November 24, 2008
The staff here at Smithsonian seems to have developed a strange fascination with dead things. There’s the Dinosaur Tracking blog, of course, which is concerned with a superorder that went extinct 65 million years ago. And at our new sister blog, Surprising Science, some of the first posts are about woolly mammoths (a mere 10,000 years dead) and the bones of astronomer Nicolaus “the earth is not the center of the universe” Copernicus (d. 1543).
Surprising Science is written by Sarah Zielinski, a biology-major-turned-journalist and an assistant editor at Smithsonian. She is interested in most types of science (“whatever is in front of me,” she says) but will focus on the subjects we tend to cover in the magazine: geology, archaeology, astronomy, animals (living or dead) and stories that have art or history or travel tie-ins. But above all, stories that are weird or quirky or unexpected or amusing. We hope you’ll enjoy it.
October 28, 2008
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not that holiday with all the jingle bells and mistletoe business. It’s almost Halloween, the holiday that’s all about candy, petty vandalism and dress-up. Ever want to tyrannize the world like a T. rex? Lumber around gulping party snacks like an Apatosaurus? Stain the carpet like a coprolite? This is the holiday for you, and we want to hear all about it.
We’re looking for the Best Costume Ever, Dinosaur Division. Please email us at email@example.com to submit your photos from this year or years past.
And even though crocodilians and dinosaurs diverged hundreds of millions of years ago, you’ve got to see this.
October 16, 2008
Walter Alvarez, the guy who figured out that dinosaurs were doomed by a massive asteroid that slammed into the Earth, just won a big prize.
The prize is Earth Science’s answer to the Nobel, the Vetlesen Prize.
The asteroid impact set off “a giant tsunami, continent-scale wildfires, darkness, and cold, followed by sweltering greenhouse heat. When conditions returned to normal, half the genera of plants and animals on Earth had perished,” Alvarez writes on his Website.
The impact also left two major clues: a layer of iridium, which is an element found in comets and asteroids but is rare on Earth, and a 110-mile-wide crater near what is now the Yucatan Peninsula. Alvarez dated both to 65 million years ago, a.k.a. End Times for the dinosaurs.
Several scientific fields that are snubbed by the Nobels have established their own “me too!” prizes. Math has the Fields Medal, for instance, and high tech has the Millennium Prize. (It’s administered by Finland, which might reflect a certain amount of rivalry with those other Scandinavian countries that are so prize-happy.) And purists know that the Nobel for Economics isn’t really a Nobel—it’s administered by Sweden’s central bank in honor of Alfred Nobel. But I know I’m forgetting some. Anybody? Help me out here—what other fields have their own versions of the Nobel?
October 6, 2008
In our “Dinosaur Tracking” blog, we’ll delve into everyone’s favorite extinct
animal group and the lost worlds they so nobly inhabited. We’ll post about
paleontology news, dig into the latest controversies about how dinosaurs
lived (and died), revisit the great fossil discoveries and peer over the
shoulders of fossil hunters piecing together the grand scientific story of
And because dinosaurs play such a starring role in our imagination, from the
old Sinclair gas mascot to Barney to the evolution game Spore, we’ll also
cast a skeptical and (we hope) amused eye on dinosaurs in pop culture.
Our bloggers include several paleontologically inclined
Smithsonian magazine staff members (and a few who just like big scary
creatures or old movies) and Rutgers University ecology and evolution student
Brian Switek, whose enthusiasm for dinosaur-ology so bowled us over we
recruited him to our team.