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tv   David Randall The Monsters Bones  CSPAN  October 17, 2022 3:04am-4:02am EDT

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there after about david. he's new york times best selling author of dreamland which is a book about the science of sleep, the king and queen of malibu. about that area of california. went from a sleepy small town to a place for celebrities and a great song by hole in the nineties. and then black death at the golden about the bubonic plague and its arrival on the shores of america and the early 1900s. it came out originally in 2019 and hardcover and, then paperback right at the start of 2020. an interesting time for that. his writing has appeared in the new york times, the wall street journal and the los angeles times, among other publications.
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he's a senior reporter at reuters and he lives in montclair, new jersey. dave and i have been talking i love book, i have young daughters. so when when i was offered to host it, i thought, gosh, they're going to think i'm so cool that i am reading a book about the t-rex because they're at that age that they're fascinated by it. and where i want to start our conversation is about a year ago, this time i took my daughters. i live here in nashville. we went up to new york for fall break. and of course, we were going to include a visit to the american museum of natural history during that trip. and we watched night at the museum to prep it. my daughters were really into dino, dana on amazon prime, so we're very excited. got up, got early. it was crowded, as it always all we got in where we're wearing masks and it's crowded and that it's still little disorienting. it was very disorienting at time to be in a crowd like that, to walk through the halls of this
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incredible museum and make our way eventually to dinosaur hall and stand in front of these incredible structures. and it's disorienting and i was overwhelmed by it. and and it's hard to read anything. my daughters are pulling and people are crowded and you feel you should keep going. but certainly it's hard to get beyond. wow, that's amazing. i have to go on to the next thing. you, however, also took care of your family to the museum and stood in front of a t-rex and had a different experience, which you talk about in the introduction, i think sends you on the journey of this book, and i wonder if you could talk about that. sure thing. well, first of all, thank you all for coming. and i did we we went to the american museum of natural history. if live in new york city area, it's almost like a rite of passage. you have to take your kids there. it's almost like if you don't take them to disneyland later, they're going to say, why did you never do that? so we went to the and our kids were our son was six and our daughter was three or four.
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and we're walking around and it was the same experience. it's very overwhelming. you know, that's thing is large museums i think the problem with them sometimes is they have so many amazing things so that it gets lost in a crowd. you kind of see, oh, there's, you know. if you're walking through the met, there's a there's a monet and there's a van gogh and. where's the water fountain? you know, it's kind of it's hard to find that way when you want to do so. our son, though, we were standing front of the t-rex and he got he became really quiet. and at first we thought, oh, no he's scared. you know, the teeth are as long as his torso, this isn't a good thing. then he turns to us and says, who found these bones? and it was really the first time i realized that there was a human story behind fossils. and i started going, digging more into goodness, almost like you're pulling out of at a thread in a sweater. and the idea i kept on going after was, how did dinosaurs change culture? it seemed like such a monumental idea, such an alien concept that
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there were these, you know, gigantic creatures walking over earth 65 million years ago. and even the idea earth was 65 million years old was a radical idea. and i wanted to find human stories to that. and hopefully and luckily i did, which was barnum brown, who was the main character in this book, but way i always like to describe it as you know even after doing this book, i'm not a paleontologist. i know more about paleontology than i did before, but it's still very compared to an actual paleontologist. what i like to make the comparison to in this book is that, you know, some people get into astronauts or the space race and all of that thing, and they really get focused on the spacecraft, you know, how did the rockets actually get us to the moon? and some people are really interested in the astronauts, and i'm more interested in the astronauts who were the people that opened up idea of dinosaurs to all of us and did they you know, what pushed them to go montana and south dakota and what pushed people to build
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these museums? we now enjoy every day? yeah, you mentioned i also took my daughter to the space and rocket center in huntsville not long ago, and it was a similar experience. it's overwhelming. like, this is amazing, oh, i have to move on to the next thing. you mentioned barnum brown. a good part of the book is about him and about his relationship with with henry osborn, who was the head of that department at the museum of natural history. and then went on to become its its president. yeah. barnum brown is the most fascinating character. and there's a there's a book called the american museum of natural history and how it that way that you can get in the gift shop up there and i picked it up and i went back to look at it after reading your book and brown gets about three sentences in chapter about osborn, and you devote good part of the book to him. and he's fascinating. and i, i think there is maybe a book all about him, but he's somebody you discover him. if you had discovered him as a kid, you just want to be him.
