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USGS Cartographer’s Computer "Wizardry"... Asteroid Impact And Flying Dinosaurs Come To Salt Lake City
Released: 10/16/1997

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Pat Jorgenson 1-click interview
Phone: 650-329-4000 | FAX: 650-329-4013

The asteroid impact that occurred 65 million years ago comes to life on the computer screen, Tuesday, Oct. 21, as a research cartographer with the U.S. Geological Survey demonstrates his latest HyperCard animation at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Salt Lake City.

Tau Rho Alpha, a research cartographer with the USGS in Menlo Park, Calif., will show fellow scientists and educators how the massive impact that is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs can be better understood by elementary through college-level students through the computer animation and an accompanying teacher’s guide.

In Alpha’s animation, the peanut-shaped asteroid is shown spinning toward Earth, where a Triceratops is seen, and heard, munching away on the Chicxulub Plain, better known to us as the Yucatan Peninsula. The asteroid hits and bam! the next thing we see is the skeleton of the Triceratops lying on the seared landscape, while the surviving small mammals, such as mice and moles, forage in the debris, in their successful quest for survival.

Following the animation, patterns for paper models of the Triceratops and a Pterosaur (flying dinosaur) come on the screen, ready to be printed out, colored and glued together. The finished Triceratops measures about eight inches, from horny head to tail, and stands about five inches high. The Pterosaur is about six inches long, from beak to tail, and has a wing span of about five inches.

The accompanying 14-page teacher’s guide explains the impact of the Chicxulub impact; how scientists determined that such an event had occurred; and where it occurred. A glossary defines the terms used in the report, and an abbreviated geologic time scale defines the various eras when the dinosaurs and their relatives roamed the earth. Descriptions of the Ceratopsians, or "horned-faced dinosaurs" and Pterosauria, "flying reptiles," accompany the model patterns of the animals.

The HyperCard diskette version of the report is available from the USGS -Information Services, Open-file Report Section, Box 25286, MS 517, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, or by calling 1-800-435-7627 or 303-202-4200. The cost is $10 each. A paper version is available at the same address, at a cost of $5.50 plus a handling charge of $3.50. When ordering, be sure to specify: OF 97-442-A, for the diskette, or OF97-442-B, for the paper version. It also can be obtained from the Survey’s Learning Web site. The URL is: http://www.usgs.gov/education/animations/.

Alpha will demonstrate the computer animation at 9:45 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 21, in Room 150 of the Salt Palace Convention Center. The product also will be demonstrated and will be for sale at the USGS booth in the convention’s exhibit hall, Oct. 20-23.

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