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Asteroid!

"Meteor" may have bombed as a movie, but "Asteroid" could be, so to speak, a direct hit. The latter might be the working title for a script based on the latest theory to explain the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

No, King Kong did not dispose of them all single-handedly as on the screen. Their extinction may have been due instead to the dust raised by the impact and disintegration of a six-mile-wide, 12.7 trillion-ton asteroid hitting the earth of 65 million years ago with a million times the force of the biggest hydrogen bomb. Or so says a University of California research team's scenario presented at the annual convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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So much dust could have been kicked up that day was turned into night for years. The darkness would lead to the disappearance of vegetation -- and of the huge animals depending on it for food. In support of the theory, the researchers say such an asteroid could have brought the unexpectedly large amounts of rare iridium recently discovered in layers of sediment from the dinosaur period.

Talk about a disaster movie. The special- effects artists would be pushed to new heights.

Of course, it is not really the Hollywood possibilities that loom largest. It is the theory's reminder of the way humankind's intellect and imagination have been stretched by scientific progress. Consider the resources that make it possible to even conceive such an episode so long before history began. Asteroid!


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