A blog explaining science and technology through the movies ... or explaining the movies through science and technology, depending on the point of view. English is not my first language, so I apologize for the mistakes you are likely to find in the posts

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Chaotic cinema II: Jurassic Park

In the previous post we talked about The butterfly effect and A sound of thunder, but chaos theory had actually been already explained ten years before in Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993). In this movie, a mathematician played by Jeff Goldblum tells a biologist (Laura Dern) that it is impossible to predict the trace of a waterdrop falling in the back of your hand. Invisible imperfections of the skin may alter the result and make the drop fall either to one side or the other.

It should be mentioned that this very didactic dialogue is shocking and worthy of admiration in a Hollywood blockbuster mainly, even if not only, aimed to a child audience. In a video as pedagogical as poor when it comes to storytelling, the film explained as well what DNA was and how a dinosaur could be rebuilt from his DNA chain got from the blood found in a fossil mosquito.

What could actually lead to a certain confusion is the mathematician saying rather enigmatically that nature finds its own way when he is told that the dinosaur population is under control in jurassic park, since all the animals are female. We find out later that nature did find its own way so that some female dinosaurs went through genetic changes becoming hermaphrodites capable of procreating as males. The belief in this concrete way of understanding the wisdom of nature is the mathematician’s personal point of view. It isn’t related to the chaos theory he is an authority of, but to a tradition that can be traced through science-fiction novels, like Frankenstein, according to which dreadful disasters come when human beings dare their Creator assuming his job of giving life.


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