Dinosaurs are undeniably interesting to many people. Their very existence incites curiosity, and this can be used in some instances as a means of introducing unsuspecting audiences to the excitement of scientific discovery and the application and use of science more generally. Just as fascination with bird songs could lead to an interest in the physics of sound transmission, echolocation, and ultimately radar, on the one hand, or linguistics and psychology on the other; so it can be that an interest in dinosaurs can open pathways into an equally surprising and unexpectedly wide range of scientific disciplines. Outlining some of these pathways into science is one of the underlying purposes of this book realsitic dinosaur costume.
Palaeontology is the science that has been built around the study of fossils, the remains of organisms that died prior to the time when human culture began to have an identifiable impact on the world, that is more than 10,000 years ago. This branch of science represents our attempt to bring such fossils back to life: not literally, as in resuscitating dead creatures (in the fictional Jurassic Park mode), but by using science to understand as fully as we can what such creatures were really like and how they fitted into their world. When a fossil of an animal is discovered, it presents the palaeontologist with a series of puzzles, not unlike those faced by the fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes:
What type of creature was it when it was alive?
How long ago did it die?
Did it die naturally of old age, or was it killed?
Did it die just where it was found, buried in the rock, or was its body moved here from somewhere else?
Was it male or female?
How did the creature look when it was alive?
Was it colourful or drab?
Was it fast-moving or a slow-coach?
What did it eat?
How well could it see, smell, or hear?
Is it related to any creatures that are alive today?