"Aliens in the Ground"
Recently a Columbus Dispatch reporter interviewed me about the growing
excitement for COSI's new dinosaur exhibit, opening this fall. He
wondered why dinosaurs were so dang fascinating.
I know I was obsessed with dinosaurs (and space) growing up, and seriously considered going into paleontology. And I guess I'm not alone. So what's the attraction?
To me, thoughts of dinosaurs run parallel to thoughts of extraterrestrial life. We're constantly inquiring if we're alone in the universe, and if there is life out there, what forms and shapes it could take. But buried under our feet are the fossilized remains of fantastic - almost mythical - creatures.
Massive beasts as long as school buses, fierce killers with teeth longer than my hand, flying and swimming creatures that are almost too big to comprehend. The dinosaurs and their kin have no real living analog to compare them to. Birds are descended from them, but only a few thin lines of the full variety of dinosaurs survived the extinction event 65 million years ago.
I think dinosaurs are fascinating because a) they're so different, and b) they're dead. It's only by careful reconstruction that we can even begin to imagine what they were like in real life. To us, they might as well be aliens.