Wednesday, November 12, 2014


What if the line on the map had put Jane on private land? This cover is fictional, but that is not always the case for tyrannosaurids (and other dinosaurs) found on the wrong side of property boundaries in the United States.

November 12, 2014
Thoughts while watching the congratulatory speeches on the thrilling Philae comet landing:
Imagine if this specimen (BMR P2002.4.1) was not found on lands managed by the BLM.
Imagine if commercial collectors found it on private land.
Imagine a mentality where money is more valued than knowledge.
Imagine a system of law structured by possessive individualism.
Imagine if the specimen was flogged by an amateur member of a scientific society that condemns the sale of specimens into private ownership.
Imagine if pseudoscience was part and parcel of the public sales pitch.
Imagine if the media could not distinguish between charlatan and expert.
Imagine if the asking price was so high that no university, museum, or consortium acting in the public trust could afford it.
Imagine if the specimen had gone to public auction.
Imagine a colleague awkwardly neutral on the gavel.
Imagine a catalog glossier than any scientific journal, and images more beautiful than is seen in any peer-reviewed article.
Imagine the enchantment, and the desire to possess, combined with the means to obtain.
Imagine if the auction had failed, and the specimen went back into the limbo of private ownership for an indefinite duration.
Imagine if the auction had succeeded, and the specimen found itself privately owned in Europe and displayed in an art gallery in the Middle East.
Imagine the ignorant adoration, leaving information content at absolute zero.
Imagine the warp thrown into history by that quantum lobotomization of knowledge.
Imagine the specimen secure in a data generative furrow.
Imagine greed extinct.
Imagine scientific literacy.
Imagine if commercial collectors and private hoarders left science alone, tomorrow.
Imagine defeat.

Appendix. Today’s (Nov. 11, 2014) notes of advancement.
7:15 am: Left home.
8:45: Restroom break in south Beloit.
9:06: Food break on East Riverside Boulevard.
9:40: Back to Dorsal rib G.
~10.30: IL and CO bring down the tibiotarsus of Jane, which requires much needed expansion in the monograph; brief chat with IL about plans during the Thanksgiving break, where I’ll stay for several days to wrap up the descriptive aspect of the monograph.
11:27: Done with Dorsal rib G!
11:30: Started on Dorsal rib H! (However, Dorsal rib C still remains to be described).
11:45: Ravenous hunger has driven me up to the vending lounge for a Doc 360; I need to eat a bigger breakfast next time.
12:02: Leave for lunch with IL and CO.
1:37: Return from lunch.
2:01: Briefly locked out after using the rest room, was able to get a set of keys from the front desk.
2:44: Done with Dorsal rib H! Now on to Dorsal rib C, the longest of the series.
4:00: I need a break from writing up the ribs; time to change gears and start photographing the ribs. Rib A, right: anterior, posterior, medial, lateral; three each. Left rib A, as for the right side. Using my calipers as the scale bar, since I left both my scale bars in my backpack. Two close ups of medial foramen of the left rib. Left rib B in anterior, posterior, lateral, medial.
4:31: Packing up to leave.


  1. It can work the other way too-

    Imagine commercial collectors left science alone, so were never there to discover the Deinocheirus skeleton with skull in Mongolia.

    Imagine because they never excavated the skull, hands and feet, the Korea-Mongolia International Dinosaur Expedition crew never noticed the "large excavation" with "many isolated bones and broken blocks containing bones".

    Imagine the specimen remains undiscovered by anyone and eventually erodes away to never be useful for science.

    Good thing for us that greed motivated those collectors to explore the Mongolian deserts and discover it, and then motivated the Japanese and European buyers to purchase it, or it might have never been known to science and written up in Nature. Your imaginings have everything that can go wrong with private collection going wrong, but as shown by Deinocheirus it can go very right sometimes too. Reality is more mixed than your dystopia.