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Space Science

Study Provides Compelling Evidence of Single Impact Extinction Theory 382

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the scientists-all-looking-for-someone-named-ele dept.
ectotherm writes to tell us that a new study at the University of Missouri-Columbia claims to provide compelling evidence that a single meteor impact was the cause of animal extinction 65 million years ago. From the article: "MacLeod and his co-investigators studied sediment recovered from the Demerara Rise in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of South America, about 4,500 km (approximately 2,800 miles) from the impact site on the Yucatan Peninsula. Sites closer to and farther from the impact site have been studied, but few intermediary sites such as this have been explored."
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Study Provides Compelling Evidence of Single Impact Extinction Theory

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  • Wombats (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @05:45PM (#17040338)
    I suspect Wombats were somehow involved.
  • 65 million? (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @05:46PM (#17040342) Homepage Journal

    65 million years is crazy-talk, that's 64,994,000 years before God made the Earth!
    • Re:65 million? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sRev (846312) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @05:51PM (#17040446)
      I read this yesterday and have been looking in occasionally to read the comments at the bottom. It looks like there must be some global creationist group that is directing traffic to the story, as every comment makes just that same arguement. I guess the creationist party line is that the "flood" wiped out the dinosaurs. That's a lot of water.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It looks like there must be some global creationist group that is directing traffic to the story, as every comment makes just that same arguement. I guess the creationist party line is that the "flood" wiped out the dinosaurs.


        Maybe they are just hoping that a crapflood will wipe out scientists?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @06:02PM (#17040644)
      When Young Earth Creationists say that the Earth was created 6000 years ago, they're talking in God-years.
    • Re:65 million? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @06:16PM (#17040866) Homepage Journal
      65 million years is crazy-talk, that's 64,994,000 years before God made the Earth!

      Read through the comments at the bottom. Seriously. These people really believe this stuff, and I've personally met people who, if you try to talk to them about almost anything scientific (like, oh say, 80,000-year-old human remains) will absolutely tell you "No, way! The Earth is only 6,000 years ago. It says so in the Bible!"

      I'm not at all suggesting that people give up their religious convictions, but I am saying that some people need to stop confusing religion with science. They are separate disciplines and need to be separate. If you absolutely must believe that the choice is eaither A) God loves me and the Earth is only 6,000 years or B) there was a mass extinction event on the Earth 65 million years ago, so there can't be a God, then you are either seriously depraved or downright stupid.
      • And the Bible doesn't even give the number 6000. It is extrapolated by Bible researchers based on counting named generations (sure they mentioned every one?) and making assumptions.
      • evolution, or any scientific advance, doesn't disprove the existence of god

        the raving fundamentalists and the raving atheists really need to reconsider that point

        the tension between science and religion is contrived, false

        the tension between science and religion exists only in the minds of demagogues, brain-dead partisans, from either the community of faith, or the community of atheists

        they both got it wrong

        nothing science does disproves religion. nothing religion does disproves science. they are two discip
      • Public School (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by jcnnghm (538570)
        The problem is with the education system. I don't see what the big deal is, but then again I went to private Catholic elementary, middle, and high schools, where we learned about science in classes called Science and religion in classes called Religion.

        Seems pretty logical to me. The catholics that actually teach it taught that the bible should be taken as a collection of stories that can assist you in making moral decisions. Not necessarily fact, for fact we have science class. We were taught about evo
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Ever wondered what god the dinosaurs fought wars and slaughtered each other in the name of?

      oh and regards your sig: Watch out at zebra crossings.....
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by truckaxle (883149)
      This reminds me of an incident at the San Diego museum of Natural History. There was a display of Therizinosaurus [wikipedia.org]. A group of kids were admiring the display when one of them asked out loud how old the fossils were. A member of the museum staff was walking by and overheard the question and quickly answer "72 million and 14 years".

      That answer satisfied most, but after a few seconds another asked how could they ever identify the age so precisely. The staff member responded "Well when I started work here the
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ArcherB (796902)
      65 million years is crazy-talk, that's 64,994,000 years before God made the Earth!

