Posted by: Johan Normark | January 23, 2011

Dinosaur Train and some time philosophical problems

During the past two years or so I have almost stopped watching TV since when I do get time to watch it and my son is awake I am less likely the one deciding what to watch. Currently my son’s favorite show is Dinosaur Train. Shows like this did not exist when I was a kid and I am a bit jealous of that. It provides good information about dinosaurs and some other Mesozoic animals (birds [yes, I know they are dinosaurs…], pterosaurs, tortoises, at least one mammal and one amphibian).  

For those not acquainted with it, it is about a Late Cretaceous Pteranodon family (including a baby T Rex who for some reason has ended up in the Pterosaur nest). Members of the family always take a ride on the Dinosaur train and travel to some other period and sometimes another continent in search of a dinosaur and an event associated with a characteristic feature of this dinosaur (such as watching ankylosaurs playing a ballgame with their massive clubs at the end of their tails, or hearing a corythosaur concert, etc.). The train is managed by two clever troodons. One of them works as a conductor and introduces the dinosaur species to the pterosaur family (and the human viewers) and let everyone know when they are about to enter a time tunnel.

If one ignore the obvious fact that the dinosaurs speak human languages, the pteranodons have bat-like wings, and all of them have access to train and time travelling devices one should perhaps point out the problems with plate tectonics. Are these railways and tunnels stable through time when continents drifted apart? If you have a time travelling train, are all trains on schedule? If so, SJ (the Swedish railway company) should learn a thing or two from this show. Further, all train stations look neat as if they were cleaned and maintained all the time. Considering the fact that they must be millions of years old they must have had remarkable construction material as well. In one episode when the pterosaur family goes to see a game of ankylosaurs playing a ballgame the father says something like “today there is a game”. Can one say that when one then travels in time to reach this event? I wonder if these creatures ever go back in time to meet themselves? What happens then? Will we ever find the “fossil” or remains of a time travelling device, will it ever become old? And finally, why does my son seem to have no interest in these issues?



  1. Hey Johan,

    Cool read. It’s good to see that your son is watching something educational. There seems to be a massive influx of misinformation and crap that’s thrown in our face via the television. Too bad it’s probably worse in the states than over the pond.

    Talk to you.

    • soon*

  2. We can watch plenty of American TV over here as well. Fox News is just a horrific travesty of journalism.

  3. I suppose that the time tunnels, rather than allowing time travel to any time desired, connect to a time a specific “distance” away (you enter the Götatunneln at Lilla Bommen, you come out at Rosenlund, not anywhere you’d like), so if you go through a tunnel that sends you back 40 million years, make plans there to come back in a week, then return to your own time, you need to get back to that same time tunnel a week later so you’re not late. This at least avoids the weird self-interaction problem, although it does not prevent Buddy from accidentally devouring an ancestor.

  4. Plate tectonics make it a bit problematic to have stable time tunnels over millions of years. The makers of Dinosaur Train also likens time with space, as if travelling in time is like travelling across space. They believe in spatialized time, just like most of us do (we often say how “long time does it take?” as if time has a spatial length, etc.).

    Anyway, congrats to the most unsual avatar name among the commentators of this blog!


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