How could the "hatching" of 75-million-year-old dinosaur eggs and a legion of Godzilla-like dinosaurs marching on America's cities by the year 2000 be spawned by the recent discovery of a dinosaur egg by Brigham Young University researchers?
Inquiring minds want to know. Can the prospect of living dinosaurs make headlines as big as a living Elvis?Reports of BYU's discovery and subsequent testing of the egg - believed to be 150 million years old and to contain the oldest known dinosaur embryo - have been carried by newspapers and television stations throughout the world. So it's understandable that the facts - or something resembling the facts - made their way into the often-sensational tabloids at checkout stands and convenience stores everywhere.
More palatable news stories appeared in more reputable publications, including considerable attention by the New York Times. In a major science story, BYU's dinosaur egg is featured, along with work being done with nearly two dozen embryonic skeletons from unhatched eggs found in western Montana.
In the Montana discovery, CAT scans and other medical-imaging techniques have resulted in composite images and subsequent sketches revealing embryos lying in a fossilized state inside the eggs.
Taking some literary freedoms, the Sun, a Florida-based weekly tabloid, described that process as "hatching" the Montana dinosaur eggs in a story that fostered the front-page headline, "American scientists unearth BABY 75 MILLION YEARS OLD."
The headline received top billing on a tabloid cover that included other headlines such as "Man glows while sailing thru the Devil's Triangle," "Giant toads are UFO aliens, says top scientist," and "Fat swimmer is harpooned by whalers."
The Sun story began: " `Hatched' from its prehistoric confines, a baby dinosaur inhabits the earth once again as scientists gather to uncover secrets until now hidden from modern man.
"Great advances in medical imaging technology have enabled excited researchers to eyeball the embryos of the ancient beasts still preserved inside fossilized eggs," it continued.
One paragraph in the story does mention the BYU dinosaur egg and scientists' belief that it contains an embryo - the earliest dinosaur embryo ever found. Accompanying it was a photograph of Wade Miller, head of BYU's geology department and Earth Science Museum.
However, the most bizarre tabloid-type story mentioning the Utah egg ran under the headline, "Top scientist predicts . . . DINOSAUR AGE WILL RETURN! Hundreds of dormant eggs could hatch and attack American cities."
Several members of BYU's faculty and staff have received copies of the recent story from friends and acquaintances. However, nobody seems to know the publication or the date - or perhaps nobody cares to know.
The article quotes a Tokyo paleontologist Keiji Nakamura in an interview with a Japanese freelance journalist.
According to Nakamura, the discovery of the BYU egg signals the coming of a new dinosaur age, with thousands of fertile dinosaur eggs scattered throughout the North American continent from the Pacific Northwest to Mexico. He said he has been invited to the United States to help locate the fertile eggs before they hatch.
"We're talking about creatures of enormous strength, which would pose a serious threat to mankind," Nakamura was quoted in the article. "If even a fraction of the dinosaurs made it to adulthood, we would be facing a small army of Godzillas. Only this time it would be for real and a lot of people would certainly die."
According to the story, Nakamura's theory of dinosaur eggs remaining fertile is based on a special enzyme process and varying temperatures.
"Some of my colleagues will argue that I've pushed the panic button, but I believe it's better to seize the day. I'd hate to have to tell the scientific community `I told you so' as bands of dinosaurs are destroying entire cities."
During the past half year, daily newspapers from coast to coast have run reports - reliable reports, that is - on BYU's discovery and testing efforts. Most are stories made available through wire services such as Associated Press, United Press International and the New York Times News Service.
News of the dinosaur egg has also gone international. It was highlighted in the German version of "Geo" science magazine and an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. Meanwhile, BYU researchers and their associates continue to work on egg-oriented articles to submit to scientific journals.
BYU also has also received notice that some television stations across the nation have picked up the BYU egg story and used it in their evening newscasts. Miller himself - and the egg - have appeared on several television programs, ranging from "Good Morning, America" to Italian science programs.
However, some local station newscasts took some journalistic liberties when they reported earlier this year on the discovery of the egg and the subsequent tests that suggest it contains an embryo.
At the end of his segment, a San Francisco newscaster added the plug "Save the dinosaur eggs" - something perhaps better suited for a bumper sticker. A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, TV reporter announced the egg's discovery by saying "the Easter Bunny came early for some Utah quarry workers." And a Louisville, Ky., newscaster described the egg being discovered in "the wilds of central Utah."
However, they ought to have a lot more to say when it comes to the "hatching" of 75-million-year-old dinosaur embryos and the subsequent onslaught of dinosaurs attacking American cities.