A True Alternative History of 2020: Part Two

This post is Part Two of our True Alternative History of 2020 series. To read Part One in English, click here. To read Part One in Te Reo, click here.

The past twelve months have seen some of the most significant social, political, medical and environmental changes in a generation. Some of these changes have been traumatic; some have been important; some have been pretty scary.

However, the topics in this blog are a bit different. A True Alternative History of 2020 draws attention to the lesser known happenings of the past year–the forgotten or overlooked events that disappeared from view. From alien hunters to YouTube stars (and some dinosaurs, of course!), there’s something for everyone. Enjoy!


If you want to be a professional alien hunter when you grow up, you could do a lot worse than working in NASA’s astrobiology unit–especially since they’ve just set off to Mars to look for signs of ancient life! The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will reach the red planet in February 2021.

The case for Mars : the plan to settle the red planet and why we must / Zubrin, Robert
The Case for Mars explains step-by-step how we can use present-day technology to send humans to Mars. The Case for Mars is not a vision for the far future. It explains step-by-step how we can use present-day technology to send humans to Mars within ten years; actually produce fuel and oxygen on the planet’s surface; how we can build bases and settlements; and how we can one day “terraform” Mars and pave the way for sustainable life.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


The Isle of Wight used to be known as a popular holiday hotspot, but now it’s known for something even better–the dinosaur Vectaerovenator inopinatus! (The name means “unexpected air-filled hunter”!)

Dinosaurs : a field guide / Paul, Gregory S
“This lavishly-illustrated volume is the first authoritative dinosaur book in the style of a field guide. It covers the true dinosaurs – the Tetrapoda – the great Mesozoic animals which gave rise to today’s living dinosaurs, the birds. Incorporating the new discoveries and research that are radically transforming what we know about dinosaurs, this book is distinguished both by its scientific accuracy and the quality and quantity of its illustrations.” (Catalogue)


Not to be upstaged by the Isle of Wight, just a month later Mexico City uncovered the skeletons of 200 mammoths while excavating a site for an airport. (Beating the old mammoth skeleton record by 139!)

How to clone a mammoth : the science of de-extinction / Shapiro, Beth Alison
“Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? The science says yes. Beth Shapiro walks readers through the astonishing and controversial process of de-extinction. From deciding which species should be restored, to sequencing their genomes, to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen, Shapiro vividly explores the extraordinary science that is being used–today–to resurrect the past.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


In October a structure taller than the Empire State Building was discovered near the Great Barrier Reef! The mysterious reef tower was stumbled upon by the Schmidt Ocean Institute, whose previous finds have included giant living underwater spirals and many, many new species!

Blowfish’s oceanopedia : 291 extraordinary things you didn’t know about the sea / Hird, Tom
“The seas of our planet cover more than 70 per cent of the Earth, yet we know less about the ocean depths than the surface of the moon. Join marine biologist and fish-fanatic Tom “the Blowfish” Hird as he lifts the lid on a treasure chest of fascinating facts, to reveal just what we do know about what lurks beneath the waves.” (Adapted from the Catalogue)


As you no doubt know, November 2020 saw some truly world-changing events take place. But among them all, one stands out: of course we’re talking about “Baby Shark” becoming the most popular video on YouTube, with over 7.6 billion views! For the mysterious origins of the song, check out this Slate podcast.

Social media / Macpherson, Mary
“Is our identity more of a composite than we realise? We often think of ourselves as formed from our core values or our DNA, but in Social Media, Mary Macpherson explores identity as a creation of the interactions we have with others: friends, family and the wider world, and the evolving role technology now plays in this. A playful and provocative collection that drills into our social and media selves using elements from short stories and film scripts.” (Catalogue)


Somewhat surprisingly, on 31 December, just after 11:59pm, the year 2020 came to an end. Just like that! And so 2021 is upon us, and who knows what it has in store? More mammoth carcasses? Aliens? All of the above?! We will find out…

The future Earth : a radical vision for what’s possible in the age of warming / Holthaus, Eric
“The first hopeful book about climate change, The Future Earth shows readers how to reverse the short- and long-term effects of climate change over the next three decades. The basics of climate science are easy. We know it is entirely human-caused. Which means its solutions will be similarly human-led. In The Future Earth, leading climate change advocate and weather-related journalist Eric Holthaus offers a radical vision of our future.” (Adapted from Catalogue)