Quirks & Quarks

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs

Cosmologist Lisa Randall explores the idea that dark matter's gravity sent the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Did Dark Matter wipe out the Dinosaurs

Artist's impression of the Chicxulub impact that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. (Donald E. Davis/NASA JPL)
We all know that, about 66 million years ago, an asteroid slammed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and wiped out the land-based dinosaurs, and most other terrestrial life on Earth. But what we don't know is where that asteroid came from, and what caused it to slam into our planet.
Now in a new book, called Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe, Dr. Lisa Randall, a professor of particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University, proposes a new explanation.  She suggests that a disk of Dark Matter that crossed the plane of our galaxy, disturbed a comet in the Oort Cloud, and sent it hurtling toward Earth.

Dr. Randall admits her theory is highly speculative, but she hopes it will cause us to look at Dark Matter in a different way.

Related Links

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs - publisher's page
Scientific American article on the theory
New York Times review
- Dr. Randall's original paper in Physical Review Letters