How Dinosaurs Matter to Our Survival

If you come at the king’s arms, you best not miss. Better yet, run sideways. Photo at UnitedSquid.com.

Dinosaurs do matter to our future. Of course, I am not suggesting that there will be a time machine where a bespectacled parasaurolophus jumps out and yells, “You must plant Okra, before it’s too late!” … although that would be cool. But thinking about dinosaurs could be helpful to us, as explained in a fascinating little book by Kenneth Lacovara called Why Dinosaurs Matter.

I highly recommend the book, or at least Lacovara’s TED talk on YouTube, but let me debrief you. Consider this a book report that might contribute to saving the planet. It’s the scientific variation of the saying:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Santayana

Dinosaurs Are a Metaphor for Abundance, Not Failure

So what lessons can dinosaurs teach us? If you see an 8.5 mile wide asteroid heading for your neighborhood, bend over and firmly place your head between your knees… or something a little less primitive?

Lacovara’s strongest point is that dinosaurs were an incredibly successful branch on the tree of life. They had zillions of species, ranging from smaller than a chicken to bigger than a Boeing 737. Their reign covered nearly a third of the span of time that multi-celled life has been on earth–three times as along as us mammals. The biggest irony, in fact, is that the word “dinosaur” is used as a metaphor for being outmoded or incapable of change because the dinosaur kingdom’s capacity to diversify and adapt is still unparalleled. They didn’t really “go extinct” as much as being extinguished by an extra-terrestrial bolt of lightning. Besides, technically, they’re not extinct–but we’ll get to that.

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The Dino-calypse: Mexican, Ukrainian, or the Hindu God Destroyer?

The traumatized pachycephalosaurus! Photo from cdn.mos.

If you think I’m nuts about the Olympics, you should hear me talk about dinosaurs. All anyone needs to say is “antorbital fenestra,” and I swoon. Or “Chicxulub crater,” which is the impact site for the theoretical asteroid that hit 65 million years ago and wiped out most of life on earth, except for the tree shrews, from which all of us are descended. (We’ll have to save the tree shrews for another time.)

So you can imagine my excitement upon learning of the controversy between the Boltysh crater and the Chicxulub crater. Which came first? Apparently, there’s big money in being first because scientists from India are also claiming precedence.

Also, I learned the word “palynological,” which satisfies my Weird-Word-of-the-Month fetish.  It means “the study of live and fossil spores, pollen grains, and similar plant structures,” from the Greek palunein, which means “to scatter” as in dust or “pollen.”  Fern spores are very much in play here. And, for those of you with allergies, you now know that they are palynological.

Ok, so these dudes back in 2010 noticed this crater in the Ukraine called the Boltysh crater. The crater was “roughly” the same age as Chicxulub, and when we’re talking 65 million years, roughly can be mean +/- a million years, right? They were trying to be a bit more precise—in the 10,000 year range maybe—to see whether Boltysh came before or after Chicxulub.

There’s fame and fortune in the Dinosaur Demise!

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The Land of Rock and Cactus, Part II: Canyons and Culture

Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Park, Utah

This second week of our trip finds the intrepid southwestern travelers braving the trails through Santa Fe and northeastern Utah. I thought about entitling this Canyons, Cuisine, and Conversation because we had the chance to visit with so many good friends and eat good food… or Canyons and Chiles … or Canyons and Calderas … or Canyons and Calamities, but I couldn’t think of a good “C” word for the art. And Santa Fe had so much art!

Santa Fe: More Artists per Capita

According to something called the Location Quotient at the website Citylab, Santa Fe is the second largest mid-sized U.S. city for art. In other words, there was an awful lot of art for a city of only 85,000. So much art that every other building downtown is a gallery. The famous Canyon Road boasts over 120 galleries along its six blocks. The community garden across from our hotel entrance began with an arch made out of wheelbarrows, and the nearby railroad stop was fronted by a football field-sized canvas with twenty separate photography exhibits. So much art that even the orange traffic cones are turned into artwork. Continue reading “The Land of Rock and Cactus, Part II: Canyons and Culture”