Paleonet: Outreach for public science literacy

argo at argo at
Wed Jun 1 18:48:38 UTC 2011

At the risk of totally undermining whatever shred of reputation I still have in being a “real” paleontologist, I would like to make two suggestions.  First, we all know that science literacy in this country is abysmal. Therefore, the outreach we and other scientists are doing (but most often not doing) is not working.  I advocate two new approaches.  First, I learned a great deal of science reading the great science fiction novels of the 50s and 60s.  We could have an equivalent in video games.  As father of a 14 year old, I can tell you that kids of that age will spend unlimited time on games if given the chance.  It would be good to get together at GSA and talk about new ways of getting our paleo message out – including video games.  A game of evolution where mass extinction sweeps you back to the start of the game is a natural.  Secondly, in frustration at my meager book sales, my 
17th book for the public is a novel.  It is set in both South Africa and the Tucson gem and mineral show, and involves the tension between academic paleontologists (and museum curators, who now have to compete for specimens without funds to compete with) and professional fossil collecting companies – as well as the current best guess about the cause of the Permian extinction, and the marks it left in the Karoo.  The hero (heroine) is a paleontologist.  I am happy to send a PDF of this 105k-word effort to anyone who would like to critique it.  There is no publisher yet.  In the course of this effort it became clear to me that a great volume of Uranium found in Africa was deposited at the PT boundary as a direct result of continental denudation in the mass extinction itself.  This is certainly the case for the Niger “yellowcake” which sent us into Iraq, as well as other PT boundary deposits.   
The Permian extinction thus extending into our time, this time as hydrogen bombs.
Professor Peter D Ward
Dept of Biology
The University of Washington
Seattle, 98195
206-543-2962  ( Office )

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