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Interviews: Ask What You Will of Paleontologist Jack Horner 208

John "Jack" R. Horner is the Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, adjunct curator at the National Museum of Natural History, and one of the most famous paleontologists in the world. Known in the scientific community for his research on dinosaur growth and whether or not some species lived in social groups, he is most famous for his work on Jurassic Park and being the inspiration for the character of Alan Grant. Horner caused quite a stir with the publication of his book, How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever, in which he proposes creating a "chickensaurus" by genetically "nudging" the DNA of a chicken. Jack has agreed to step away from the genetics lab and put down the bones in order to answer your questions. As usual, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please divide them, one question per post.
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Interviews: Ask What You Will of Paleontologist Jack Horner

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  • For a long time the primary source of money for scientific research has been the federal granting agencies (NIH, NSF, DOE in particular). All three of them are facing either budget cuts, budget stalls, or increases in their budgets that do not match inflation. This does not seem to fare well for new scientists or established ones who are looking to further their careers.

    Where do you see research money coming from next? Alternately, are we looking ahead to a time where fewer people will be doing science because the funding just won't exist to pay even their meager wages any more?
  • by RNLockwood ( 224353 ) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @01:05PM (#42681121) Homepage

    Domestication changes genes and presumably the epigenome. Wouldn't it be more reasonable to pick an undomesticated bird, perhaps a more "primitive" one than the highly domesticated chicken as the DNA source to "clone" a dinosaur?

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Thursday January 24, 2013 @01:15PM (#42681223) Journal
    In science (even computer science) I have a lot of interest in what we know we don't know and what we don't know we don't know. With paleontology and it's subdomains -- specifically your specialty of dinosaur growth -- how do you deal with what must be an unbound realm of what we don't know we don't know? For example, isn't it possible that growth was regulated completely differently in dinosaurs than it is in modern day lizards and birds? Couldn't modern day hormones and endocrine system be much different than what was present in dinosaurs? When you publish research is it all based on assumptions? How do you overcome such an open system of possibilities?

BLISS is ignorance.