Please lets think about time for a second

"Consider this: Tyrannosaurus lived closer to us in time - 66 million years ago - than it did to Apatosaurus, which lived 84 million years prior."

As Switek says "our planet has a history so deep that we can barely comprehend it."

Dinosaurs ran around on the earth for 230 million consecutive years. Consider then that the entire span of human existence covers maybe 300,000 years. That's 0.3 million. It's nothing.

This is a timeline of the history of the earth. (Ma is million, Ga is billion.) See the little dot for Hominids? That's us. That's everything. See the long reign of the Prokaryotes (whatever they are)? That long purple tail represents a mind-boggling depth of time.

For most people, dinosaurs represent the oldest things. They stretch back to the misty beginnings of the earth. But look at that little red dinosaur line. Dinosaurs are practically modern.


Dinosaur Feathers

A lot of the things we "know" about dinosaurs come from scientists grasping at 65-million-year-long straws and making some big, educated guesses. What we know is always being revised, sometimes dramatically.

Here's one big thing: most dinosaurs (probably) had feathers, but they (probably) couldn't fly. Also, at this point, we have free choice of color because, who knows?



Tyrannosaurus Rex

T-Rex w/birds

Remember that scene from Jurassic Park where the hunter is aiming his rifle at a velociraptor, and the raptor is just staring at him, and he thinks he's got it, but then the other raptor comes in from the side and he realizes that he's been outsmarted, and then he says "clever girl" ..?

Now imagine that dinosaur with feathers, but also, much smaller.



The Mastodons of My Youth

While this book is all about the author's childhood fixation on dinosaurs which has carried over into his adulthood, I didn't really grow up with dinosaurs. I grew up with a mastodon.

The New York State museum in Albany, NY is home to the Cohoes Mastodon. Not to be confused with mammoths (which are bigger) or dinosaurs (which came millions of years before), mastodons look like big furry elephants with huge tusks and lived in New York only about 10,000 years ago. Mastodons actually existed alongside stone age humans, at the end of the last ice age, who basically hunted them to extinction.

The city of Cohoes is right near the city of Albany, which is right near where I grew up. Since museums are educational and free, we went there a lot when I was a kid. Later, in college, I worked in a mail-room in the basement of the museum, so I saw the mastodon on lunch breaks.

The Cohoes Falls, where the skeleton was found. Very dramatic!

The museum specializes in these life-size dioramas that I loved. Here is the mastodon as it would have looked alive, along with a little baby mastodon. They also have an Indian longhouse that you can go inside and another Indian who's building a canoe.

The museum itself looks like a sandwich.

It sits at one end of the Empire State Plaza. The state capitol building is at the other end. This is the view from the museum steps. I ate lots of lunches here.

There's also a great performing arts center called "The Egg."

It's weird.

Visit Albany! They have a mastodon and an Egg!