by Brian Switek
(Scientific American/Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 256 pp., 2013)
The dino-bug is now pervasive in American culture, so that kids between the ages of 4 and 12 are nearly all bitten by it. Most kids can name dozens of those tongue-twisting dinosaur names, and are full of all sorts of dino-trivia and tidbits. Dino-mania is a huge business, with millions of dollars being made in marketing books, toys, geegaws, and all sorts of dino-paraphernalia (none of that money, by the way, goes to support paleontology or dinosaur research). It was not always so: when I grew up in the 1950s, there was very little interest in dinosaurs, very few decent books or toys, and I was considered a freak in my elementary school because I knew so much about prehistoric life.
However, when those hormones kick in and the teen years begin, most kids lose their interest in dinosaurs or science, and move to interests in the opposite sex, along with being cool and hip to the trappings of teen culture. Some, like myself and most vertebrate paleontologists I know, never outgrow our love of dinosaurs, and were determined to become paleontologists. Most did not survive the brutal job market, where fewer than 20% of the Ph.D.s in paleontology get any kind of job remotely related to their training (mostly teaching in small colleges, or in medical school anatomy posts). Very few get to occupy the prime positions in the major museums and top universities (there are no more than 50 such jobs in the entire United States, and they are vanishing). Continue reading…comments (3)