Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-v

Contents

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p. vii

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Foreword

Carl Zimmer

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pp. ix-xvii

In 1980, Walter Alvarez, a geologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues proposed that the dinosaurs had been exterminated by an asteroid that smashed into the Earth. I was fourteen at the time, and that mix of dinosaurs, asteroids...

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Preface

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pp. xix-xxii

We come into this world in ignorance of everything that happened before we were born. As we grow up, we learn about the events of bygone years. From parents and relatives we hear the history of our families, and in books we read the history of humankind...

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CHAPTER 1. Armageddon

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pp. 3-18

Try to imagine a different world—different from the one we live in. Not wildly different, like the settings of science fiction stories which take place on airless planets or in giant spaceships. We are looking for a world much like our own, but...

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CHAPTER 2. Ex Libro Lapidum Historia Mundi

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pp. 19-42

As recently as 1975, the story of the impact on the Yucatán was completely unknown. One of the most dramatic episodes in the past of our planet had been absolutely forgotten, lost beyond memory for 65 million years. How has this lost...

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CHAPTER 3. Gradualist versus Catastrophist

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pp. 43-58

In previous centuries, travelers crossing the Alps on primitive trails faced drowning in wild rivers, freezing in blizzards, or burial by avalanches. As grim obstacles, slashed through by dark canyons and capped by a wilderness of glacial...

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CHAPTER 4. Iridium

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pp. 59-81

Uniformitarian gradualism provided an excellent framework for answering questions about the Earth. Geologists learned uniformitarianism from their teachers and found that in practice it almost always led to reliable explanations of geologic...

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CHAPTER 5. The Search for the Impact Site

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pp. 82-105

The Copenhagen meeting in September of 1979 and the iridium papers of 1980 triggered a storm over the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction that raged through the entire decade of the 1980s. Those of us who were involved felt like we...

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CHAPTER 6. The Crater of Doom

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pp. 106-129

In a good mystery story where the crime is concealed almost perfectly, there is usually a red herring to confuse the detectives. In our case the red herring was the misleading evidence, described in the previous chapter, that pointed to impact in the...

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CHAPTER 7. The World after Chicxulub

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pp. 130-146

The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary marks a profound discontinuity in Earth history. The early geologists were right to choose it as the dividing line to separate fundamental eras in the history of life—the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic—the...

Notes

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pp. 147-169

Index

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pp. 171-185