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MARTHA SEZ: From ketchup to dinosaurs

July 31, 2014
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Once August hits, the rest of the summer goes fast, like ketchup out of a bottle at a barbecue.

Just when you are getting used to warm temperatures and birdsong and green leaves, just when snow and sleet fade in your memory like something out of the distant past - the last ice age, say - the days of August rush by, falling all over each other in their haste to get summer done with, and, before you know it, all anyone is talking about is back to school and winterizing the car. This is the time I want to put the brakes on hard and hold onto what is left of the season.

The ketchup bottle analogy - I wonder if that has to do with inertia.

Used to be, if you wanted to find out about inertia, say, or dinosaur extinction, you would have to go to the library. In library school, I learned how to direct people to appropriate reference tools. As a student, and then later, when I was doing research, I traveled to university libraries and asked librarians to help me find what I was looking for. One thing I learned in library school: Ask the librarian. She or he will help you.

Now - it all seems so sudden - everything has changed. When I want to know what inertia means, or what paleontologists are squabbling about, all I have to do is go online and consult Google. It keeps getting easier and easier all the time.

I am typing this column in Google Docs, for example, and here on the right side of the screen is a long box with the word Research at the top and a space where I can type in anything I want, then instantly insert it into my document. Watch.

Inertia: a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

An external force, like thumping the bottom of the ketchup bottle. Right?

This makes scholarship so much easier. Think of all the time and energy wasted by college students in the old days, traveling to and from the library, lugging heavy books around, wandering dazedly through the stacks and trying to scare up reference librarians.

Plagiarism was then, as now, a mighty temptation to students as well as politicians, and yes, even journalists. It was much more difficult then, requiring a certain amount of diligence just to come up with relevant material.

He that readeth good writers and pickes out their flowres for his own nose, is lyke a foole. (Stephen Gosson, "In the School of Abuse, Loyterers.")

If you want to credit your sources, and "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations" doesn't have what you need, you can let Google Docs instantly find a quote and insert it into your text, complete with citation, in the font you are using and - get this - in the required publishing style. For a book publisher, for example, you might choose the Chicago Style Manual, whereas for a newspaper you would go with the Associated Press Style Manual.

I mentioned dinosaurs because dino extinction is in the news. Scientists are saying that a badly timed combination of factors led to dinosaurs - except for birds - dying out, along with about 70 percent of the earth's other plant and animal species.

Recently, television news announcers have been making brief mentions of the great dinosaur extinction, but it is difficult to really understand what scientists are talking about without researching the subject more fully. Thank heaven I have a master of library science degree! As a trained librarian, I can find original source materials any time I am looking to disseminate information. Here's what I have gleaned from my studies:

... recognized dinosaur experts from around the world convened and reviewed the latest fossil evidence from North America at the end of the Cretaceous Period, which ... marks the end of the earth's most charismatic beasts.

Despite some differences, the researchers agreed unequivocally that a meteor impact - from an asteroid, or, some say, a comet - most likely killed the dinosaurs, and that the die-off happened quicklyWhen the asteroid or comet hit, it may have come at a really bad time. The impact would have triggered tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires and temperature fluctuations, and the loss of dinosaurs at the bottom of the food chain would have had a domino effect on the dinosaurs that fed on them.1

Bad Timing to Blame for Big Dinosaur Extinction

Tanya Lewis (2014). Bad Timing to Blame for Big Dinosaur Extinction. Retrieved July 29, 2014, from

Whether it was bad timing or bad luck, I'm grateful that we don't have to contend with T. rex. We humans have problems enough as it is.

Next time: more about the dinosaur extinction!

Have a good August.



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