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i think so. i wonder if you could tell us him, how he became who he is. and i'd you to start with a sentence that i underlined that i love because it that it's aspiration of how i want people to see me, i think. but let's see. so this is about barnum brown to be in his company unshackling whatever tied you to the present and finding yourself compelled to explore not only the distance, not beyond the distant horizon, but whatever came after that. pushing past everything known until you reached the blank spot on the map. so he was one of those people whose enthusiasm was contagious. and, you know, when we were talking beforehand, writing that sentence, you know, i'm naturally an introvert and, you know, that's why i really am able to kind of sit in front of a computer and fall into the past. but i'm blessed to be married to an extrovert, who is very much has that type of personality that makes you realize whatever talking about.
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i'm interested. you know, you could be talking rocks, you could be talking about snails. you think about music, but you have such enthusiasm for it that it makes me want to learn about a few of is driving you to do that barnum brown he really was he was part of that generation where everything seemed to change it almost seemed it was the beginning of the the modern world in so many ways. and his parents, you know, they moved to they were homesteaders in kansas. he was the youngest of four children. and they you know, he was following his dad on the farm and he started finding seashells and he started wondering, why are we finding. seashells were 600 or 700 miles from the nearest ocean. and that was the thing that got him stuck on. the idea of fossils and paleontology. and he was really there at the beginning. there had been if you know a little bit about the history of his ontology, there, bone wars, which were two professors who they really popularized you know, the concept of dinosaurs at least in a scientific way,
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they're the ones who went out. they they named brontosaurus and all these other things. but nobody really shown people what a fossil or dinosaur looked like. part of the reason was that it's complicated and incredibly hard to build a armature, which, you know, holds a fossil. that's one thing. hopefully if you read this book, too, if you ever do go to a museum and you see the t-rex, something else, you realize how much of it is almost a sculpture. it's not just, you know, this, you know, formerly living animal. it's you realize they've done a really good job hiding everything that's kind of connecting it. and the steel and everything else, because this weighs several tons, but somehow it's animated and feels lifelike. and that's something i really appreciate. it just, you know, kind of the museum and presentation part of it more than i ever did beforehand. yeah, that really comes across the the work that goes into unearthing these fossils, but then shipping them back to a location. then it could take years for them to clean off the rest of the rock, the sediment to get
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them and then collected them in some position to then mount, which is a whole other art form. you really do a great job of that. yeah, it seems to that, you know vernon brown, he the pursuit of dinosaurs is really what got him out of kansas. you know he lived on a farm and he hated it. he he thought staying on the farm was a form of and he went to university of and he kind of talked on to these early paleontologist, paleontological digs and he very quickly demonstrated that he almost had this innate ability he would walk into these, you know, fossil fuels that everybody else had gone through, and he'd come out with a, you know, fully realized, not t-rex, a triceratops or other, you know, very museum quality level displays. and, you know, i think as you go through the book, he's very optimistic. and he reprised it's this idea
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of bringing science to the masses. but he also has kind of this tragic story. so it's you know, he has kind of it mirrors how has worked so somehow in history that is very optimistic but then you start to realize the downsides of it as well. yeah you mentioned bone wars. can you expand on what those were and who who were the individual involved? and then how sort of barnum finds himself in in those wars? i guess as a soldier for some of the folks and. then he eventually goes to work for henry osborn and what osborn's role is in those wars because that was really how cutthroat it was to find these fossils and get to them first and be the person to do it. that that wasn't something. again, you you talk about the pop culture. the dinosaurs are with us. they've it it seems like they've always been with us. they're on our tvs and in our books, but that doesn't until. 1867, i might be off on year.
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we don't know they exist some ways. right, exactly. so the history of dinosaurs and understanding dinosaurs, it really is cutthroat beginning. you know, the person who came up with the term dinosaurs he was widely hated. he was a british scientist. he was widely hated by his peers. and there was a lot of accusations of backstabbing, everything else the bone wars in the u.s. or to professors copen marsh and they basically hated one another it came from the fact that they had been contemporaries to a certain extent and then one of them was going to put out a paper saying he had found what was called a what he was calling a twisted necked reptile was a dinosaur. what happened, though, was that he put head where the tail he put the head, the tail should be, and the other one didn't let him forget it. so there this animosity that just built and built and built and they did do everything they, you know, they, they paid people to dynamite.
