My older daughter’s birthday is right before Christmas, and my younger daughter’s birthday just after. Last year, there was such a glut of gifts that we never even got around to getting some out of their boxes (which was actually quite handy since I was able to re-gift some back to the girls this year in addition to making big donations to local toy drives). Determined not to have a repeat this time around, the majority of the gifts under our tree took the form of the one thing you can’t have enough of: books.

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I want to start this week’s entry by saying that I really hadn’t intended this topic to take up three posts! It’s just that I kept adding and adding to make it all make more sense and before I knew it, I had 3000 words on dating fossils! Words fly when you’re geeking out…

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Let me start this post by admitting that looking to the work of the Understanding Evolution team for examples of excellent science writing is not unlike looking to Glenn Branch for examples of quote-mining in obscure Scopes-related reporting—it’s pretty much a fish-in-the-barrel scenario. As I have noted many times on this blog, Understanding Evolution is chock-a-block with quality materials for educators and evolution-minded people alike.

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Last week, we discussed some of the ways paleontologists order events in Earth’s history—using the principles of original horizontality, superposition, and faunal succession—but we did not talk about actual dates. Let’s do that now.

Who’s up for some chemistry?

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After my three-parter on fossils, I was sure you'd be sick of them, but there was a request (seconded by a few people) to talk about one particular aspect of paleontology that I didn’t cover yet: How do you know how old a fossil is? It turns out to be a pretty interesting question.

Misconception: Paleontologists directly date fossils.

Correction: Most of the time, fossils are not directly datable.

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