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A Dino Named Sue: The Most Complete T. Rex Ever Found

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If you've only got one afternoon in Chicago, which museum should you attend? After mulling over the possibilities and consulting my Magic 8-ball, I decided to hit up the Field Museum. It was a great choice, largely because I got to meet this old gal, who happens to be one of the most controversial set of bones in existence.

The Discovery

The dino named Sue was almost not found. After the crew on the dig found a few Edmontosaurus bones, they were pretty much ready to call it quits. But then their truck got a flat tire. While waiting on the tire to be fixed, Sue Hendrickson thought she would bide her time by checking out some cliffs that they were unable to get to before. After finding some small pieces of bone, she looked up to see where they had fallen from. Sticking out of the cliff were some much larger bones that looked to be well preserved. (Photo from the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research)

hendrickson The remains were eventually excavated and the crew discovered that the T. Rex was 80 percent complete "“ the most complete set of T. Rex bones ever found. In fact, only seven T. Rex fossils that are more than 50 percent complete have ever been found, so this was really an amazing find. The reason the skeleton is so complete, they speculated, is because the dino was covered with water and mud shortly after it died, so other animals weren't able to make off with pieces of it very easily.

The Controversy

Pretty much as soon as word of the discovery got out, people started fighting over who "owned" Sue (the dino, not the paleontologist). The excavation crew had permission from Maurice Williams, the owner of the land, to dig and remove the skeleton and paid him $5,000 for those privileges. But Mr. Williams said the $5,000 didn't include the sale of any findings "“ just permission to remove and clean them.

It gets even more complicated. Williams belonged to the Sioux tribe, and the Sioux insisted that the bones were rightfully theirs. However, the United States Department of the Interior held the land the dinosaur was found on in trust, so they claimed the land actually belonged to them and not Williams. Concerned that something would happen to the valuable fossil, the FBI and the National Guard seized the it from the dig site in 1992 and transferred it to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. It was eventually decided that the fossil did belong to Maurice Williams. He decided to sell it, which was when the Field Museum pooled funds with California State University, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, McDonald's, Ronald McDonald House Charities and lots of individual donors to purchase the T. Rex when it when up for auction at Sotheby's. They ended up buying it for $8,362,500.

The Restoration

The Field Museum built a new research laboratory specifically for preservationists to work on Sue. It also allowed the museum's visitors to watch the preservation through glass. Copies were made of each bone and models were made of the 20 percent of the bones that were missing. McDonald's got one complete set to put on a traveling tour and Disney's Animal Kingdom received a set that you can still see in the DinoLand U.S.A. section of the park.

The preservationists also took CT scans of each bone to see what they could learn, but at nearly five feet long, the skull was way too big to fit in a conventional medical scanner. So they borrowed the scanner at Boeing's Rocketdyne lab in California, which was usually used to check out space shuttle pieces.
What they discovered from all of their scans was that Sue was really old for a dinosaur. She had also broken numerous rib bones, but they had all healed so they were injuries that occurred before she died as opposed to injuries that caused her death. The ribs weren't her only injuries, though "“ she had also broken her fibula, experienced some damage to her skull and damaged vertebra of her tail. They think that she died from disease, though, and not from a fight or a fall. All in all, more than 25,000 hours were spent cleaning and restoring Sue.

The Display

Once properly examined and cleaned, the Field Museum was ready to show Sue off to the public in her entirety. Problem: without muscles, Sue's 600-pound head was simply too heavy for her body to easily hold up. Plus, her head had some damage to it and wasn't in the greatest shape. So, the solution was to cast a mold of the skull, fixing the smashed parts so the head wouldn't look distorted. It was also much more lightweight and was easier to attach to the body. The original skull is on display for museum patrons to see; it's not attached to anything.

sue head

When the whole thing was assembled, Sue ended up being 42 feet long and 13 feet tall at the hips. Despite her huge size, her brain cavity is only big enough to hold about a quart of milk.
So, that's the story of Sue. If you're ever in Chicagoland, I highly recommend checking her out. The whole museum is fantastic "“ I lost my husband in the Native American exhibit for about an hour, and when he wandered out he confessed that he could have spent an entire day there. It's a wonderful, not-boring museum with lots and lots of dino bones for you to ponder. I'll leave you with a few of them.

moose thingwooly

dino2dino

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4 Expert Tips on How to Get the Most Out of August's Total Solar Eclipse
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Richard Bouhet // Getty

As you might have heard, there’s a total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. on August 21. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the country since 1979, and the first coast-to-coast event since June 8, 1918, when eclipse coverage pushed World War I off the front page of national newspapers. Americans are just as excited today: Thousands are hitting the road to stake out prime spots for watching the last cross-country total solar eclipse until 2045. We’ve asked experts for tips on getting the most out of this celestial spectacle.

