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T. rex and the Crater of Doom Paperback – 21 Jul 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; With a New Foreword by Carl Zimmer edition (21 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691131031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691131030
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.9 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[D]eft and readable . . . T. rex and the Crater of Doom gets the facts across in a lighthearted, almost playful manner. But it's also solid science, a clear and efficient exposition that conveys plenty of cogent detail while keeping an eye on the subtle interplay of thought, action, and personality that makes scientific research such arresting human behavior. . . . [An] estimable account from the world's leading authority on death from above."--Timothy Ferris, New York Times Book Review



"A geologist (who happens to be a kind of working philosopher) gives a deft, readable explanation of the extinction of the dinosaurs."--New York Times Book Review



"The book is very well written and so engrossing that a reader with little or no background in the earth's geologic history will enjoy an easy and vastly entertaining summary of how we came to our present understanding of the past. It is a wonderful adventure in science."--Dale Russell, The Los Angeles Times Book Review



"An unfolding story told by its leading protagonist. . . . Very clearly and entertainingly written, and illustrated with fascinating colour plates, it is accessible even to nonspecialists."--Arthur C. Clarke, The Times Higher Education Supplement



"A fascinating proof of a once ridiculed theory. In fitting together the puzzle of dino demise, Alvarez excitingly shapes the story for the widest audience."--Booklist



"Every library with geology holdings will want to have this book. . . . Alvarez offers a great detective story. . . . "--Choice



"A first-rate, swiftly paced tale of how science can propel its participants down avenues of surprising discovery to breathtaking conclusions."--Charles Petit, San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle



"This personal account of the search for a geological Excalibur makes fascinating reading. . . . [It] reads like Arthurian legend, full of temptations which lead the hero astray and distract him and his followers from the true path."--Douglas Palmer, New Scientist



"Alvarez's book recounts this scientific detective story in an authoritative yet consistently engaging manner. Once considered absurd, the idea that extraterrestrial factors were involved in some of the great crises in the history of life has become widely accepted."--Hans-Dieter Sues, Toronto Globe and Mail



"A nicely told and well-written tale of scientific discovery."--Library Journal



"Appealing and accessible, an excellent introduction to the subject."--Kirkus Review



"Reading Alvarez's book is a bit like reading a letter from an old friend you haven't seen for 30 years. . . . Serious passages are offset by cheeky commentary and humble asides that keep the book from becoming overly solemn or preachy."--Rachel Berstein, Berkeley Science Review



"If you love mysteries and enjoy science, this is a wonderful book to read."--Wildlife Activist


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Sep 2003
Format: Hardcover
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 in the US. 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Oct 1998
Format: Paperback
The worst thing about this book is its title. The best thing is everything else. Its theme is the extinction at the end of the Cretaceous and how the cause was proved to be the impact of the earth with a comet (or was it an asteroid). The author's interest in the K/T extinction began when he studied magnetic polarity reversals in the Cretaceous and Tertiary. He studied deep sea limestones exposed in the Apennines of Italy and dated them using their foraminifera content. And at the K/T boundary big forams disappear. Then he was told that the dinosaurs disappeared at about the same time. His interest in the thin clay at the K/T boundary began to develop.
The explanation of Lyell, the father of uniformitarianism, for the faunal differences either side of the K/T boundary was that it was an unconformity. It marked a large time gap. But the author's work on polarity reversals had cut the K/T gap to less than half a million years, probably less than a hundred thousand years.
Iridium Anomalies
Discussion started with his father, Luis Alvarez, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, about how long a time period the boundary clay represented. The surrounding limestones contained 5 to 10 per cent clay. So was the clay layer deposited when limestone deposition stopped, in which case it represented several thousand years. Or was there a pulse of increased clay input? In which case it represented only a few years. How to do this? Use meteorite dust! (measured as iridium content). The assumption was that meteor dust falls constantly (in tiny amounts) and the amount of dust would tell you how long a bed took to deposit. So if it was deposited in a short time there would be no iridium and if it represented several thousand years there would be about 0.1 parts per billion.
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Format: Hardcover
Walter Alvarez has done a great job of describing the solution to a great scientific mystery: what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs? It is now well known that a large meteor hit the earth 65 million years ago creating a monstrous explosion and dust cloud, blocking the earth from the sun. The proof that was given to us by nature was the Chixculub Crater, created by the asteroid 65 million years before. He lost me a third of the way into the book, as he started to talk of the chemical bases of the iridium and how different machines used certain chemicals to trace other chemicals. It was not that I disliked the book. The pictures were stunning and I thought that for the most part the book was really intriguing from a scientific point of view. The reason for the three points taken off was that, perhaps, in order to make the chronical book length, he combined difficult information with more interesting and less difficult information. I think he was aiming at too wide an audience. Was he talking to high school students? College students? Overall I really enjoyed the book and I recommend this book to anyone over the age of sixteen. It is most certainly a book for someone who has studied some biology, chemistry, or geology in school.
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By A Customer on 28 April 1998
Format: Hardcover
Walter Alvarez commands a mind of genius proportions, and thankfully he put that mind to the task of producing a wonderful book about the thrill of scientific discovery. The book explains how the scientist looks for patterns in nature that allow generalizing and unifying conclusions to be drawn.
Through our joint geological research in the Italian Apennine Mountains, I've had the very good fortune of getting to know Walter. Despite his being one of the world's leading and best known scientists Walter is an extremely friendly and modest person. In this regard he reminds me of Albert Einstein.
Shortly after visiting Walter in Berkeley last year I mentioned that Spielberg might be interested in a movie relating to the "impact" subject. I didn't know at the time that not one but TWO movies were already in production on this subject - one by Speilberg!
T.rex will inspire and lead many young people to choose careers in geoscience. In considering environmental issues and geosocietal hazards I believe this - inspiring young people - will prove to be the most important long-term outcome of Walter's book: T.rex and the Crater of Doom.
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