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If the suspicions of Olsen and a few other scientists are right, then unspeakable violence may lurk in our solar system’s future — maybe even a premature end for Earth.
A Message From the Past Olsen’s journey into these questions began 45 years ago in the late 1960s, while he was a teenager growing up in Livingston, N. He and his friends spent entire days at an abandoned quarry, chiseling out reptile footprints and fish fossils.
A deep-bellied rumble reverberates through an expanse of tired, wrinkled badlands.
A diesel truck sits atop a mesa, a metal shaft extending downward from the rear of its bed, piercing the earth like a stinger. Hundreds of feet below, its diamond-crusted end grinds through layer after layer of sedimentary stone.
Inside this particular section of core, Olsen finds chicken egg-size river cobbles — evidence of a current “strong enough to move those pieces of rock,” he says.But Olsen and others believe that for 30 million years after dinosaurs first appeared, they remained stranded, for the most part, in the geographic fringes of this world.They were confined by their own novel physiology, which differed from other reptiles and amphibians and limited where they could live.Hidden inside the muddy plastic cylinder is a section of core from a long-buried world. The sheath protects it from swelling and crumbling.Paleontologist Paul Olsen kneels for a look at the round cross-section of stone at the end of the core. All day and night for the past week, core sections have emerged from the drill hole every few minutes.