I'd give Jurassic World 3 out of 5 stars. (It would have been 2 or 2.5 but I saw it in IMAX 3D and you can't help but enjoy that). It didn't cover new ground. It's basically Jurassic Park all over again, but not as novel. The special effects were great, but really not that much better than JP. Still, dinosaurs have a hold on our imagination. Could it be possible that we'd ever actually figure out how to bring dinosaurs back to life? Here's five reasons to think it might not be crazy.
1. The World's Leading Dinosaur Expert believes we can reverse engineer dinosaur-like creatures from chickens
The original Jurassic Park concept won't happen. We can't bring dinosaurs back to life because, as this article in National Geographic explains, "DNA starts to decay at death, and, given its decay rate even under ideal conditions, there's little hope of obtaining even a shred of DNA from fossils any older than 6.8 million years...Instead of bringing ancient DNA to life, scientists are thinking about how to work backward from modern DNA. These plans are a bit closer to some of the experimentation in the new blockbuster, in which geneticists rearrange genes to create animals that better fit the local environment and visitor expectations. They’re not “pure” dinosaurs, but custom creatures rebuilt to spec."
Paleontologist Jack Horner advised both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World. He thinks we can backwards engineer dinosaur-like creatures by starting with their cousins, birds and chickens. "By tweaking the genes and development of chickens, Horner and others have proposed, researchers can create a bird that looks like a Velociraptor."
2. One of Harvard's leading geneticists is doing research he believes will de-extinct wooly mammoths
We won't see mammoths in the immediate future, but as Harvard geneticist George Church told the UK's The Times, "we plan to do so." Church wants to help the process of de-extinction of mammoths. Church and his colleagues used the new CRISPR gene editing technique to "insert mammoth genes for small ears, subcutaneous fat, and hair length and color in to the DNA of elephant skin cells." The work hasn't been published or peer reviewed, so who knows, but Church is a leader in the field of genetic modification, not a crackpot, so there is reason to pay attention.
3. Russia has already set aside land to create the Pleistocene Park
The Ice Age is over. But Russia is trying to bring it back. The country has a section of Siberia reserved as Pleistocene Park, in hopes of giving a re-created wooly mammoth a natural habitat to roam in once it's back. The park project is run by Sergey Zimov, a researcher who believes that hunting was the cause of the disappearance of the mammoth, not climate change.
4. The Insurance Industry has figured out how to price liability policies for dinosaur parks
Mitchel Kalmanson is President of Lester Kalmanson Insurance Agency that "specializes in 'rare and unusual risks' in the animal and entertainment worlds, working on coverage for movie animals, research labs, private collections and large zoos." In this fascinating interview, he describes how he would price insurance for a Jurassic Park with surprising specificity. This is a guy who could tell you the key-animal risk policy for a killer whale is in the $3-5 million range while gorillas are only $500,000 to $1.5 million. He walks through how he'd think about it in this article in Vulture.
5. Innovation is driven by demand and people love dinosaurs. They even like watching dinosaur autopsies.
That's right, dinosaur autopsies. The National Geographic channel recently aired a special called T.Rex Autopsy made possible by some ingenious creature modeling of a 43 foot long dinosaur by the Crawley Creature and LOTS of fake blood and guts. It's gross, but also kind of interesting to look at this as a way to learn about dinosaur. The team speculated on what would have been inside the T. Rex, but walk through each of their assumptions. The show did well. So if people want to watch that, you have to figure they'd pay money to see the real thing when it's alive...
Would we really want dinosaurs back? Judging from their track record in the movies, it seems like a bad idea. But we probably have bigger thunder lizards to worry about in the present than the ones from the past we might bring back in the future.