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The Third Floor Bridge: Time Travel Made Beautiful

December 16, 2013
Photo of a depiction of Anomalocaris, an interesting creature from the Cambrian. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

Depiction of Anomalocaris, an interesting creature from the Cambrian. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

Greeting Blogophiles! Are you partial to the Paleozoic? Perhaps you are drawn to the Devonian, or maybe you are more moved by the Mesozoic and are crazy about the Cretaceous. Well, have I got a bridge for you… The third floor bridge between the Main Building and the NRC is now open and it’s about time. Walk with me, would ya?

Photo of a depiction of a Eurypterid fossil from the Silurian. Eurypterids were sea scorpions that probably didn't taste very good.  Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

Depiction of a Eurypterid fossil from the Silurian. Eurypterids were sea scorpions that probably didn’t taste very good. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

While we’re walking, let’s do a bit of math shall we? If you were to walk from the Main Building (Nature Exploration Center) to the Nature Research Center via the third floor bridge, how long would it take you to get there (please show your work)? Using the simple equation Time = Distance/Rate or T=D/R, if you know the distance between the two buildings (140 feet) and how fast you are traveling (1 foot per second), you could easily calculate the time it would take (140 seconds or just over two minutes).

Photo of a depiction of petrified wood from the Carboniferous. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

Depiction of petrified wood from the Permian. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

Now, let’s say you wanted your trip to take 544 million years, how fast would you need to walk? Let’s see, R = D/T. So 140 feet /544 million years means you would move approximately a quarter of a foot every million years. You’d be long dead and hopefully fossilized, before you even took your first step. Fortunately, thanks to the beautiful artwork tiles by Barbara Page, you can now travel back 544 million years in the time it takes you to cross the bridge, and live to tell the tale.

Photo of Barbara Page standing next to her artwork on the 3rd floor bridge. Note how the cephalopod by her hand catches the light. Photo by Trish Weaver.

Barbara Page standing next to her artwork on the 3rd floor bridge. Note how the cephalopod by her hand catches the light. Photo by Trish Weaver.

As a paleontologist, I often think about time and about fossils, but I rarely think of them as art. However, on the third floor bridge, art and science have collided in spectacular fashion, and anytime you want (when the Museum is open and the weather is decent) you can wander to the bridge and plunge into the depths of Earth’s deep time.

Photo of a depiction of fossil echinoderms from the Carboniferous. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

Depiction of fossil echinoderms from the Carboniferous. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

The concept behind the tiles is an ingenious one. If one were to turn the layers of the Earth like pages in a book, on each page you’d see something different. But because there is no place on Earth where all of its history is represented, the tiles are a composite of representative fossils found from various geologic time periods around the world. What I find really fascinating about the bridge tiles is that rather than representing what the organisms might have looked like in life, they are images of fossils you might find from rocks of that era. It’s kind of like field work without getting dirty, and everyone is guaranteed to find a fossil.

Photo of a depiction of a funny looking fossil fish from the Paleogene. No, it is not upside down. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

Depiction of a funny looking fossil fish from the Paleogene. No, it is not upside down. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

The other brilliant part of the bridge art is there is math behind it and you don’t have to do it. Barbara Page has done it for you. Each tile represents ≈2 million years, so in effect you can travel through time without worrying about your teleporter inadvertently turning you into a fly. How convenient! Also for those budding ichnology (trace fossil) enthusiasts out there, the tiles at your feet have depictions of some of the tracks or trails you might find. How cool is that?

For all you budding ichnologists a photo of a depiction of some dinosaur and other tracks on the floor of the 3rd floor bridge. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

For all you budding ichnologists, a depiction of some dinosaur and other tracks on the floor of the third floor bridge. Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

So next time you’re at the Museum, why not slow down and visit the third floor bridge to do a little field work? It’ll be well worth your time.

And finally a photo of a depiction of fossil turtle from the Cretaceous, because who doesn't like turtles? Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

And finally, a fossil turtle from the Cretaceous, because who doesn’t like turtles? Original artwork by Barbara Page. Photo by Trish Weaver.

To see more of Barbara Page’s artwork please visit her website: http://www.barbarapagestudio.com/index.html

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2013 1:23 pm

    I’m gonna love this! I didn’t know the 3rd floor bridge was open, but will check it out next weekend.

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