- The Loom
A Catastrophic Career
Last night I strapped on a bow tie and shot out my tuxedo cuffs, got in the car, and headed to the upper West Side to celebrate a global cataclysm. Actually, I was helping to celebrate the geologist who discovered the cataclysm. Walter Alvarez was receiving the Vetlesen Prize, the highest honor in the earth sciences.
Under the magnificent rotunda at Columbia’s Low Library, we sat down to dinner. Michael Purdy, the director of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, kicked off the event by explaining that Alvarez was winning the award because he had changed the way earth scientists view the history of the Earth. Later, Columbia president Lee Bollinger got up to present him with the award, declaring that Alvarez