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T. Rex and the Crater of Doom

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  784 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
"The story of one of the greatest adventures of twentieth-century science, told by the central figure.... It is a great read for both scientist and layperson." Richard Muller, author of "Nemesis: The Death Star." Sixty-five million years ago, a comet or asteroid larger than Mt. Everest slammed into the Earth, causing an explosion equivalent to the detonation of a hundred m ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published July 28th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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The Great Dinosaur Debate by Robert T. BakkerT. Rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter AlvarezThe Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs by Gregory S. PaulPredatory Dinosaurs of the World by Gregory S. PaulWonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould
The Best Non-fiction Dinosaur Books
2nd out of 114 books — 35 voters
Animal Models in Cardiovascular Research by David R.  GrossCosmos by Carl SaganThe Systems View of Life by Fritjof CapraA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingPale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan
Science Writing
19th out of 138 books — 123 voters

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Community Reviews

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Nov 11, 2009 Greg rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, dinosaurs
I love the cover to this book. I didn't love the material inside the book nearly as much, but it was still pretty interesting.

A bunch of years ago the dinosaurs had a really bad day when a meteor or comet the size of Los Angeles crashed into Mexico and killed them all off, except for the ones that were on Noah's Ark, and the still existing dinosaurs that live in Loch Ness and Lake Champlain, called Nessy and Champy respectively. Those facts aren't in this book. But you learn a lot about rocks a
Riku Sayuj
Aug 19, 2012 Riku Sayuj rated it it was ok
I was promised dinosaurs and I got only scientists searching for a buried crater. A word repeated thrice in a book does not its title make.

>The initial 50 pages or so are worth reading. For the rest, go watch some NatGeo doc.
Feb 08, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it
Ok, ok, so I understand that if you bought this book based on this cover art (e.g. the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex) you might be a little pissed off. Whoever was in charge of marketing this volume at Princeton University Press clearly knew that a whole book about the science of geology and specifically the proving of the impact theory to explain the unusually high amounts of iridium in the banded layer of rock known as the "K-T boundary" that separates older Cretaceous period stone from newer Tertia ...more
Jul 20, 2007 Margie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, geoscience
Walter is such a great storyteller. He does an incredible job of making a complex scientific discovery very accessible to the general public, yet never talks down to the audience. A fine job of combining scientific detail with an interesting story.
Nov 04, 2015 Daphne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quest

It was a great little book. I listened to the audio version which was pretty short for the page length. I think I must have missed some great illustrations, so I'll be picking up the text version at some point to get the whole picture. What I enjoyed most about this book is that it was written by one of the individuals that actually figured the cause, location, and beginning of the story that caused the K-T extinction. I've read, watched documentaries, and sat through many lectures about mass
Kathy  Petersen
Who could resist a title like this? It's an adventure story, perhaps even a bit of a detective tale (well, investigative, anyway), with plenty of scientific detail but not enough to make my eyes glaze over. Excellent for readers like me - absolutely not scientifically oriented but fascinated nonetheless.
Jul 19, 2007 Jrobertus rated it it was ok
like "lucy" by johansen, this book gives a clear and engaging account of what scientists know of a popular field of study. in this case the meteor that smacked into the yucatan triggering the "kt" species extinction. a good read.
Jul 16, 2009 Ben rated it liked it
A nice little book about what we think happened to the dinosaurs and how we came to figure it out. Alvarez does a good job explaining the science without getting too technical.
Henry Houser
May 11, 2013 Henry Houser rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-school
Walter Alvarez's purpose in writing T. Rex and the Crater of Doom was to inform. He states his and his colleagues' theories, failed or otherwise, in an attempt to show their thought processes. It is written in an entertaining fashion to be more interesting, but its main purpose is to inform. Alvarez is telling his story of the dinosaurs' extinction.
The theme of this book is simply the theory it is trying to prove. A giant meteor struck the Yucatan Peninsula around 150 million years ago, causing
Todd Martin
Jun 21, 2010 Todd Martin rated it really liked it
Despite its rather sensationalistic title, ‘T. Rex and the Crater of Doom’ provides a very nice overview of the asteroid impact which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs (and other species) 65 million years ago. It also describes the scientific investigation which led up to the theory’s development and the subsequent search for the impact crater.

