Forget Extinct: The Brontosaurus Never Even Existed

Forget Extinct: The Brontosaurus Never Even Existed

Seriously digging into my history of saved links and found this gem. This is basically sacrilege to me. The Brontosaurus was my favorite dinosaur as a child. Are you telling me my childhood was a lie?

It was in the heat of this competition, in 1877, that Marsh discovered the partial skeleton of a long-necked, long-tailed, leaf-eating dinosaur he dubbed Apatosaurus. It was missing a skull, so in 1883 when Marsh published a reconstruction of his Apatosaurus, Lamanna says he used the head of another dinosaur — thought to be a Camarasaurus — to complete the skeleton.

“Two years later,” Lamanna says, “his fossil collectors that were working out West sent him a second skeleton that he thought belonged to a different dinosaur that he named Brontosaurus.”

But it wasn’t a different dinosaur. It was simply a more complete Apatosaurus — one that Marsh, in his rush to one-up Cope, carelessly and quickly mistook for something new.

Next thing we know, they’ll be telling us Pluto isn’t a planet.


Knowing the Words Is Half the Battle

Knowing the Words Is Half the Battle

Jonas Downey on Signal v. Noise:

So it’s not enough to have exposure to the outer surface of a domain. If you want to level up your understanding, you have to be willing to feel ignorant for a while and study it in depth, until you find your sea legs and pick up a handful of those all-important words. There’s no magic to it. This willingness, and a lot of practice, is all that separates the experts from the beginners.

Once you’ve learned a bit of lingo, you’ll find that the words help you ask questions. The questions help you learn how things interact. When you know how things interact, you can start understanding the system as a whole. And pretty soon, you’re an expert too.

This is the single place where I find myself frustrated when trying to learn something new. I fall into a world of new vocabulary (or known words used differently), and I get lost in the translation. Then I’m not even sure how to ask questions to clarify my understanding simply because I don’t have the words to form those questions.

This is important to know when communicating things too. It’s important to be aware when we’re using jargon or specialized words so that we can clarify what we mean. A simple example of this is when scientists talk about theories. When a scientist refers to a theory, that theory has a whole lot more weight and research behind it than when you or I have a theory about why the light isn’t working in the kitchen.


Woody Guthrie Wrote Angry Songs About Donald Trump’s Dad

Woody Guthrie Wrote Angry Songs About Donald Trump’s Dad

This kind of blows my mind. Woody Guthrie once had Fred Trump as a landlord, and Guthrie wasn’t too fond of him. Being a singer/songwriter, he expressed his frustrations in the medium that came most naturally to him.

Beach Haven ain’t my home!

I just cain’t pay this rent!

My money’s down the drain!

And my soul is badly bent!

Beach Haven looks like heaven

Where no black ones come to roam!

No, no, no! Old Man Trump!

Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!

I haven’t looked too hard yet, but I’d love to find out if any recordings exist of these songs. It’s not because I relish any one person getting bashed. I’m just curious about something so brash from Guthrie and how these songs fit in with his larger library of works.


Mossberg: The Steve Jobs I Knew Isn’t in This Movie

Mossberg: The Steve Jobs I Knew Isn’t in This Movie

I’m not a fan of biopics. In fact, I can’t think of a single one I’ve come away completely pleased with, and the reason is this: movies will fictionalize aspects of a real person’s life for the sake of drama, and then moviegoers will walk away, not knowing which parts are real and which are fake. The film gives you an impression that you now know this person. In reality, you know a caricature of the human.

In 1941, the brilliant writer and director Orson Welles made a movie loosely based on a famous, powerful, contemporary American business figure — the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst — that showed him in a bad light. He took artistic liberties with the character. But he didn’t call the movie Citizen Hearst. He called it Citizen Kane, and it’s now regarded by many as the best film ever made.

In 2015, the brilliant writer Aaron Sorkin made a movie loosely based on a famous, powerful, contemporary American business figure — the technology innovator Steve Jobs — that showed him in a bad light. He, too, took artistic liberties with the character, and with events. But, his entertaining work of fiction isn’t labeled for what it is. It’s called Steve Jobs and is based in part on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of the man.

As a result, for the multitudes of people who didn’t know the real Steve Jobs, Mr. Sorkin’s film, which opens nationally Friday, will seem like a factual, holistic portrait of a great man, despite the screenwriter’s continuing protests that it’s no such thing and wasn’t meant to be a “biopic.”

If you want to see an intense and rewarding character drama, go check out The Martian instead.