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A Comparison of the Composition of Asteroids and Dinosaurs: Towards A Better Understanding of Major Extinction Events

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Dear Dr Rosencrantz,

I am writing as the editor of Lego Interdisciplinary Studies, to ask whether you would be kind enough to review the attached manuscript for suitability for publication in the journal. I would particularly welcome your opinions on the following points:

  • is the research question addressed novel and timely?
  • are the construction methods employed appropriate and robust?
  • how does this manuscript further the cause of interdisciplinary research?

If you do not have the time at present to review this paper then I would be grateful if you would let me know as soon as you can.

Regards and best wishes,
L. Editor
Chief Editor, Lego Interdisciplinary Studies


A Comparison of the Composition of Asteroids and Dinosaurs: Towards A Better Understanding of Major Extinction Events

Authors:L. Astronomera*, L. Chemista, L. Paleontologista
* corresponding author
a Lego Research Institute, Legoland

Introduction

With the recent historic landing of Rosetta's Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko[1], space science has taken huge leaps forward in terms of both technical capacity and popularity. The information which can be gained from such missions is not limited to astronomical findings, however. We report our recent landing on and researches into the composition of an asteroid similar to the one which might have caused the near-extinction of the dinosaurs. We also report our observations into the structure and assembly of the apparently unique dinosaur skeleton discovered and reconstructed by the early Duplonian-era paleontologist L. Dilettante in 1837, and speculate on how the two sets of results may be related.

The Dilettante skeleton does not seem to bear a close resemblance in overall profile to modern T. rex [2], which is thought to be a distant relative of Anas platyrhynchos. It is, however, not disputed that it is a T. rex because it is listed as such in the catalogue. [3]

Because of the oddities of the Dilettante skeleton and the general rarity of dinosaur skeletons, previous research into dinosaur construction has involved opportunistic observation of living specimens.[4-7] Although such efforts theoretically have the capacity to provide us with extensive details of dinosaurs' construction and habits, in practice any experimentation puts the investigators in severe peril of unplanned disassembly and rarely results in rigorous data which stand up to close examination. The ill-fated Dino Research Compound[4] is the best known example of the difficulty of live dinosaur research.

Asteroids, in contrast, are inert and believed to be unlikely to bite, and so offer a much more promising research environment. Always a popular target for funding, Lego spaceships have gone through several increasingly capable design iterations, and modern spaceships are perfectly capable of performing the delicate operations required to land on an asteroid. It has long been believed that an asteroid impact was responsible for the almost complete eradication of the dinosaurs, and that the Dilettante skeleton had been found in a stratum of bricks originally constructed during this event.

L. Dilettante's contemporary historical notes show that, while the parts of the skeleton were selected and assembled by the now discredited methodology of "locating all the skeleton-coloured bricks and putting them together in an aesthetically appealing fashion"[8], and the other bricks from the stratum were used for ordinary construction purposes, the distribution of colours and shapes of bricks in the immediate vicinity (8 studs) of the skeleton was rigorously documented.

Previous papers from this lab have recorded measurements of the overall optical spectrum of asteroids[9]. When investigating the probable chemical and brickulous composition of nearby asteroids and of the Dilettante Stratum based on their optical properties, we observed that the spectra of the asteroids and the Dilettante Stratum were nearly identical save for the presence of white ("skeleton-coloured", in L. Dilettante's terminology[8]) bricks in the asteroid.

We were therefore presented with an unprecedented opportunity to complement our already highly advanced asteroid research programme with an investigation into the role asteroids may have played in the pre-history of this planet and furthermore to gain more information about the internal construction of dinosaurs.

Methods

A suitable asteroid for investigation was identified by LA, who also plotted an intercept course to rendezvous with the asteroid in the direction of Alhena. The telescope used for course plotting was of a standard 4-step construction.[10] Asteroid rendezvous was performed by the Explorien Starship[11], whose crew have extensive experience of deep space manouevres. Landing on, and adhesion to, the asteroid was greatly simplified by the existence of a standard studded surface. Extensive samples were retrieved by the Explorien and returned to the Lego Research Institute for detailed study.

