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Celebrating a Century of Fossil Finds In the La Brea Tar Pits

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the sticky-situation dept.

Science 93

An anonymous reader writes "A century ago on Monday, the predecessor to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County began a two-year project to uncover the Ice Age creatures that became trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits. 'Digs over the years have unearthed bones of mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and other unsuspecting Ice Age creatures that became trapped in ponds of sticky asphalt. But it's the smaller discoveries — plants, insects and rodents — in recent years that are shaping scientists' views of life in the region 11,000 to 50,000 years ago.'"

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But But... (3, Interesting)

nickserv (1974794) | about 10 months ago | (#45256793)

I thought the world was only 6,000 years old?

Richard Dawkins on Real Time this weekend said, "People who believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago, when it's actually 4.5 billion years old, should also believe the width of N America is 8 yards. That is the scale of the error."

Re:But But... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45256833)

Yawn. That sort of comment was so predictable.

Re:But But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257701)

Doesn't make it any less funny. It's always fun to laugh at the expense of religious people.

Re:But But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45259361)

Guess well see who is laughing when we die.

Re:But But... (1)

expatriot (903070) | about 10 months ago | (#45259813)

Not you

Re:But But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45260537)

Oh CHRIST that was FUNNY!!!

Thankfully, many of us don't believe in fractured fairy tales like you apparently do.

Why bother? (1, Flamebait)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 10 months ago | (#45256879)

They have dug up millions of bones - to what purpose? One would think that by now they have enough to fill a large warehouse that no-one will ever look at again, except may another archeologist digging up Los Angeles and wondering how all these ancient bones became so mixed up in a big jumble with traces of rust in the clay, around the big altar of the 21st century religious complex known as 'the museum'...

Re:Why bother? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257037)

They have dug up millions of bones - to what purpose?

The bones is a byproduct. The important thing is the information we got from them. The reason we don't dispose of the bones is because they might still have stories to tell.
Depending on how nihilistic you want to be one can say that there is no point in getting information on when and how different traits evolved. If you want to go all retard-capitalistic on it you can say that it doesn't provide anything of economic value.
Those views can be applied to pretty much all science, be it astrophysics to philosophy. Those views are also incredibly short-sighted and something one would expect from a PHB that can't see beyond the next quarter.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45259355)

And in another 5000-50000 years someone will be digging up the area where repository currently stores these bones and say, man, a lot of animals all lived in this one small area of Utah. Strange that all of the big animals appeared to die in the left side of the area and the small animals died on the right side.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45261963)

They might... if they are stupid. A smarter person would realise they were collected by the people living there at the time.

Re:Why bother? (5, Informative)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 10 months ago | (#45257041)

They have dug up millions of bones - to what purpose? One would think that by now they have enough to fill a large warehouse that no-one will ever look at again, except may another archeologist digging up Los Angeles and wondering how all these ancient bones became so mixed up in a big jumble with traces of rust in the clay, around the big altar of the 21st century religious complex known as 'the museum'...

