How to: Figure out what color dinosaurs really were

Color is just a happy side effect of physics. So Canadian scientists are turning to The Canadian Light Source synchrotron, a particle accelerator in Saskatchewan, to help them figure out what color extinct duck-billed dinosaurs actually were. By putting a 70-million-year-old skull into the accelerator, they'll be able to figure out what molecules — from pigments to melanin-producing cells — are still present in the fossil. Francie Diep explains how it works at Popular Science.


  1. When I was very young and avidly read everything about dinosaurs that I could find there are two things I distinctly remember being told. One was that we’d never know what caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. The other was that we’d never know what color the dinosaurs were.

    I know the big meteor is still controversial but seems plausible as at least a partial explanation. And I suspect the synchrotron’s results will be controversial too, but it still seems like a long way from “we’ll never know” to “here’s a distinct possibility”. 

  2. Sweet. My 5 year old was just asking me last night how they knew what color the dinosaurs were. I think this question stemmed from the fact that the same kind of toy dinosaur can be many different colors. I did tell him that the glow-in-the-dark one was likely not a realistic skin “color” for a dinosaur.

    But, hey — maybe I am wrong!

  3. Since the work is being done by Canadian scientists at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, surely they must be searching for the COLOUR of dinosaurs (not the color).

    1.  Although, it is being reported on a news site based in the USA.  Is it proper to label terms according to the origin of the news source, or altered to fit the requirements of the intended audience?

      1. I was always taught in English classes to fit my writing to the intended audience. It seems like a sensible practice to me.
        I have no idea whether it is expected to carry over to reporting. Although it would seem most print journalism is written to be comprehensible to the lowest levels of literacy.

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