The End of the Dinosaurs: Chicxulub Crater and Mass Extinctions

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The discovery of the giant Chicxulub impact crater, buried off the coast of Mexico, unveiled the solution to one of Earth's greatest mysteries—what killed the dinosaurs. Scientists uncovered physical evidence to explain the mass extinction that rocked the Earth 65 million years ago. Step-by-step, The End of the Dinosaurs: Chicxulub Crater and Mass Extinctions tells this great scientific detective story. Charles Frankel recounts the birth of the cosmic hypothesis, which holds that the crash of a meteor on the Earth's surface killed two-thirds of life and all the dinosaurs. He first provides a dramatic account of the impact and its aftermath. Frankel then goes on to detail the controversy that preceded the acceptance of the cosmic hypothesis, the search for the crater, its discovery and ongoing exploration, and the effect of the giant impact on the biosphere. In addition, he reviews other mass extinctions in the fossil record and the threat of asteroids and comets to our planet today. More than 70 photographs and diagrams enhance and help illustrate the material. Filled with drama and interesting science, The End of the Dinosaurs will readily appeal to both the general reader fascinated with the subject and the specialist always searching for more clues to this great mystery. Charles Frankel has written a number of articles on the earth sciences in books and magazines. His many books include Volcanoes of the Solar System (Cambridge University Press 1996).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Approximately 65 million years ago, at the close of the Cretaceous era, Earth underwent a major bout of extinctions. Seventy percent of all species, including all of the dinosaurs, died out in a relatively short time. In this attractive volume, Frankel (Volcanoes of the Solar System) attempts to pinpoint the cause of this devastation. Summarizing a wealth of scientific information, he argues that either a comet or a huge asteroid slammed into Earth near Puerto Chicxulub, Mexico, releasing a massive amount of energy. The smoke from the enormous fires that ensued, coupled with the colossal amount of debris flung into the atmosphere by the impact, blocked sunlight, changed climate worldwide and led to the extinctions. A true science detective, Frankel marshals his facts, outlines the search for culprits, describes the scene of the crime and portrays the other sleuths on the case. He gives short shrift to alternative explanations (such as volcanic activity) for the mass extinction, however. His well-informed book, initially published in France in an earlier version, concludes with one chapter providing inconclusive evidence linking many of Earth's other major extinction events to impacts, and another chapter discussing steps that can be taken to avert future collisions. 67 halftones, nine line diagrams. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Every schoolchild now knows that the dinosaurs were killed off by a meteor, but it took a while for scientists to accept the idea. Here's the story of how they changed their minds, by science writer Frankel (Volcanoes of the Solar System, not reviewed, etc.). The discovery of Chicxulub crater in Mexico was the crucial clue in one of the great scientific detective stories of modern times. For more than a century, paleontologists had spun theories to explain the sudden disappearance of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous era, some 65 million years ago. The first clear indication that the extinction was sudden, rather than evolutionary, was the famous paper by Luis Alvarez and others, showing an increase in the rare element iridium in strata associated with the end of the Cretaceous, and suggesting a meteor impact as the cause. The geological community, not used to the notion of extraterrestrial causes for earthly events, at first resisted the suggestion. But other scientists documented additional signs of meteoric activity: shocked quartz crystals, caused only by significant meteor impacts, and tektites, droplets of ejected material that cool into glass spheres. By this point, some scientists had begun to search for the impact crater—no sure thing, since there were two chances out of three that the meteor had landed in the ocean. Nonetheless, scientists were largely convinced by the discovery of the Chicxulub crater, which matched all the criteria for the "smoking gun" in this mystery. Frankel devotes a chapter to describing the probable aftereffects of the impact, from shock waves to burning ejecta to poisonous chemicals. He then expands his scope to look at thepossibility that other mass extinctions were caused by impacts and at the possible implications of these discoveries for human civilization. A workmanlike job, covering the main events and key players of one of the great stories in modern science. (67 photos, 9 ilustrations)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521474474
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 236
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

1. The night of the dinosaurs; 2. A detective's diary; 3. A controversial idea; 4. Looking for the crater; 5. Chicxulub Crater; 6. A Cataclysmic Event; 7. Waiting for the comet.

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