September 27, 2010
What killed off the non-avian dinosaurs? Over the years climate change, mammals with a taste for dinosaur eggs, the laziness of dinosaurs, and even hungry, hungry caterpillars have been blamed, with the current favored culprit being an asteroid that struck in the vicinity of today’s Yucatan peninsula about 65 million years ago. But Bucky the cat from the comic strip Get Fuzzy isn’t convinced that scientists are any closer to solving the mystery.
In a string of strips that started on September 20, Bucky goes off on a tear about science when Satchel tells him that dinosaurs were killed by “a rare kind of flying rock” (which Bucky misinterprets as a “space hemorrhoid”). From there Bucky’s idle speculations begin to spin a little out of control—I won’t spoil it for you; go read the strips—but I think Bucky’s wild ideas underscore an important lesson. While it was controversial three decades ago, today we take the idea that the end-Cretaceous extinction was caused by an asteroid for granted. Many books and documentaries refer to it, but relatively little detail is ever given about the ecological crisis it caused or how the impact could have killed so many forms of life. (And, of course, there are still some who argue that the impact would have been insufficient and that intense volcanic eruptions or some other cause triggered the extinction.) If we really want to inform the public about science, just saying a flying rock did it doesn’t cut it.
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