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I've been enjoying the new paleontological series on Animal Planet with
Nigel Marvin at his most suicidal. Tonight he went hunting for Microraptor
gui, ran into some Incisivosaurus and managed to capture an entire herd of
Titanosaurs, much to the consternation of zookeeper Bob (whose enthusiasm
and befuddlement is a joy to watch). This is all very well. But one of his
cameramen also got mobbed by a pack of Mei long who were after his beef
This is a man who ventures into unknown ecosystems with a CO2 meter (for
volcanic fumes), but no firearms. By rights he should have been eaten half
a dozen times by now, by things ranging from T-rex to short-faced cave
bears...all of which he's managed to outrun on foot. It's worse than all
those wildlife celebrities who pick up venomous snakes...seriously!
The outrageous cheating-of-death aside, the conceit of the show: capturing
extinct animals for breeding programs as we do with extant ones works quite
well. The "time portal" is never explained, just assumed (two probes, stuck
in the ground and activated, form a "time field" between them), and a
portion of each show is devoted to the care and observation of animals
captured in previous episodes, so there is both a "wild" and a "zoo"
_However_, entertaining as it is as fiction; I find that the existence of
time-travel is just too huge to be treated in such a haphazard manner.
They're just wandering randomly through time snagging 1-2 species per jaunt.
As professionals: how would you organize a comprehensive research program if
you had the earth's entire history to range through? Let's say the
time-machine can pinpoint things with 10,000 year accuracy (which should
avoid paradoxes with most all of recorded human history). Do you make
sweeps from 4 billion years ago and move forward? Move back from the
present? How much geographic sampling would you need? Is there some rough
sweep you could do before starting in on all the fine details?
Obviously, there are points in time which particular individuals would be
most curious about. Extinction events, the emergence of "firsts" (first
land animals, first angiosperms, origins of flight, etc.), and other
specific mysteries. But those are all tiny compared to the vast scope of
data available for investigation. How would you even _start_ to organize a
P.S. Nigel pronounces it "FOR-us-RAW-kid"...just in case anyone was
P.P.S. On an unrelated note, would anyone happen to know, off the top of
their heads, a greek/latin cognate for "lighter-than-air" or "floating".
I'm creating some balloon-creatures for a novel and while "pneumathere" has
a nice ring to it, it's not quite what I was hoping for.
"There is no other wisdom,
And no other hope for us
But that we grow wise. -- Diane Duane
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