Ancient earth atmosphere

A couple of years ago the aeronautical engineer Paul MacCready-- designer of the Gossamer aircraft--attempted to physically recreate a pterodactyl, known taxonomically as Quetzalcoatlus northropi, by reconstructing this 65-million-year-old bird-like dinosaur with modern lightweight materials, aluminum and mylar. I affectionately referred to this artifact by the pseudo-scientific name, Q. alcoa-duponti, but as things turned out this initial attempt was an aerodynamic failure. Later attempts were somewhat more successful.

For many years paleontologists have considered the pterodactyl as a glider, unable to actually fly because of its unusual body size, the adult approaching some 150 kilograms (330 lbs.), and an insufficient wingspan--some 12-15 meters--to carry that weight. Somehow, it doesn't seem practical--even for a dyed-in-the-wool evolutionist--to claim that such a creature had to laboriously climb up a cliff or a tree and then launch itself into a power glide to capture its prey.

It was perhaps 10 years ago or so that two Canadians, paleobiologist Dale Russell and aeronautics engineer Parvez Kumar, using computer simulations found our friend the pterodactyl could indeed fly by flapping its rather ungainly wings in an atmosphere 50% more dense than what we currently enjoy, raising a most interesting singular question of conjecture: Did planet Earth have a much more massive primordial atmosphere than what had been even previously suspected?

[Source: Frederic B. Jueneman - Raptures of the Deep]