Dino is the dinosaur pet of Fred Flintstone in the prime time animated series The Flintstones and in numerous other projects, including commercials for cereal and vitamins, various other series, and two movies. It is forever Fred's lot to be knocked over by his pet dinosaur upon returning home from work, with Dino standing on top of him shouting his distinctive cry: "Aap! Aap aap aap aap!" While the Flintstones have another pet, a saber-toothed tiger, his place in the show became relegated mostly to the end credits as the show continued and Dino stole ever more of the prehistoric pet spotlight.

Beneath the (mostly) friendly surface of relations between the families of Fred Flintstone and his neighbor Barney Rubble, I have detected the hints of an escalating war of familial advancement: whenever the Flintstones gain a new member, the Rubbles are bound to eventually gain a corresponding member. The Rubbles got Bam-Bam (under questionable circumstances, might I add) soon after the Flintstones got baby Pebbles. And the Flintstone's slightly-lower-class neighbors also acquired a Dino counterpart, Hoppy, the "Hoparoo," who looks like the kind of thing I imagine would be seen by an acid-laced Paul Hogan.

Here's a shocker for you that I discovered just a couple of days ago. Dino, in the first-season episode in which he was introduced, was able to talk. More than that, he was a wild animal, a "Snorkasaurus," with no relation other than creator to the middle-class aquatic Smurf wannabes, who endeared himself to Wilma and Betty on a camping trip with sneaky compliments. Snorkasauruses get their name, according to Dino himself, from their distinctive cry: "snork, snork." He seems to originally have been a parody of television comedian Phil Silvers.

Hey, wait a second: Phil Silvers?!

How Dino made the transition from sharpster primordial clone of a U.S. Army sergeant to likable primordial domesticated animal I am not sure. In the process his color changed as well: now, and for decades, it has been purple. At first, it was blue. Although the fossil record tells us nothing of the skin color of any dinosaur, it seems likely that real dinosaurs had a more natural coloration, unless, perhaps, they were deadly poisonous.

So I submit to you, the jury: Dino, the only character of which I am aware to have pulled a "Reverse Snoopy:" He began as just another talking animal character, and then became a more realistic sort of animal. He threw away the trappings of human culture and language and regressed into nothing more than what he was, and was better off for doing it. That makes him aces in my book.

Dino is a molecular graphics program for "structural biology data" (as it says on the website...1) made by Ansgar Philippsen in Basel. It is very fancy (X windows, OpenGL) and runs on lots of architectures : IRIX, Linux, OSF1 and SunOS.

It is relevant that it is not a just a "molecule viewer" - it can apparently handle things like STM surfaces, vectors and so forth. It outputs stuff in png, ps and pov-ray. Fancy, like I said.

The interface is more like a 'real' molecular graphics program like O - multiple windows, molecule objects, dial box support etc. However, it is very clearly written by people with some computer science background. Subtle hints like the RPN feature, or the tcl like syntax, give it away.

Which brings us neatly to the major difficulty; the interface. Naturally it is command line driven (except for selecting objects to hide/display from a menu dialog). It is also very powerful, in that you can have a "recursive subprompt" - that is, a command that returns a value can be used inside another command :

scene center [.molecule]

This only makes sense if you know that ".molecule" will return the xyz co-ordinates of the center of the "molecule" dataset. You can also create objects (which are subsets of the dataset of atoms/things you loaded into the program) - and create them based on the selection of other objects. A particularly nice result of this is the ability to grow an object by starting with a seed and reapeatedly re-creating it from a selection from its center.

.dataset.object renew -sel NÅ<> [.dataset.object]

That is "renew the object as a new object containing everything within N Ångstroms of the center of the old object". Nice.

1 www.dino3d.org. All quote will be from there.

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