🏛 The Day The Dinosaurs Died

The long read article below is incredibly fascinating. If you’re like me and can’t make it through more than a few pages without falling asleep, you’re in luck because there’s a spoken version of this article available. Simply look for the play button at the top of the article.

The Day The Dinosaurs Died [The New Yorker]

I’ve pulled out some interesting quotes below.

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.

It is fascinating to think about finding life on the moon of another planet in our solar system only to discover that it was seeded there by the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. The model of ‘panspermia’ works in both ways.

Computer models suggest that the atmosphere within fifteen hundred miles of ground zero became red hot from the debris storm, triggering gigantic forest fires. As the Earth rotated, the airborne material converged at the opposite side of the planet, where it fell and set fire to the entire Indian subcontinent. Measurements of the layer of ash and soot that eventually coated the Earth indicate that fires consumed about seventy per cent of the world’s forests.

I cannot imagine forest fires on this scale. The entire Earth would have been a smoke-filled room. There would not have been a spot on the planet with breathable air.

After the fires died down, Earth plunged into a period of cold, perhaps even a deep freeze. Earth’s two essential food chains, in the sea and on land, collapsed. About seventy-five per cent of all species went extinct. More than 99.9999 per cent of all living organisms on Earth died, and the carbon cycle came to a halt.

The numbers above do not add up. How do 99.9999% of all living organisms die, but only 75% of species go extinct? That does not make sense. A scientist somewhere needs to check their math.

At the bottom of the deposit, in a mixture of heavy gravel and tektites, DePalma identified the broken teeth and bones, including hatchling remains, of almost every dinosaur group known from Hell Creek, as well as pterosaur remains, which had previously been found only in layers far below the KT boundary. He found, intact, an unhatched egg containing an embryo—a fossil of immense research value. The egg and the other remains suggested that dinosaurs and major reptiles were probably not staggering into extinction on that fateful day. In one fell swoop, DePalma may have solved the three-metre problem and filled in the gap in the fossil record.

The dinosaurs were indeed killed by a giant rock from outer space.

The Tanis site, in short, did not span the first day of the impact: it probably recorded the first hour or so. This fact, if true, renders the site even more fabulous than previously thought. It is almost beyond credibility that a precise geological transcript of the most important sixty minutes of Earth’s history could still exist millions of years later—a sort of high-speed, high-resolution video of the event recorded in fine layers of stone. 

Geology normally happens on the timescale of months, years, and decades, if not longer. The fact that an archeological site can hold a geological record in the timeframe of hours is astonishing!