Muck and Mystery
   Loitering With Intent
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February 12, 2008
Grey Moon

I didn't think that anything could surprise Robin Hanson.

At the SETI conference last week I was surprised to hear NASA's Chris McKay suggest we look for dinosaur relics on the moon. . .

From McKay's 1996 paper "Time for intelligence on other planets":

It is now considered probable that the dinosaurs were not the lumbering clods of urban myth but that they were biochemically and behaviorally as sophisticated as present mammals. Evidence continues to point to parentling and social behavior that is on a par wit small mammals and birds. ... [Considero] the small carnivorous dinosaur Stenonychosaurus, which stood about 120cm, weighed about 40 kg, and had [a brain size ratio] about equal to that of a possum or an octopus, and lived over 12 million years before the end of the dinosaurs. ...

One might speculate that perhaps Stenonychosaurus or her progeny did build radio telescopes, but their civilization was destroyed by some internal or external catastrophe. Perhaps the lifetime of their civilization was so short compared with the resolution of the geological record (typically millions of years) that it is simply lost without a trace in the depths of time. It is difficult to say what evidence would survive of human civilization - if it was terminated now - after 65 million years of tectonic activity, erosion, and sea level change. It is interesting to note that there is one place where the record of human technology will be preserved for times much longer than 100 million years. ... The Apollo landing sites on the Moon would bear mute testimony to technological humans.

The idea has been around for a while.
In 1982 Dale Russell and R. S_guin (Ottawa) published an article on Stenonychosaurus. A new partial skeleton had been discovered in 1967 which provided the basis of the first skeletal and flesh restoration of Stenonychosaurus. The detailed work of building the model was illustrated in their paper.

In addition to the restoration, they indulged in an imaginative experiment, posing a question: What might these intelligent dinosaurs have evolved into had they not become extinct near the end of the Cretaceous period about 64 million years ago?

Stenonychosaurus proved to be an interesting choice for the experiment because it was one of the largest-brained and therefore presumably one of the most intelligent of all dinosaurs. The result of the experiment was a creature named "dinosauroid."

Hanson opines:
It would be very big and bad news to hear that metal-using dinos suddenly went extinct just when the other dinos did, and immediately after becoming big metal users. If so, either dinos destroyed themselves with far more power than we humans can now muster, or powerful aliens exterminated them.
Or, perhaps they moved on and only visit us on rare and stealthy occasion?
Posted by back40 at 06:06 PM | Psychoceramica

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