I used to wonder about that too until a paleontologist explained to me that digging up large amounts of bones, even from mundane species like duckbilled dinosaurs, can yield all sorts of data bout things like: what was the extent of variations in skeletal morphology? what did these critters die of, i.e. diseases, who ate them? how did different predators kill duckbills? (which tell you something about a whole range of predators that you have practically no other way of finding out except maybe uber-rare fossilized footprints) .... the list goes on. You can also infer things about social behavior by digging up large collections of bones from a single species, you can get clues from them about how environmental factors affected population size and which environmental extremes limited a species' habitat. Another example is archaic humans whose skeletal remains are a couple of steps up from dragon's teeth on the rarity scale. The grand to total of the Neanderthal remains is IIRC about 100 (mostly incomplete) skeletons which is an unusually large sample size. It's also wroth noting that Neanderthals existed for c.a 350.000 years so that's one skeleton per 35.000 years. The skeletal remains of most older hominid species are much, much more rare. In the last few decades archaic humans have been sub-divided into a large number of subspecies based on differences in skeletal morphology and often a species classification is based on a one or two incomplete skeletons. Recently a unusually large cache of Archaic human bones was found at Dmanisi in Georgia. The morphological differences between the different individuals of that population were found to be about the same as those found in modern humans. Just for example, the Dmanisi finds included an individual whose brain size was half that of most of his contemporaries so one can conclude that brain size is no conclusive indicator of how primitive an individual is. Its the way the brain works that is important not so much the brain size. This find in Dmanisi has led to the realization that a whole group of Archaic human 'variants' including, Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo gautengensis, Homo ergaster and Homo erectus were probably the same species and that they may have been been erroneously over-divided into subspecies by scientist reading far too much into variations in skeletal morphology. This is not to say those scientists made a mistake, they just did not have the broad collection of bones available that they needed to establish extremes in morphological variation and drew what conclusions they could based on the evidence available. Thats how science works: procure evidence, examine it, draw conclusions, create a theory, get new evidence, examine it, draw conclusions, revise your theory. It's also what irritates the piss out of religionists who like to have a single never changing doctrine, scientists keep changing their minds.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257129)

Great post, but shouldn't it be one skeleton per 3.500 years? (350.000 / 100)

Re:Why bother? (3, Informative)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 10 months ago | (#45257687)

Great post, but shouldn't it be one skeleton per 3.500 years? (350.000 / 100)

Yeah (red faced) it should be. But that's still an amazingly low number of specimens for the best documented archaic human species we know of. For a very crude estimate (and I hope I get my math right this time) If we assume the average Neanderthal population world wide over those 350.000 years was 50.000 people, a generation is 25 years and there are three generations alive at the same time you get 50.000/3 ~ 16600 new Neanderthals each generation, so over 350.000 years you have (350.000/25) * 16600 = 231 million Neanderthals that ever lived and we have a sample of 100. Those numbers are crude but they still give you a rough idea of how tiny the sample size is since hominids were never anywhere nears as common in the ecosystem as, say bison or caribou.

Re:Why bother? (1)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#45258879)

I'd like to add that sometimes (IIRC, this was the case of La Brea bones) a later generation of paleontologists can go back and re-examine earlier finds with improved technologies and techniques to encounter butchering marks or identify the tooth marks of specific types of predators and scavengers.

a couple of steps up from dragon's teeth on the rarity scale.

Had a friend tell me straight-faced that the reason we haven't found dragon bones is because they were so rare, and that because they flew their bones would have been very delicate.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45259381)

Also, the approach when finding dragon bones is pretty close to that of observing astral objects that appears to travel faster than light.
You explain it some other way or risk being ridiculed. If you find a dragon bone it is better for your career to just claim that it is a bone of some dinosaur or another.
"Clearly a pterodactyl must have battled a stegosaurus and got stuck in the mud here, the head is missing, I hope we find it some day."

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45294541)

Relevance to the La Brea Tar Pits?

Re:Why bother? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 10 months ago | (#45257219)

duckbilled dinosaurs

We just call those ducks now...

Re:Why bother? (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 10 months ago | (#45257691)

duckbilled dinosaurs

We just call those ducks now...

Are they in a row?

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45258567)

often a species classification is based on a one or two incomplete skeletons

It's probably important to note that an "incomplete skeleton" in may cases is just a fraction of a skull, i.e. a jawbone (or even just part of that).

Re:Why bother? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 10 months ago | (#45259069)

Keep all of this in mind when you select your burial plot. You are just going to make it easier for some archeologist to find you and everyone else in one convenient place. And then your remains will rest for eternity on the shelves of some university.

Jimmy Hoffa will be revered as some sort of god or king, as his subjects buried him and then built a huge monument on top of his grave.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45259949)

Well, we can say this much about the people who killed Hoffa be it the mafia or the CIA: They're very good at getting rid of a body and also very good at keeping their mouths shut.

