Joyful News is a set of stories I’ve gathered from around the world that spark joy. This week’s stories are all about dinosaurs:
- U.S. release of the movie Jurassic World: Dominion
- How Dreadnoughtus, named and discovered by Dr. Ken Lacovara, changed the course of my life and career
- Prehistoric Planet on Apple TV+
- Steve Brusatte’s new book, The Rise and Reign of the Mammals
- Riley Black’s book, The Last Days of the Dinosaurs
- Dustin Growick’s fun and entertaining Dino 101 videos on Twitter at @DustinGrowick and Instagram at @dinosaurwhisperer
- Science Friday bookclub
Welcome to another mini-episode of Joyful News, a collection of stories I curate from around the world that spark joy. And this one is all about dinosaurs! Fun facts: when I was a kid and anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was a paleontologist. And though I didn’t end up pursuing that path, I did become a biomimicry scientist because of my love for dinosaurs. The world works in mysterious ways. And I’ll tell you all about that in just a moment.
Jurassic World: Dominion
Friday was the U.S. release of the movie Jurassic World: Dominion, the latest installment of the Jurassic Park franchise. The best part of course—seeing all of those gorgeous creatures rendered so beautifully and having the gang back together again on-screen. And I’m just gonna say it—Laura Dern is a queen and the most underrated actress in Hollywood.
Dr. Ken Lacovara
In addition to the movie, we have a lot of dino news to share. The movie features one of my very favorite dinosaurs (really they’re all my favorites) but Dreadnoughtus is a Titanosaur that’s especially close to my heart because Dreadnoughtus was discovered and named by my dear friend, mentor, and science hero, Dr. Ken Lacovara. And he’s the reason I’m a scientist today.
Ken and I have crossed paths like ships passing in the night since the late 1990’s when we were both in Philadelphia. I was a student at Penn and he was a professor at Drexel. But we didn’t meet IRL until 2017. He did an interview on Science Friday when his wonderful book, Why Dinosaurs Matter, came out. As someone who’d been following his career, I immediately got the book, wrote a review of it, and shared it on Twitter. Ken wrote back that my review was the nicest thing anyone had ever said about his writing.
In the review, I shared that my freshman year Physics teacher at Penn told me I had no mind for Physics. That spent me spiraling because at the time when a world-renowned professor said something about me, I believed them. Devastated, I dropped out of the engineering school and left science in my rearview mirror. Even though I went on to find other passions at Penn and in my career, I was always deeply ashamed that I let that one man who didn’t even know me take away my love for science.
When Ken read that story in my review of his book, he wrote to me and said, “If you want to have another act in science, you can do that. It’s never too late. No one has a right to be a gatekeeper to your dreams.” I’m going to get that last line tattooed on me so I never forget it.
And because of Ken, and the Ologies podcast that connected me to a whole community of people passionate about science, I became a scientist. A late blooming scientist but better late than never. I love Ken and I’m so grateful for his support of my life and my career. And get his book, Why Dinosaurs Matter. It’s how science writing should be done.
You can also get a look at Dreadnoughtus by watching Prehistoric Planet, a new series on Apple TV+ narrated by the one and only Sir David Attenborough. That voice is the soundtrack of my dreams! Prehistoric Planet contains the best CGI animation I’ve ever seen and it really does immerse you into the world where dinosaurs reigned supreme.
Dr. Steve Brusatte
Steve Brusatte was the consulting paleontologist on Jurassic World: Dominion and his new book, The Rise and Reign of the Mammals: A New History, from the Shadow of the Dinosaurs to Us, a follow up to his book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of Their Lost World came out last week. Both beautiful books and I highly recommend them both. Well-written, well-researched, visual, and you really do feel like Steve’s telling you the story himself as a trusted guide through prehistoric times and into our modern world. When I’m over in the UK this year, I hope I get to hop over to Scotland to say hello.
Another dinosaur book I just finished is The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World by Riley Black. My friend Diana Montano who runs events and the book club for Science Friday put Riley’s book on my radar and it’s just gorgeous. Lyrical, poetic, and a joy to read. She take us back in time to the moment just before the asteroid hit all the way through the present day in just over 200 pages to explain how the fall of the dinosaurs is responsible for our lives and world today. It’s a hopeful book that shows the resiliency of the planet and the resiliency of life itself. Also, the last line of the book made my heart sing. If you weren’t endlessly grateful to dinosaurs before, you will be after this book.
Finally, I want to celebrate my friend Dustin Growick’s recent set of Dino 101 videos he’s started releasing on Instagram and Twitter. They’re a fun, funny, and entertaining intro to different species, and they’ll quickly become a welcome bright spot in your day. They certainly are in mine. So far he’s covered Tyrannosaurus rex, Nigersaurus, and Maiasaura. I’m always down for supporting people pursuing their passions. You’ll quickly realize that saying Dustin is passionate about dinosaurs is probably the greatest understatement I’ve ever made. Find Dustin on Twitter at @DustinGrowick and on Instagram at @dinosaurwhisperer. And if you’ve got a favorite dinosaur you want him to cover in an upcoming video, let him know. He takes requests.
That’s joyful news for this week. There’s a transcript and links to all these news stories at ChristaAvampato.com/JoyProject. There’s also another new episode of JoyProject out now – The Joy of Airports with the charming Felicia Sabartinelli. You can find all the episodes, transcripts, and related links at ChristaAvampato.com/JoyProject. You can connect with me on Twitter at @christanyc and on Instagram at @christarosenyc. I’ll be back in two weeks on Tuesday, June 28th with another interview episode and another mini-episode of Joyful News. Thanks for being here with me, telling other people about this podcast, and most of all for making joy, sharing joy, and making the world a better place just by being who you are. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other, and I’ll talk to you soon. Bye, friends.