Have you ever wanted to get away from it all? Get away from civilization and all of its stresses and live a more natural life, perhaps on some remote island, untouched by modern society? Unfortunately, such places are rare and getting rare, as the march of technology makes the world ever smaller and more connected. It might seem that truly getting away from it all has become an impossible dream.
What about a trip to the distant past? Way back before the rise of man. In fact, how about a trip all the way back to the age of the dinosaurs. Perhaps the Jurassic period, some 150 million years ago would be just the thing. Of course, you might object that the plants and animals might be very different then. How would anyone know what was safe to eat and how to avoid the more dangerous predators? Well, fear no longer. Dinosaur expert, Dougal Dixon has prepared a survival guide for use for anyone who wants to travel into the Jurassic period. By reading A Survival Guide: Living with Dinosaurs in the Jurassic Period, you will become acquainted with the latest research on the plants and animals of the Jurassic period and learn which ones may be of use and which ones best avoided Dixon gives advice on finding the perfect place to locate your prehistoric getaway and how to best make use of the natural resources of the period.
It’s kind of a quirky idea, but honestly, I cannot think of a better way to learn about the dinosaurs of the Jurassic period. A Survival Guide is a lot more fun to read than a book on prehistoric life written in a more regular format. I have to confess that the first chapters, in which Dougal Dixon gives a rather exhaustive survey of the geography of the Jurassic period, are a little slow going, but once he gets into the descriptions of the life forms, the book’s pace picks up.
There is one curious omission, though. I find it hard to imagine that human beings could survive in a world with creatures as large as the Apatosaurus or the Allosaurus without firearms, of maybe even something heavier. Yet, Dixon nowhere mentions guns. I don’t think I would care to have to fight off one of the great theropods armed with nothing more than a spear or an axe and I am not at all sure that a fence of sharpened sticks would be sufficient to ward off migrating sauropods. At the very least, I think it might be useful to learn where their weak spots might be and whether the armor of an ankylosaur is bulletproof.
A Survival Guide by Dougal Dixon is a fun and informative book to read, whether you are a dinosaur novice wanting to learn more, or an expert.
The conventional wisdom concerning oil, gas and coal, or fossil fuels as they are called is that they originated many eons ago as plants and animals that died and were buried. Deep under the surface, their remains were slowly transformed into the carbon compounds that make up coal and petroleum. The evidence for this view is that fossilized remains of life are generally associated with fossil fuels. The conventional wisdom is also that the surface of the Earth is the place where life originated and flourishes while conditions deep under the surface are too hot to support any life.
What if the conventional wisdom is wrong? What if the petroleum and coal that we depend on did not come from ancient life but instead came from carbon that has been present since the beginning of the Earth? What if under the surface of the Earth there was a whole biosphere of microorganisms? Surface life makes use of the energy of the Sun though photosynthesis. What if the microorganisms under the earth make use of chemosynthesis using the carbon as it is transported toward the surface, and oxygen? In other words, what if fossil fuels are not fossils at all, but a part of the Earth that has been transformed by sub surface life?
This is Thomas Gold’s hypothesis that he presents in his book, The Deep, Hot Biosphere. He makes a very convincing case and his hypothesis, if true, can explain a great many geological phenomena not well understood at present, such as the formation of metal ores in veins, some questions about earthquakes, and others. Gold points out that conditions under the Earth would be far more favorable for the origin of life that the surface. In the final chapter, Gold examines the possibilities of extra-terrestrial life. So far, we have not found life on any other planet of the Solar System, but perhaps we are not looking in the right place. The surface of Mars, the Moon and the satellites of the gas giants are all hostile to life, but maybe we should look under the surface. Perhaps deep within Mars there lies the life we have been searching for.
Is the deep, hot biosphere hypothesis true? I couldn’t say not being an expert in this field. However, I will say that Thomas Gold shows himself to be a first class scientist by asking the questions. There has been a tendency in recent years to view science as some sort of final authority with all of the answers. How many times have you heard the latest study viewed as some sort of message from on high, or heard the phrase settled science? This is a misuse of science. Science is not an authority, but a method for asking the questions. Sometimes the most important work a scientist can do is to ask questions that everyone thinks they know the answer to. In this regard, The Deep, Hot Biosphere is an interesting book that is sure to make you think.