(Assuming the guys who did it weren't killed shortly after by unrelated hitmen in order to plug the leak.)

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45266603)

This is not to say those scientists made a mistake

No, they did make a mistake and too many people (not just you) are being too generous. Their conclusion should've been "We don't have enough evidence to know whether this specimen is the same or different species as modern humans show similar wide variation", not "this is different therefore it is a new species".

I've suspected for decades that many such "discoveries" were exaggerated. The wide variation in the modern human population of billions makes quite clear that you can't draw too many conclusions about individual specimens. Homo floresiensis is a prominent example. I wasn't a specialist though so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Not any more. Too many scientists exaggerate their discoveries, many to the point of fraud. As discussed in here [slashdot.org] . Scientists who do this need to be called on it, their results withdrawn and if appropriate disciplined.

.

Re:Why bother? (1)

Reziac (43301) | about 10 months ago | (#45278881)

They need look no further than domestic dogs ... the way other critters (fossilized or otherwise) are classified is frequently akin to deciding that since they look so dissimilar in size and everything else, Chihuahuas and Great Danes are different species, or that white Dobermans are an uber-rare endangered species rather than just a rare color variant (to purists: yes, I know it's a single-source mutation). This leads to classification and rarity-status nonsense like the spotted owl (color variant of the common barred owl) and red wolf (crossbred of wolf and coyote, where the coyote had the dominant but not universal tanpoint pattern).

Re:Why bother? (2)

gsslay (807818) | about 10 months ago | (#45257175)

You have offered your opinion to this discussion thread - to what purpose? One would think that by now we have enough to fill the internet that no-one will ever look at again.

The purpose, I suppose, is that sometimes the what's dug up offers something new. A new story or idea. Sometimes radically so. But you have to go through a lot of the same-old mundanes to get to them.

The jury is still out on your opinion, but I'm thinking it's part of the mundane. But thanks for contributing.

Re:But But... (4, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#45256891)

get on with the trolling program, leading edge creationists believe that isotopes and sediment layers have been disproven by science(and incidentally that if you find any fish fossils on high regions that is proof of the great flood).

if you take it further there's also an allstar argument that has retained it status that GOD CREATED TIME so none of it matters. but that card is to be played usually after everything else has been exhausted(since it's a super card that can't be beaten by logic... because... magic!).

Re:But But... (-1, Troll)

ameen.ross (2498000) | about 10 months ago | (#45256995)

Can someone please define a year for me? Because I think I'm missing something. I thought a year was supposed to be the time it takes for a celestial body to complete 1 revolution around a sun in a solar system. You people seem to define a year as taking 31,558,150 SI seconds.

As it so happens, a year in our solar system alone varies from 88 earth days to 250 earth years. But hey - let's not let facts get in the way of a good strawman.

Re:But But... (4, Insightful)

geogob (569250) | about 10 months ago | (#45257035)

I thought a year was supposed to be the time it takes for a celestial body to complete 1 revolution around a sun in a solar system.

That is one definition of the word "year". Of course, without further context, when one talks of years, he refers to years in the referential of Earth. Not Mercury years, nor Jupiter years or even dog years. You must be slightly trolling loosing this from sight.

As it so happens, a year in our solar system alone varies from 88 earth days to 250 earth years. But hey - let's not let facts get in the way of a good strawman.

As this, again, might be correct, it completely disregards the usual context the word years is used in, thus biding it to one of its multiple definitions. A dictionary can be found at your favourite book shop. Context not.

Re:But But... (0)

ameen.ross (2498000) | about 10 months ago | (#45257047)

As for context, I don't know about the bible, but the qur'an provides it. That is to say, a year that is not an earth year (moon or solar).

Re:But But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257111)

As for context, I don't know about the bible, but the qur'an provides it. That is to say, a year that is not an earth year (moon or solar).

That explains everything. A bible thumping holy roller trying to weasel in a segue to talk about your belief; doing it defensively, as if you were minding your own business.

