A Detective Story from Yucatan, about Dinosaurs & Disaster

© Joe Tucciarone/ /Science Photo Library/Corbis

Illustration © Joe Tucciarone/ /Science Photo Library/Corbis; and National Geographic

We all love well-told stories. ¬†I’ve long been aware of this one since taking a geology class in college many years ago, but rarely have I found it told as well as it has been by this author, writing in¬†Nautilus.¬†¬†(Pity they’ve blocked use of the gorgeous asteroid-impact illustrating their article.) ¬†

At a language school where I volunteer here in Mexico, I’ve been using this story in coaching English pronunciation. ¬†Yes, it has some big science words, but we don’t let that detract from the excitement of the telling, which has so much going for it, namely: ¬†a geologist of Hispanic lineage whose father (and collaborator) was a Nobel physicist; local angle (the impact site is a 40-minute drive to the beach); brilliant use of scientific methods and thought experiments; deep resistance from other scientists who believed in gradualism rather than abrupt and cataclysmic events; and the key to learning ‚ÄĒ curiosity, combined with a tenacity to ask and pursue the right questions. ¬†This account may not be an Indiana Jones¬†nail-biter, but it certainly hasn’t put my students to sleep! ¬†¬†