The world's biggest bang wiped out the dinosaurs in a cataclysm that swathed our planet in choking dust -- or at least that is what many paleontologists claim. Others say dinosaurs died out gradually as Earth's climate and geology changed. \nIt sounds a typical academic dispute -- but last week it erupted into open warfare. Allegations have been made of deceit and unethical behavior. One scientist is even alleged to have held back inconvenient evidence. \n"This affair has become an object lesson on how partisan and unethical the whole dinosaur controversy has become," said Norman MacLeod, keeper of paleontology at London's Natural History Museum. \n"Young scientists are now refusing to get involved in this field because no matter what they say it will offend someone and damage their careers. It's like the nature-nurture debate. No matter what you say, someone will hate you for it." \nThe furore focuses on a massive drilling project set up to study the Chicxulub crater in Yucatan. Buried under half a mile of rock, the crater was created 65 million years ago when Earth was hit by a meteorite 16km in diameter. The blast would have blotted out the sun for decades, or even centuries, many researchers claim. Given that around this time the dinosaurs became extinct, many scientists made a direct link. Denied sunlight and food, most of the world's animals would have starved, and choked, to death. \nBut others disagree. Volcanoes, global warming or sea level changes were responsible, they say -- pointing to evidence that most dinosaurs became extinct before the explosion and to the fact that many large animals such as alligators survived this alleged catastrophe. Things weren't that bad, they say. \nIn a bid to resolve the dispute, a US$3 million project was launched in Yucatan two years ago. Researchers drilled a pipe into the Earth's crust to bring back samples of the meteor and crater wall. By studying what happened just before and just after the meteorite impact, scientists would glean critical insights, it was argued. For example, it would show if all life was extinguished in the millennia that followed the impact. \nIn 2002 the first samples were brought up. To the disgust of Mexican geologists, and to many scientists who doubted the Big Blast theory, these were entrusted to Jan Smit, a geologist at the Free University of Amsterdam and a leading supporter of the meteorite hypothesis. Promising to cut up the samples and distribute them to project scientists, Smit left with the precious Chicxulub remains. A year later, many scientists were still seeking the promised samples. \n"We were dismayed," geochemist Erika Elswick of Indiana University in Bloomington states in the current issue of Nature. "There was no explanation given, no apology." \nEventually some samples were sent out, but most were too small for experiments. Dismay turned to fury. Researcher Gerta Keller, of Princeton University, pressed Smit and at last got a good set of samples. At the European Union of Geosciences conference in Nice, she presented her results, which were a bombshell. \nHer research, Keller claimed, clearly showed that marine plankton, far from being killed off by debris blotting out the sun, thrived for hundreds of thousands of years after the crater was created. The meteor that struck at Chicxulub was not responsible for mass extinctions, she concluded. \nNor is Keller reticent in her interpretation of Smit's behavior. \n"He tried to postpone our results so that he could remain unchallenged at that meeting," she states in Nature. \nSmit dismisses the allegation as "ridiculous." He blames the delays on his busy schedule and poor communications by those running the project. He also claims Keller misidentified some fossils in her samples. \nThe row is far from over. Project scientists are preparing papers containing results of studies of the samples they obtained from Smit and these will be published in a special issue of Meteoritics and Planetary Science next year. Few doubt it will resolve the issue. As MacLeod says: "It's no longer about science. It's about reputations."
On the Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo, enthusiastic slackers share their tips: Fill up a thermos with whiskey, do planks or stretches in the work pantry at regular intervals, drink liters of water to prompt lots of trips to the toilet on work time, and, once there, spend time on social media or playing games on your phone. “Not working hard is everyone’s basic right,” one commenter wrote. “With or without legal protection, everyone has the right to not work hard.” Young Chinese people are pushing back against an engrained culture of overwork, and embracing a philosophy of laziness known as “touching
‘STUNNED’: With help from an official at the US Department of Justice, Donald Trump reportedly planned to oust the acting attorney general in a bid to overturn the election Former US president Donald Trump was at his Florida resort on Saturday, beginning post-presidency life while US President Joe Biden settled into the White House, but in Washington and beyond, the chaos of the 45th president’s final days in office continued to throw out damaging aftershocks. In yet another earth-shaking report, the New York Times said that Trump plotted with an official at the US Department of Justice to fire the acting attorney general, then force Georgia Republicans to overturn his defeat in that state. Meanwhile, former acting US secretary of defense Christopher Miller made an extraordinary admission, telling Vanity Fair that
Boeing set a target of designing and certifying its jetliners to fly on 100 percent sustainable fuels by 2030, amid rising pressure on planemakers to take climate change seriously. Regulators allow a 50-50 blend of sustainable and conventional fuels, and Boeing on Friday said it would work with authorities to raise the limit. Rival Airbus is considering another tack: a futuristic lineup of hydrogen-powered aircraft that would reach the skies by 2035. The aircraft manufacturers face growing public clamor to cut emissions in the aviation industry, which added more than 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2019, according to
Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh on Thursday resigned following a protest over a hospital’s treatment of a new mother who tested positive for COVID-19. Khurelsukh, whose Mongolian People’s Party holds a strong majority in the parliament known as the State Great Khural, stepped down after accusing Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of the Democratic Party of orchestrating a political crisis. A small protest broke out in the capital, Ulan Bator, on Wednesday after TV footage appeared of a woman who had just given birth being escorted in slippers and a thin robe from the maternity ward to a special wing for COVID-19 patients