Tag Archives: geology

Are we sure there wasn’t a coal-burning species 55 million years ago?

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson)

If you’ve ever wished that a new study came packaged with some science fiction exploring the implications, this is your lucky day. Of course, not every research paper lends itself to a short story, but a manuscript by NASA’s Gavin Schmidt and the University of Rochester’s Adam Frank asks a fun question: are we sure that humans built the first industrial civilization in Earth’s history?

In recent years, scientists have debated defining a new geologic epoch—the “Anthropocene”—based on the idea that humans have done enough to leave a recognizable mark in Earth’s geologic archives. Theoretically, if another world harbored life that produced an industrial civilization, we could find the proof written in that world’s rocks, too.

To examine that idea,

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