|The skyline of London through time.|
An international meeting on the causes of extinction is being held at the Natural History Museum next week, but the organizers have missed a trick. Hosting a conference on mass extinctions in London, they should have been more literal, and re-enacted each of the Big 5 at appropriate localities around the city. It would have been exciting, interactive, and a great example of science outreach, and the structure of events should have been like this:
(N.B. After I tweeted this post, Dr Matt Hall of Agile Geoscience calculated that if 10,000 people attended the conference, and went along to the 5 mass extinction events, just one of them would be left alive at the end. I have now added the surviving delegate numbers to each event.)
1. The end-Ordovician extinction will take place at Lapworth Court, Westminster. 86% of attendees will disappear as a consequence of a very rapid freeze followed by a very rapid period of warming. If 10,000 delegates attend this event, only 1,400 will make it through.
|Charles Lapworth, who invented the Ordovician.|
2. The late Devonian extinctions will take place at Devonshire House, Piccadilly. Appropriately, the original Devonshire House is extinct. 70% of the 1400 people present will be wiped out in two main events, but the reasons for each will be debatable. Nonetheless, there will be only 420 survivors.
|Devon, which invented the Devonian.|
3. The end-Permian extinction will take place on Murchison Road, Leyton. 96% of the 420 remaining attendees will vanish as a result of a major volcanic outpouring, leaving just 17 lucky souls to advance into the Mesozoic. For those survivors who cannot bear to leave the Palaeozoic, a memorial to the Cambrian fauna will be held on the adjacent street, Sedgwick Road.
|Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, who invented the Permian.|
4. The end-Triassic extinction will take place at the Albert Memorial, Kensington. This is because Friedrich August von Alberti coined the name Triassic. 75-80% of the 17 attendees will disappear, probably as a result of an extremely CAMP volcanic eruption. This leaves just 4 very fortunate individuals to progress to the final event.
|Friedrich von Alberti, who invented the Triassic.|
5. The end-Cretaceous extinction will take place at Chalk Farm, with 76% of attendees being squashed by space rock. Afterwards, there will be a rise of the mammals, possibly in an Orwellian manner. This will be facilitated by the fact that just 1 of the original 10,000 attendees will still be alive, making human re-diversification pretty tricky.
|Chalk, which invented the Cretaceous.|
Nonetheless, it will be a tremendous day out, and all those left alive at the end will get their money back.