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the other ones find ends. they would go through the other ones digs the middle of the night and to scatter other bones just to confuse them. there was one incident where incident where they were both in wyoming and they both trying to get their their there. what had they dug on a train going back east and they were fighting over who got to go get on it first, that they literally their and their throwing rocks at each other. i joke around it's almost like all of wyoming. it was a sandbox. so they really did have animosity towards each other. but something came out of that, it was the idea that, you know, the west full of these dinosaurs and we need to know more about them and was on some of the first gigs who you know he went to south dakota. he went to wyoming. went to montana. when there were i think in the book i have the stat but it was something like sheep outnumbered people 600 to 1 or something and it really was the middle of
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nowhere. and the reason he got out to montana in the first place was that somebody had a picture of a triceratops and somebody when they first found it, they thought it was a, you know, a cow or something that had run away. then they realized, wait, this is something, you know, 30, 49 years old. and they had a picture of it, but they didn't know exactly where it was. so they just said, go to montana, find it. so he basically had go to an area it's about the size of japan to find one very small thing. and while he was there, that's how he ended up finding the t-rex so a lot of this book and a lot of i realized is that so of what we know about the planet's history is really based on happenstance and know serendipity and from that you start to realize, you know, earth is so older than we've ever, ever before and it's always changing. and then sort of, you know, that little germ of idea of how is it going to change in the future you can kind of build a line pretty clearly from t-rex to the idea of climate change, because you start to realize, oh, maybe
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there's a narrative of the earth history, and these are the people who helped us realize that, yeah, there's a part in the book where it's clear that this desire to just we're going to sort of segway into the of museums in this, which is particularly interesting to me because initially i guess there are universities involved in the bone wars? we haven't really made it into these could really be an interesting for but at the time i guess they the first bones do we think the world is about 5000 years old is that just yeah it was a very literal biblical of the world which was done i think someone had done the math through the old testament so eventually museums get involved. this picture, which is really interesting and initially i guess the very first museum is, is credited to charles peale in philadelphia. is that right? and it was considered a cabinet of curiosities.
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interesting things for people to come look at the idea you can be educated about this or this somehow have an impact on how. we see ourselves and the world hadn't happened just yet but dinosaur bones start to become a big part of of museums and what might bring bring people in and there's another section i'm going to ask you to ask because. they're ask you to read because there's intersection between museums but then also capitalism which is incredible at this time. this is the gilded age people are making an enormous amount of money. i don't know what what the percentage is now, but then you mentioned 1% of the population. they own 25% of the country's wealth. so at some point the gentleman at the american museum of history realizes we can tap into these folks for the greater good. but but not a lot. not initially. but i do want to mention this section first.
