Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mummies!

There's a story on CNN about an extremely rare mummified dinosaur. What are the chances?

Candidly, the chances are almost impossibly slim. We rarely find the mummified remains of anything (even of Egyptian royalty, and they were mummified on purpose!), and fossils in general are not as ubiquitous as one might think. The implications of such a find are fantastic (and according to the story, it is only the fourth such find), giving a unique and quite amazing opportunity to peek through the window of 67 million years and see, with an unparalleled clarity, what these creatures were truly like.
Often, I think we don't appreciate just how difficult, statistically improbable, and incredible fossils really are. We have been given a natural time-capsule, so to speak, a chance to understand something for which we were not present. Nature does not owe us such opportunities. Children are awed by the idea of dinosaur bones; do we stifle our imaginations, ignore our wonder, gloss over our intrinsic reverence as immature? Or do we allow ourselves just the slightest giddiness at the prospect of experiencing something beyond us?

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