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It seems the first resident of Earth to break thesound barrier wasn’t Chuck Yeager, after all.
He was about a hundred million years ,too late.
Apatosaurus was a cousin of Brontosaurus,but evenbigger,with a 40-foot-tail more than three feet thickat the butt end but no wider than your pinky at thetip.
That dainty end made the tail too fragile for clubbing attackers.
So what was it for?Maybe this:
The idea that Apatosaurus might have used its tail like a bullwhip—to scare off predators,communicate or even show off for potential mates—gained traction about 20 years ago.
That’s when paleontologist Philip Currie of the University of Alberta teamed with NathanMyhrvold to create a computer simulation that showed the whip-cracking tail was plausible.
Myhrvold is the founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures
an invention firm in the Seattle suburbs—where I’m executive editor.
This week at a meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, Myhrvold, Currie and DhileepSivam, also of Intellectual Ventures, unveiled a quarter-scale physical model of an Apatosaurustail made from aluminum vertebrae and steel tendons.
Give the big end of the model a strong push and pull, and it does this:
Our analysis of high-speed video of the tail in action found that the tip moves at more than800 miles an hour—fast enough to break the sound barrier and create a small sonic boom.
A full-size apatosaur whipping its tail in this way could probably have produced a sound loudenough to shatter human eardrums.
Which must have really gotten their attention back in the late Jurassic.
Plausibles： [‘plɔːzɪb(ə)l] adj.貌似有理的