      So a lot of people believe in Creationism. What's really sad is that even MORE people believe that 9-11 was an inside job, even though there is actually more evidence of creationism! Some examples include: lack of lunar dust, the Big Bang theory breaks the first law of thermodynamics, life breaks the second law of thermodynamics, descriptions of dinosaurs living and walking around in The Bible and so on.

      Personally, I do beli
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LionMage (318500)

        Finally, as a Christian myself, I humbly ask that slashdotters stop seeing every article that deals with dinosaurs, evolution/Darwin, stem cells or genetics as an excuse to slap me in the face with it. The only thing worse that pushing your religion on others is trying to take other's religion away.

        Maybe if you read TFA, you'd recognize that the reason there's such a hubbub on Slashdot regarding this article is that a large percentage of the comments on the article were left by ultra-conservative fundamenta

  • Okay... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stanistani (808333) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @05:46PM (#17040354) Homepage Journal
    Since this helps to support a widely-held theory of the mass extinction 65 million years ago, why is this really news?

    Help me out here.

    Didn't they just fill in another data point?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by inKubus (199753)
      Some scientists believe that there were multiple events that caused the massive global change that caused the mass extinction. This theory is that there was only one.

      It's amazing to imagine the world populated by giant birds and lizards. But what did these creatures breathe? Perhaps the world was covered in plant life, which provided a lot of Oxygen. Then the impact hit, killing the plants, lowering the oxygen enough that the larger animals just sort of suffocated. The smaller animals had smaller lungs
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @05:49PM (#17040414) Journal
    Dinosaurs were not killed off in a mass extinction 65 million years ago... many of them survived and are currently employed by the *AA and associated groups.
    • I think you mean ??AA. *AA would include organizations like AAA, or Canadian Automobile Association along with the RIAA, MPAA. I'm no certain if it would include Alcoholics Anonymous, it might depend on the language.
    • by ettlz (639203)
      ...having been recently laid off from a Microsoft advertising campaign.
  • *sigh* (Score:4, Funny)

    by OverlordQ (264228) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @05:49PM (#17040416) Journal
    I was *not* a meteor impact that killed the dinosaurs, it was global warming. Let's examine the facts here, with nearly everybody driving around Bedrock in their souped up SUVs, you can imagine all the CO2 those things put out, not to mention the contributing factor of mass extinctions due to consumption of racks of ribs at drive-ins.
    • Re:*sigh* (Score:4, Funny)

      by anzha (138288) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @05:57PM (#17040580) Homepage Journal

      You're confused. That was the synapsids in the Permian with their unchecked Volcano Maker Pro users.

      The KT Event was a case of the dinos getting waaaaaaaaaaaay too excited over their Orbital Dynamics for Dummies books.

      A tad bit more seriously. Take that Gerta Keller [wikipedia.org]!

    • Yes, clearly if the dinosaurs stopped driving Hummers sooner they would still be around.

      Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it people.
    • by grozzie2 (698656)
      There's 18 inches of fresh snow on the ground outside, and more of it falling as i type this. I'm fed up with all these promises of global warming. Would you folks kindly quit with the talk, and get on with it, you've been promising global warming for years now, and it's all just empty talk promises. I'm getting tired of waiting, so please, just hurry up and deliver on that promise, i'm tired of shovelling snow....
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Woldry (928749)
        But I'm already driving as much as I can!
      • by yoder (178161) *
        "There's 18 inches of fresh snow on the ground outside, and more of it falling as i type this. I'm fed up with all these promises of global warming."

        I wish I could say the same but our winter weather is starting about a month later than when I was a kid (late 60's early 70's). We haven't had a real winter (ground completely snowcovered for more than a month) in probably close to 7 years.
    • OverlordQ writes:

      I was *not* a meteor impact that killed the dinosaurs, it was global warming.

