Dinosaurs Hardcover – 1 Jan 1996
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Long version: Read on.
Benton & Brusatte are consistently good sources for the specialist (E.g. See Brusatte's "Dinosaur Paleobiology"). However, they're also consistently not-so-good sources for casual readers/the enthusiast. I originally thought that Past was going to be the exception, mostly because of the beautiful paleoart (which is mostly that of Sibbick & Krb). Boy, was I wrong about Past!* Not only is Past as bad as expected overall, but worse in some ways. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think Past is that bad.
1) As expected, the text is hit-&-miss in terms of getting the facts straight. What wasn't expected was the high number & degree of misses in the text. That of Chapter 3 is some of the worst: On page 28, it's claimed that Huayangosaurus was "found in the 1970s" (More like 1982), that Kentrosaurus was "only 2.5 metres…long" (More like 5 m long), that Stegosaurus "was 6 to 7 metres…long" (More like 9 m long), & that "the snout [of Huayangosaurus] is long" (It isn't); It's also worth mentioning that, on page 29, Benton misidentifies Kentrosaurus as Dacentrurus & vice versa despite having correctly identified Kentrosaurus on page 28.
2) As expected, the writing is annoyingly repetitive (E.g. Ornithopod chewing is described over & over again) & inconsistent (E.g. Chapter 2 begins with climate, flora, & fauna; Chapter 3 begins with climate & flora; Chapter 4 begins with climate & fauna; Chapter 5 begins with none). What wasn't expected was the plain toast-dryness of the writing. That of Chapter 1 (See the Benton quote) is some of the worst: On page 4, Benton takes 2 major theories of geology & biology (I.e. Radioactive decay & evolution, respectively) & makes them boring & meaningless (I.e. He defines them as "change, over time" & "change through time", respectively); That's when I realized that I was wrong about Past.
To sum up, Bakker put it best when he said, "We dino-scientists have a great responsibility: our subject matter attracts kids better than any other, except rocket-science" (Google "Paleontological Profiles: Robert Bakker"). Past doesn't fulfill said responsibility.
*If you get the reference, give yourself a pat on the back.
Quoting Benton: "Dinosaurs lived on Earth long ago, during the Mesozoic Era, which is often known as the 'Age of the Dinosaurs'.The dinosaurs lived for 160 million years, eventually dying out 65 million years ago, long before the origin of humans 5 million years ago.
These vast amounts of time, measured in millions of years, have been based upon studies of rocks by geologists. Long ago, geologists realised that the Earth was very ancient, and that vast thicknesses of rocks have been deposited, with the oldest layers generally at the bottom of the pile. Exact ages of the rocks are found out by studies of rocks that have natural radioactivity. Radioactive elements are not stable, and they decay, or change, over time into other elements. The rates of decay are known, and it is possible to estimate the exact age of a rock sample by comparing the amount of a radioactive element left and the amount of the end product.
Fossils are also used in dating, and they can give quick and accurate age estimates, but not in millions of years. Fossils are the remains of once-living plants and animals which have been preserved in the rock. There is a very rich fossil record in the rocks, thousands of species having been preserved through the past 3,500 million years. The fossils give evidence for change through time, or evolution. Different groups come and go at specific times, and rocks of any particular age may contain specific fossils that are never found in rocks of any other age.
Fossil evidence, and exact age dating, form the basis of the geological time scale, an international standard. Time is divided into Eons, Eras, and Periods, and these may be further divided up into smaller units. This is a useful reference for geologists in all countries, and it is the time scale that is used to calibrate the evolution of life. The dinosaurs arose in the Late Triassic Period, ruled the Earth during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, and died out at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary."