Velociraptor Lock

The velociraptor pen is a concrete pit, topped with high-powered electric fences.  There are two ways into the pen: a hole at the top of the pen for feeding, and a large armored door at ground level for moving ‘raptors in and out. This armored door has the first interface seen in the film, the velociraptor lock.

JurassicPark_velociraptorlock03 Velociraptors are brought from breeding grounds within the park to a secure facility in a large, heavily armored crate. Large, colored-light indicators beside the door indicate whether the armored cages are properly aligned with the door.  The light itself goes from red when the cage is being moved, to yellow when the cage is properly aligned and getting close to the door, to green when the cage is properly aligned and snug against the concrete walls of the velociraptor pen.  There is also a loud ‘clang’ as the light turns to green.  It isn’t clear if this is an audio indicator from the pen itself, the cage hitting the concrete wall, or locks slamming into place; but if that audio cue wasn’t there, you’d want something like it since the price for getting that wrong is quite high.

The complete interface consists of four parts (kind of, read on): The lights, the door, the lock, and the safety. More on each below.

1. The Deceiving Lights

The lights are the most obvious part of the system (aside from the cage and pen).  Everyone who is watching the cage also has a clear view of the lights – there is an identical set on the other side of the cage for the other half of the safety/moving crew.


2. The Door

The Velociraptor pen’s door is perfectly shaped to accept the heavily armored cage, and is equipped with a rail system to keep the cage aligned properly with the door.  Though it takes eight workers to move the cage, they appear to be able to push the cage reasonably easily. When the light turns green, the workers move back to allow the gate to be manually raised on the cage, letting the caged velociraptor escape into the pen.

3. The “Lock”


Or, lack thereof…

Every indication (the lineup of the cage, the green lights, and the heavy metallic ‘clang’) gives the feeling of a secure mating between the cage and the pen.  All of the workers relax, as if they’re sure they’re as safe as they can be. But you can be certain, this is a false sense of security.

As soon as the velociraptor decides to test the lock, it is able to push the cage away from the pen wall.  The light near the door instantly changes from green back to red.

Narratively, this underscores some of the risks of the park, i.e. that it’s cheaply engineered despite appearances, and extra-diegetically sets the audience on edge since it’s not sure what it can trust. But, for us in the real world, given the many indications that the system was safe, it should have actually been safe.

4. The Safety

When the clever velociraptor knocks the cage back, a worker falls in and becomes an unscheduled snack. Attendant workers try to help using…

The Cattle Prods

When the gate master falls and gets snatched by the velociraptor in the cage, workers immediately rush in and start hitting her with cattle prods.  There are at least six prods being used, possibly more.

Since this is the first line of backup defense, the cattleprods should have been iterated until they actually deterred the ‘raptors.  Clearly, effort went into making the perimeter defenses secure against the larger dinosaurs. The same effort should have gone into making the cattle prods effective against velociraptors.

Design for Success

The Velociraptor pen door seems custom-designed for serious failure: No hard locks to keep the cage in place, horrible sight-lines, and manual controls in places that make it dangerous for workers. Even the solid feedback system only adds to the danger. It lulls the workers into thinking the system is safe.

Most, if not all, of these issues would be solved by a simple physical locking device on the cage. Something to hold the cage in place while the doors are open would maintain a secure pen and keep everyone outside safe. It would also eliminate the need for most of the support crew, who only end up getting in each other’s way.

To add to the safety, the park designers should have paid more attention to where people would be standing during the transfer process.  The armed guards (theoretically there to be a second line of defense), are placed in such a way that only a few of them are able to effectively fire.  Other guards on scene would have to fire past their fellow guards.

Presumably, this is why the armed guards don’t actually fire at the ‘raptor when Muldoon shouts to “Shoot her! Shooooooot her!!”


Keep the feedback…

The feedback systems of the cage are remarkably successful, for a placebo. The lights, sounds, and placement keep the workers and audience calm right up until things go horribly wrong.  With the addition of Muldoon’s organizational skill and animal handling skills, the feedback system is worth taking notes on.

…but make it mean something

The velociraptor pen was designed to tell the workers what state it was in, but not to actually keep them safe.  Muldoon’s precautions try to make up for the system’s failures, but only add to the problems as the workers trip over each other.

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