Cartooning for Life
A cartoonist and the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, Bob Mankoff is one of the nation’s leading commentators on the role of humor in American business, politics, and life.
A successful entrepreneur, he created The Cartoon Bank (now a New Yorker Magazine company), the world’s largest and most influential cartoon licensing businesses.
Bob edited The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, the best-selling coffee table book for holiday 2004, featuring all 68,647 cartoons ever published in The New Yorker since its debut in 1925. Bob has edited dozens of other cartoon books and published four of his own. He appears frequently on network talk shows, cable TV networks, and syndicated radio programs.
Question: Were you funny as a child?\r\n
Robert Mankoff: Yeah, I think I discovered sort in the sixth grade about that in some way I was funny, and both this gave me a power I did not have before – a type of attention, and so I can sort of remember at that time you know saying oh you know I’m looking at the world a little differently, I’m funny. And this is a little bit like a lot of research that’s going now on in terms of this idea that talent is overrated. There’s a difference you know that you suggest hey I’m sort of good at this whether it’s shooting baskets or maybe being funny, and then you start to work at it; then becomes something you consciously and unconsciously practiced. You know so by the time I was in high school and stuff you know I was scanning the horizon of every social situation to see the incongruities to process it to see if I could make some sort of joke.\r\n
Question: What was your first published cartoon?\r\n
Robert Mankoff: I do. That was 1974, and it was in The Saturday Review of Literature, and it’s interesting how dated all the parts of it is. It has Superman at a personnel office, and the guy is saying fastest than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound; what no steno. Steno now you know what no steno. Now that was funny you see the rhythm of that is funny. You know just even saying steno, and in a way that actually when you’re talking about one of the constituents of humor is that in humor you know when one script changes to another in humor like here it’s Superman he’s great, but the script changes to always diminishes what previously had exist; where art elevates it. I’ll give you another example. You know so when you draw a cartoon just the setting is a type of default script. If I draw a cartoon in a doctor’s office or another cartoonist does, you see a doctor. Ah, it’s a doctor. Doctors are not legible. They know a lot about medicine. They’ve been trained. They care about you. Your welfare is very important to them. Now of course it’s a cartoon that’s the script the in the back of your mind, but you know that can’t be the script. That creates the tension there.\r\n
What is gonna happen here? It can’t be saying oh, let me really help you Mr. Ferguson. Instead, he starts off continuing that script in a way because it seems solicitous. It said you’ll be awake during the entire operation. The anesthesiologist is on vacation. Now all of a sudden that becomes very, very horrible, but it diminishes the script of the doctor. And that’s one of the things humor does. It always diminishes. It’s one of the problems people you know have with it, and it’s one of the certainly problems that teachers had with me because being a wise guy I like to think of myself as the class satirist, but you know they probably thought of me as the class jerk you know causing trouble because for instance let’s say I would do a cartoon in class you a drawing script of not paying attention, not doing what I was supposed to do. You know and then the teacher – the way teachers would certainly when I was growing up; their enunciation patterns when they didn’t like you were to split your name Mike and my name Robert at that time not Bob into two syllables and say Ro-bert if it’s so funny maybe you’d like to share it with the rest of the class. Drawing a cartoon I’d say yes I would, so just that type of thing which in a personal way I found a power in humor.\r\n
You know going back to high school and college really I think was really almost a transformative event for me, also not a good student and not going to class really, and so there was a sociology class at Syracuse University. I had attended the first class. This was during the 60s and stuff where there was huge lecture halls, and I’d come to the final, the last class, after having read the text book, and so I came in late and the teacher comes up to me and there’s a hushed silence ‘cause I haven’t been there. And he says who the hell are you, and I waited a beat and I said you know I could very well ask you the same question, and that burst this whole exam, blue book filled thing into ****. So I think early and throughout that I felt that humor was sort of my thing; my way to shift the balance of power that matter what situation is in; no matter what how the power seemed to range that humor could at least temporarily put the banana peel under their shoe.\r\n
Question: How many cartoons did you submit to the New Yorker before you were published?\r\n
Robert Mankoff: I submitted 2,000 cartoons to The New Yorker, and no one I think will ever go through that again. Although actually some people probably are, but I was selling cartoons to certainly other magazines at that time but doing lots of cartoons. I was doing like 35 cartoons a week, but I think at that point I was just all over the lot. I hadn’t really developed my own particular voice, and see that’s interesting because in The New Yorker cartoons are particular in that way, and it really goes back to the idea of between high and low humor. Most people in terms of their sense of humor have no aspiration. They don’t want better sense of humor. Their sense of humor is what funny is; they know that; they’re absolutely certain. The New Yorker it’s whole ethos is to look for originality and creativity and authenticity, so The New Yorker even if your cartoons applied these criteria that we would usually apply to other art forms you know like music and the novelty humor itself, and we still do. David Remnick who’s the editor and makes the overall decision in what goes in the magazine even the cartoons, and you look at that and is it something new; is it original. It doesn’t always have to be that, but that’s almost the holy grail. I would say that most are best characterized by someone like Roz Chast who in her pieces first appeared in the New Yorker they didn’t look like any cartoons that had ever appeared before.\r\n
