Division of Natural Science
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Fall 2011 Course Outline
SC/NATS 1540 3.0A Dinosaur Extinction Theories
Term Section Status Type Day Time Location*
F A In Class With biweekly Lecture: 4:00 p.m. SLH D
tutorials to 7:00 p.m.
Start Classes End
September 7, December 6th,
Robert A. Levine
Tel: (905) 889-9361
e-mail: [email protected]
Division of Natural Sciences Website: www.nats.yorku.ca
Course Website: in preparation.
This course will focus on attempting to introduce students to the current theories used
to explain the mass extinction of dinosaurs which occurred at the end of the Cretaceous period
(145 to 65 Millions years ago).
The first part of the course will begin with a discussion of the role of science in helping
to uncover a definitive answer to the topic at hand, including discussion of scientific method;
the areas of science employed for this purpose such as physics, biology, geology, chemistry,
meteorology/climatology and cosmology/astronomy, and the tools used to uncover evidence
crucial in the investigation. Here, also, students will be introduced to many of the different
time periods used to describe the period, including the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and
Cenozoic and their various divisions which are used to describe periods of geological time in the Earth’s history. The introduction will then continue with a discussion of what an
extinction event is and point out some of the more notable extinction events known/suggested
to have occurred during the 250 million years of geological time.
The Introduction will be followed by the second part of the course which will begin
with a discussion of the proliferation of dinosaur species, including the various kinds, towards
the end of the Cretaceous and just before the mass extinction event. This will be followed by
an explanation of what is commonly called the KT boundary and its significance in relation to
extinction theories that have been proffered as the more likely cause of the demise of the
dinosaurs, providing a basis for the third part of the course in which an in depth discussion of
the more predominant theories put forward as the extinction event: namely, volcanic
(greenhouse gases) theory, flood theory, gravity theory, virus (disease) theory and meteorite
impact theory, will take place. During this discussion, the scientific and other evidence both in
support of and contradicting each theory will be canvassed.
The fourth part of the course will begin with a review and summary of the first three parts of
the course in preparation of the final examination or other culminating activity decided on.
STUDENT ATTENDANCE FOR TUTOTIALS IS CONSIDERED MANDATORY and
attendance will be taken and will form part of the grading, unless otherwise advised.
Natural science courses are part of the general education requirements of York University.
These courses aim to introduce students who are not majoring in the sciences to some of the
most important aspects of scientific thinking, to the character of scientific judgments and to the
place of science in society.
This natural science courses emphasizes that a proper appreciation of the content of science
requires a consideration of the larger historical, philosophical, social and political contexts of
science. It does not require a specific prior knowledge of mathematics and science beyond
In order to cut down on the cost of texts, an attempt is being made to compile a Coursekit and
have it ready by mid-September, 2011. Should this not become possible, copies of assigned
readings will be provided to students before each lecture, together with the obligation of
students to do research on their own. Course Syllabus: To be posted on the Course website, on or before the commencement of
Weighing of Course:
Grading is normally determined at the beginning of the term, often with the aid of
the class. However,