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University of Kansas paleontologist Robert DePalma and colleagues said the excavation site, called Tanis, offered a momentous peek into events that occurred minutes after the asteroid crashed into the planet.
“This is the first mass death assemblage of large organisms anyone has found associated with (the end of the Cretaceous Period),” said DePalma.
“At no other (time) on Earth can you find such a collection consisting of a large number of species representing different ages of organisms and different stages of life, all of which died at the same time, on the same day.”
This is why Lu and others are pushing for better detection capabilities now. It could take more than a decade to fully design and equip a mission to coax an asteroid off its path toward Earth, so early warning will be key.
We seem to have a tough time grappling with the consequences of events that we haven’t personally experienced, and sometimes fail to take the necessary precautions. The 2011 Fukushima disaster and the failure of the levees after Hurricane Katrina are prime examples.
“It’s not as small as you think, it’s just that it’s longer than a generation,” Lu says. “If it didn’t happen in your lifetime, you naturally discount it.”