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there's area i guess it's in philadelphia. they they have an early dinosaur and it gets really crowded and then they start challenging the charging admission, which excludes poor from coming to visit. so from there, you get to the opening of of the met and, they realize, hey, maybe we can get get some philanthropy. so i wonder if you might read not the section i've underlined the subject that starts after which is about the opening of the met. okay. using the spoils of capitalism to bring culture to the masses was seen a noble calling, allowing one to act both and sell fruit and self-interest and for the public at the same time and there is this quote that somebody wrote think of any millionaires of mini markets. well, glory may be yours if. you only listen to her advice to convert into porcelain, grain and rice, the priceless pottery and the root cause of commerce, and to sculpt and marvel. so there was this idea that suddenly, you know, families and especially individuals had so
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much more money than ever before. you know, they almost were outside of this idea of jeffersonian democracy. you know, they were towered above it all. and you thought, okay, some ways they needed to give it back. they needed to what? some kind of, you know, release valve. people don't get too angry about this. well, one thing we can do is we can build this beautiful, beautiful museums in new york. if you've i always i didn't realize this until i worked on this book is that if you look at new york and you look at central park, the matters on one side and the american museum, natural history on the other. so it seems very, you know, art and here science. and at the time, it was very easy to get people to go to the art because it's, you know, beautiful and it's easy to get somebody to donate if they feel that, okay, you know, i have all this money and suddenly i have european masters and everything else it was a very kind of going back to the other book i wrote about malibu and the gold rush that as soon as people started
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getting very wealthy in california, that's suddenly they had to own rembrandts and they had to somehow make themselves feel at the american museum of natural history had a different problem, though, is that if you have, you know, a monet or you have something very beautiful, it's hard to get somebody. it's easy to get somebody through the doors to see that if you have a bunch of rocks, it's not as easy even the you know, if you have gold, it's a little bit easier. but if you just have here's some really rare iron ore something or here's a know stump from a tree petrified 2000 years ago, it's but it's not something like know i'm going to pay for it i want to come in the door. so they had this you know existential crisis for a while. how do we get people interested in science and how do we get people through the doors. and that's where dinosaurs came up. hmm. so so albert bickmore, who founds the natural history museum, he realizes, hey, we can really tap in to these railroad
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tycoons and all this money with him as, hey, we can, we know a lot of people in the city. we can educate them. the same thing is happening in other cities, particularly pittsburgh, with carnegie, who, as i said earlier in our conversation, seemed really genuine in his desire to take care of these blue collar workers that are earning him all this money, that there's a place for their to go. so carnegie there are curators and bone collectors have to answer to him. bickmore pulls in money from a lot of people, so so osborne, who is running the dinosaur department of more specifically the vertebrate, but it's a specific vertebrate paleontology, vertebrate paleontology, they've got a lot of people to ask you so that the bones were was reached a different level. now to really satisfy donors which benefits the museums i guess and benefits the people who are going to visit those museums but not really puts a
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lot of pressure on barnum brown examples. yeah so barnum brown, they still they start building the museum, they, you know, expand it. and if you've been in new it's beautiful. yeah, yeah it's several blocks. it's this fortress essentially of science and they start building it and they have all these empty rooms and barnum really quickly realizes he's the one who's supposed to fill them. and he has that. he's driven by this fear. he never wants to go. he does want. to go back to the farm. he's he's had this taste of bigger, wider world. and his largest fear is that he is going to not cut it essentially and have to go back. and at the same time. osborn, he's in charge of vertebrate paleontology. so he's kind of coming from a different edge. he is incredibly wealthy. he's, you know, incredibly privileged. he he went to princeton, everything else. and throughout his life, he's of always floated all of his ambitions on family money, you know he's just kind of protecting this. he's the nephew of of jpmorgan
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every morning. yeah and his dad is the head of a railroad, which is incredibly profitable back then. and he wants to make he must essentially seem like he is the most important person in american science. and he thinks dinosaurs is the way to do that. so he's pushing his explorers very hard to find something. he always feels like he's falling behind. andrew carnegie is building the carnegie museums. what now known as the fields museum in chicago, is known as the columbia museum. back then, they're already ahead of the game to. so he really feels like new york and his own, you know, life path be diminished if they don't find something spectacular and. it's really because of barnum brown. i can tell you this. tell the story in the book. but eventually barnum finds half of the dinosaur specimens are still on display at the american museum. he is really the one who brought dinosaurs public conversation and them accessible to regular
