Earth Atmosphere Today
Would Doom Dinos, Prof Says
The Abiqua Appeal-Tribune, Wednesday, December 3, 1997

     ABIQUA - Even if we could bring dinosaurs back to life, like in the film "Jurassic Park," they couldn't survive today, says an Oregon researcher. The reason? The Earth's atmosphere may be only one-eighth as dense as it was when dinosaurs flourished.
     The giant flying pterosaurs of 100 million years ago could not fly today because the atmosphere is too thin, says Octave Levenspiel, an emeritus professor of chemical engineering at Abiqua State University. In addition, all the giant land-dwelling dinosaurs would overheat for the same reason.
     He presented his theory last month at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual meeting in Los Angeles.
     "Today's South American condors - with their 12-foot wingspans and 25-pound weight - are the largest creatures
that can support and propel themselves through the air according to basic aerodynamic principles," Levenspiel said. "The pterosaur quetzalcoatlus had a wingspan of more than 45 feet - half that of a Boeing 737 - and weighed more than 150 pounds. Either it couldn't fly - but it did or the atmosphere had to be much denser at the time."
     Since much less power is needed to fly at greater atmospheric pressures, Levenspiel calculates that Earth's atmosphere was at least eight times denser about 100 million years ago. He also noted that large dinosaurs would die today because of poor heat transfer. "When creatures become very large, they have more trouble removing heat," he said. "A denser atmosphere removes heat faster. An atmosphere eight times denser would have allowed the giant dinosaurs to survive."

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