|THE RESEARCH PROBLEM: The
1995 movie hit Jurassic Park contains an unforgettable scene in which a hungry
stalks a jeep and then chases it down a forest road in an attempt to catch the movie's main
characters. In this scene, the tyrannosaur is shown running swiftly just behind the
accelerating jeep for several hundred panic-filled meters. Eventually, the tyrannosaur
tires, and gives up its pursuit, much to the relief of the jeep's occupants.
The image painted by this movie of an agile, fleet-footed tyrannosaur, is certainly as captivating as any in the movie. It is one of the best devices in the film for making the audience think about dinosaurs as living animals, and for highlighting the notion that we are lucky dinosaurs are extinct, because life would be hard, if not impossible, were they still here.
The monitor and VCR at the front of the laboratory are set up to show this sequence from the movie. We will view this scene to remind you of its details, if you have already seen it, or to introduce the scene to you, if you have not. As you view the scene, reflect on the following questions. We will discuss these issues following the film.
1. How fast was the jeep going? How can you tell?
2. Could any modern animals keep up with a speeding jeep? Which ones?
3. How much of the image created in the movie do you think is true, and how much is artistic license devised by the screenwriters to heighten the intensity of the scene, and to capture the attention of the viewer?
4. Is the film clip based on factual information?
5. Do you think a tyrannosaur could really have kept pace with the jeep? Were tyrannosaurs actually fast, agile runners as suggested in the film, or is the movie off the mark about this?
This, then is the question we want to resolve: How fast were tyrannosaurs - really? Could they scamper across the Cretaceous landscape like over-sized race horses? Or were they actually slow, plodding creatures quite different in their locomotor prowess than depicted in the movie?