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people. and you know if you'd now this idea of every time you know you take your kids to the museum or a field goes to miss the embassy, the dinosaurs you really in barnum brown shadow if it wasn't for him none of us would do that. and he starts going off on crazier adventures. then montana hawaiian because the stakes are high and goes to patagonia, which then takes weeks, i guess, to get on a ship down there. and there's no civilization as we think of it. it's a dangerous trip, but incredible things come of that. and that is a thrilling of the book. that's why i think barnum is. he's not the model for indiana jones but could easily be examined because there are some moments that you think there's no he's going to survive this. but but he does could you sum up what happens in patagonia to him? sure. so he goes down there with who essentially a person who essentially he sees as his early
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hero. they look for bones, though, for they can't find any. and his hero goes back and barnum's about to go on a ship and he says, you know what, i'm not going to go back out. he's again scared to go back empty handed so he stays in patagonia for about another year by essentially living off the land. and he he finds, you know, dozens of specimens that are now on display in the american museum. but he also discovers within himself that he can do it, that you know, he has this new confidence of i've kind of gone the wilderness. i've come back and i can i can make it on my own. and he also starts to kind of learn more the history of how we understand the world. darwin he went to patagonia as well. and one thing i liked about the book was just kind of learning the personalities. all of these scientist, you know, these icons that we've always thought of. you always think of darwin and you think, you know, obviously
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natural selection and everything else. i didn't realize that he got seasick. he had this, he had he had this little letter that he wrote back home. how much. he hated the voyage and. he hated it more with every swell of the ocean. and that, you know, he wrote that like you who have never seen the deep green of the earth, you know, the bottomless ocean can never know how much i hate it or something like that. and he was you know, there's i have a couple of pages about darwin just because he seemed so fascinated that he got so interested in all these other that it was almost like he was college freshman and everything he saw was the most thing ever. so he writes, you know, a letter right now i'm red hot with spiders. and he got really into spiders for a while and then he and he's going to they're going through patagonia or they're going somewhere in south pacific. and he's watching, you know, dolphins at night. then he's picking up oysters and everything else. and he sees these very same
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exactly what is happening. it happens very small of fish. and he starts to wonder why god would spend so much time making something so inconsequential, so beautiful. and it just seemed like a i don't know. so some like a very sublime thought. it really made you think about just how how much we appreciate natural science the natural the natural, you know, the earth and everything else in a different way. so, you know, i started looking at dinosaur bones and fossils in a different too that you start to appreciate this in a way that you never really thought of. yeah. you know, whether you religious or not, just how beautiful this is. yeah. since you mentioned one of the questions i was going to ask you later was how doing this research, spending the years you did on it changed you? i assume all of your books living in that world that made you see the world differently. but since you mentioned that, i'm curious, certainly you see dinosaur displays differently,
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but do you see the world a little differently? the the earth differently? i think that you kind of have to. yeah. so i've written four books this is my fourth book and all of them have very different i'm impressed by some writers who can kind of if, you know, they write about ships or something and every book is about ships and i maybe it's just how my brain works. i get bored too easily if. i learned a lot about ships that all go in one book about ships because i couldn't withstand five books about ships. so the first book i wrote about was the science of sleep, it was called dreamland. and that was because i have a sleep disorder. i kick and i started and i talk and i sing and all these other things in my sleep. and i started sleepwalking. and i, i was i walked into a wall in our apartment and i busted my knee and. i went to the doctor and i, you know, i'm now mobile and i'm hurting myself. so what can i do? and they said, you know, we don't really know anything about
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sleep. and that's the, you know that's the secret of science. we don't know anything about it. so this book was the idea of to find all i could about it next book was king and queen of malibu. and it was about the family that used to own all of malibu, california and this long, complicated family saga. but basically, how they had all of malibu. and then how they lost it and kind of the tragic story behind a beautiful place. then the other book was blacked out at the gate, which is about the outbreak of bubonic plague in san francisco in 1900. and about this small group of doctors who essentially save country from it. devastating and all of us and how one doctor said he was really he was a genius but he also rubbed everybody the wrong way and he was really ineffectual. but as somebody else who barely graduated med school, but he's a very affable guy and knew how to get people to trust, and he was the one who's more he's the one who actually saved all of us. so you kind of go through these