      Nice try, there, Q, but I still think you did it.
  • I call BS (Score:5, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @05:51PM (#17040456)
    Look at the film. You can see another meteor on the grassy knoll.
  • Fl00d (Score:3, Insightful)

    by picob (1025968) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @05:55PM (#17040538)
    If you want to laugh read through the comments. Laugh or be concerned, that is.
  • MacLeod? (Score:5, Funny)

    by rainer_d (115765) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @06:04PM (#17040664) Homepage
    Hell, he's probably witnessed it himself.
    • by Gospodin (547743)

      He is Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. He was born in 65,000,000 BC in the village of the Cephalopods on the shores of Loch Shiel. And he is immortal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @06:07PM (#17040710)
    65 million years ago...

    Dino 1: Wii is the best dino console.
    Dino 2: No. The Wii graphics suck. Xbox 360 is awesome.
    Dino 3: Wii and Xbox 360 both suck. Playstation 3 with Cell processor rules. Plus we have BluRay.
    Dino 1: PS3 is too expensive and there aren't enough blue diodes. All dinosaurs can afford Wii though. It great!
    Dino 2: Meh, PS3 is expensive and Wii doesn't do hidef. Xbox 360 sits right in the middle and saves the day. Go 360, go!

    God: Ok, that does it. No more dinosaurs.

  • by MROD (101561) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @06:36PM (#17041146) Homepage
    The problem with all these sedimentological studies is that the statistical period between large meteorite impacts and the systematic error in the dating of the sediments (using isotopic geochemistry) in addition to the ambiguity in the fossil record (and the dating errors in those sediments) means that it's guaranteed that you will find a correlation between any mass extinction and a large meteorite impact event.

    Around the K-T boundery there is not only the Chixalub impact but a large one in Germany and a couple of others which have been discovered, all within the dating error. Add to this that there's also the Decan Traps flood basalts being errupted, ocean currents changing as the north atlantic starts to open and the amount of flooded continental shelf decreasing hugely and you have several possible smoking guns.

    The evidence just isn't there currently to say why most of the dinosaur lineages died out (along with many sea reptiles and other oceanic creatures). In fact there is still a doubt as to when it actually happened and over how long a period. Ammonites, it seems, saw the meteorite coming.. about a million years before it hit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cdrguru (88047)
      Uhhh, no.

      Crater impacts in millions of years:

      Yucatan - 65,000,000

      Nordlingen, Germany - 5,000,000

      Barringer, Arizona - 0.05

      Yeah, there are a bunch of others out there but the spread is a lot more than you seem to think.
    • Self-aligned dates (Score:2, Informative)

      by 2901 (676028)

      The interest in the article is that they have found a single sediment with both the K-T boundary marked by loss of marine plankton species and debris from the impact at the same level. So they can look at date difference without needing absolute dates and without the errors possible in isotopic geochemistry.

    • by flyingsquid (813711) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @09:13PM (#17043052)
      The problem with all these sedimentological studies is that the statistical period between large meteorite impacts and the systematic error in the dating of the sediments (using isotopic geochemistry) in addition to the ambiguity in the fossil record (and the dating errors in those sediments) means that it's guaranteed that you will find a correlation between any mass extinction and a large meteorite impact event.


      This is really misleading- there may be other craters out there, but there is certainly nothing else out there like Chicxulub. The Chicxulub crater is one of the largest meteorite craters ever discovered; vastly larger than anything we've ever seen in human history or anything that's happened in the past 65 million years. The rock or comet responsible for it is thought to have been about 10km in diameter, travelling at tens of thousands of miles per hour; in terms of energy released by that blast, we're talking about something that would have made a full-scale nuclear exchange between the US and USSR look like a couple of kids playing with fireworks. It is estimated that a Chicxulub-scale impact occurs on the order of once every 100 million years, if that often.

      The end-Cretaceous mass extinction, meanwhile is one of the five largest mass extinctions to occur in the past half-billion years. In other words, a 1-in-100 million year event. What are the odds of two such large scale, exceptionally rare events occurring simultaneously? Pretty much nil. True, there may be a few scientists out there who debate whether the K-T extinction was caused by the Chicxulub, and they try to poke holes in the Alvarez extinction hypothesis. But they haven't been able to present a compelling alternative to it.

