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Bob Lucky, General Editor & Ray Rasmussen, Technical Editor
January 2020 Vol. 15 No. 4

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Lew Watts


“Careful with that chisel! The layer is delicate.”

We are crowded around the base of a cliff. Several students are holding small slabs up to the light; others are still working the seam. On days like this, I realize how lucky I am to be able to spend time with my students—virtual reality can never convey the experience of touching rocks.

showy sky pilot
I choose another crack
for the piton

I shift into professorial mode. “We used to think this extinction event was the result of a sudden global catastrophe, but recent studies suggest it was more gradual, albeit accelerating. You can see this in isotopic analyses of corals beneath the layer. Temperatures increased significantly in parallel with higher concentrations of CO2—the question is why? What we do know, from reverse-modeling, is that the original composition of the layer was dominated by plastics, which is how this geological era got its name.”

the cellophane wings
of a drone

The light breeze strengthens and chills. “Let’s head out before the storm hits,” I say. “And remember, clean your tails before boarding the bus.”