(ORDO NEWS) — Can people be sure that they are the first civilization in the history of the Earth to master the industrial mode of production? For answers, one should turn to the geological history of the Earth.
The answer to this question is from climatologist Gavin Schmidt from NASA and astrophysicist Adam Frank from the University of Rochester (USA).
In recent years, geologists have been talking a lot about the onset of a new geological era in the history of our planet. This epoch is proposed to be called the ” Anthropocene “.
It is distinguished from previous epochs by traces of human activity in all the outer shells of the Earth – water, air and stone.
If another civilization reached a similar degree of development before humans, it should also have left a mark, including in the lithosphere. And he is.
The Anthropocene is characterized by abrupt and simultaneous changes in the chemical composition of rocks.
The rapid and global warming of the climate is reflected in the change in the proportion of oxygen isotopes.
Carbon isotopes are also being redistributed, due to the fact that we extract hydrocarbons from the ground and burn them.
The fluctuations in the distribution of nitrogen isotopes in the rocks formed in our time reflect our agriculture and the production of nitrogen fertilizers.
Soil erosion causes rivers to wash more sand into the oceans, including those containing heavy metals; the water in the ocean becomes more acidic and the carbonate deposits on the seafloor dissolve.
Species are dying out faster than usual. The newly formed rocks contain undecomposed plastic particles and isotopes of plutonium and other heavy elements that fell out after nuclear tests.
What traces can tell about the existence of another civilization?
The chances of finding chemical “traces” are much greater than the chances of finding an ancient artifact.
Scientists also took into account that most of the analytical methods give a dating spread of thousands of years, and the changes that man has made to the structure of the lithosphere have occurred over some tens of years.
Therefore, relying on one factor would be very risky, it is necessary that several markers speak about the activities of a hypothetical ancient civilization at once.
In the history of the Earth, there have been several periods of sharp warming – for example, the Paleocene-Eocene maximum (55 million years ago).
At that time, the ratio of carbon isotopes in the rocks changed dramatically, the composition of sedimentary rocks changed, animal and plant species died out, and the concentrations of heavy metals grew. Several similar events occurred in the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods.
Usually these events are explained by bursts of volcanic activity; besides, they happened slowly – for thousands of years. But some parallels with the Anthropocene can be drawn.
Scientists, of course, do not claim that the Finger-Eocene thermal maximum was the result of pre-human civilization, or that the primitive carnivorous mammals of the late Paleocene, like us, obtained energy by burning oil.
Taking such a theory as a starting point, one can prove it with innumerable facts, but all these claims will be impossible to verify.
Therefore, the version of a pre-human industrial civilization should not be considered until direct evidence appears.
But Schmidt and Frank believe that it is still useful to think in this spirit, if only because now we are looking for what we expect to find in ancient rocks, and sometimes it is useful to look wider.
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