evolution from Sibbick's earlier stodge-o-saurs to the altogether more active, muscular and modern-looking restorations of the '90s"; For another, it's very jarring to see Sibbick's T.rex in the style of Hallett's.
-In some ways, WD is better than the original (E.g. The main stuff is more well-organized, beginning with "some of the earliest creatures on earth" & ending with the Age of Dinosaurs). In other ways, WD is worse than the original (E.g. The sidebar stuff is more hit-&-miss).* In still other ways, they're about the same (E.g. Both refer to T.rex by different genus names).
-If you want a good alternative to WD, get Bakker's "The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs": For 1, not only does Bakker's book cover much of the same background info, but also goes well beyond;** For another, Bakker's book doesn't shy away from discussing evolution, using "the dreaded e-word" multiple times.

*While the hits really hit (E.g. A comparison of sauropods' teeth & garden tools), the misses really miss (E.g. A race between a man & various theropods in which the man is winning & the theropods are scattered all over with no apparent rhyme or reason).

**To quote Switek, "The trouble is that by the time Wexo gets to the dinosaurs, relatively little time is spent on explaining how different groups of dinosaurs evolved or even when different kinds of dinosaurs lived…The book then abruptly ends with no concluding section tying the lessons of the book together. Likewise, the fact that the book never discusses feathered dinosaurs or that birds are living theropod dinosaurs is a major flaw." Bakker's book does the exact opposite of all that & MUCH more.
Quoting Wexo: "For a long time, the simple plants fed themselves on chemicals that were dissolved in the water. Later, they started to make food from sunlight and chemicals, as plants do today. But they did not eat each other…Then one day, for reasons that are not clear, one plant did eat another plant…and thereby became the first animal. Eating other plants was a good way to get food. For this reason, more and more new species of "animals" came along as time passed. Some new species of animals had the first mouths, to eat plants more easily."

Friday, March 4, 2016

Jurassic World Mosasaur UPDATE

Unexpectedly my one off silly rant post about the Mosasaur in Jurassic World has become one of the most popular posts on this site.

As a result I figured I'd put a little more effort into my "findings". 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Animated Victorian Dinosaur

My first animation test cylce on Mr. Iguanodon. It is too fast, but if the overall motions slow down, it should move with a sense of bulk and mass.

To my knowledge this is the first time a Waterhouse Dawkins style Dinosaur has been animated. I'm not boasting, I'm legitimately curious. Does anyone know of another time this has been done?


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Waterhouse Hawkins Dinosaur 2

I'm now pretty set on my first animated project. A little more cornball and whacky. I realized probably best to do a one off, rather then tackle a potential series first.

So I'm going with old school Dinosaurs, in a more whimsical project that draws on my interests in palaeo-history.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Old School Dinosaur

Forget your feathers vs. no feathers. One of my doodle projects of late, is as old school a reconstruction as you can get ;)

I am thinking about animating him at some point.

Does anyone know of any 3D animated Waterhouse Hawkins style Dinosaurs?

By Craig Dylke

By Craig Dylke

By Craig Dylke

By Craig Dylke

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Craig's Animation Project- update #3

Been tinkering away on my animated project. I'm narrowing in on my format, and how to communicate some science.

The first step is I've rough recreated my favourite scene from Jurassic World... though when I say favourite one must understand this is very conditional, and only within the context of the film. I found JW to be a very painful waste of time (probably more so than even Jurassic Park 3).