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Re: The Permo-Triassic extinction killed the dinosaurs, according to Fox News

What an excellent example of sloppy journalism. The sad thing is that the paper 
could have made a very interesting news story in the right hands. The authors 
found exceptionally high concentrations of nano-scale silica dust in the 
end-Permian coals, which they suggest combines with organic pollutants from the 
coal to cause elevated rates of lung cancer. They think the acidic fallout from 
the Siberian Traps eruptions accelerated erosion to produce the silica dust, 
which washed into the peat bogs. 

By the way, read that first sentence carefully, and you discover that plants 
were walking the earth along with the dinosaurs 250 million years ago. Maybe 
give it to your students and say "spot the errors." 

At 9:32 AM -0500 1/8/10, Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. wrote:
>"The tremendous volcanic eruption thought to be responsible for Earth's
>largest mass extinction - which killed more than 70 percent of plants and
>dinosaurs walking the planet 250 million years ago - is still taking lives
>Well, to be fair, 0 of the dinosaur individuals present in the latest
>Permian survived into the earliest Triassic. Of course, 0 of the human
>individuals present in the latest Permian survived into the earliest
>Triassic, either.
>But it gets... Er... Better (?):
>"Scientists investigating the high incidence of lung cancer in China's Xuan
>Wei County in Yunnan Province conclude that the problem lies with the coal
>residents use to heat their homes. That coal was formed by the same
>250-million-year-old giant volcanic eruption - termed a supervolcano - that
>was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. The high silica content
>of that coal is interacting with volatile organic matter in the soil to
>cause the unusually high rates of lung cancer."
>Coal. Formed by a basaltic eruption.
>(Okay, in the paper itself, it states that the coal formed at the P/Tr
>boundary, but not that it was produced by volcanic action as such. The
>particular coal seam seems to be comparable to the Z Coal in the Hell
>Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
>Email: tholtz@umd.edu  Phone: 301-405-4084
>Office: Centreville 1216                       
>Senior Lecturer, Vertebrate Paleontology
>Dept. of Geology, University of Maryland
>Fax: 301-314-9661              
>Faculty Director, Earth, Life & Time Program, College Park Scholars
>Faculty Director, Science & Global Change Program, College Park Scholars
>Fax: 301-314-9843
>Mailing Address:       Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
>                       Department of Geology
>                       Building 237, Room 1117
>                       University of Maryland
>                       College Park, MD 20742 USA

Jeff Hecht, science & technology writer
jeff@jeffhecht.com or jhecht@nasw.org
Boston Correspondent: New Scientist magazine
Contributing Editor: Laser Focus World
525 Auburn St., Auburndale, MA 02466 USA
tel. 617-965-3834  http://www.jeffhecht.com