What’s The Nine-Year-Old reading this week?

June172016

Our mostly-weekly survey of the tidbits that cross The Nine-Year-Old’s desk. This week, Mrs. Davis’s cunning plan to encourage summer reading bears fruit, and Mommyo takes a firm stand against The Nine-Year-Old’s plan to build a coop on the back deck to house her future pet Chickensoraus.

A sampling of this week’s books

As you may remember, a week or two ago, The Nine-Year-Old’s third grade teacher began reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief to The Nine-Year-Old’s class. As predicted, they didn’t finish it before school was out, and as hoped, The Nine-Year-Old promptly procured a copy and finished devouring it on her own.

Once she was done, we watched the movie as a family, and as the book was fresh in The Nine-Year-Old’s mind, we got to have a wonderful conversation about how the two were different and why a narrative structure that works for a book wouldn’t necessarily make a good structure for a movie, and vice versa.

This week we’re looking forward to doing it again with Percy Jackson II: The Sea of Monsters.  Once The Nine-Year-Old and I have finished reading the book, of course.

ICYMI: Science news to share with your kids this week 

There’s really only one story that needs to be shared this week:

Scientists say they can recreate living dinosaurs within five years (Entrepreneur)

Because Jurassic Park went so well.

Brontosaurus (Image credit: Pixabay)

Brontosaurus (Image credit: Pixabay)

Paleontologist Jack Horner, who consulted on all four Jurassic Park movies and so presumably knows very well how this particular story is going to play out, is nonetheless working with a crack team of scientists to bring dinosaurs back to life.

To their credit, instead of working with broken dinosaur DNA strands to bring back the extremely predatory types like velociraptors or T. Rexes, Horner and his team are simply genetically modifying chickens to bring out their latent dinosaur traits.

As anyone who has ever observed a chicken’s foot up close can tell you, chickens are dinosaurs, which makes this approach terrifyingly plausible. In fact, rather than insert dinosaur DNA into the genes of a modern chicken embryo (the basic approach taken by that team at Harvard who inserted woolly mammoth genes into elephants as a step toward bringing back the woolly mammoth), Horner’s team is simply trying to locate the hidden, no longer active, ancestral genes in the chicken’s DNA and switch them back on. In other words, they are trying to set chicken evolution back a stage or two–mutating chickens back into the very dinosaur-age beasties Mother Nature has spent the last millions of years evolving chickens away from.

As if modern-day chickens weren’t terrifying enough already. Seriously. Do we really need to recreate this?

Denizen of the aptly named Hell Creek Formation in the U.S., the three meter long Anzu wyliei is rumored by paleontologists to have been able to hold its own against a T. Rex. Ok, so that's not really what paleontologists say. They will only commit to the Anzu wyliei having roamed the Earth at roughly the same time as the T. Rex. (Image: Mark Klinger, Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

Denizen of the aptly named Hell Creek Formation in the U.S., the 10 foot long, 500 pound Anzu wyliei is rumored by paleontologists to have been able to hold its own in claw-to-claw combat against a T. Rex. Ok, ok, I made that last bit up. Actual paleontologists simply say the Anzu wyliei roamed the Earth at roughly the same time as the T. Rex. But it seems to me that a 10-foot long, 500 pound clawed predatory chicken could do some serious damage, even to a T. Rex. (Image: Mark Klinger, Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

Untroubled by the ethical ramifications of creating a new potentially invasive species of predatory poultry, scientists have already managed to switch enough genes to produce a chicken with a dinosaur snout. Next up, modifying the chickens’ tails, arms, and heads as well to create a full-fledged “Chickensoraus.”

Six years ago, my then three-year-old daughter and I had an entertaining (and wonderfully hypothetical) conversation about how much arthritis a giganotosaurus would have to have to be a safe pet.

Back then, it was an entertaining thought exercise that covered everything from giganotosaurus weapon systems and how to compensate for them as a pet owner, to what arthritis is like for pets who live with it and the irony of how chronic pain actually makes pets more irritable and less safe (not to mention the responsibilities we have as pet owners to ensure a good life for our pets). Eventually we worked around to deciding that the amount of arthritis a giganotosaurus would need to be a safe pet was incompatible with life.

Now that it sounds like dinosaurs may soon come in hypothetically manageable chicken sizes, clearly I need to begin preparing for the inevitable conversation about why we’re not going to adopt a Chickensoraus either.

Time to brush off my copy of Robert Mash’s How to Keep Dinosaurs.

But first, I need to figure out what The Nine-Year-Old is planning to do with her make.do kit and that suspiciously large cardboard box.

The Nine-Year-Old, reassuringly: “Don’t worry, Mommyo, my genetically modified Terror Bird will be a vegetarian.”

Ah, summer.

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About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write than the current one), my writerly self can be found blogging about life with a very curious Nine-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, or musing about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.wordpress.com.
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