Question: Were they right to reject you so many times?\r\n
Robert Mankoff: Let me just say I think it worked out.\r\n
Question: What was your first cartoon the New Yorker published?\r\n
Robert Mankoff: Yeah, a very strange cartoon actually and I was very much influenced by Eastern European cartoon and by Saul Steinberg. All of my original maybe seven or eight cartoons I had published had no caption at all which is strange because I sort of have this whole verbal gag component. It was a very careful stipple style and with my dots but lots more dots than you see now, and there was a guy at the end of a big newspaper printing press, very elaborate machine, so the press coming off this long newspaper. And he’s turning up the very end of it like he’s at a breakfast table where he’s has some scrambled eggs and some orange juice, so it was just sort of very sweet visual stuff, and I was very much influence by Saul Steinberg you know in that not soon after that I did a cartoon, so the cartoons were very intellectual in a way. And I did this cartoon, and this cartoon also you know shows you that got published in The New Yorker why humor although it may have its roots in fear and aggression; some humor can seem very far from that. It shows a water girl holding buckets you know coming down from the well, but there aren’t two buckets they’re three buckets, and two of them are labeled H and one of them is labeled O, so a really superiority theorist says exactly what is it; what do we feel superior to chemistry or that water girl. What I will say well you can go back and really look at some of the roots even from the most primitive part is a lot of what happens in humor is that there’s a cognitive ship from unknowing to knowing, from not understanding to understanding, and when we look at our evolutionary past, we can see that a feeling of unknowingness, of tension, of I gotta figure this out would have been fearful, would have been problematic, so one of the things jokes do is they build this thing is I’m telling you with the centipede you are in that state of unknowingness of tension. You know you’re thinking am I gonna understand this; what that, is it gonna be funny, and then all of a sudden there’s this feeling of mastery, and with humor different than a puzzle, the mastery is instantaneous when the joke works.\r\n
Question: How many cartoons have you published?\r\n
Robert Mankoff: Oh, I think somewhat over 900 and done thousands, and that’s interesting also. People like Roz Chast, Jack Ziegler or Sam Gross – people think you do one idea a week. Well, you do five, 10, 15 ideas a week. Someone like Sam Gross who’s a classic gag cartoonist is 26,000 something cartoons. Every time Sam hands in cartoons on the back I can see the number, and I say Sam what is this you’re handing in like 8, 468th cartoon; you’re resubmitting this, so he keeps track, and so the amount of work and effort going into this is much, much greater than people think. And that work is necessary because the difference between a professional and a amateur I think in any field is an amateur thinks pretty much everything they do is good, and a professional thinks most of what they do is crap.\r\n
Question: What’s the most difficult part of being a cartoon editor?\r\n
Robert Mankoff: There is something about seeing a 1,000 cartoons a week that is somewhat inhibiting or put you in a difference mindset. An evaluation mindset is not a creative mindset. Also, I have to be very careful about not using anybody else’s ideas and not being influenced, so I think that’s it. That all of a sudden even more than ever before you have to say what is my own particular voice, and your voice changes over time in that you know one of the things that I like to do now is try to you know connect cartoons to some emotional truth; so I might look at the present situation. You know I might take a quote like Scott Fitzgerald like living well is the best revenge, and I might have a guy at a party saying I know living well is the best revenge, but right now I want to do better than my brother in law; getting it back to how we actually feel about events or thoughts that you’re happening rather than simply being in a cartoon universe. And yet the truth is I find that the thing that people often funniest are just the most simple things you do that you think you throw away. In a couple of cartoon issues, I had a label it was called Hamlet’s Duplex, and it just has two doors in an apartment setting 2B be and the other doors says not 2B, and so there is just me fooling around. It has no meaning at all, but within this joke universe, it’s wonderful. You get these e-mails saying I love that cartoon; that was the greatest cartoon.\r\n
Meanwhile, you’re struggling to get to emotional truth, so it’s a little bit like the Sullivan’s Travels movie by Preston Sturges where Joel McCray does comedies, and he wants to do something important. He wants to go out into the world, and then you know he goes through all these travails, and in the end you know he’s in some sort of prison where some horrible situation where a Charlie Chaplain movie comes on and everybody’s laughing and laughing with tears streaming down their face, so maybe I should get back to that.\r\n
Recorded on: September 21, 2009\r\n
Robert Mankoff was always funny, but that doesn’t mean that his path to the New Yorker was an easy one - he submitted 2,000 cartoons to the magazine before being published. He charts his cartooning career and explains the unique struggles of being a cartoon editor.