Re:But But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257039)

Sense, you make none.

Re:But But... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#45257087)

such a creator/jester could change how long it takes for a celestial body to go around the sun - there's no need to have been a sun for large part of those years even though - maybe it was a table lamp back then, making the whole discussion pointless which was my point, that there is no point in such discussion because the other party tends to use.. a more, let's say, flexible worldview where everything they can see can be made to fit their worldview.

but these fossils, they're cool stuff. and pls. try to keep the museum of natural history running. chinese are really lousy in making museums.

Re:But But... (0)

ameen.ross (2498000) | about 10 months ago | (#45257103)

the other party tends to use.. a more, let's say, flexible worldview

You're just projecting your own worldview upon others and then you draw conclusions based on that fallacy.

Re:But But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257845)

You trying to tell me there IS a point in arguing with religious fanatics? God just made everything like it is, doesn't matter what evidence shows, as it was all created by god. He purposefully tampered with it. Actually he only created everything one second ago, and you can't disprove that! He made your memories also.

Re:But But... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257077)

if you take it further there's also an allstar argument that has retained it status that GOD CREATED TIME so none of it matters. but that card is to be played usually after everything else has been exhausted(since it's a super card that can't be beaten by logic... because... magic!).

Fossils, isotopes, sediment layers--tricks of Satan, I say. His cleverness has designed many misleading things to obfuscate God's work from the faithfully weak and disbelievers to foster more lost souls at the time of their death to enter his dark kingdom of dark matter and energy.

Re:But But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257779)

But I like the dark. It's easy on the eyes. The light! It Burnses us!

Feel Sorry for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257131)

The folks who insists on a "literal" interpretation of the Bible have very weak faith. If they were to allow any scientific facts to contradict their beliefs, their entire belief system would crumble and they would be lost. I have no idea why they can't accept that God works via evolution or that possibly His day is a billion of our years.

One of the coolest things I have ever heard from a religious leader was from the Dalai Lama. When asked by a scientist, "What would you do if we prove parts of Buddhism to be wrong?" - this is after affirming the many benefits of meditation (they mostly use Buddhist Monks for this research).

HHDL replied, "Why, we'd just change the religion!"

Cool!

Don't get me started on the Buddhists who think, "Well, science has proved that the "Buddha" (Arrg! It's "Shakyamuni") was right then reincarnation also exists!" and god forbid if you don't believe in reincarnation.

Which I like to say, "well, with my Karama, I'm coming back as a tape worm, asshole! I mean, my kind sir - I need to boost my Karama as much as I can so I can come back as a tape worm in a super model who binges on pizza and beer."

Re:But But... (2)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 10 months ago | (#45257151)

I used to think that Dwakins had all the hallmarks of a cult leader, but he fails to display any ability to communicate his philosophy except to preach to the choir.

In particular, this remark is a ridiculous non sequitur. "If I find you wrong here is on scale X, then you should believe everything else to be different by scale X." So does that mean that if the Bible was only 10% out, you should believe everything else to be 10% out?

Why can't the man focus on educating the scientific method rather than coming out with meaningless lines to impress his dullard followers? He surely knows he can't use science to "disprove" a religion, so instead he tries to use it to mock religion. Much better would be to show how much more attractive science is for answering practical questions, so that as long as you have a little faith in your memory, you can produce your own new, consistent results today.

Mod parent "-1: Disagrees with Popular Groupthink" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257217)

Shame on you: conform!

Re:But But... (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 10 months ago | (#45257247)

Dawkins does use science time and time again to disprove creation theory etc which is part of particular religion. The die hard creationists will never ever get it because their belief in the magical trumps evidence so i think mockery is justified (and its good fun) But a lot of the time the creationists dig their own hole and make themselves look completely stupid without any help from anyone (Republican Teaparty for example). Mockery is a bit harsh on those creationists who are ignorant due lack of education but are willing to learn, unfortunately collateral damage happens

Re:But But... (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 10 months ago | (#45257285)

On the contrary, it is precisely the ignorant people who are willing to learn who you need to bring on side.

