Friday, July 15, 2016

Why Dinosaurs?

Other than Jay Chou, another thing that might arise in my friends' minds when they think of me is surely dinosaurs. The fascinating beasts that come in all kinds of shapes and sizes have never ceased to intrigue me to date.

A Tyrannosaurus skeleton

As with most dinosaur fans all around the world, my liking for dinosaurs started early in life. In my childhood, I got a bunch of dinosaur books which were laden with numerous visuals designed to attract young readers. At one of his TED Talks, world-renowned paleontologist Jack Horner says, when asked what is behind children's love for dinosaurs, he usually replies that "dinosaurs were big, different, and gone" – although actually they are not gone, as Jack clarifies subsequently. I think it partly explains why these bizarre creatures captivated me as a little kid, because, as American paleontologist Steve Brusatte says in an Earth Unplugged video, "there's just something about dinosaurs, there's some magic to them, there's some indescribable essence to them."

Aside from the above mentioned reason, why dinosaurs? Why not Pokémon GO, which is arguably the most popular game nowadays? Why not anime and manga, of which a huge number of fan bases are scattered on the globe? Why not superheroes, like those created by Marvel and DC?

I would start with the most 'important' one: learning about dinosaurs means learning about the world as a whole, including ourselves. It takes us on a deep journey into prehistory, the time before we, humans, appeared on the scene, so that we can actually understand how our world works. We must take dinosaurs into account to really understand evolution, including how we came to be who we are. It is a pity that many people are ignorant of or even deny the theory of evolution; dinosaurs are a great tool to teach this (and science, in general – Steve says dinosaurs are "just an automatic gateway into science" in a science festival video) to the public and eradicate the misleading thought.

Knowing dinosaurs has also turned me into a more humble person. It has made me realize that we are just 'tiny' things – with a lifespan of around 70 years – existing in this vast, super old (around 4.6 billion years old), changing world and our species, Homo sapiens, is just a newcomer. Terrorism that is invading our planet – and seems to be getting more and more cruel and violent day by day – claiming an enormous number of lives, I believe, is a product of false understanding or a wrong view of the world. Together, as the human race, we need to strive for a better world for our continuous existence. I firmly believe and am very confident that dinosaurs can play an exceptionally important role in attaining world peace.

Dinosaurology is also extremely important as it significantly contributes to our knowledge of "how the earth has changed over time" (a phrase by Steve from his Earth Unplugged video The Dinosaur Expert that keeps reverberating in my head) and this relates to climate change, which is a global issue we are currently facing. Understanding this in should help us solve this urgent problem. Studying dinosaurs means studying the past in the present for the future.

Last but not least, seriously, what is more engaging than dinosaurs? Gigantic behemoths possessing extremely long necks and tails, big-headed vicious-looking predators equipped with lines of big serrated teeth, rhino-like animals boasting eye-catching head ornamentation, club-tailed creatures with body coverings reminiscent of tanks, and many more – not to mention 10,000 or so species of our feathered relatives: birds, the only surviving lineage of dinosaurs. Nothing, right?