“No fair!” That’s a complaint that everyone who’s ever been a human child—surely even you—has bellowed at the tops of their lungs one time or another. But what about dinosaurs? Did they care about fairness? This burning question was raised last week by an exciting but curious announcement.
The beaches on the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of England, are a hotbed of fossil hunting—Dinosaur Island, it’s sometimes called. But there are bones, and then there are bones. The news last week was that paleontologists had recently unearthed partial skeletons of two previously unknown predatory species. Both are members of the spinosaurid family, distinguished by long, snouty skulls. Both grew to nearly 30 feet long. Both ate fish and smaller, unlucky dinosaurs. Both lived 125 million years ago, in the Cretaceous period. Both sound pretty fearsome.
Here’s where things get tricky. Scientists named one of the new dinosaurs Riparovenator milnerae—Latin for “Milner’s riverbank hunter.” That’s in honor of Angela Milner, a distinguished British paleontologist who died in August. It’s a pedestrian-sounding name but a very nice gesture.
The other dinosaur? Its Latin name is Ceratosuchops inferodios, which means “horned crocodile-faced hell heron.”
You read it correctly the first time: “horned crocodile-faced hell heron.” This totally awesome name reflects the fact that Ceratosuchops’ bony brow was covered with horns and bumps, not unlike Darth Maul, and that it went after its prey with the ferocity of a “terrifying heron,” according to a statement by the University of Southampton announcing the twin discoveries. (A heron is a graceful, long-necked, perfectly pleasant aquatic bird that is not normally associated with the word “terrifying.”)
So if you were a 125 million-year-old dinosaur, would you rather be named Riverbank Hunter? Or Crocodile-Faced Hell Heron? Does Air Mail Pilot even have to ask?
“No fair!” Riparovenator might cry, if it could talk and wasn’t extinct.
The two skeletons were found one on top of the other, which raises further questions: Did they die together? Were they fighting over a delicious prehistoric salmon? Were they battling to the bloody death over who would have the cooler name 125 million years in the future?
“I wish it was as juicy as that,” Chris Barker, a PhD student at Southampton and the lead author of a study on the new species, told the Times of London. The two species coexisted, but these specific deaths likely had nothing to do with each other. “They could be separated by ten days, they could be separated by several thousand years,” Barker explained, denying Riparovenator even the dignity of a dramatic death. Once more: no fair. —Bruce Handy
It’s finally jetpack time! Well, jet suit time. In England, North Dartmoor Search and Rescue team, a group of paramedics, have been training with newly developed jet suits—engines strapped to medics’ arms and back— that have the potential to revolutionize recovery operations in remote areas.
Recent jet suit training trials in Lake District demonstrated that the new technology can let emergency medical workers fly to distant locations in mere minutes—instead of multiple hours. In one test, Richard Browning, the military veteran who invented the suit, landed at a destination in 70 seconds, while it took the fellows on foot 30 minutes.
Browning, who worked as a commodities broker after serving in the military, left his job to develop the suit in his garage. The son of an aeronautical engineer, Browning created the technology with micro jet engines he bought online. His suit uses five engines—two strapped on each arm, which helps with steering, and one secured on a medic’s back. The current models operate on jet fuel or diesel, but Browning has also developed a battery-powered prototype.
Together, those five parts can send a 190-pound-person carrying more than 30 pounds of gear into the sky. Reaching up to 85 m.p.h., the invention holds the record for the fastest jet suit.
Robbie Taylor, the chairman of the North Dartmoor Search and Rescue team, was “blown away by the speed and precision of the jet suit.” He told the Times of London that with the suit, medics “can fly over water quite quickly and easily to get to someone trapped in a flooded river in a car, or in a situation where we need to get a buoyancy aid or rope line in.”
Browning described his invention as “the equivalent of a paramedic on a motorbike in the city, who can weave in and out of traffic to provide that critical care which can save a life in the first few minutes.”
Using the suit is surprisingly easy—paramedics can learn how to navigate the engines after just three days of training. “I hope by next summer we could have them in operation,” Browning said.
The ability to fly can be yours for just under half a million dollars. It’s a good thing Christmas is coming up. —Alex Oliveira
At 91 years old, Yu Ermei, a retired porcelain maker, has opened a sparkling three-level pottery palace in Xinping, China. Ermei first started making porcelain at age 12, and spent most of her life churning out ceramics at a state-run factory. Eight decades later, she was ready for something new.
The far-flung fantasy of a porcelain palace came to her when she traveled to the northern port city of Tianjin and visited the famous Porcelain House, an ancient residence embellished with Chinese antiques. Ermei was enchanted.
Wanting to create something for her community, Ermei decided to make a porcelain house in Xinping. “You cannot take with you the money you’ve made in your lifetime,” she told the Chinese Times. “So it’s better to do something that will benefit this city.”
Ermei used her life savings to fund the construction, which has cost more than $3 million so far. At first, her loved ones thought she was off her rocker. “My family was firmly against it,” Ermei said. “But no matter what difficulties I’ve encountered, I’ve never given up.” Eleven years after starting the project, the first section of the palace is finally open to visitors.
More than 175,000 pounds of colorful, fragmented pottery have been used to decorate the building. On the ground, glittering tiles depict the 12 animals of the zodiac—including the ox, tiger, and snake. Meanwhile, pillars are adorned with porcelain chips that depict other traditional Chinese motifs, such as dragons and winter blossoms. Ermei even included ceramics from her personal collection, like vases from the Ming Dynasty. Tourists have flocked to the palace since its opening.
Ermei is pleased with her creation and even plans to move into a house nearby. “My heart will be at peace as long as I can see it,” she said. —Elena Clavarino