Dwakins does nothing but preach to the choir and polarise. He doesn't teach anything new to those who already understand the value of science; he encourages a mistaken understanding of science to neophytes; and he alienates everyone else. This is grand if you actually profit from the fight, and profit more when the fight is bigger - as, indeed, he does.

Re:But But... (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 10 months ago | (#45257411)

The ignorant who are willing to learn, once they have learnt science rules, will forgive him. i don't think you can accuse Dawkins of not advancing the understanding of science. that was his job for a while http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/previous-holders-simonyi-professorship/professor-richard-dawkins [ox.ac.uk]

Re:But But... (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 10 months ago | (#45257451)

Accepted, but producing excellent academic work doesn't give you a free pass to transition to talking bollocks instead.

Newton was noncontentiously brilliant as scientists go, but he spent most of his latter years coming up with theological nonsense. I wouldn't defend his theology on the basis that he had once done some brilliant science.

Re:But But... (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 10 months ago | (#45259067)

i've not heard the "bollox" you are talking about. I've only heard him talk in terms of insisting on truth. Sometimes truth is sometimes painful and people mis-interpret as being aggressive, arrogant etc

Re:But But... (2)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#45259035)

Dawkins quotes are particularly useful for young people wavering on the edge of disbelief. Someone who says, "The good reverend is mistaken in his interpretation of the science" is much less likely to attract their attention than someone who says, "The reverend a fucking idiot, and the science conclusively shows how wrong he really is." The reasons are much the same as the reasons that slasher flicks are much more popular among teens than romances.

Re:But But... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 10 months ago | (#45257293)

In particular, this remark is a ridiculous non sequitur.

Yes it is, and it's meant to be. The creationists' claim is ridiculous, the comparable claim is ridiculous and the comparison is also ridiculous. He's not trying to logically undermine creationism with that quote, he's just mocking it.

Agreed as far as the third paragraph goes, though.

Re:But But... (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 10 months ago | (#45257377)

Saying something ridiculous "because they started it" seems cheap - and if the creationist assertion is worthy of ridicule, then just as surely is Dwakins' own statement, with no end to the spat.

I wouldn't even attach emotive descriptions like "ridiculous" to creationist beliefs. Certain assertions of creationism are provably wrong, providing you accept a little philosophical induction (i.e. no "tricks put there by beelzebubbles" card) rather than relying only on Popper's falsifiability. Even then, the method of disproof - no matter how smart scientists like to think they are today - took a long time to establish, and should not be regarded as simple enough for a layperson to quickly grasp.

Put another way, stubbornly sticking to creationism is ridiculous if 1) you are presented with arguments and evidence; and 2) you have the intellectual capacity to apply it. An initial or unthinking belief in creationism is no more ridiculous than any other assumption humans have made before really thinking about the issue - and that includes all the assumptions we still make but some atheist-preacher will label "ridiculous" a hundred years from now.

Re:But But... (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 10 months ago | (#45257431)

ETA that's assuming I'm having a serious argument and not just bored trololoing, in which case I'll mock Bible-bashers and those who bash the Bible alike. 'cos ideologues always end up with crappy arguments, regardless of whether they're trying to demonstrate something true, false, or unprovable.

Re:But But... (1)

RavenLrD20k (311488) | about 10 months ago | (#45258087)

...stubbornly sticking to creationism is ridiculous if 1) you are presented with arguments and evidence; and 2) you have the intellectual capacity to apply it.

Herein lies the trick. I remember a discussion with my Earth Science teacher many many Earth Years ago (specified for the pedantic trolls) where he covered a study that he once took an administrative part in where he and others would put out a test to a sample with a single question: "What causes the earth to have seasons?" The answers were myriad from how close the earth was to the sun during the year, to meteorites passing through orbit, to air current patterns, and even some that attributed it to "Aliens" (I have to wonder if this idiot [wikipedia.org] took part in that study).

