|Image credit: US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management|
What do physicists and paleontologists have in common? One analyzes equations while the other digs fossils. But when it came to discovering God’s complex design for trilobite eyes, expertise from both fields was required.
As a child in Italy, Riccardo Levi-Setti started collecting fossilized trilobites, an extinct group of sea creatures somewhat similar to horseshoe crabs. This interest led to curiosity about rocks, then to crystals in rocks, then to the chemistry of crystals, and finally to the physics behind chemistry! Though he eventually earned his doctorate in physics, his love for trilobites never died.
That’s why a physicist showed up at a talk about trilobite eyes, given one fateful day in the early 1970s by renowned paleontologist Euan Clarkson.
Soft tissues are not usually preserved in fossils. But since the lenses of trilobite eyes were made of the mineral calcite, they are often preserved. Clarkson had cut through trilobite lenses to study their design. To his surprise, he told the audience, one group of trilobites had lenses unlike any others he had ever seen. Not only that, but there were two different unique shapes, and different trilobite species had one or the other shape. Clarkson admitted he didn’t know why. But Levi-Setti did.To lay eyes on the rest, click "Trilobite Eyes — Ultimate Optics".