Sou leitora da New Scientist. Atrever-me-ia a dizer assídua, mas na verdade só leio todas as semanas desde que me tornei emigrante, ou seja, há umas mui longas duas semanas. Já dos meus tempos de leitora em território nacional que me coçava para ler o livro que nasceu duma crónica da revista, de leitores para leitores. O livro – Does Anything Eat Wasps? and 101 other questions – é uma compilação da coluna semanal The Last Word, em que leitores colocam questões sobre a ciência do dia-a-dia e leitores, outros, de preferência, respondem.
Ainda não cheguei a meio e já o recomendo. Precipitada? Não! É inevitável. Não só lhe gabo a escrita fluída e linguagem acessível, como lhe exalto a vertente informativa e, não menos importante, o caractér levemente cómico que surge tanto nas perguntas como nas respostas. É de facto fascinante a curiosidade humana, fonte de descoberta incessante!
Tinha que deixar uma amostra, pergunta-resposta, a minha preferida até ao momento, que me fez rir até às lágrimas.
After my death I would like to become a fossil. Is there anything I could have done to my remains that would impove my chances, and where would be a good place to have them interred? How quickly could I turn into a fossil?
D. J. Thompson
So you want to become a fossil? This is admirable, but you have made a bad start. A hard, mineralised exoskeleton and a marine lifestyle would have given you a better chance. But let’s start with what you have got: an internal skeleton and some soft outer bits.
You can usually forget the soft bits. If you take up montaineering or skiing and end up in a glacier crevasse you could become a wizened mummy, but that’s not real fossilization, just putting things on hold for a while. If you really want to survive the ravages of geological time then you need to concentrate on teeth and bones. Fossilisation of these involves additional mineralisation, so you might want to get a head start and think about your diet: cheese and milk would build up your bone calcium. And look after your teeth, as these really are your best for a long-term future. So get a good dentist and keep those appointments.
After that it comes down to three things: location, location, location. You must find a place to die where you won’t be disturbed for a long time. Caves have worked well for some people, so you might want to take up potholing to scout out locations close to home, but get the proper training.
Alternatively, you need a rapid burial. I don’t mean a speedy funeral service picked out of the telephone directory, but something natural and dramatic – the sort of thing that is preceed by a distant volcanic rumble and an unfinished query along the lines of ‘What was…?’
You might want to travel to find the right natural opportunity. Camping in a desert wadi in the flash-flood season would be good. And long walks across tropical river flood plains during heavy rain could get you where you want to be: buried in fine, anoxic mud. Or how about an imprudent picnic on the flanks of an active volcano? But take geological advice because you are looking for a nice ash-fall burial, not cremation by lava.
Talking of picnics, fossil stomach contents can provide useful paleo-diet information, so a solid final meal would be good. And I mean solid. Pizzas or hamburgers won’t last, but shellfish or fruit with large seeds (you will need to swallow these) could intrigue future scientists.
Finally, trace fossils (marks in rocks that indicate animal behaviour) are always welcome. So a neat set of footprints leading to your final location would be good. Use a nice even gait with no hopping os skipping to confuse analysis of how you really moved.
Of course, you have more chance of winning the lottery than ending up as a fossil. But if you do go for a place in the fossil record please keep in touch. Geologists are always on the lookout for interesting new specimens, so let us know where you’ll be. We can arrange to dig you up in, say, a million years.
À venda numa Amazon perto de ti!