The book is written by Walter Alvarez, who along with his father (Nobel prize winning physicist Luis Alvarez) and 2 colleagues, came up with the ast
Oct 28, 2015 Jeneé rated it it was amazing
Usually a book like this would be painful to read like most science related books are. I mean I'm a geology/paleo major but lets face it most science related books are not a fun read. But this book I'm glad to say is very well written, and full of fun factual goodies. It goes through the whole 10 year discovery of the reasons for the K/T extinction. If you are interested in the extinction of the dinosaurs or any of earths extinctions I highly recomend reading this book. It gave me a whole new in ...more
Jan 18, 2013 Denise rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Fascinating and not too technical account of how Alvarez and a large cast of other scientists came to suspect and then to prove that the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by the impact of a gigantic meteor onto the Yucatan Peninsula. Fun watching the sausages get made: the wrong hypotheses and experimental mistakes, the collaborations and feuds, accidental discoveries and dogged searches, and how very important relationships between scientists are to sparking that Aha Moment. He is almost c ...more
Oct 07, 2015 Thom rated it it was amazing
Walter Alvarez and his dad came up with the theory and then worked to find the evidence of the impact theory for the K-T mass exinction This book provides a step-by-step through that mystery - from dating fossils and layers, to the excess of iridium, to the discovery and confirmation of the Chicxulub impact site. In case you want to know what it was like for T. Rex, the first chapter provides a blow-by-blow of the object slamming into the earth, melting bedrock and changing the climate in one pu ...more
Mar 22, 2010 Margery rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I chose this to read because the author is in Margie's department at Cal and I wondered if a laywoman could understand it (or get past the first page). It turned out to be a convincing record of the research done to explain the sudden extinction of dinosaurs globally. Alvarez names EVERY scientist who contributed or was consulted and seemed thrilled by the collegiality that followed. He was also impressed by the cooperation of say, physicists and geologists. I felt that Alvarez really wanted me ...more
Walter Alvarez's book is a great discovery story! Well-written for the lay audience, it captures one's attention and takes readers through the many dead ends and ultimately, discoveries, that make up science and the process that scientists go through formulating and testing their ideas.

Highly recommended for all science lovers, dinosaur buffs (if you haven't read it already!), everyone wanting to find out more about the world around us, and of course, anyone who's ever wondered what really happe
John Mccullough
Apr 28, 2016 John Mccullough rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: especially young scientists
For years I taught a course at the Univ of Utah called "The Human Discovery." It consisted of reading books that conformed to three criteria. First, it had to deal with an interesting topic illuminating the discovery of some aspect of our human existence. Second, it had to have been written by someone who was directly involved in the discovery. Third, there had to be a movie which dealt with the topic either directly or indirectly. Fourth, incidentally, the books ought to be readable and inexpen ...more
May 28, 2015 William rated it liked it
I would have rated this book had I not read another. Bill Bryson discusses the KT boundary in his _A Short History of Nearly Everything_ and does it in a much more engaging fashion. Reading Crater of Doom, it was hard not to compare the two.

Crater of Doom does go into much more detail, as Alvarez & his father were the ones instrumental for connecting the dots & establishing that an asteroid was responsible for killing a dinosaur. He does do a good job explaining how the pieces were slowl
Fred Kohn
Jul 30, 2014 Fred Kohn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
The impetus for reading this book came from a backyard barbecue with the former curriculum director of math and science for Upper Arlington (Ohio) Public Schools. The conversation turned to evolution denial and he recommended this book with the caveat that it was directed at young adults. If this is true, the young adults in Upper Arlington must be several cuts above the young adults that I know, because I found the science pretty advanced for a popular science book, regardless of audience. As i ...more
Oct 16, 2015 Richard marked it as to-read-3rd
Recommended to Richard by: Steve Mirsky of Scientific American
Mentioned glowingly by Steve Mirsky, host of Scientific American's Science Talk podcast. See here for the transcript and the MP3 download.