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i kind of say all of that because what i realized over all of them is start to realize how much people matter. you know, it's it's easy in some ways to kind of fall into that trap of, you, the great people, the great personalities in history, as all because of only y z people. and it's not necessarily that it's more. so how did these people, when they were in these situations, how what their decisions how does that still matter? it's almost like if you're throwing a rock into a lake and, you see the ripples of energy that come out. those ripples are still going. and we just don't necessarily see them. we don't can't feel them, but we do we still live it that way? know we malibu has celebrities in it and it's this beautiful place that's untouched because this woman may orange refuse to develop it and. she was a billionaire in our money was willing to die penniless because she used every last dollar to try to protect malibu them. keep it you know and her sons
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sued her and she was almost killed multiple times because of her that we now think of melbourne celebrities you know we we did not have an outbreak of plague that killed millions of people like it did in india and and japan because this person named rupert blew who wanted to, who like his parents, always paid more attention to his war hero older brother. so he wanted to do something that made his parents proud in eyes. and you know why we know what dinosaurs are. well, there there's once this kid named barnum brown who was after p.t. barnum because his parents took his older kid, his older brother, to the circus. and they came home, they couldn't figure out what to name their new infant. and the six year old came in and yelled thing. and barnum, because of this kid, this guy, we now know what the t-rex is and we have jurassic park and have all these horror movies billions of dollars and hollywood really can be traced back to this. one person wanted to make a life for himself and he happened to find on the find this. so let's get to that to that
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part. 1902 in hell hell creek, isle creek, montana barnum finds the very first t-rex and there's no other specimen. he finds that and really things for paleontology museums for dinosaurs because there are i mean there had been a lot discovered before this they've been displayed the public interest is not kind into it but it's not incredible what happens when he discovers those bones. so the public before had seen dinosaurs almost like a novelty every time they had a dinosaur to display. so lots of people came, but they left just as quickly because it must have seemed like this is just you to use an outdated term like this, like freak show, you know, this is this kind of thing. but the t-rex was different, and not just because it was more physically intimidating. you know, when you first look, when barnum brown first looked down, he saw these jaws and
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teeth, it was really like a time machine. he was the first person to go back 65 million years and see this. but when you have, you know, all the before the t-rex, all the dinosaurs were all herbivores. and it's very easy to see dinosaurs almost as just kind of this boring. you know it's pretty it's big interesting. yeah, it's just crazy. and it's like if you remember the first jurassic park, it's like the swelling music, beautiful part of the john williams score. then the t-rex comes in and it totally changes everything because you realize the drum of life, you know, predation, predation invasion, you know, how do you survive how do you protect your loved that has been going on for millions of years before humans entered the scene and? then you start to realize, too, that if you have a creature this big, it has to eat a lot. so therefore there has to be more dinosaurs overall, it has to be more life. and if you have a creature that's big attacking you, preying on you, there must be some of defense mechanism.
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so starts to evoke a more complex relationship of life overall and starts to start to realize wait. earth has had this daily drama and you know, it's been going on for a long time. and you start to realize that, you know, there it the one thing i was i go back to my paleontology i we spoke about this before about peeling is still even after doing book is so intimidating to me in so many ways is that you have to make all these chains of logic that you have to know. you have to know so much about anatomy to say, okay is, you know, this is a whatever, a leg bone and from that i can say or this what the teeth look like from that i can make this assumption of how big the animal was and from that because how big this animal was. i can then make the assumption of it ate and then if i know what it ate and this is what the ecosystem have look like. and for that ecosystem and it must have had the weather must have been this and there must have been this.
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and, you know, there must have been this many you animals overall, you have to say like because of x, y, because of y. and you really can build this complex world all based on one assumption. and i, i can't do that. some people can. and why the p ontologies that are not but the t-rex was really what made people realize there's so much more here. it's not just these giant creatures with long necks. they seem gentle. yeah. if you have a question and i hope you. there's a microphone set up over here because we are. i didn't tell you we were live on c-span. we're live on c-span. so we'd love to capture your audio. so so please do. now, if you have a question for david, step up to that microphone there. we've about 15 minutes or so. is that right? i'm so the public are the the imagine it captures the public's imagination because right now there's violence and there's fighting with the dinosaurs. and there there's a a battle for