      Finally, ammonites go right up to the K-T boundary. In a paper in PNAS, Pope et al. show stratigraphic ranges of ammonites; the majority of ammonites extend to within a few tens of thousands of years of the K-T boundary and many go extinct right at the boundary.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by init100 (915886)

        there may be other craters out there, but there is certainly nothing else out there like Chicxulub.

        Oh? What about the Shiva crater [wikipedia.org]?

        The Shiva crater, along with the Boltysh crater [wikipedia.org] and the Silverpit crater [wikipedia.org], are all dated to about the same time as the Chicxulub crater [wikipedia.org], and this brought up the multiple impact theories.

  • Weird (Score:5, Funny)

    by pagaboy (1029878) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @06:50PM (#17041356)
    40 responses and not a single noodly appendage in sight. Is everyone OK?
  • Look, Up in the Sky! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @06:59PM (#17041472) Homepage Journal
    I want to know whether the meteor appeared from Earth to come from the direction of the Pleiades constellation that the Mayans would later prioritize in their studies with the world's most sophisticated pre-industrial astromomy.

    It's already an interesting coincidence that the people whose empire was built on the site of the most influential astronomical event in "recent" Earth history would have such sophisticated astronomy. I wonder what they discovered about the part of the sky from which the meteor seemed (to the dinosaurs) to appear. The Mayan name for the Pleiades is "Tz'ab" [google.com], "the rattlesnake's tail", which is pretty resonant with a meteorite that killed the lizards ruling the world.

    I also wonder if our current complex space sciences can reconstruct the path of the meteor from its origin, by studying the trajectories of the remaining solar system objects, and projecting back 65My to a slightly larger population. A lot has happened, but astronomers' deductions have made much of very little for quite some time.
    • by 2short (466733)
      Somehow I think a meteor impact 65,000,000 years ago had little effect on the Mayans thinking 2000 years ago.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I think so, too. That's why the coincidences are interesting. The sensible reaction is to want to know more facts.
        • by 2short (466733)
          What coincidences? A meteor hit the earth. 64.5 million years later, humans developed, and spread out around the earth. A comparative eyeblink ago, pretty much all of them developed astonomical systems; including those who happened to live in the area the meteor hit. None of them could possibly have been aware of the meteor.
          • by Doc Ruby (173196)
            The coincidence is that the people who 65My later peopled the site of the buried meteorite developed the most sophisticated astronomy of any preindustrial (preglobal) civilization.

            There are other coincidences, but that's a pretty interesting one. The town of Chicxulub is in the middle of the crater. Chicxulub is Mayan for "devil's tail".

            I'm not proposing how Mayans could have been aware of the meteor, which seems practically impossible. That doesn't mean the other coincidences aren't interesting. To the con
            • Even if they somehow knew, wouldn't a more apt name have been something like "devil's bellybutton"?
    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      it's not very hard to get the aproximate location of earth in the solar system *provided* you can narrow the impact down to a single day, a simple inverted nbody model would acheive that, with a little extra work to predict and correct for model drift over the huge span of time. Time of day and Orientation of the earth is impossible, we just can't be that exact from the archeology.

      Then you need mass and impact velocity, plus analysis of the exact angle of impact to determine the likely incoming trajectory o
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Does the condition of the buried crater, possibly indicating 3D angle of impact, help any? At least in narrowing down azimuth, perhaps?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ebers (816511)
      A skeptical reply:

      > I want to know whether the meteor appeared from Earth to come from the direction of the Pleiades constellation that the Mayans
      > would later prioritize in their studies with the world's most sophisticated pre-industrial astromomy.

      Yes, but lots of civilizations have placed importance on the Pleiades. Perhaps because they look so cool.

      > It's already an interesting coincidence that the people whose empire was built on the site of the most influential astronomical
      > event in "rece

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