Watch: All the Reasons the Science of Jurassic Park Is 'Just Awful'

Thursday, 11 June 2015 - 10:26AM
Genetic Engineering
Thursday, 11 June 2015 - 10:26AM
Watch: All the Reasons the Science of Jurassic Park Is 'Just Awful'
Jurassic Park may be a classic of sci-fi blockbuster filmmaking, but in order to enjoy that awesomeness, we may need to suspend our disbelief a little. Or a lot, according to Phil Plait of Slate's Bad Astronomy blog, who just posted this video detailing all the reasons that the science of Jurassic Park is "just awful":



According to Plait, the initial premise of Jurassic Park is based on science that is more than a little faulty; it depends on the notion that scientists could take preserved dinosaur DNA from the stomach of a prehistoric mosquito lodged in amber and use it to clone a full-fledged dinosaur. But Plait says in the video,

"Unfortunately, this won't work in real life. For one thing, the DNA is scrambled in a mosquito's gut, and incomplete. In the movie, they wave this away, saying that they fill the gaps with frog DNA. But this won't work either. If the DNA is mixed up with the insect's DNA, you can't just use some other species to fill in the gaps.

"Think of it this way. Take a copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace and toss it in a shredder. That's the dinosaur DNA. Now throw in, say, Death from the Skies by [Plait]. That's the insect DNA. Now throw away half of it and try to assemble Tolstoy's masterpiece from the pile of pulp you have. Too hard? Well shred up a copy of the dictionary and see if you can use that to fill the gaps. No? Yeah, but then you wouldn't have a movie franchise."

In this sense, Jurassic World may be slightly more scientifically plausible than Jurassic Park. Paleontologist Jack Horner recently stated that transgenic or genetically "spliced" animals have been proven possible in recent experiments, so it's more likely that researchers would be able to create a new dinosaur like Indominus Rex in the lab than a classic T-Rex. But Jurassic World still isn't actually possible, as far as we know, since scientists don't have access to any intact dinosaur DNA.

And then even after one accepts the initial premise, the "science" that drives the rest of the plot is also wildly inaccurate. Jeff Goldblum's character continually blames everything that goes wrong in the film, from the female dinosaurs changing their sex to the dinosaurs escaping their cages, on chaos theory. In real life, chaos theory refers to the hypothesis that long-term prediction is functionally impossible as a result of systems' sensitivity to initial conditions. But in Jurassic Park, the application of the theory is "nonsense," according to Plait:

"I can overlook the DNA stuff, actually; that's part of the deal you make being in the audience of a scifi flick. But I can't forgive all the nonsense about chaos theory; it's not just wrong, but it really doesn't have anything to do with what actually happens in the movie... It was just Nedry being a dick that causes all the trouble. That's not chaos theory; that's a story having an inept antagonist."

Plait went on to say that Jurassic Park is still an amazing film, simply because it's good storytelling. Meanwhile a film like Interstellar, while more scientifically accurate, is still a bad movie as a result of its narrative flaws (we agree). So even if Jurassic World is slightly more scientifically viable, it will still sink or swim on its narrative.

"Like any other movie, it will live or go extinct on how the story is told."
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