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Buicks and Dinosaurs March 28, 2013

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture, Science.
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As a life-long Paleontology enthusiast, I feel compelled to give General Motors lots of credit for this creative commercial.  Remember that comic book and cartoon series “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs”?  Well, feast your eyes on the next-best thing:  Buicks and dinosaurs!

What caught my eye the first time I saw this commercial was not just the dinosaurs, but their species and size.  Yeah, they were big – really big, but just how big?  It obviously varies from genus/species to genus/species, but what interested yours truly was their depicted size in the commercial.  We science/engineering geeks are sticklers for accuracy, after all!

Start with the beginning.  The Stegosaurs parked next to the fire hydrant are accurate.  Stegosaurus armatus, for example, reached about 30 feet in maximum length, meaning that its likeness regarding shape and size in the commercial is well portrayed (S. stenops was not quite as long at 23 feet in max. length).  So far, so good!

At seconds 6 through 13, we feast our eyes on a massive Sauropod, massive even by the standards of the already-large species found within the infraorder.  My first guess was this was an outsized specimen of Apatosaurus (known by many as “Brontosaurus,”) which was indeed large at an average length of 75 feet.  But as big as it was, it is doubtful that its feet were almost as wide as the car itself, even if the Buick Encore is relatively small.  The photo below of a Apatosaur skeleton right next to a Diplodocus skeleton might give the reader a better reference of its average size, as one can see a couple of people standing behind it.

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Apatosaurus in the near background, and Diplodocus in the foreground at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh; photo by author, Dec., 2010.

My guess regarding the large Sauropod depicted in the commercial in question is either an outsized specimen of Apatosaur (it was the overall shape of one, if not oversized), or, more plausibly, an Argentinosaurus, one of the largest dino species currently known to man.  This compilation of photos I snapped at the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta back in early 2009 should back up the validity of this educated guess.  The man ascending the staircase gives the reader an idea of its huge size.

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Argentinosaurus reconstructed as being pursued by a Giganotosaurus, a Carnosaur/Theropod even longer than T-rex! Photo by author, Fernbank Museum, Atlanta, Mar. 1, 2009.

Next up at seconds 14 through 16, the couple in the Encore are passing up a couple of Ceratopsians.  The initial impulse is to say “Triceratops,” which is entirely understood, given that he was the biggest and most famous of that suborder.  But the frills of these two fellows are way too squared for that to be Triceratops, so my educated guess is that these are slightly outsized Chasmosaurs, who also had three horns like their slightly larger cousin (most Ceratopsians just had one, on the nose), even though theirs were not as long as the larger species.

Meanwhile (“…back in the jungle!”), as the camera gives us the vantage point of seeing through the windshield from the backseat, we see more Stegosaurs and Sauropods moving along the boulevard during seconds 17 through 19, and then the car has to maneuver around another large Sauropod (possibly a slightly-outsized Apatosaur, if not another Argentinosaur), before eventually pulling into a hotel entrance next to another Stegosaur to cap off the commercial.  Here the Stegosaurs is depicted a bit larger than its maximum size, unless the roof in front of the hotel desk had a very low clearance of 13 feet or less, as that was S. armatus’ maximum height, plates included.  The Stego tail and spikes in the background during seconds 27 through 29, however, are sadly way oversized.  The spikes in question would reach about three feet at the most.

Something else that gave cause for notice is that all the dino species depicted in this GM commercial are plant eaters.  So what, right?  The significance of this selection of species was that these are thought by many – though by no means all – scientists to be cold-blooded, or at least homoethermic, whereby they were big enough to maintain their own temperatures.  But put these two things together, and these species would be, on average, on the slower scale of dino agility, particularly when compared to their potentially hot-blooded Theropod predators.*  What it boils down to is a  “big-and-slow” versus “small-and-nimble” comparison that GM implicitly makes in this advertisement.

One must analyze these sizes with the perspective that these are all computer-generated, and as such, when superimposed into a real-world setting, it’s difficult to get the relative size proportions correct, especially when these objects are in constant motions and audience viewing angles are constantly shifting.  Still, while most shown sizes are a tad exaggerated, some were dead-on, and overall, the effort is quite laudable, as the commercial certainly piqued my interest, and hopefully those of millions of other viewers!

*The cold-blooded/warm-blooded dinosaur debate has been brought up before in a previous article and shall surely be revisited again.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Awards, post-Round 2 March 25, 2013

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
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LouisvilleBball2013_1I’m not the most knowledgeable person about college basketball or roundball in general, but the developments over the first two rounds led me to notice that some of the awards I usually bestow at the end of each regular season week of college football might also apply during this, the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tourney.

It’s been an interesting one thus far, what with some key upsets that have shot many a person’s bracket to Hades.  Although, if you went “chalk” in the West region, you’re good for the Sweet Sixteen!  Anyhow, Enjoy!

COACHES
Wish I were himRick Pitino, Louisville

Glad I’m not him: John Thompson III, Georgetown
Lucky guy: Dr. John Giannini, LaSalle
Poor guy:  John Groce, Illinois
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Tom Creen, Indiana
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State (honorable mention:  Andy Endfield, Florida Gulf Coast)

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mark Few, Gonzaga

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Louisville (both rounds)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Indiana (round 2)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  North Carolina A&T (round 1)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Florida Gulf Coast (both rounds)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Iowa State (round 1)

Dang, they’re good: Louisville
Dang, they’re bad:  Akron
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Gonzaga

Did the season start?  St. Louis
Can the season end?  Kentucky (yeah, I know, not even in the tourney, but they were one-and-done in the NIT!)
Can the season never endOregon (honorable mention:  Florida Gulf Coast)

GAMES
Play this again:  Marquette 74, Butler 72
Never play this again: VCU 88, Akron 42
What? Oregon 68, Oklahoma State 55
HuhFlorida Gulf Coast 78, Georgetown 68
Are you kidding me? Oregon 74, St. Louis 57
Oh – my – GodWichita St. 76, Gonzaga 70
Told you so: Minnesota 83, UCLA 63

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  Indiana vs. Syracuse, also Michigan State vs. Duke

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Florida vs. Florida Gulf Coast
Best non-Big Six matchup: Wichita State vs. LaSalle

Upset alert: Michigan vs. Kansas

Must win: (all of them:  duh!)
Great game no one is talking about: Miami vs. Marquette