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RE: The (long) future of paleontology

Not sure what the automobile analogy is about since I would gladly use
technology to help me find and excavate dinosaurs. Unlike Dann, I would
excavate the specimen once found, not simply take pictures of it. Seems
to me one reason for getting down and dirty is because it is cheaper
than overpriced, dust sensitive, and prone to breakdown equipment. Case
in point: A good friend from Lawrence Livermore (yes, the weapons lab)
brought out a highly sensitive radiation detector to try out at an
ankylosaur bonebed we have been excavating (see my web site). Unlike
some sites in the Cedar Mountain Formation, this place had practically
no radioactive bones. Unfortunately, field condition were such that a
$5000 piece of equipment was severely damaged and we never were able to
try the technique. We had hoped to locate an intact skull. In the past,
I experimented with ground penetrating radar, but that technique was a
bust since the density of dinosaur bone is about the same as the
encasing rock. That is certainly not the case for human artifacts in
dirt. Laser technology for the automated preparation of fossils (another
area my friends at Livermore explored using specimens I provided) is
still in the tens of thousands of dollar stage. See JVP Abstract
19(3):35A "Automated high-speed, high-speed, high-resolution specimen
recovery from matrix with femtosecond laser pulse-trains." My record, at
least, shows ownership of a 'new fangled automobile' 

As one who has monitored the commercial business for years, I can state
that in fact paleontology is not becoming more commercial, but less. My
close friends at the Black Hills Institute and Western paleo Labs, among
others, have been struggling for the past few years. The price of
dinosaurs has been dropping for lack of buyers. The Japanese market that
for years was driving the market has been pretty much dead for a number
of years as well. 

Kenneth Carpenter, Ph.D.
Curator of Lower Vertebrate Paleontology/
Chief Preparator
Department of Earth Sciences
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
2001 Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80205
Phone: 303-370-6392
Fax: 303-331-6492
for PDFs of some of my publications, as well as information of the Cedar
Mountain Project: 

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu] On Behalf
Of Dann Pigdon
Sent: Monday, January 16, 2006 1:24 PM
Subject: Re: The (long) future of paleontology

Ken.Carpenter@dmns.org wrote:
> Dann may choose to keep his hands clean and unblooded, but the rest of

> us like the dirt under the nails, the challenge of excavation and the 
> bumps and bruises that accompany that work.

I'm sure dedicated horse people resisted the 'new fangled automobile' as
well. :)

Seriously though, how will traditional palaeontologists compete with the
more cost- and time-effective methods of the future? Just because people
like doing something a certain way doesn't mean they will have the
luxury (or in this case, lack of luxury) of being able to do so. 

Palaeontology is becoming increasingly commercial-oriented (like it or
not), and short of commiting the ultimate horror of selling fossils to
the highest bidder, it has to be cost effective and preferably be able
to make (or save) someone some money (exhibitions, advertising, etc).

I'm not saying I like it that way, but it seems to be what's


Dann Pigdon
GIS / Archaeologist         http://heretichides.soffiles.com
Melbourne, Australia        http://www.geocities.com/dannsdinosaurs