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A socially minded franchise model makes money while improving society.
- A social enterprise in California makes their franchises affordable with low interest loans and guaranteed salaries.
- The loans are backed by charitable foundations.
- If scaled up, the model could support tens of thousands of entrepreneurs who are currently financially incapable of entering franchise agreements.
Social responsibility is becoming a major focus of many businesses. While turning a profit is always the ultimate goal — nobody can eat good intentions, after all — having a positive impact on society is becoming an equally important goal.
A restaurant chain in California, already focused on providing healthy food at a competitive cost, is testing a new way to create more entrepreneurs. Specifically, it is working with charitable foundations to provide business opportunities to those who normally would not have access.
When a company wants to expand without paying all of the upfront costs itself or taking on the entire risk of operating in a new market, it can enter into a franchise agreement with an entrepreneur. In exchange for a share of the profits (as well as some fees and adherence to certain quality standards), the entrepreneur — now a franchisee — can open their own branch of a larger brand. The entrepreneur enjoys the benefits of owning a business, while the brand owner can cash in on intellectual property.
This model is wildly successful. There is a reason you can find fast food joints like McDonald's everywhere from Times Square to Prague (next to the Museum of Communism, no less). According to the International Franchise Association, there were more than 733,000 franchised business establishments in the United States in 2018, accounting for nearly 3 percent of GDP.
The franchise model — in which a local agent keeps some earnings while handing over a portion to a central authority — isn't new. Indeed, variations have been around since the Middle Ages, though it only took off after WWII. Franchising is now a recognized system in many countries and is used in all manner of industries, including restaurants, pet supply stores, automotive repair shops, hotels, and even senior care.
The Catch-22: you have to spend money to make money
The biggest problem with franchising is the high cost of becoming a franchisee.
While the costs vary, opening a restaurant as a franchisee can easily cost $500,000. A franchise car repair shop can require $250,000, and opening a hotel under a franchise's banner can set a person back millions. In some cases, the franchiser also will set a minimum net worth requirement or insist that the money that pays their fees not be borrowed. Even if a person can find a way around that, most new businesses do not turn a profit for quite some time after opening. These limitations essentially rule out all but the wealthy from becoming a franchisee.
As a result, there are some social enterprises that are looking to make franchising more accessible to the less affluent.
As a business that hopes to rapidly expand, they looked to franchising. However, the idea of seeking out a bunch of rich people to support a business like theirs struck CEO Sam Polk as out of step with its vision. So, the company came up with a better idea.
Their Social Equity Franchise Program helps tenured Everytable employees open their own franchise locations through free training and assistance in securing low interest loans to finance the store. To help the entrepreneurs survive the difficult early years, participants in the program are assured an income of $40,000 in their first three years of operations. Repayments on the loans do not begin until after the business is turning a profit.
The capital for all these low interest loans comes from a number of foundations such as the California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness). Foundations like these are required to give away a small portion of their endowments every year on causes aligned with their missions. However, most of the rest of it is simply invested in the stock market to assure the endowment continues to exist.
People like Cal Wellness CEO Judy Belk have begun to invest that money elsewhere, like in loans to provide the money needed to open an Everytable franchise. As she explained to FreeThink:
"Cal Wellness and many other foundations are saying, 'I think we can do a little better with that [money]. Why not use that capital to invest in the communities that we're supposed to serve?'"
In the end, Everytable gets a new restaurant that expands the brand, foundations get returns on their investment, and the franchisee gets an opportunity that they likely never would have had without the program.