1. DON’T FRY YOUR EYES—OR BREAK THE BANK

To see the partial phases of the eclipse, you will need eclipse glasses because—surprise!—staring directly at the sun for even a minute or two will permanently damage your retinas. Make sure the glasses you buy meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. As eclipse frenzy nears its peak, shady retailers are selling knock-off glasses that will not adequately protect your eyes. The American Astronomical Society keeps a list of reputable vendors, but as a rule, if you can see anything other than the sun through your glasses, they might be bogus. There’s no need to splurge, however: You can order safe paper specs in bulk for as little as 90 cents each. In a pinch, you and your friends can take turns watching the partial phases through a shared pair of glasses. As eclipse chaser and author Kate Russo points out, “you only need to view occasionally—no need to sit and stare with them on the whole time.”

2. DON’T DIY YOUR EYE PROTECTION

There are plenty of urban legends about “alternative” ways to protect your eyes while watching a solar eclipse: smoked glass, CDs, several pairs of sunglasses stacked on top of each other. None works. If you’re feeling crafty, or don’t have a pair of safe eclipse glasses, you can use a pinhole projector to indirectly watch the eclipse. NASA produced a how-to video to walk you through it.

3. GET TO THE PATH OF TOTALITY

Bryan Brewer, who published a guidebook for solar eclipses, tells Mental Floss the difference between seeing a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse is “like the difference between standing right outside the arena and being inside watching the game.”

During totality, observers can take off their glasses and look up at the blocked-out sun—and around at their eerily twilit surroundings. Kate Russo’s advice: Don’t just stare at the sun. “You need to make sure you look above you, and around you as well so you can notice the changes that are happening,” she says. For a brief moment, stars will appear next to the sun and animals will begin their nighttime routines. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, you can use a telescope or a pair of binoculars to get a close look at the tendrils of flame that make up the sun’s corona.

Only a 70-mile-wide band of the country stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will experience the total eclipse. Rooms in the path of totality are reportedly going for as much as $1000 a night, and news outlets across the country have raised the specter of traffic armageddon. But if you can find a ride and a room, you'll be in good shape for witnessing the spectacle.

4. PRESERVE YOUR NIGHT VISION

Your eyes need half an hour to fully adjust to darkness, but the total eclipse will last less than three minutes. If you’ve just been staring at the sun through the partial phases of the eclipse, your view of the corona during totality will be obscured by lousy night vision and annoying green afterimages. Eclipse chaser James McClean—who has trekked from Svalbard to Java to watch the moon blot out the sun—made this rookie mistake during one of his early eclipse sightings in Egypt in 2006. After watching the partial phases, with stray beams of sunlight reflecting into his eyes from the glittering sand and sea, McClean was snowblind throughout the totality.

Now he swears by a new method: blindfolding himself throughout the first phases of the eclipse to maximize his experience of the totality. He says he doesn’t mind “skipping the previews if it means getting a better view of the film.” Afterward, he pops on some eye protection to see the partial phases of the eclipse as the moon pulls away from the sun. If you do blindfold yourself, just remember to set an alarm for the time when the total eclipse begins so you don’t miss its cross-country journey. You'll have to wait 28 years for your next chance.

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Pop Culture
IKEA Publishes Instructions for Turning Rugs Into Game of Thrones Capes
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HBO

Game of Thrones is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced, but even the crew of the hit HBO series isn’t above using an humble IKEA hack behind the scenes. According to Mashable, the fur capes won by Jon Snow and other members of the Night’s Watch on the show are actually sheepskin rugs sold by the home goods chain.

The story behind the iconic garment was first revealed by head costume designer Michele Clapton at a presentation at Los Angeles’s Getty Museum in 2016. “[It’s] a bit of a trick,” she said at Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of GoT. “We take anything we can.”

Not one to dissuade customers from modifying its products, IKEA recently released a cape-making guide in the style of its visual furniture assembly instructions. To start you’ll need one of their Skold rugs, which can be bought online for $79. Using a pair of scissors cut a slit in the material and make a hole where your head will go. Slip it on and you’ll look ready for your Game of Thrones debut.

The costume team makes a few more changes to the rugs used on screen, like shaving them, adding leather straps, and waxing and “frosting” the fur to give it a weather-worn effect. Modern elements are used to make a variety of the medieval props used in Game of Thrones. The swords, for example, are made from aircraft aluminum, not steel. For more production design insights, check out these behind-the-scenes secrets of Game of Thrones weapons artists.

[h/t Mashable]

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