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This is an exceptionally kickass piece of popular science writing. Chock full of interesting facts that (AFAICT) preserve scientific objectivity and skepticism without getting too technical for a lay audience to follow.


> Mike has presented calculations that these giants would have sufficient on-board energy resources to travel the planet, their speed and flight range being sufficient to ignore most geographical barriers.

This made me, sitting at my computer in 2019, a little bit scared of pterosaurs. The thing can come from the other side of the world and gobble you up like a snack.

There are plenty of birds that travel between southern Africa and Europe every year. Sure, they take breaks unlike the Pterosaur would've, but still, it's not that special.

They're not as big as a flying giraffe with a gigantic beak, though.

There was a stork that migrated to Europe with an African spear lodged through it. That's something.

Actually, many of them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pfeilstorch

..and this was how we learned about migration? That’s such an absurd way to discover it

Seems very reasonable to me. Here are some other theories at the time from the wiki article about where birds came from:

"Some theories of the time held that they turned into mice, or hibernated at the bottom of the sea during the winter, and such theories were even propagated by zoologists of the time."

This was accidental, but I think tagging individual birds to make them identifiable by humans is still the primary way we learn about migration. The alternative of continuously tracking individual birds wasn’t possible until late 20th century and I think still is fairly expensive.

Sure, it's just a comical predecessor to tagging

There was a very interesting In Our Time podcast on this if you are interested in how our knowledge of bird migration evolved - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08wmk5j

Yes, that's where I first heard of it. It's a great podcast and worth recommending!

>first and most famous Pfeilstorch was a white stork found in 1822

>Before migration was understood, people had no other explanation for the sudden annual disappearance of birds like the white stork and barn swallow. Some theories of the time held that they turned into mice

1822 seems far too late

Obviously, but GP mentioned that they found the feat of flying across the world particularly impressive/scary, so I thought they might not be aware that super many birds do that today and it's awesome and amazing :-)

The wording suggested to me that the pterosaurs in question could do it without stopping, though I probably misinterpreted it. But it's really the combination of that with the "giraffe-sized monster with a beak" angle mentioned by mcv.

No, they really could fly thousands of miles without stopping. They may have stopped to sleep, but there are plenty of birds that don't.

You’re spot on that this is excellent pop sci writing.

However, I’d argue that this is the right level of technical detail for a layman. Just consider how much denser a typical academic paper is. This strikes a great balance in citing lots of research and offering accessibile summaries of that research. This keeps the reader from getting lost in jargon and references, but gives them the opportunity to dig in if they wish.

I think that science writing in this vein is much more likely to catch the public’s attention that the shallow science articles we typically see. It doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence, rather it invites it.

> However, I’d argue that this is the right level of technical detail for a layman.

Uh, isn't that what I said? :)

Yeah, I guess I’m not a great reader. :)

> This made me, sitting at my computer in 2019, a little bit scared of pterosaurs.

Wow, I wasn't even aware there were pterosaurs this large. I thought the Pteranodon was the largest of them all, but Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx dwarf it. They are really impressive.

I'm not scared of these giant reptiles though, but awed. It'd be awesome if it was possible to see one of them in real life. I wonder if people in the near future will feel this way about lions and tigers, "such a shame I missed them!". But even in that sad future, at least there would be video recordings.

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