Mother Nature hates New Jersey and other news of the month

A round-up of stories that caught my eye while I was off gallivanting with The Seven-Year-Old this past month:

July 10, 1926: The Day Nature Blew up a Town in New Jersey (The Vane)

NewJerseyLightningStrikeJuly 10 marked the 88th anniversary of the day that a bolt of lightning blew up an entire town in New Jersey. Apparently, the lightning bolt hit a military arms depot in the town, triggering an explosion that leveled more than 200 buildings within a half-mile radius.

From The Vane:

More than 600,000 tons of explosives stored inside the depot detonated, resulting in one of the most catastrophic man-made explosions in the United States. The blast completely destroyed nearly 200 buildings in a half-mile radius, resulting in $47 million in damages (more than $631 million today when adjusted for inflation), 21 deaths, and dozens more injuries. The explosion was so powerful that people reported finding debris nearly 22 miles away.

World’s Largest-Ever Flying Bird Had Huge Wingspan, Fossil Shows (Huffington Post)

Artist's illustration of the Pelagornis sanderski, the world's largest ever flying bird. (Image: Liz Bradford, Bruce Museum)

Artist’s illustration of the Pelagornis sanderski, the world’s largest ever flying bird. (Image: Liz Bradford, Bruce Museum)

From the Huffington Post article:

A fossil found in South Carolina has revealed a gigantic bird that apparently snatched fish while soaring over the ocean some 25 million to 28 million years ago.

Its estimated wingspan of around 21 feet is bigger than the height of a giraffe.

The Field Museum has a Tumblr!

Not really a news article, but a fun site to follow nonetheless: The Field Museum Archivist has a Tumblr page, which she populates with amazing images from the Museum’s past, like this one — of a field team prepping a 2400 pound Trachodon fossil for transport in 1922.

(Photo: Field Museum)

(Photo: Field Museum)

Scientists discover largest four-winged dinosaur to date (USA Today)

From USA Today:

An exquisitely detailed fossil excavated in northeastern China shows that the dinosaur’s tail feathers measured a full foot in length. More than 20 dinosaurs are thought to have sported plumage, but none boasted feathers as long as those of the new fossil, which dates back 125 million years. The next-longest dinosaur feathers are less than 9 inches long.

“I’ve worked for over 20 years in China, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Luis Chiappe of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, a paleontologist and a co-author of a study reporting the find. “It was absolutely stunning to see how perfectly preserved these feathers were and how long they were … essentially one-fourth the length of the animal.”

The only downside to this story — the fact that the dinosaur is named after the research team’s corporate sponsor.

The researchers named their new species Changyuraptor yangi. The first part of its name means “long-feather raptor,” and the second part honors a Chinese financial supporter.

Only a matter of time, really. Applying for grants is ridiculously painful. Still, the question of how to determine the marketing / business value of the rights to the second half of a dinosaur’s scientific name kind of fascinates me.

Related Links:


About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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