After the results were in, the people in the sample were shown a video outlining that seasons primarily come from the Earth's tilt creating areas of direct and indirect sunlight. The hemisphere in direct sunlight had summer, the Hemisphere in indirect sunlight had winter. Then the sample was instructed to answer the same question after the video.

What was found by the study was that generally what people would do with information is, instead of scrapping the false info they had based their belief on and adopting a new belief based on the new info, people would incorporate the new information to justify their old belief of how things were. The angle of the sun was coupled with the distance to create the indirect lighting regardless of the fact that when the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing winter, the earth is actually at its closest to the sun. Meteorites that were passing between the sun and earth during winter were deflecting the light and making it indirect. Aliens were conducting experiments by adjusting the Earth's tilt in orbit.

Basically, what my teacher said he discovered in the study was, quite simply, people are stupid on their own volition and will generally refuse to ever admit their fallacies even when faced with evidence, thus bending the evidence to support their fallacy.

Re:But But... (2)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 10 months ago | (#45258395)

That doesn't really show that people are stupid of their own volition - it shows simply that your presenting someone with pre-packaged evidence doesn't mean that

1) you're to be trusted with honesty in that packaging effort;
2) you've presented the evidence clearly;
3) you've presented the evidence so effectively as to show how it must destroy any erroneous old belief.

Put another way, a video is a shit way to learn, and a lecture's not that much better (this includes any talking head on TV). I heartily support and apply variants of the Socratic method.

This doesn't apply only to religious beliefs - yesterday I was helping an undergrad with mathematics. As you describe, they returned to the same misconception several times, even after I'd explained something which could be shown to contradict it. This only ended when I started asking them questions to show where their assumption would lead, enabling them to correct themselves. The "Ooohhhhhhhhh, I see now!" moment usually comes from patient interaction and gentle leading.

Re:But But... (1)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#45259057)

That's the most disturbing thing I've read yet this week.

Re:But But... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45258339)

The clue is the sentence immediately following the one you quibble with, where he makes it clear that he's using an analogy to demonstrate the scale of the error. A pejorative analogy, mind you, but the pejorative is the seasoning, not the point of the exercise.

Re:But But... (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 10 months ago | (#45262029)

"YOU'RE A NIGGER! And the reason I'm calling you a nigger is a nuanced and clever one..."

If you have to explain that your rhetoric has to be taken a particular way, it wasn't effective.

Re:But But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45264479)

... He surely knows he can't use science to "disprove" a religion, so instead he tries to use it to mock religion. Much better would be to show how much more attractive science is for answering practical questions, so that as long as you have a little faith in your memory, you can produce your own new, consistent results today.

Feynman tried this high-road throughout his life and all he got was a lot of grief from these people. Perhaps Dawkins felt it's pointless and, right or wrong, his personality leads him to enjoy performing the same tactics as his adversaries.

8 yards sounds plausible (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 10 months ago | (#45257201)

8 yards sounds perfectly plausible as long as you define what scale your yard is in. It's not as if the USA is bound to use the metric system or even an international standard of the yard. Even better, why not have all states have their individual system of measurements. That way Texas can have the biggest yard in the world, California the largest number of yards in the entire USA and so on.

Re:8 yards sounds plausible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257571)

Yep, we used to have that system in Europe. Every nation had its own imperial units.

Things got so bad the entire mainland of Europe decided that they would rather use a French system than the clusterfuck that imperial units is.
The only nation that didn't change is filled with people that enjoys complications to the extent that they only speak with idiomatic expressions.

Re:8 yards sounds plausible (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45258315)

The UK metricated decades ago.

Re:8 yards sounds plausible (1)

kanweg (771128) | about 10 months ago | (#45260461)

Yes, they count their weight in decimal stones.