Compositional analysis of the asteroid samples was performed by LC. In a standard process, the coloured dye was extracted from the sample bricks to determine compositional colour ratios. Each asteroid brick was halved, with one half dissolved in purple reagent and the other half in green reagent. Brick solutions were heated in Erlenmeyer flasks for 4 hours to evaporate off the ABS plastic that forms the main component of all bricks. A small quantity of each brick solution was pipetted into cuvettes using a Gilson pipette and then measured in an optical spectrophotometer to determine dye colour.

Vertebral studs from the skeleton were closely compared by LP with identically brickulous studs from the asteroid using non-invasive, non-disruptive microscopy and magnifying glass techniques.

Results and Discussion

Observation by the Explorien showed that the asteroid was made of standard bricks. The results of colour compositional analysis of the asteroid samples are given in Table 1.

Colour % of bricks
dark grey
40
light grey
30
brown
10
white 10
black 5
transparent 5
total 100

Table 1: Colour composition of asteroid samples

We attribute the black, grey and brown asteroid signals to rock, and think it likely that the white and transparent peaks originate from ice.

It is common knowledge that high-energy lego impacts often result in the breakage of models and the scrambling of bricks. We therefore examined the T. rex specimen closely for any evidence of such an impact. We found clear signs of rapid forcible disassembly, suggesting that the model suffered such an impact. However, no evidence of uncontrolled brickular agglomeration was found, suggesting that the model was essentially completely disassembled after the impact, consistent with L. Dilettante's description.

We also examined the skeleton for bricks of an asteroidal origin. Most of the bricks which compose the T. rex specimen are too complex for asteroid construction; they include fiddly clips which we would expect to be knocked off by the rough-and-tumble of asteroid formation. However some proportion of the T. rex bricks were simple round 1-studs, of a type which were recovered from the asteroid's surface.

We then performed a comparison of these vertebral studs with white studs from the asteroid, as described above. They appear to be identical and of asteroidal origin; additionally, the studs do not bear the chafing marks which typically result from inclusion in an autolocomotive model.

Conclusions

Our results support the asteroid hypothesis for dinosaur near-extinction.

They also suggest that the Dilettante specimen was mis-assembled, incorporating a number of asteroidal studs found at the scene, resulting in its stiff-spined appearance.

They also may explain the observation that living dinosaurs appear to be shorter and more robust; and, regrettably, have flexible spines which enable them to readily satisfy their voracious appetite for field researchers.

More research (and more dinosaur skeletons) are needed to advance this field.

While the Dilettante Skeleton is of great historical importance, a supply of duplicate bricks has been obtained, and construction is underway of a unadulterated model with a view to a more accurate idea of pre-impact T. rex's appearance; reference [12] summarises the findings so far and also includes an artist's impression of how the T. rex would have looked when it was alive.

Impact

What we already know:

  • space is cool!
  • so are dinosaurs
  • chemistry's pretty neat, too

What this paper adds:

  • the asteroid hypothesis for dinosaur near-extinction is supported by this work
  • early Duplonian-era paleontology was not an exact science
  • it is possible to study dinosaurs without being involuntarily disassembled

Funding and Conflicts of Interest

The Lego Research Institute is supported by Lego grant number 21110.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

References

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oEaGjgOB0M (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)
[2] http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemPic.asp?P=30457 (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)
[3] http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemPic.asp?C=c14ukdc (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)
[4] http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemPic.asp?S=5987-1 (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)
[5] http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemPic.asp?S=2605-1 (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)
[6] http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemPic.asp?S=9194-1 (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)
[7] http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemPic.asp?S=9195-1 (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)
[8] L. Dilettante, Through The Wilds With Lego Musket And Rifle; a Small Yellow Gentleman in the Service of Queen Duplonia (1845) Little, Brick & Co.
[9] L. Astronomer & L. Chemist, Spectroscopic Investigation of a Convenient Asteroid, Lego Interdisciplinary Studies (2014) vol 31 pp 62-68
[10] http://lego.brickinstructions.com/21000/21110/046.jpg (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)
[11] http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemPic.asp?S=6982-1 (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)
[12] http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemPic.asp?S=1725-1 (Accessed 22 Dec 2014)