Expanding the Everytable model
If even a small share of the $2 trillion foundations in the U.S. have are invested into this sort of social cause, tens of thousands of loans could be given to those less affluent people who are looking to start a business. While this model likely would lower returns to institutional investors like charities, they could enjoy more tangible results in the communities they exist to serve. According to a report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, local entrepreneurship increases income and employment and decreases poverty.
At the individual level, this would help a lot of people who otherwise never would be able to seriously consider going into business for themselves. By a number of measures, business owners make more than wage workers and can also claim ownership of the assets that comprise the business. Beyond that, many small business owners enjoy the non-financial benefits of their position as well, including the independence and autonomy that often come with business ownership.
When working optimally, good business is good for society.
Fintech companies are using elements of video games to make personal finance more fun. But does it work, and what are the risks?
- Gamification is the process of incorporating elements of video games into a business, organization, or system, with the goal of boosting engagement or performance.
- Gamified personal finance apps aim to help people make better financial decisions, often by redirecting destructive financial behaviors (like playing the lottery) toward positive outcomes.
- Still, gamification has its risks, and scientists are still working to understand how gamification affects our financial behavior.
- YouTube www.youtube.com
The human brain is a pretty lazy organ. Although it's capable of remarkable ingenuity, it's also responsible for nudging us into bad behavioral patterns, such as being impulsive or avoiding difficult but important decisions. These kinds of short-sighted behaviors can hurt our finances.
However, they don't hurt the video game industry. In 2020, video games generated more than $179 billion in revenue, making the industry more valuable than sports and movies combined. A 2021 report from Limelight Network found that gamers worldwide spend an average of 8 hours and 27 minutes per week playing video games.
Good at gaming, bad at saving
It's not necessarily bad that Americans spend millions of dollars and hours on video games. But consider another set of statistics: 25 percent of Americans have no retirement savings at all, while roughly half are either living "on the edge" or "paycheck to paycheck," according to a recent report on the Financial Resilience of Americans from the FINRA Education Foundation. Meanwhile, experts predict that Social Security funds could dry up by 2035.
So, why don't people save more? After all, the benefits of compounding interest aren't exactly a secret: Investing a few hundred bucks every month would make most people millionaires by retirement if they start in their twenties. However, the recent FINRA report found that many Americans have alarmingly low levels of financial literacy, a topic that's not taught in most public schools.
Even for the financially literate, saving money is psychologically difficult
But what if we could infuse the instant gratification of video games into our long-term financial habits? In other words, what if finance looked less like an Excel spreadsheet and more like your favorite video game?
A growing number of finance applications are making that a reality. By using the same strategies video game designers have been optimizing for decades, gamifying personal finance could be one of the most efficient ways to help people save for the future while reaping instant psychological rewards. But it doesn't come without risks.
What is gamification?
In simple terms, gamification takes the motivating power of video games and applies it to other areas of life. The global research company Gartner offers a slightly more technical definition of gamification: "the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals."
The odds are you have encountered gamification already. It's utilized by many popular apps, websites, and devices. For example, LinkedIn displays progress bars representing how much profile information you have filled out. The Apple Watch has a "Close Your Rings" feature that shows how many steps you need to walk to meet your daily goal.
Brands have used gamification to boost customer engagement for decades. For example, McDonald's launched its Monopoly game in 1987, which essentially attached lottery tickets to menu items, while M&M's gained consumer attention with Eye-Spy Pretzel, an online scavenger hunt game that went viral in 2010.
In addition to marketing, gamification is used in social media, fitness, education, crowdfunding, military recruitment, and employee training, just to name a few applications. The Chinese government has even gamified aspects of its Social Credit System, in which citizens perform or refrain from various activities to earn points that represent trustworthiness.
Finance is arguably one of the best-suited fields for gamification. One reason is that financial data can be easily measured and graphed. Perhaps more importantly, financial decisions occur in the background of almost everything we do in modern life, from deciding what we eat for lunch to where we are going to spend our lives.
Gamification doesn't just make boring stuff fun; it's also an effective way to change our behavior. Used properly, it can also disrupt our habits.
The nature of habits
It's tempting to think that we make our way through life by thoughtfully considering the information before us and making sensible choices. That's not really the case. Research suggests that about 40 percent of our daily activities are performed out of habit, a term the American Journal of Psychology defines as a "more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience."
In other words, we spend much of our lives on autopilot. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that we rely on habits: our brains require a lot of energy, especially when we're faced with tough decisions and complex problems, like financial planning. It's relatively easy to rely on learned behavioral patterns that provide a quick, reliable solution. However, those patterns don't always serve our long-term interests.
