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Prehistoric Park

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 jerky.

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" story-line.

_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 comprehensive plan?


P.S. Nigel pronounces it "FOR-us-RAW-kid"...just in case anyone was curious.

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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