Science can be beautiful. A picture of a nebula. A microscope image of a cell. The fossilised remains of a dinosaur, captured in the frozen lustre of Lightning Ridge opals. OK, so that last one is oddly specific, but very much a thing. A rare find by miner Bob Foster 25 years ago, the smashed-up remains could represent the discovery of a new Australian-roaming sauropod.
As the ABC's William Verity writes, the fossils ignored scrutiny for a quarter of a century. Originally dumped by Foster at the Australian Museum, the palaeontological treasures found their way to a Sydney opal shop, much to the chagrin of Foster. He reclaimed the pieces and sent them to the Australian Opal Centre.
It was only when Dr Phil Bell, a scientist visiting from Armidale's University of New England, saw the fragments on display at the Centre, that their importance came to light. From the ABC article:
"Spine-tingling stuff," [Bell] said. "Australia is not well known for its dinosaurs. What we have is mostly scrappy remains that are hard fought and won, so to have such a beautiful skeleton like this laid out in front of me, in a museum, was spectacular."
It goes on to mention the Bell suspects the dinosaur is "a new species that roamed the warm, leafy shores of the inland sea about 110 million years ago". If it turns out to be the case, Bell feels it should be named after Foster, though the idea doesn't particularly excite him:
From his home on the mid North Coast of NSW, Mr Foster seemed distinctly underwhelmed when told by the ABC that the dinosaur would be named after him ... "It'll be a good talking point down the pub."
It's so hard to impress people these days.