"T. rex" and the Crater of Doom (Princeton Science Library) - Walter Alvarez, Carl Zimmer

The story of research on the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction through the 1980s is complicated, because so many people played a part and so many scientific disciplines and kinds of evidence were involved. Anyone preparing to recount the events has to choose a way of organizing the material and deciding what to include and what to exclude.6 The story has been told several times,7 and it has usually been presented as a conflict between those convinced by the evidence for impact and those arguing the case for volcanism as the cause of the extinction. I prefer to tell it in a different way. I want to focus on the search for the crater which must have been excavated if the impact hypothesis was right, and to consider why finding that crater was so difficult.

Don’t let the title of the book mislead you. This book is neither about T. rex nor is it a geologist’s attempt at writing a fan-fiction Indiana Jones sequel. This book is specifically about the prehistoric event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and more so it is the record of the various scientific theories about that event.

Alvarez goes to great lengths to explain how he researched the KT boundary from a geological perspective, how other scientists added their views to the topic, and how the discussion in the scientific community took place to examine different theories and find support or dismiss various ideas.

What I have come away with from the book (apart from many details about geology) is that while Alvarez and his team may have every right to be credited with proving the merit of impact theory – i.e. that a huge asteroid or comet crashing into Earth caused the catastrophe that eventually killed of the dinosaurs (among many other species) – his work was supported by the efforts of the wider scientific community that helped to solve the puzzle.

Even tho this book did not discuss dinosaurs, it was a fascinating read. And that is something I never thought I would say about a book on geology.


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