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survival, which maybe kind speaks to some american ethos. i guess they're about the struggle to survive. but then it's something that vicious dies off that also then says, well, then we can also with all of everything we can do, we can also die off. and that then sort of i think maybe public realizes, okay, well, what happened? so that question starts to occur, right? exactly. was kind of the unspoken question of. you know, you see a t-rex mounted front of you and you realize it was, you know, a battle. i quickly lose. so how did this how am i still alive? this thing is not so that became a big question. and, you know and at the time that question filled in by a lot of prejudice racism of you know it has to be this or that and that's one thing before i started this book, didn't think there could be a connection between dinosaur and racism. it almost seems like a potpourri
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to say those two things are connected in some way, but osborn one of his legacies at national museum was that he really he was this person who thought that what he called nordic culture was was the epitome of, you know, if you if you think of all of creation as a story, essentially, then know a white anglo-saxon person is at the top of that. so it was a very easy scoreboard for him in a lot of ways that humans have the capacity to care for their young. they have more intelligence, just more loving in general, and they're alive. and dinosaurs are not so there. there must be a reason for that. paleontologists now, realize that a lot of that not true in terms of just the dinosaur of it, that t-rex basically as intelligent as a chimpanzee they did care for the so many of these kind of assumptions from 100 years ago are now proven to not be true. yeah that was you can also if
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you don't want to go up to the mike you can raise your hand. i'll just repeat your question if that's helpful. yes. just curious if you ran across during your book the i grew up in a really religious environment and i was more real because the bones of place. so look at what point in that backlash against the discovery star did you so so the question is about kind of about a religious backlash to the idea that that the world the earth was older than 5000 years because you see that even today, that that's prominent. what point does backlash happen from a religious perspective? it happened more once dinosaurs were well part of the culture most they were very popular at beginning it was almost this sense of amazement by everybody and it was an idea that dinosaurs must have died out in the great flood or something or,
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you know, for some reason, no, it wasn't told to build a boat big enough to hold all of them or something. and it was more of this sense of curiosity and it almost seemed like they didn't know what to make of them as over generations, though, as a certain more part of education, part of a bedrock sense of this, is what the world like. that's where we start to have a backlash in the same way that you have backlashes against lots of other things as, the world. and it's almost like the book i talk about. it's almost like you have this book and it tells you the story of everything and then suddenly you have to add new chapters to it. and wait a minute, these later, chapters no longer square with the earlier chapters and you had the cognitive dissonance and those so it had to, it took a while for that to even be established once dinosaurs get, you know, the science of dinosaurs are taught in schools and they're taught and everything else, it becomes established fact that's when you have kind of people pushing it back against it. one of the things i interesting
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as a museum is that there's this tendency to think that history is set right or what been decided as having happened is sad. but then there new technology and new research which starts to shift the way we see those things. so yeah, even now, right we're seeing dinosaurs at one point the t-rex is positioned on what they call the godzilla pose at the museum up with the dragging. and then it's not until 1990. so so the how we see the dinosaur in cartoons now on shows is not that old 30 years. yeah in terms of that presentation but but even in yes we've a mic right there if you can use i think of a map of dating back these of bones i think of carbon dating but i wonder how barnum saw these things out in the wild and knew they were as old as they were i assumed there wasn't carbon dating technology at point there
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there wasn't carbon dating but they did more. so it was look at the layers, the, the strata of the sediment. so they realized that there's something called the katiba boundary which they had a sense of barnum was one of the very first people to recognize this. but the k-t boundary is basically the layer of sediment happened when the giant asteroid hit what is now the yucatan peninsula peninsula, mexico. it covered the entire world with certain types of sediment and you basically see there's there's earth, there's fossils below it and there's fossils above it. but for layer, there's nothing. so basically that's where everything died, they didn't have a good sense though, of exactly, you know, the 65 million or 70 million or 80 million. it really was just a guess and it was based what else what we find in near it that makes me realize this is kind of the same era. that's one thing. i was always surprised going through the book, too, is i always think they found the dinosaur. they found a t-rex. and that's the monumental thing.
