Then he found one that was five feet long. So he paused his normal operations, and called up this other guy Bluestone. (Can we pause a moment to appreciate how awesome* the surname Bluestone is?) Bluestone worked at the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium before creating his own company that "specializes in the planning, designing and building of exhibits at museums, nature centers and visitor centers." And Bluestone said Yeah, I'll take it! He's going to turn it into an exhibit at the Little Red Schoolhouse nature center in Willow Springs, Ill.
I totally need to visit that exhibit, because I'm dying to know just what this creature was. The news article says only "400 million year old cephalopod." The accompanying picture doesn't show much except an obviously straight shell--so maybe something out of the genus Baculites?
"We always knew they were special. But we never knew what they were," [Spillane] said of the cephalopods.
My first reaction to this quote: HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE IDENTIFIED THEM IMMEDIATELY? Then I said: Whoa. There's no rule that everyone has to care about the same stuff you care about, whether it's science, technology, art, or history. I can't image seeing foot-long fossils in my quarry and not immediately looking up their identity in books and websites, calling paleontologists if necessary. But I will happily walk right past famous historic buildings without feeling a similar urge to know.
I think that we, as scientists, often get caught up in the idea that everyone should care about science. But not everything's for everybody. Spillane may never learn to identify his fossils, and I may never enter an art museum of my own volition. He still respects and values nature and eduation enough to say something like this:
"There are probably places we could get a lot more dollars, but this is going to a nature center," Spillane said. "That means it will be there for the next generation and beyond. This leaves something to my family. I am quite pleased to participate in this."And, you know? That's as "into science" as some people are ever going to be. And we scientists have to make our peace with that.
* Sorry, Hank.