Saving money is a good example. Imagine you have $500 with which to do whatever you want. You could invest it. Or you could go on a shopping spree. Unfortunately, the brain doesn't process these two options the same way; in fact, it actually processes the investing option as something like a pain stimulus.
Why gamification works
Saving is painful. But can't people simply choose to be more financially responsible? In short: Yes, but it takes a lot of effort. After all, when it comes to changing behavior, willpower is only part of the equation.
Some psychologists think willpower is a finite resource, or that it's like an emotion whose motivational power ebbs and flows based on what's happening around us. For example, you might establish a monthly budget and stick to it for a couple weeks. But then you get stressed. The next time you're out shopping, you might find it harder to resist making an impulsive purchase in your stressed-out state.
Pixel Art Lootvlasdv via Adobe Stock
"A growing body of research shows that resisting repeated temptations takes a mental toll," the American Psychological Association writes. "Some experts liken willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse." In the terminology of psychology, this is called ego depletion.
Gamification offers a way to outsource your willpower. That's because games offer psychological rewards that can motivate us to perform certain actions that might otherwise have seemed too boring, taxing, or emotionally draining. What's more, gamifying parts of your life is less of a change of mind and more of a change of environment.
A 2017 study published in Computers in Human Behavior noted that "enriching the environment with game design elements, as gamification does by definition, directly modifies that environment, thereby potentially affecting motivational and psychological user experiences."
The study argued that games are most motivational when they address three key psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and social relatedness. It's easy to imagine how games can tap into these categories. For competence, games can feature badges and performance graphs. For autonomy, games can offer customizable avatars. And for social relatedness, games can feature compelling storylines and multiplayer gameplay.
Gamification and the brain
Games can motivate us by satisfying our psychological needs and giving us a sense of reward. From a neurological perspective, this occurs through the release of "feel-good" neurotransmitters, namely dopamine and oxytocin.
"Two core things have to happen in the brain to influence your decision-making," Paul Zak, a neuroscientist and professor of economic sciences at Claremont Graduate University, told Big Think. "The first is you have to attend to that information. That's driven by the brain's production of dopamine. The second thing, you've got to get my lazy brain to care about the outcomes. And that caring is driven by emotional resonance. And that's associated with the brain's production of oxytocin."
Cheerful Father And Son Competing In Video Games At HomeProstock-studio via Adobe Stock
When released simultaneously, these neurotransmitters can put us into a state that Zak calls "neurologic immersion." In this state, our everyday habits have less control over our behavior, and we're better able to take deliberate action. It's an idea Zak and his colleagues developed over two decades of using brain-imaging technology to study the nature of extraordinary experiences.
As he wrote in an article published by the World Experience Organization, neurologic immersion can occur when experiences, including video games, are unexpected, emotionally charged, narrowing one's focus to the experience itself, easy to remember, and provoking actions.
"The components of the extraordinary come as a package, not in isolation from each other," Zak wrote. "It's the 'action' part that is key to finding immersion. Extraordinary experiences cause people to take an action, whether it's donating to charity, buying a product, posting on social media, or returning to enjoy an experience again."
Games can invoke these types of immersive experiences.. But how exactly are financial organizations using gamification to help people "level up" their financial futures?
Gamifying personal finance
Banks and financial companies have been using gamification for years. What started with simple concepts, like PNC Bank's "Punch the Pig" savings feature, has evolved into a diverse field of games that are helping people stick to budgets, save money, and pay off debt.
What's surprising about the gamification of personal finance is that some of the most successful apps are redirecting destructive financial behaviors, like buying lottery tickets, toward positive outcomes. One example is an app called Long Game, which uses an approach called "lottery savings."
"People actually really love the lottery," Lindsay Holden, co-founder and CEO of Long Game, told Big Think. "The lottery today is a $70-billion-dollar industry in the U.S., and the people that are buying lotto tickets are the people that least should be buying lotto tickets. And so how can we redirect that spend into something that's helping them in their lives?"
Long Game's answer is to encourage users to make automatic or one-time investments into a prize-linked savings account. As users make investments, they earn coins that can be used to play games, some of which offer cash prizes. But unlike the real lottery, the prize money comes from banks that are partnered with Long Game, meaning users can't lose their principal investment.
Blast is a savings app aimed at traditional gamers. The platform lets users connect a savings account to their video game accounts. Users then set performance goals in the video games, such as killing a certain number of enemies. Accomplishing these goals triggers a pre-selected investment into the savings accounts. In addition to earning interest, users can also win prize money by accomplishing certain missions or placing high on public leaderboards.
