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"T. rex" and the Crater of Doom [Paperback]

Walter Alvarez , Carl Zimmer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 21 2008 Princeton Science Library

Sixty-five million years ago, a comet or asteroid larger than Mt. Everest slammed into the Earth, causing an explosion equivalent to the detonation of a hundred million hydrogen bombs. Vaporized impactor and debris from the impact site were blasted out through the atmosphere, falling back to Earth all around the globe. Terrible environmental disasters ensued, including a giant tsunami, continent-scale wildfires, darkness, and cold, followed by sweltering greenhouse heat. When conditions returned to normal, half the genera of plants and animals on Earth had perished.

This horrific story is now widely accepted as the solution to a great scientific murder mystery: what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs? In T. rex and the Crater of Doom, the story of the scientific detective work that went into solving the mystery is told by geologist Walter Alvarez, one of the four Berkeley scientists who discovered the first evidence for the giant impact. It is a saga of high adventure in remote parts of the world, of patient data collection, of lonely intellectual struggle, of long periods of frustration ended by sudden breakthroughs, of intense public debate, of friendships made or lost, of the exhilaration of discovery, and of delight as a fascinating story unfolded.

Controversial and widely attacked during the 1980s, the impact theory received confirmation from the discovery of the giant impact crater it predicted, buried deep beneath younger strata at the north coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. The Chicxulub Crater was found by Mexican geologists in 1950 but remained almost unknown to scientists elsewhere until 1991, when it was recognized as the largest impact crater on this planet, dating precisely from the time of the great extinction sixty-five million years ago. Geology and paleontology, sciences that long held that all changes in Earth history have been calm and gradual, have now been forced to recognize the critical role played by rare but devastating catastrophes like the impact that killed the dinosaurs.


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From Amazon

One of the great mysteries is what happened to the dinosaurs, and it has taken great detective work to give us an answer. In T. Rex and the Crater of Doom, some brilliant, not to mention determined, scientists roam the world and seek out the clues. What they conclude is that the earth withstood a colossal impact with a meteor (or perhaps a comet) 65 million years ago. The resulting cataclysm destroyed half the life on the planet.

Walter Alvarez, a geologist at the University of California at Berkeley, and one of the four scientists who present this theory on the mystery, tells the story in a clear narrative that contains a wealth of scientific material. The book does require an investment of attention, but the presentation is quite readable, and the story itself is fascinating. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