Bert

Re:8 yards sounds plausible (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#45266877)

It varies from person to person, seeing as every scale lists both sets of units. As someone who actually lives here I think I have a more sound perspective on how we measure things.

Re:8 yards sounds plausible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45262189)

Ah, so that's why all the road signs in the UK have distances in miles and yards.

Re:But But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257449)

I thought the world was only 6,000 years old?

Richard Dawkins on Real Time this weekend said, "People who believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago, when it's actually 4.5 billion years old, should also believe the width of N America is 8 yards. That is the scale of the error."

Grow the &#$% up, nickserv. What value are you adding to the conversation? People like you just drag forums down. In the future, THINK before you post. Are you adding valuer? Or are you just being a troll? Think...

Re:But But... (1)

dugancent (2616577) | about 10 months ago | (#45258597)

The only people I hear saying that is people who jokingly post in in Slashdot. If you would shut up it help it disappear.

Cue Doctor Demento (1)

some old guy (674482) | about 10 months ago | (#45256837)

Re:Cue Captain Beefheart (1)

QRDeNameland (873957) | about 10 months ago | (#45262081)

Oh man, Forbidden Zone...what a bizarre flick!!

On the subject of bizarre pop culture references to the Tar Pits, one should also add Captain Beefheart's Smithsonian Institute Blues [youtube.com] .

And it's totally true (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45256859)

There is a pit of tar next to Hollywood where they find and monetize fossils.

Re:And it's totally true (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 10 months ago | (#45257389)

I kinda wish they'd just pump it dry and fill it with concrete. It smells bad and its leaking into the neighboring underground parking structures.

don't tell (1)

ihtoit (3393327) | about 10 months ago | (#45256899)

Dickie Attenborough or Tommy Lee Jones.

Many of us know what happens when those two get near dino DNA and dormant volcanoes under LA.

(Mommy gets very angry).

Re:don't tell (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 10 months ago | (#45257303)

Dickie Attenborough

He's only trying to make sure his brother never runs out of animals to narrate.

Re:don't tell (1)

ihtoit (3393327) | about 10 months ago | (#45266743)

don't get me started on that genocidal maniac...

the tar tar pits... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45256965)

n/t

It's an excellent musem (4, Informative)

cartman (18204) | about 10 months ago | (#45257027)

If you're ever in Los Angeles, you should visit the museum. The specimens are only about 50,000 years old and they were almost perfectly preserved by falling into the tar pits. Their skeletons are remarkably intact. It's not like dinosaur fossils which are extensively reconstructed. Every last little bone and joint is original and in excellent condition.

There are all sorts of massive mammals like sabre-tooth tigers, giant sloths, giant camels which apparently roamed North America until fairly recently, etc.

It's a worthwhile excursion if you happen to be in LA.

Re:It's an excellent musem (2)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 10 months ago | (#45257265)

I was surprised when I visited there many years ago that it's located on the famed Wilshire Blvd, near the prestigious Rodeo Drive. Contrary to conventional belief, my theory is that sabre-toothed tigers were attracted there not by prey that was already stuck in the tar, but by luxury handbags.

Re:It's an excellent musem (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 10 months ago | (#45257375)

Even better: the back of the Beverly Center mall, on San Vicente, has active oil wells on some of the most expensive real estate in LA. Right across the street from Cedars-Sinai.

Re: It's an excellent musem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45259539)

You don't have to go that far. Across the street from the museum, at the open air parking lot, oil and asphalt ooze up right into parking spaces. Get this on your shoes and you'll have a nice momento of your visit. A subway tunnel is planned to go under the street here. Come visit and watch utility trucks pump accumulated oily muck out of the underground utility vaults here every few weeks and wonder what tunnel maintenance will be like. We're all waiting to see what additional creatures get unearthed during the construction.

Re: It's an excellent musem (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 10 months ago | (#45261803)

The one across Wilshire?

Re: It's an excellent musem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45262675)

When I visited several years ago, tar was oozing up in a few spots in the grassy area around the museum itself. It was marked with yellow caution tape, as I recall.

