- Series: Harvest Book
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books (September 23, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156007037
- ISBN-13: 978-0156007030
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,827,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Night Comes to the Cretaceous: Comets, Craters, Controversy, and the Last Days of the Dinosaurs
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“Night Comes to the Cretaceous” answers both questions, the latter with an emphatic ‘yes!’ The Chicxulub (which means either ‘red devil’ or ‘place of the cuckold’ in Mayan) impact crater, first reported (and ignored for a decade) at the 1981 annual meeting of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, appears to exactly the right age and the right size to have terminated most of the life on Earth, sixty-five million years ago.
This fascinating book by geologist James Lawrence Powell is the first I’d read on the subject of mass extinctions since “Extinction” by Steven M. Stanley, published in 1987. What a difference two decades of discoveries made! Stanley, although aware of the discovery of the iridium concentrations at the K-T (Cretaceous-Tertiary) boundary, concluded that global climatic change rather than extraterrestrial catastrophe caused mass extinctions. Chicxulub was not on his event horizon, so he produced a very detailed and convincing argument for what was then the orthodox theory of extinction.
Unfortunately for orthodoxy, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez and his son, geologist Walter Alvarez had already discovered the asteroid-impact iridium layer in 1980, and predicted the discovery of Chicxulub as the death-knell of the dinosaurs.
Powell in “Night Comes to the Cretaceous” details many more discoveries that supported the Alvarez theory of extinction, and changed the way scientists (and the rest of us) look at the night sky. His book provides a comprehensive overview of all the bits and pieces of the dinosaur extinction puzzle that I had been reading about in two decades of science magazines. It is really exciting to see the whole picture and the new orthodoxy as of 1998.
Furthermore, in the last few chapters of his book, Powell asks whether all mass extinctions on Earth were caused by asteroid/comet impacts. He lists the seven known mass extinctions and presents the impact evidence for each. Finally he discusses the theory that cratering and extinctions may be regularly spaced through time.
‘Night’ is pretty scary reading if you had planned to go out with a whimper, not a bang.
I was very disappointed that other theories were given short shrift and at times almost mocked. This is a so so book about dinosaur extinctions but I am waiting for a truly meaty and balanced book.