The greatest scientists readily admitted that the theories and data of physics, that hardest of the hard sciences, drew highly limited descriptions of reality, and those scientists were usually, to one extent or another, . If textbook science falls far short of explaining reality, what can be said within its framework that is useful? Plenty. Our industrialized world is based on textbook science and feats such as putting men on the Moon were performed within the parameters of textbook science. With the waning of overspecialization and overreliance on reductionism in the last decades of the 20th century, multidisciplinary works have proliferated and will tend to dominate the references for this essay. I have found them not only very helpful for my own understanding, but they are appropriate references for a generalist essay. I have also avoided scientific terminology when feasible. For example, I use “seafloor” instead of “,” and if a non-specialized term will suffice for a scientific concept, I will often use it.
I earlier compared people from different epochs. That stone tool Tesla what his/her invention would lead to a half-million years later, and members of the founding group could not have comprehended . Imagine a hunter-gatherer of 10 kya being dropped into Rome in 100 CE or London in 1500 CE. History has some relevant examples. When , about the last of his people, came out of hiding in his dying world and strode into civilization, it caused a sensation. He soon died of tuberculosis, but his encounters with civilization were recorded. He attended an opera, and the popular account portrayed his rapport with the diva, but Ishi actually stared in amazement at the , as he had never before seen so many people in one place. When he saw an airplane in flight, he laughed in amazement. Imagine a hunter-gatherer of 10 kya being dropped into imperial Rome. That hunter-gatherer had probably seen dogs, but horses, cows, sheep, and the like would have been astounding, and watching a horse or ox pull a cart would have been stunning. Crops would have been an amazing sight. Imagine that hunter-gatherer at the . The building and crowd alone would have boggled his mind, even if the festivities might have been horrifically familiar. Metals and glass would have seemed magical. Writing had not yet been invented in that hunter-gatherer’s world, so even the concept would have been difficult. Imagine him trying to learn math. There were no more singing and dancing religious rituals, and no wide-open spaces to hunt a meal. Imagine that hunter-gatherer visiting a Roman bath. Hot water alone would have been surreal, while the cavorting might have been delightful. What would his reaction have been to Rome’s markets? Rome was also loud and could be hellish, so the hunter-gatherer might have longed to flee to the countryside before long, but the countryside would have little resembled the one he knew. He obviously would not have understood anything that anybody said, but they were also all members of , so he would have seen many behaviors and traits that he eventually understood. But how long would his shock have lasted? Could he have really ever adapted to Roman society (if he did not quickly end up on the arena’s stage as a novelty)? Another surprise for that hunter-gatherer would be seeing people interact who did not know each other. People were interacting with members and not trying to kill them on sight, which became standard behavior in most hunter-gatherer societies that battled over territory (their food supply). Civilized life was all made possible by the local and stable energy source that agriculture provided, which led to an epoch that changed very little until the next energy source was tapped: the hydrocarbon energy that powered the Industrial Revolution. The next chapter will survey the developments that led to that momentous event. It is the only Epochal Event with historical documentation that showed how it developed, which is easier to reconstruct than examining stones and bones.
Jupiter is the fifth and largest planet in our solar system
The ecosystems may not have recovered from Olson’s Extinction of 270 mya, and at 260 mya came another mass extinction that is called the mid-Permian or extinction, or the , although a recent study found only one extinction event, in the mid-Capitanian. In the 1990s, the extinction was thought to result from falling sea levels. But the first of the two huge volcanic events coincided with the event, in . There can be several deadly outcomes of major volcanic events. As with an , massive volcanic events can block sunlight with the ash and create wintry conditions in the middle of summer. That alone can cause catastrophic conditions for life, but that is only one potential outcome of volcanism. What probably had far greater impact were the gases belched into the air. As oxygen levels crashed in the late Permian, there was also a huge carbon dioxide spike, as shown by , and the late-Permian volcanism is the near-unanimous choice as the primary reason. That would have helped create super-greenhouse conditions that perhaps came right on the heels of the volcanic winter. Not only would carbon dioxide vent from the mantle, as with all volcanism, but the late-Permian volcanism occurred beneath Ediacaran and Cambrian hydrocarbon deposits, which burned them and spewed even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Not only that, great salt deposits from the Cambrian Period were also burned via the volcanism, which created hydrochloric acid clouds. Volcanoes also spew sulfur, which reacts with oxygen and water to form . The oceans around the volcanoes would have become acidic, and that fire-and-brimstone brew would have also showered the land. Not only that, but the warming initiated by the initial carbon dioxide spike could have then warmed up the oceans enough so that methane hydrates were liberated and create even more global warming. Such global warming apparently warmed the poles, which not only melted away the last ice caps and ended an ice age that had , but deciduous forests are in evidence at high latitudes. A 100-million-year Icehouse Earth period ended and a 200-million-year Greenhouse Earth period began, but the transition appears to have been chaotic, with wild swings in greenhouse gas levels and global temperatures. Warming the poles would have lessened the heat differential between the equator and poles and further diminished the lazy Panthalassic currents. The landlocked Paleo-Tethys and Tethys oceans, and perhaps even the Panthalassic Ocean, may have all become superheated and anoxic as the currents died. Huge also happened, which may have and led to ultraviolet light damage to land plants and animals. That was all on top of the oxygen crash. With the current state of research, all of the above events may have happened, in the greatest confluence of life-hostile conditions during the eon of complex life. A recent study suggests that the extinction event that ended the Permian may have lasted only 60,000 years or so. In 2001, a bolide event was proposed for the Permian extinction with great fanfare, but it does not appear to be related to the Permian extinction; the other dynamics would have been quite sufficient. The Permian extinction was the greatest catastrophe that Earth’s life experienced since the previous supercontinent existed in the .