Re:It's an excellent musem (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 10 months ago | (#45260481)

It's not a coincidence. The tar pits are natural underground petroleum deposits which percolate to the surface in that spot (same thing happens in other nearby areas and offshore, but not to as great an extent). The petroleum deposits are what attracted the first oil drilling operations there, and made the region famously wealthy. Everything else (Hollywood, designer shoes, etc) came afterwards as a consequence.

Re:It's an excellent musem (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 10 months ago | (#45257277)

Seconded. With regard to the quality of preservation of the skeletons: when I was there, the volunteers working in the glass-walled laboratory were extracting tiny rodent bones from blocks of natural asphalt.

Re:It's an excellent musem (1)

Crispy Critters (226798) | about 10 months ago | (#45259543)

Absolutely! What I found made it especially interesting is that it is focused on a single time period and a specific location. I feel like I was able to gain something of a picture of the web of predator and prey in the megafauna of prehistoric SoCal. Most museums instead treat you to their most spectacular fossils from any time in the last several hundred million years.

Re:It's an excellent musem (1)

Mullen (14656) | about 10 months ago | (#45261391)

The displays of multiple fully intact skeletons of Mammoths and the "Wall of Dire Wolves Skulls" is worth the trip alone.

Re:It's an excellent musem (1)

kaatochacha (651922) | about 10 months ago | (#45264137)

If you grew up as a kid in the area of the Museum, this was THE cool place to go for a field trip.
Fond memories of going there on the bus to see the fossils.

Back to the fossils (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257045)

If you have never visited The La Brea Tar Pits (which translates to The Tar-Tar pits?) and have a chance, go there! Plan to visit the museum. In the museum is a whole wall of dire wolf skulls, back lit with a yellow light. Creepy.
My favorite is "old smiley," the California Sabre Tooth Tiger, Smilodonius Californius. A Scientific American Magazine devoted to dinosaurs about 15 years ago had this to say about dinosaurs, which also applies to this mammal , (paraphrase), 'Thank God we have all these fossils to tell us about these extinct creatures, but mostly thank god they're all dead!'

By the way, throwing a body into the tar pits doesn't work. It takes days to sink in, and I think they even have put fencing under the surface of the tar near the edge of the pits to catch things like this. (It took me almost two hours at 3AM to get a body back out, just in time before the sun came up!)

Re:Back to the fossils (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 10 months ago | (#45257169)

Mr Capone I presume? Throwing bodies into the tar pits...

Re:Back to the fossils (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257387)

The correct translation is The The Tar Tar Pits.

Re:Back to the fossils (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 10 months ago | (#45257741)

They are called that because they are the Rancho La Brea tar pits. So calling them the Tar Ranch tar pits would be more accurate.

Re:Back to the fossils (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257751)

If you have never visited The La Brea Tar Pits and have a chance, go there!

I've been there and it's the pits.

Celebrating a century of fossil finds where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257149)

In the The Tar tar pits.

Parse that.

The "The Tar" Tar Pits? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257159)

The "The Tar" Tar Pits?

did they find my helicopter yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257347)

My alarm clock didn't go off so I might have missed the news.

Re:did they find my helicopter yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45263327)

movie reference is too subtle for /.

The Mythical Man Month (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45257465)

The cover of Brooks' book plays explicit homage to this treasure, as a direct ancestor of the IBM 360 development project. Later echoed by Silberschatz's book on operating systems.

Obligatory (1)

McGregorMortis (536146) | about 10 months ago | (#45258083)

There are no La Brea Tar Pits in Scotland!!

hmm, wondering (1)

modernbob (558981) | about 10 months ago | (#45259255)

When I was in 4th grade I threw my metal batman lunchbox in pit on a field trip, I wonder if they have unearthed that yet?

They should make a time capsule for the event! (1)

themushroom (197365) | about 10 months ago | (#45259259)

INCEPTION

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