" In this universe the night was falling; the shadows were lengthening towards an east that would not know another dawn. But elsewhere the stars were still young and the light of morning lingered; and along the path he once had followed, Man would one day go again"

Arthur C. Clarke Against the Fall of Night

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Annals of the Former World April 8, 2019 Issue The Day the Dinosaurs Died, New Yorker, Douglas Preston

  Since dinosaurs have been a major interest in my life, and a subject of abiding interest in science fiction books and films since the genre began, I though I would share this link to a fascinating New Yorker article about what could, potentially, be a fairly significant discovery. 

As article author, Douglas Preston (Dinosaurs in the Attic - An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History) states:

A young paleontologist may have discovered a record of the most significant event in the history of life on Earth.


What the paleontologist Robert DePalma might have discovered are fossils laid down just after the asteroid impact that is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. I have included a couple of quotes from the article. The first is part of the best description of the kind of damage the impact could have caused, that I can remember reading. As a science fiction fan the fact that the impact could have dispersed material, possibly even living microbes, so far out into space is quite exciting. It could be the dispersal that could launch a thousand plots one might suggest. The discussion of the finds themselves are incredible, hopefully this site will merit a documentary at the very least. So since I love dinosaurs and books, and books about the dinosaurs, plus dinosaurs in films and dinosaur models and since my most memorable birthday cake was one my mother covered with plastic dinosaurs, I wanted to share this link. And some photos of dinosaur goodies of course. Maybe this discovery is too good to be true, but I hope not, and so does that little boy looking at that cake, all those years ago.

"Some of the ejecta escaped Earth’s gravitational pull and went into irregular orbits around the sun. Over millions of years, bits of it found their way to other planets and moons in the solar system. Mars was eventually strewn with the debris—just as pieces of Mars, knocked aloft by ancient asteroid impacts, have been found on Earth. A 2013 study in the journal Astrobiology estimated that tens of thousands of pounds of impact rubble may have landed on Titan, a moon of Saturn, and on Europa and Callisto, which orbit Jupiter—three satellites that scientists believe may have promising habitats for life. Mathematical models indicate that at least some of this vagabond debris still harbored living microbes. The asteroid may have sown life throughout the solar system, even as it ravaged life on Earth."


“We have the whole KT event preserved in these sediments,” DePalma said. “With this deposit, we can chart what happened the day the Cretaceous died.” No paleontological site remotely like it had ever been found, and, if DePalma’s hypothesis proves correct, the scientific value of the site will be immense. When Walter Alvarez visited the dig last summer, he was astounded. “It is truly a magnificent site,” he wrote to me, adding that it’s “surely one of the best sites ever found for telling just what happened on the day of the impact.”


But eventually life emerged and blossomed again, in new forms. The KT event continues to attract the interest of scientists in no small part because the ashen print it left on the planet is an existential reminder. “We wouldn’t be here talking on the phone if that meteorite hadn’t fallen,” Smit told me, with a laugh. DePalma agreed. For the first hundred million years of their existence, before the asteroid struck, mammals scurried about the feet of the dinosaurs, amounting to little. “But when the dinosaurs were gone it freed them,” DePalma said. In the next epoch, mammals underwent an explosion of adaptive radiation, evolving into a dazzling variety of forms, from tiny bats to gigantic titanotheres, from horses to whales, from fearsome creodonts to large-brained primates with hands that could grasp and minds that could see through time.

All quotes from the New Yorker, hopefully they will not mind.

Cover credits:

Dinosaur figures; Papo France

Prehistoric Animals; Zdenek Burian

Cryptozoic!; Don Punchatz

Analog; H. R. Van Dongen

Science Wonder Stories; Frank R. Paul

The Beast from 20,0000 Fathoms; VHS design?, signed by Ray Harryhausen at Royal Tyrrell Museum

Dinosaurs Past and Present; Cool Weather by William Stout

The Greatest Adventure; Ed Emshwiller

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