I like this book because it shows how the theory of evolution applies to science itself. Strong hypotheses survive and multiply; weak ones die off. A scientist finds clues (in this case fossils), develops a hypothesis based on those clues, and as more information comes in scientists either confirm the earlier view or change it to account for the new information. Every generation of scientists tests the theories of the ones that came before as new information, new technology, and new methods for interpreting that information comes in. Nowhere is this more true than in paleontology, which — as loyal readers will remember — is my daughter’s current favorite branch of the sciences.
That early theory that sauropods must have lived underwater because they were too large and clumsy to live on land? A better understanding of anatomy (and water pressure on oxygen-breathing creatures) moved those dinosaurs on land. And Iguanodon‘s nose spike? When a complete fossil of Iguanodon was found, scientists realized that what they had thought was a solitary nose spike was in fact a bone from the creature’s hand.
This book does an excellent job of conveying to a young prospective scientist how exciting the scientific process can be, and the potential for her to take part in testing, adapting, and settling some of science’s open questions. Were dinosaurs cold-blooded, warm-blooded, or something in between? Is the current asteroid extinction theory really the correct one? Which dinosaurs had bumps, which had scales, and which had feathers on their skin, and why? There are plenty of questions left to explore, which is a pretty exciting thought for both of us.
In spite of this insight into meta-inquiry, here’s the bottom line: we first found this book a few months ago in our local library. We love it so much that we have checked it out several times since (in fact, it’s sitting on our couch right now).
- Holes in fossil bones reveal dinosaur activity (scienceblog.com)
- Big dinosaurs kept their cool (sciencenews.org)
- “Why did they think T. Rex stood with his tail on the ground?” (caterpickles.com)
- Why did they draw that dinosaur underwater? (caterpickles.com)
- New Dino Finding: Warm-Blooded, Nimble Beasts (livescience.com)