To me, that’s the beauty of science: to know that you will never know everything, but you never stop wanting to, that when you learn something, for a second you feel crazy smart, and then stupid all over again as new questions come tumbling in. It’s an urge that never dies, a game that never ends.
The Dinos And The Bees
How did the “terrible lizards” make the beast with two backs?
Robert Krulwich takes an entertaining look at the current theories of dinosaur reproduction at his blog, with help from Brian Switek’s great new book My Beloved Brontosaurus and some hilarious illustrations by Robert himself (one borrowed above). Do check out his write-up.
From the smallest, chickenesque raptors to the largest, long-necked sauropods to the armored, spiny stegosaurs to the violent and fearsome tyrannosaurs, one things for sure: It took a mommy and daddy dinosaur to make a baby dinosaur.
What is less clear is precisely how that worked. Modern birds descended from dinosaurs, and they provide some hints. For instance, most birds don’t have external baby-making accessories. Instead they have “everything holes” called cloacas (like these amorous penguins) that house their reproductive machinery inside. Dino reproduction would have involved a lot of careful alignment and what could only be described as “frisky friction”.
But not all birds are limited to the cloacal kiss. Ducks have famously corkscrewed screwcorks (which evolved to help females be more selective about mates). Crocodiles are also quipped with a snake of sorts, as are the older lineages of lizards and birds. So when it came down to doing the deed, it’s likely that some sort of external equipment would have been involved. Sadly, that’s a “bone” that doesn’t fossilize.
And that doesn’t even begin to address how a sauropod the size of a house or a spiky stegosaur could have gotten within docking range without risking life and limb.
It’s an amazing set of questions. And you thought your love life was complicated …
If you study county-result maps in the southern U.S. from the 2008 election, a certain pattern of blue emerges from the sea of red. There are many reasons for this, but marine biologist Craig McClain says that if you go back in time far enough, you can trace these election results to trillions of fossilized microorganisms, who turned the sun into soil.
Don’t believe me? Check out Krulwich Wonders…
It’s one of those classic questions that have tickled the human brain for ages. Let’s take something whose scale we have no way of reconciling, like the number of stars, and compare it to something else whose scale is completely neuron-warping, like the number of grains of sand on every beach.
Which is bigger?
This likely isn’t the first time you’ve heard this mind-bender. So I won’t be spoiling it by telling you that stars win … big-time. The universe is a very large place.
But we don’t have to go big to beat the stars. You’ll never guess how little of a certain common liquid it takes to beat both of those numbers … I’ll leave that to Robert.
When you are trying to create a version of yourself that will one day make you happy, half the battle is know your insides — know your pleasures.
And the other half is to know your outsides — to find allies, partners, mentors.
You don’t become yourself by yourself. You become you, boosted on others’ shoulders, buoyed by others’ smiles. You may be a singular person, but your success will always be plural.