Paleontology is the science of the forms of life existing in former geologic periods, as
represented by their fossils. Ever since paleontology came into being scientists have been asking
the question, what killed the dinosaurs? How did they go extinct?
One of the great stories in the history of interdisciplinary exploration and discovery is that of Dr.
Luis Alvarez and his theory that a six mile wide asteroid crashed into the earth 65 million years
ago and wiped out the dinosaurs (almost overnight in geologic time). In the June 6, 1980 edition
of Science magazine, Dr. Alvarez, along with a team of researchers (his son geologist Walter
Alvarez and chemists Frank Asaro and Helen Vaughn Michel) published the article
Extraterrestrial Cause for the Cretaceous–Tertiary Extinction, which they felt proved this
theory. This article revolutionized the way that scientists thought about the dinosaur extinction
What follows is that very article (Extraterrestrial Cause for the Cretaceous–Tertiary Extinction)
that started it all. Please read it carefully. Pay close attention to the role theses disciplines played
in creating this new knowledge (physics, geology, chemistry, astronomy, paleontology) as you
will be asked to write your interdisciplinary essay over this article. As you read please be
observant of a couple of important things. First, you may find parts of it difficult to follow. This
is a good example of how scholars talk to each other. His audience is fellow paleontologists so
try to think of yourself as a person in that profession as you read. Second, notice the citations
throughout the paper and the list of references at the end. The reason we are asking you to do the
“research and documentation” assignments in each unit is because proper documentation is a
must in academic research. Notice the priority Dr. Alvarez gives it throughout the paper.
We now present Doctors Luis Alvarez, Walter Alvarez, Frank Asaro, and Helen Vaughn Michel.
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