Save yourself, mammal! We will fend off the asteroids!
Jessi Witt
Jul 06, 2013 Jessi Witt rated it liked it
Really good layman's step into the processes of paleontology and the most popular of extinction theories. Unfortunately I don't know enough to comment on the veracity of all of this book's content, but if theories are just to be taken as such, it does a good job laying it all out. The means to reaching those theories and the work that goes into working and discarding and re-figuring what is known is pretty interesting.
Dec 14, 2014 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow, T.Rex and the Crater of Doom. If you've ever read a book with a more titillating title than that then, well, please tell me what it was because clearly you read more titillatingly titled books than I do. (Although this one is certainly a contender.)

Despite sounding like a 1950s B-movie, T.Rex and the Crater of Doom is a popular science book by one of the scientists who proposed the impact hypothesis. This is the theory that a massive meteor strike wiped out the dinosaurs (and three quarters
Feb 19, 2015 Sofia rated it really liked it
More fascinating than the dinossaur extinction event is the story of how it was pieced together by relentless scientists, from almost all scientific fields immaginable and all corners of the world, for over ten years of battle against the dominating paradigm of the time. It is a wonderfull lesson in the scientific process - which, as the author often points out, is very much like detective work.
Jennifer Lauren Collins
In the last quarter of the 20th Century, Walter Alvarez was one of a select few scientists who had a close hand in discovering the truth about how and why the dinosaurs disappeared some 65 million years ago, and this book recounts that long journey. Detailing what was once believed, and seemingly understood, and moving on to the theories and discoveries that changed those understandings completely, Alvarez takes readers through the earth-shattering change of moving from a sure belief in graduali ...more
Abigail Ryder
Dec 30, 2010 Abigail Ryder rated it it was amazing
Interesting read about the search for truth regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs. No previous knowledge of geology is required; this book reads more like a mystery than a science book, and portrays the story of the successful search for evidence to prove that the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by a sudden meteoritic impact with Earth, rather than gradual climate change.
Apr 03, 2016 Becca rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: My father
What a satisfying, scientific tale. Walter Alvarez of the eponymous "Alvarez Hypothesis," the hypothesis that a large impact caused the mass dinosaur extinction could have written many different types of books about his work. This is a deeply humble book that seems to be equally about How To Do Good Science as it is about the deeply fascinating scientific work that Alvarez has done.

The story is just so freaking cool -- both the human and geologic aspects. How could we possible understand what ha
Alvarez is a great explainer, able to make clear the scope of geologic time and the way that science works. What a story of determined study, cooperation among individual scientists and branches of science, and delayed gratification. It took more than ten years of research to prove the theory that the dinosaurs (and much of the other life on earth at the time) went extinct from the effects of the impact of an asteroid or a comet with the earth. Most people probably don't equate passion with scie ...more
Ondrej Urban
Apr 24, 2014 Ondrej Urban rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh wow... first of all, thanks, Randall Munroe, for mentioning this in one of the what-if XKCDs! What an - admittedly short - ride. But, aaaah, the excitement!

OK, now coherently. Deep inside, I'm a rather liberal individual with a clear opinion on where the education system can stick it's "required reading" for the literature lessons. All the blasphemy aside - I admit the "classics" are called that for a good reason - why don't we request the students to read N books a year and report on these r
Billie Mulcahy
Nov 18, 2010 Billie Mulcahy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is a great book for anyone interested in how the Cretaceous extinction happened, and how we know. The author, Walter Alvarez, was one of the Alvarez team who developed and then proved that a meteor collided with the earth, killing the dinosaurs and most other organisms as well.
Nov 19, 2012 Akrabar rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read. This book gives a detailed account of what the life of a scientist is like - years of painstaking work with lots of failures and finally (if luck) culminating in a success. Very accessible to lay readers and presented like a detective solving a murder mystery.
Jun 10, 2014 Descatalogado rated it really liked it
Recommended to Descatalogado by: Randall Munroe
Cuando Randall Munroe me recomienda un libro, yo le hago caso. Y más si tiene un título como éste...

El primer capítulo describe el último día de los dinosaurios en la Tierra, provocado por el impacto de un meteoríto de 10 km de diámetro sobre la península de Yucatán. 10 km de diámetro es un peñasco más alto que el Everest. Imagina un Everest cayendo de los cielos a 30 metros por segundo, y piensa en la devastación que causa. Pues te has quedado corto: la verdad es acojonante.

El resto del libro t
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