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you know, when you found the t-rex, there was also turtle there, too. know we talked about the turtle, but it's that same idea of this was all of life was happening at the same time and the process of fossilization for for an animal to become fossilized it's very difficult. you have to have the exact right conditions. and a lot of it was because, you know, an animal died and it got swept away and then it was covered very quickly. so the oxidation didn't happen so quickly. so that's why you might have a turtle next to a t-rex or something like that. and that's all that just makes you think. one other thing. but first, before i forget so barnum brown fern found the first known t-rex and then he found the next to known well so he found three. there have only been about 50 t rexes ever found and there's i think i've stated this in the book too. so t-rex has lived for about ten or 15 million years overall and scientists now that there's something like 2 million or something lived in lifespan
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t-rex total that ever walked under the earth and of those something like only 2000 could have been fossil ized and you know barnum brown found three of them. so it just makes you realize incredible it was that he he found not only one, but three. and if you do go to the american museum, that t-rex you see there is not the very first one that was found. it was actually the best of number two and three, because osborn really wanted to put on a show so that's he he really wanted to find the best display. so if you want to see very first t-rex ever found is actually in now. yeah because they they sold it for fear of new york getting bombed right and it might be safer during war two it might be safer in carnegie. and that's one of those things you kind of talk about that ripple of history. you realize why is why is the t-rex and pittsburgh lost? because there were scared that they were going to be german
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dropped in new york city and they didn't know what they felt like they could get they could replace lots of things they can replace this. so at the same time they the met they much empty and send almost all of it to the to the biltmore. yeah. and they sent the t-rex. pittsburgh. yeah. that's fascinating. one of the things i want to talk about for the next minutes is this lingering issue with the culture. you've got the natural history museum, one side of central park, the met art and natural history separate. although you have benefactors seeing the benefit of that, but no one's collecting dinosaur bones for. their for their personal collections like. they might be with art. although that kind of changes in the late eighties 1987. is that right when the first private auction at sotheby's for a t-rex for an entire t-rex and then it happens again in 2000 2020 that right gosh.
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and the millions of dollars. so what what was that like so yeah. it's impossible for a museum to spend $9 million, right. it becomes a much different story that t-rex because it becomes popular it's kind of transcend and science is now part of culture. so there at the sotheby's auction, they have the listing. you know, they said a t-rex stands up very nicely against a picasso or else that's in the same echelon on now. and they thought it was going to go for 10 million or something and it went for. 31.4 million and private two. so at the time they didn't know who the the the purchaser was. now they know that it was dubai, the government of dubai, because they're going to create a new mattress museum there. and nobody thought it was going to go that high because it also had the more you learn about dinosaurs the more complicated and confusing it is in some ways
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they sold it. they also, it did not include intellectual property and you think how i why would a dinosaur have ip? yeah like you can't make t-shirts you can't make toys you can't make anything. and that's how museums recuperate it a lot of the money so become this issue now of it's very hard to have a sense of you know if you if you're a museum natural history museum if you have a t-rex or not really is a scoreboard in a lot of ways if you're in the big leagues you have a t-rex. if you're not, then you're just regional museum. yeah. and you know so when there was a t-rex nicknamed stan went for auction in 2000 and that was the one that the field museum they came up with a lot of money from with the help of mcdonald's to buy it. but i think the north carolina museum of natural history, they were a big bidder because they thought that was an idea for them to kind of get into the bigger leagues. yeah, there was a partnership. mcdonald's and yeah, somebody
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else was involved. then there were happy meals. there have been number disney. they are part of it too. that's right. so it's this the issue now is that, you know, t-rex especially of all dinosaur fossils, there's there's money in it, but a t-rex especially. there's tons money in the you know, in the book i talk somebody found a juvenile t-rex and. they want to sell to a billionaire. they didn't know how to get their attention. so they put it on ebay ebay and and you know, ebay told them put it down. and they didn't understand why that i own this. and is my property. so it becomes this question of like, is it t-rex or any other fossil a commodity? is it science is it what the what duty do you have to it? it's a it based on law. it's it's your private if it's on your land, it's your private property. we've got just 2 minutes. i, i really recommend this is a fascinating book you will fall in love with barnum. there's some tragedy in his life, too.
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but this is wonderful. we've less than 2 minutes now. what what has piqued your curiosity? and you've said, i've got to go down that road now i'm done. i'm a dinosaur, i don't outsource. i'm about to start working on the next one and i don't want to give away too much, but it has to do with a around the world race. oh, so. and same era in 1924 you we mentioned a lot of your books focus on this turn of the century period, which is fascinating. people accomplished quite bit. and my wife and i always talk about how did they do that many things. they didn't have tv. they they didn't have phones. they weren't distracted that they could go where their curiosity went, where travel around the world to do the research that would nice especially post-covid. i would like to go something what is it with norton? will they give you the money to travel around the world? i'm i'm going to i'm going to hopefully will. i'm going to pitch that.
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yeah wonderful. well, you can buy books at the parnassus tent up at one memorial plaza and then you'll be signing books right next to that at the signing booth. we'll take a walk up there. i guess we're just winding down now. so thank you so much for joining us. it's really been a pleasure, david. thank you for having.
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