Fullerenes better dating through technology
The fullerenes held an unusual number of Becker's team had previously found such gas-bearing buckyballs in rock layers associated with two known impact events: the 65 million-year-old Cretaceous-Tertiary impact and the 1.8 billion-year-old Sudbury impact crater in Ontario, Canada.
They also found fullerenes containing similar gases in some meteorites.
Others admit to constantly falling asleep while trying to revise, while others say they're making frequent trips to the kitchen to gorge on comfort food.
Elsewhere, the lure of social media - Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facebook - is just too hard to stay away from.
Most have been recycled by our planet's tectonic activity.
Undaunted, Becker led a NASA-funded science team to sites in Hungary, Japan and China where such rocks still exist and have been exposed.
Taken together, these clues make a compelling case that a space rock struck the Earth at the time of the Great Dying.
Indeed, there are few 250 million-year-old rocks left on Earth.
But as their methods for dating the disappearance of species has improved, estimates of its duration have shrunk from millions of years to between 8,000 and 100,000 years. "I think paleontologists are now coming full circle and leading the way, saying that the extinction was extremely abrupt," Becker notes.
"Life vanished quickly on the scale of geologic time, and it takes something catastrophic to do that." The carbon atoms in a fullerene molecule are arranged in a spherical pattern similar to a geodesic dome.
(Geodesic domes were invented by Buckminster Fuller, hence the name of the molecules.) This shape allows the fullerenes to trap gases inside.
Deep inside Permian-Triassic rocks, Becker's team found soccer ball-shaped molecules called "fullerenes" (or "buckyballs") with traces of helium and argon gas trapped inside.