February 22, 2014

Raptor Red

Does it say something that my favourite book of 2013 is one I read for the second time? (The first? When it was released, in 1996). "Raptor Red" is a delightful novel -- but for me, not so much because it is an engrossing story, which it is, or beautifully written, which it isn't. Nor even because its dinosaur protagonists are so engaging.

What makes this book memorable is what it says about an unsung virtue of science: how scientists build edifices of reason from the tiniest scraps of evidence. After all, dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, and all we know about them comes from the fossil record. Yet palaeontologist Robert Bakker wrote this book to support his thesis that they were "warm-blooded, active and social animals."

It positively warms the cockles of my heart that a scientist proposes this, and plausibly, after poring over rocks buried for aeons. Then he writes a beguiling novel. Wow.

Raptor Red by Robert T Bakker
Bantam Books, 1995

1 comment:

Nita said...

It is a bit long, but I assure you that you won't mind it.
Giant Dinosaurs have a very long spinal cord which imposes an inconvenient distance between the brain in the head and the seat of much of the action, the hind legs.Natural selection solved the problem with a second brain[enlarged ganglion] in the pelvis; this inspired

Behold the mighty dinosaur,
Famous in prehistoric lore,
Not only for his power and strength
But for his intellectual length.
You will observe by these remains
The creature had two sets of brains-
One in his head [the usual place]
The other at his spinal base.
Thus he could reason 'A Priori'
As well as 'A Posteriori'
No problem bothered him a bit
He made a head and tail of it.
So wise was he, so wise and solemn,
Each thought filled just one spinal column.
If one brain found the pressure strong
It passed a few ideas along.
If something slipped his forward mind'
'twas received by the one behind
And if in error he was caught
He had a saving afterthought.
As he thought twice before he spoke
He had no judgement to revoke.
Thus he could think without congestion
Upon both sides of every question,
Oh, gaze upon this model beast,
Defunct ten million years at least.
By Bert Leston Taylor