When Nobel prize-winning physicist Louis Alvarez and his geophysicist son Walter announced that they had discovered evidence of a giant meteor that slammed into Earth 65 million years ago, causing the extinction of the dinosaurs, they were met with much fanfare from the popular press and skepticism from the scientific community. The Alvarezes were vindicated in 1991 when a huge impact crater was discovered on the Yucatan Peninsula, and the possible connection with dinosaur extinction is becoming more widely accepted. After a vivid description imagining the global devastation that would be caused by such an impact, Alvarez offers a first-person account of the discovery. It's a nicely told and well-written tale of scientific discovery, and though he occasionally comes across as a bit smug, Alvarez is quite generous in crediting objectors for helping show the direction to improve and refine the theory with further research. This informal, readable book is appropriate for high school readers on up, and the subject has strong popular appeal.?Amy Brunvand, Univ. of Utah Lib., Salt Lake City
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Walter Alvarez is my professor at UC Berkeley :) Feb. 28 2004
Format:Paperback
Not only does Walter's writing 'rock', he is one amazing teacher. I have him as a professor at UC Berkeley for one of my earth science classes. I highly recommend his books and if he has a seminar, you should definitely attend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story of a great scientific discovery Sept. 10 2003
Format:Paperback
It's interesting to see that this book is now being used as a text in high school and even junior high school science classes. I had a great laugh from the reaction of a young reader who wrote that it was "boring" and that "Innocent eight graders shouldn't have to read this stuff"!
Ah, yes. Innocence. But 14-year-olds aside, this is a fascinating and delightful story of scientific discovery and triumph second to none. It can be compared to James D. Watson's The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, both in terms of the importance of the discovery and for bringing to the reader some of the excitement and adventure of the quest. It is not, however, as the title might imply, the reading equivalent of watching a Stephen Spielberg movie! And perhaps we can be thankful for that.
T. Rex and the Crater of Doom is the story of one of the great scientific discoveries of the twentieth century. Prior to Alvarez's work, it was not known what had caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Volcanism, disease, climate change, etc., were put forward as possibilities. But in1970 Alvarez began to believe that a large meteor or a comet had struck the earth with enormous force causing the extinctions. But how to prove it? At first it wasn't even imagined how a meteor could bring about such a catastrophe; but gradually it was seen that the debris thrown into the atmosphere by the force of impact would encircle the earth and block out the rays of the sun for months or even years at a time, thereby killing off plants both on the land and in the sea, thereby collapsing the food chain and starving the dinosaurs and most other creatures.
This was the breakthrough idea, and an exciting idea it was.
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5.0 out of 5 stars T.rex and the Crater of Doom Nov. 16 2002
Format:Hardcover
T.rex and the Crate of Doom written by Waler Alvarez is a book about what occured around 65 million years ago on earth. Yes, the Chicxulub crater off the North coast of the Yucatan peninsula.
As it seems, the disciplines of geology and paleontology are the are the Earth historians. Like you or I reading a paper for the news, geologists and paleontologists read the fossil recond in the rocks. By observing, measuring, and interpreting the information held fast through the eons of time, the earth's history can been seen and understood.
There are two camps in these disciplins the camp of gradualism where everything takes times... sometimes an enormous length of time, then there are those of the camp catastrophism, something awful happen like a comet of meteor crashing into the earth. Well, this book falls mainly into the latter camp as the work on the K-T layer (Cretaecous-Tertiary) Iridium was found and the cause soon revealed that it came from an extraterrestrial source.
To be realistic, one must use both camps to come up with the true answer.
This book has seven chapters: Armageddon, ExLibro Lapidum Historia Mundi, Gradualist versus Catastrophist,
Iridum, The Search for the Impact Site, The Crater of Doom, and The World after Chicxulub. Each of these chapters bring the read more information on how science, if applied correctly can render an answer to some nagging questions.
This book tell about what happens when a meteor the size of Mt. Everest crashes into the earth and the consequenses that follow. As the author states, "The hugh cloud of vaporized rock generated at ground zero was driven outward by its own heat and pressure in a colossal fireball.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good KT History for the Non-Specialist Dec 28 2001
Format:Paperback
The title of this book says everything you need to know about its literary style. It's a fun romp through one of the leading scientific controversies in modern geology and paleontology, told by one of the central figures. It is not a scientific treatise, but a book of scientific history, detailing the process by which geochemical "detectives" sorted through Nature's red herrings in the attempt to track down the object that murdered the dinosaurs. It's also a case study in the philosophical debate between catastrophe theories and gradualism in a science so marked by its long debate with certain groups of religious conservatives that it developed a reflexive antagonism to any suggestion that some events might not have taken place over "geologic" time scales. A world-altering meteor impact was not something the gradualists wanted to discover.
Alvarez clearly believes that the discovery of a 65-million-year-old impact crater on Mexico's Gulf Coast has pretty much resolved the question of what killed the dinos, and he's written his book to an audience of like-minded folk. If you're on the fence, the book might convince you. If you're in the opposing camp, it won't-nor is that the book's purpose. Rather, Alvarez is out to tell a good story of the progress of science. If, along the way, he teaches a bit of geology and convinces a few readers that geochemistry and geophysics are "cool," so much the better. Give this book to a high school kid with an interest in science-but read it yourself, first.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars EXTREMELY BORING!
This book is the most boring book I have ever read. I have to read it for my biology class and write in a journal summarizing it. It's terrible! Read more
Published on May 13 2003 by Megan
1.0 out of 5 stars BORING!!
This book is really boring, it took me 10 minutes to read one page. And everything went right over my head. The only reason why I read it is because I had to read it. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars T-Rex and the K-T Event
Alvarez mixes Scientific Method, paleontology, the difficulties in getting a new idea considered with an adventure story. Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2001 by Sean W. O'Toole
4.0 out of 5 stars A 65-million-year-old Murder Mystery
This is the story of the discovery of why the dinosaurs -- and so many other creatures -- went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago. Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2001 by James R. Mccall
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a Smash
Easier reading level than the Powell book, and more suitable for children and teens interested in the topic of the K-T impact extinction. Read more
Published on Dec 18 2000 by Holy Olio
4.0 out of 5 stars T. Rex: KT boundary once again
Probably the most investigated mass extinction of the five major events known to have occurred has been the KT boundary event. This is probably because the dinosaur, especially T. Read more
Published on April 10 2000 by Atheen M. Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining analysis of the process of scientific discovery
The strong points in this book are these:
1) it is a thoroughly entertaining detailed account of the discovery of the causes for the mass extinction which occurred at the K-T... Read more
Published on March 9 2000 by Roger McEvilly (the guilty bystander)
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Gives an interesting and factual account of the search for the cause of mass extinction that occured 65 million years ago. Dry in a few places but written well overall.
Published on Feb. 27 2000 by J. R. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars a great detective story
Although there are many questions that still remain about the extinction of the dinosaurs, this book does a very good job in detailing the work involved with finding the impact... Read more
Published on Dec 9 1999 by Michael G McGauley
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