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Re: The (long) future of paleontology

At 4:31 PM -0700 1/16/06, frank bliss wrote:
>There is also a lot to be said for the process of actually being "in the hole" 
>with the fossils.  No current technology has instinct, hunch, inspiration (or 
>perspiration) and intuition.  Past experience is invaluable when "deciding" 
>where to dig.  I walked up to a new outcrop once, studied it a bit, climbed up 
>to a likely spot and sank my pick on the third swing into an isolated t-rex 
>tooth (shattered it into 50 pieces since rebuilt).  There weren't 4 other 
>fossils come off of that outcrop.  Call it serendipity but I call it past 
>experience combined with hunch which is something that no technology (given 
>the size of the world) can accomplish within the next hundred years.  

Good point. What I would hope technology could do is analyze a different set of 
clues than the human eye and brain pick up. A good example is the ultraviolet 
illumination used to highlight the bones in the new Wyoming/Thermopolis 
Archaeopteryx. The bones jump out at the viewer rather than trying to hide 
because they're just a shade different than the matrix. 

Jeff Hecht, science & technology writer
jeff@jeffhecht.com  http://www.jhecht.net