200 million years ago, the super-continent Gondwana (Africa, South America, Australia and, crucially to this post, Antarctica) was teeming with ancient life including, naturally, the dinosaurs. That continent broke up over many millions of years into the four present continents. But this means, of course, that dinosaurs once roamed Antarctica. So did countless other creatures. Back then, it was not positioned at the far southern tip of the planet and it was quite warm.
It’s amazing now, when you look at aerial pictures of the rugged continent and hear stories of the hardy scientists (and others) that live months or years at a time in the harshest climate on Earth, to think of all of these animals roaming and making a good life of it. But survive, thrive and evolve they did.
But here’s what I think is the really exciting part of all of this. Our abilities to explore and extract from that continent grow exponentially along with the rapid increase in all of our technological ingenuity. In the coming decades, we can expect some absolutely astonishing discoveries coming from Antarctica.
In the mid-nineties, a team lead by William Hammer of Augustana College dug up some dinosaur fossils. Only recently have those fossils been thoroughly examined and described. It transpires that we have a brand new genus and species of dino! Here’s the story. There should be plenty more such finds in the years to come. Some of them might make this one seem positively minor.
I also wanted to point readers to this list that I recently came upon over at bloggingheads.tv on their Science Saturday “diavlog” between science writers George Johnson and John Horgan (two regulars). John Horgan was one of those responsible for compiling this particular list, called The Stevens Seventy Greatest Science Books.
From Horgan’s statement about the list:
We at the Center for Science Writings began compiling “The Stevens Greatest Science Books” in late 2005. Written primarily by scientists but also by philosophers, historians, journalists and other worthies, these books stand out for their subject matter, rhetorical style and impact on science and the rest of culture. Although our original goal was 100 books, we’re stopping at the “Stevens Seventy,” which has a mnemonic ring to it. Also, we worried that a larger list might seem boastful, like a list of “My 100 Closest Friends.”
I know I have more reading to do than I can handle, and I figure many of my friends do too. Still, I love good books about science so it’s nice to find resources like this one that I can look at and maybe occasionally add a book.