"Gamers tell us they feel better with the time they spend gaming when they know they are micro-saving or micro-earning in the background," Blast co-founder and CEO Walter Cruttenden said in a statement.
Young gamer playing a video game wearing headphones.sezer66 via Adobe Stock
Fortune City takes a different approach to gamified finance. The app encourages users to track their spending habits, which are represented by visually appealing graphs. As users log expenses, they're able to build buildings in their own virtual city. The expense categories match the types of buildings users can construct; for example, buying food lets users construct a restaurant. It's like "SimCity" meets certified public accountant.
The risks of gamification
Gamifying your finances might help you save money, but it doesn't come without risks. After all, receiving extrinsic rewards when we perform a behavior can affect our intrinsic motivation to repeat that behavior both positively and negatively. It's a phenomenon called the overjustification effect.
In addition, gamified finance apps can also be addictive and encourage risky financial behavior. Robinhood, for example, uses visually appealing performance metrics and lottery-like game elements to incentivize the trading of stocks and cryptocurrencies. But while investing in these assets might be a good financial decision for some people, Robinhood arguably encourages its users to be "players" in the difficult world of trading, not necessarily rational investors.
What's more, gamification doesn't seem to work for everyone.
"From social psychology and behavioural economics, we know that the most likely [result of] gamification [is that you] will motivate some people, will demotivate other people, and for a third group there'll be no effect at all," noted a 2017 study on gamification and mobile banking published in Internet Research.
But given that 14.1 million Americans are unbanked, and millions more struggle with financial literacy, it's reasonable to think that gamified finance apps could help many people work toward financial independence.
"One of the most interesting things we've found is that people want help when it comes to making difficult decisions," Zak told Big Think. "In my view, any app that helps you be a more effective saver is probably a good app. But I think we have to do a lot more work to really understand the underlying neuroscience of gamification. And so we need to continue to design games that teach you more about how to 'level up in life,' not just level up in the game."
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
David Schmidt, a geology professor at Westminster College, had just arrived in the South Dakota Badlands in summer 2019 with a group of students for a fossil dig when he received a call from the National Forest Service. A nearby rancher had discovered a strange object poking out of the ground. They wanted Schmidt to take a look.
"One of the very first bones that we saw in the rock was this long cylindrical bone," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "The first thing that came out of our mouths was, 'That kind of looks like the horn of a triceratops.'"
After authorities gave the go-ahead, Schmidt and a small group of students returned this summer and spent nearly every day of June and July excavating the skull.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"
Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about 8.2 feet long.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a Triceratops prorsus, one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the Tyrannosaurus rex. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made headlines after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.
Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the New York Times.
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
The Badlands aren't the only spot in North America where paleontologists have found dinosaurs. In the 1870s, Colorado and Wyoming became the first sites of dinosaur discoveries in the U.S., ushering in an era of public fascination with the prehistoric creatures — and a competitive rush to unearth them.
Since, dinosaur bones have been found in 35 states. One of the most fruitful locations for paleontologists has been the Morrison formation, a sequence of Upper Jurassic sedimentary rock that stretches under the Western part of the country. Discovered here were species like Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus, to name a few.
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
As for "Shady" (the nickname of the South Dakota triceratops), Schmidt and his team have safely transported it to the Westminster campus. They hope to raise funds for restoration, and to return to South Dakota in search of more bones that once belonged to the triceratops.
Studying dinosaurs helps scientists gain a more complete understanding of our evolution, illuminating a through-line that extends from "deep time" to present day. For scientists like Schmidt, there's also the simple joy of coming to face-to-face with a lost world.
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "You don't ever think that these things will ever happen."
Playing video games could help you make better decisions about money.
- The word is out on gaming—it's not just something that children do for fun anymore. Games are tools that can be used to teach new skills, reduce stress, and even change behaviors by triggering chemical reactions in the brain.
- These benefits and more have provided scientists and developers with a promising path forward. "Games reduce the stress of making decisions," says neuroscientist and professor Paul Zak. "App designers have now used game structures to help people learn new information, make new decisions; and one of the most exciting applications is in financial decision making."
- But simply turning something into a game isn't enough to see meaningful changes in habits. Developers of gamified apps like Long Game have found ways to combine the engaging and fun experience we expect from video games, with something that has traditionally not been very fun: saving money.