We know what paleontology is concerned with-it deals with extinct plants and animals. But why should one take the trouble and pick in the relics of organisms gone ages ago? What's the use? To find out, your correspondent Rudolf Balandin has interviewed a person well in the know-Dr. Alexei Rozanov, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Director of the RAS Institute of Paleontology. Here's the transcript of their conversation.
- Now, many of us have a hazy knowledge of your field of research: you at your institute are collecting fossilized conchs and animals (you have whole collections of them!). You are taking pains to reconstitute the body and form of the animals of long ago. And so forth. A natural question: what's the practical use of all that?
- Well, those who have read Plutonia, a sci-fi novel by Academician Vladimir Obmchev, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his The Lost World, Michael Crayton's Jurassic Park Period ought to know. Those who have seen films about prehistoric animals know too that the material is based on paleontological evidence. But this is only part of the actual truth. Paleontology, you see, is a very pragmatic science, even though its theoretical significance is great as well.
- Pragmatic? But how?
- Together with Academician Boris Sokolov, we have made a rough estimate: to sink a deep well in search of hydrocarbons you've got to shell out a sum equal to the annual budget of our institute. Hundreds and even thousands of like wells are drilled countrywide. And from 15 to 20 percent more of such wells have to be sunk unless paleontological evidence is used.
- Because studying fossils we can determine the age and occurrence of strata, and pinpoint geological structures and productive horizons. Drilling people, of course, learn a lot from geophysical and geochemical bits of evidence. But these data cannot substitute for paleontological evidence which makes it possible to detail the age of rocks and their origin, com ... Read more