Science and Tech

These ’90s Jurassic Park Technologies Were Once Wonderous


Jurassic Park is a terrific film, depicting the wonder and terror of dinosaurs in a way that fully captured our imaginations. But look at the resurrected dinosaurs and you might see something more – a genuine love of science. Jurassic Park‘s heroes are paleontologists, gene-splicers, child hackers, and even a mathematician who specializes in chaos theory. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jurassic Park inspired a generation of new scientists, creating a world where “Life Finds A Way” can become a positive internet slogan.

Of course, Jurassic Park was made in the 1990s, and just like the Discman and soul patches, there’s a lot from that period that needs to be updated. No matter how much science and tech lovers adore this film, so many concepts here are laughably quaint or just plain wrong. So in honor of the new sequel, let’s reminisce about what doesn’t work anymore. And we’re not just talking about the “dinosaurs have feathers” thing – we need to consider…

The Ability To Pull Dino DNA From Amber

Let’s start with the first problem – cloning an entire island of dinosaurs in the first place. Jurassic Park suggests that the entire venture begins when dinosaur blood was captured by prehistoric mosquitoes, which were later trapped in tree sap, fossilized into amber and preserved until today. John Hammond’s scientists are able to extract dinosaur DNA and use their genetic wizardry to bring several endangered species back to life.

Let’s set aside the fact that John Hammond must have lucked out and found a treasure trove of mosquito-carrying amber. And let’s also set aside the fact that somehow they were able to restore prehistoric plants, which mosquitoes shouldn’t be interested in at all. And let’s also set aside the fact that we didn’t even chart the human genome until 2003, but somehow have a complete grasp of dinosaur DNA. Could this work?

Nope. The biggest problem is that DNA breaks down over time – preserved in amber or not. Researchers are actually facing this problem as they try to clone wooly mammoths, and they have entire wooly mammoth bodies to work with. The best we’ve been able to do so far is insert wooly mammoth genes into modern-day elephants, which is nowhere close to the process seen in this film. Unless Jurassic Park‘s dinosaurs are birds eggs we inserted Dino DNA into.

What’s more, getting the DNA is far harder than you’d expect. Researchers from the University of Manchester actually attempted to extract DNA from insects trapped in subfossilised copal, and got a big stack of nothing for the trouble. None of the samples, ranging from 60 to 10,600 years old, provided any DNA that the team could work with. So how exactly are we going to extra DNA from amber that’s millions of years old?

Sorry science, but you’re going to have to bring dinosaurs back the old-fashioned way: Time travel.

Today’s Tour Is Brought To You By An Interactive CD-Rom

You know, even if those dinosaurs hadn’t broken loose, this could have been a fantastic tour. You’d get to see the grounds and its wonderful creatures, all from the safety of a car with an Interactive CD-ROM! Clearly John Hammond spared no expense on the quality of this experience.

Yes, Jurassic Park – or more specifically, Lex – was incredibly excited about this newfangled storage media, clearly the most sophisticated we’d ever seen. You know, outside of the fact that CD-ROM tech existed since the 1980s, and would be quickly replaced by DVDs two years after the film’s launch. But how could we not be charmed by its intrusive nature, since we had to build an entire PC monitor into the dashboard for it to function?

Not only was Jurassic Park‘s CD-ROM tech bordering on obsolescence, it was completely unnecessary by the film’s own standards. Every tour car was already connected to Hammond’s much more efficient Unix computer system, which let operators control the tour from a central station. Hammond could even communicate directly with the tour groups from a radio, which really makes one wonder what the point of the CD-ROM narration even is.

Actually, now that I think of it, why is Jurassic Park so insistent on letting tourists enter its dinosaur-infested island without a physical tour guide present? And if that crazy ball vehicle from Jurassic World is any indication, they still haven’t figured this out.

The Super Advanced Computer System That A Teenager Can Control

Unix Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park isn’t the only 90s film to treat hackers like strange wizard gods, but it’s still one of the most hilarious examples. After spending the entire film showcasing the complex Unix computer system – which is clearly established cannot be run by a lone engineer – Lex waltzes in and saves the day with a few button clicks. Remember: Hammond’s system was custom-designed exclusively for the park. But no problem: Lex “knows this.”

But if we’re being honest, the entire Unix interface needs several massive updates. Between 3D map displays from Microsoft Encarta to a file system you navigate like a video game, Jurassic Park was a disaster waiting to happen well before Nedry ever got there. If a dinosaur break-out ever occurred, how exactly could Unix quickly respond to the threat? In fact, there’s very few text displays on these interfaces at all – how would you know a disaster was even happening?

It’s a real testament to Jurassic Park‘s imaginative spirit that a love of science can shine through. But here’s hoping Jurassic World‘s accuracy is a little easier to swallow, or we might be having this chat all over again 22 years from now.


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