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Monday, April 18, 2016

Ghost World - Part II: Revival

In my last post, I described how the modern-day world is a global version of a ghost town: the extinction of dozens of species of large animals at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch left ecosystems incomplete and unbalanced. Without mammoths, ground sloths, and the rest, some plants and animals have thrived, others have suffered or disappeared altogether, and even natural processes like fire and climate have been affected. The natural world is incomplete without them, and continues to degrade like an abandoned village.

Of course, the key to “fixing” a ghost town is quite simple: bring people back. They don’t even have to be the same people. Just about anyone can tend the overgrown gardens, drive the disused cars, and shoo away the rats and roaches. The same may be true of our ecosystems, which brings me to an ambitious – and controversial – conservation idea:

Pleistocene Rewilding.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ghost World - Part I. Dearly Departed

Imagine walking into a ghost town, recently deserted. It wouldn’t take you long to realize what’s missing. Cars are still parked along the streets, batteries slowly failing; sprinkler systems still spring to life on schedule, watering lawns that are steadily growing out of control; untended gardens are gradually overtaken by weeds, while insects and rodents dart in and out of homes with nothing to stop them but cats turned feral now that no one is leaving food out for them. All of these things are meant to be there, but they aren’t doing what they’re meant to do. Without people to maintain the town, it has descended into disrepair and instability.

Our world is in a state of disrepair and instability for the same reason – something important is missing. We live in a ghost world.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Where Do Killer Meteorites Come From?

I was browsing through social media when I came across someone asking an intriguing question:
How do meteors leave the asteroid belt?

This question brought to mind a science story I knew – about the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs.

I'll get to that, but first, a sub-question: do meteors even come from the asteroid belt?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why Were Prehistoric Animals So Big?

The other day I stopped by the American Museum of Natural History to visit their newest dinosaur display: the Titanosaur!

Discovered just last year in Argentina, this new species hasn’t officially received a name yet, but it is one of the largest dinosaurs yet discovered – the museum reconstruction is 122 feet long – and a lot of the skeleton has been uncovered between several specimens, unlike most poorly-known large sauropods.

The new titanosaur mount at the AMNH,
Photo by me, standing directly under the tip of the tail.
The media-hype over this skeleton, and the recent scientific reports about massive ancient giraffes and giant marine crocodiles, has a lot of people revisiting an old question: why were prehistoric animals so much bigger than their modern-day relatives?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Have You Seen "Prehistoric Beast?"

I only recently learned of a short film from 1984 called Prehistoric Beast.

Wait, don’t Google it yet!  Let me give you some backstory.

Dinosaurs have been a consistent feature of movies for almost as long as there have been movies. And they've played some pretty major roles in cinema history: the first well-known animated film character was a dinosaur; some of the most iconic early stop-motion animation was done with dinosaurs; and one of the most successful and recognizable movie characters of all time is a dinosaur, just to give some examples.