There has always been something attractive in other cultures and people. It is surprising how few people enjoy such company, to the point that I feel like an anomaly. They seek mirrors of themselves, and close themselves in fear, ridicule and hate of others.
What was this fascination with different peoples, and why doesn’t everyone have it?
It challenges our understanding of ourselves. Everyone should know the humility of being the outsider, of not speak the language around you. It is in being an outsider that we know ourselves, when one is seen as a grotesque to others.
I went to a canadian holiday party in the village with my three year old son. A large group of people came rushing at us as we arrived. Everyone wanted to say hello.
In this group was a young man from Ghana, an exchange student and the only African there. My son walked forward through a crowd twice his height, smiling past familiar faces and friendly greetings, and went directly to this happy, smiling stranger. The man bent on a knee to be eye-level with this small child. They smiled large at one another and fell into a hug.
The moment passed and people faded back into the rooms, but these two were still captivated by each other. The music picked up and the dance floor swelled. I saw my little son in the crowd, in the arms of this smiling guy, his arms and voice high. It was a happy site.
We spoke later after the dancing, and he told me that he was a long way from home, at a festive time of year, and was missing his family and friends. Seeing this small child spot him in a crowd and have him come straight to him, give him hugs, laughs and dance was a touching moment for him, one that would help define his time and experience in Canada.
I later asked my son why he so easily befriended this stranger. He said his smile reminded him of the many ceremonial masks we hung in our home. I call the collection my cult of the grotesque, with masks from Africa, New Zealand, South America, Korea. They were the hideous faces made familiar.
My first awareness as a kid was being one of the only white-hairs in my Venezuelan neighbourhood. In Germany I sought out other nationalities for friendship. As a teen I was the foreign national living in the US. As an adult I implanted myself in to the singular french Quebec metropolis Montreal. For retirement, I am eyeing Turkey. Even my wife speaks a mother tongue I do not (not Turkish).
That keeps me active as a stranger in my life, and is the touchstone of my individuality. It drives me to be the adventurer in my life. My goal is to seek the beauty in others and try to be the magic in others’ lives, including animals and plants. Even rocks and water get special attention.
In pursuit of a view of the tangle mesh that life develops, we can see how it exploits and creates resources. At a primal level, life is a chemical process, like rust on iron. What distinguishes it is awareness. It actively seeks out resources to create growth circumstances. Sensory interaction with its environment is key for life as it develops features that better situate and sustain it. Sensory systems register input and cause the organism to react. Successful reactive capability grows into species specific instinct memory.
From the animal perspective, most resources are a byproduct of our biosphere. Food, danger and peer are at the heart of our existence, we creatures are looking at each other. Plants and micro-organisms are not given much attention, and yet they underpin the existence of animal life. All lifeforms share their existence in communities.
The symbiosis starts with the cellular and microbial colony of each complex lifeform and extends to all individuals and cellular clusters in our biosphere. Billions of years and species have given rise to countless conversations.
The rich diversity of inter-species conversation continues to reveal itself, adding new languages to the tapestry. These discoveries reveal vocabulary which extends known methods, such as understanding how pheromones intoxicate, adding fullness to a mating performance of colour, movement and vitality.
A new family of languages is being revealed in plant life. Plants are the power generators of our biosphere, capturing light for energy and growth. The process began with cyanobacteria some 3 billion years ago, and led to the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). This was the changeover in life from smaller anaerobic (non-oxygen) lifeforms to multi-cellular aerobic organisms (aerobe) that survive and grow in the high-energy, corrosive power of a highly oxygenated environment.
Minerals created by the oxygen are also key to building the wealth of resources around the planet. We could say life produced compounds and crystals, the earliest flowers.
Archaeological study in the past 200 years has largely focused on the rise of fauna over the ages. It should be recognized that flora has, all along evolved. There are certainly many features about the complexity of plant life that are still not understood.
This is a review at some lesser or more recently understood aspects about life’s variety, its drive and communication. Ultimately each bio-rhythmic community furthers our understanding of what is required for humans, as the apex creature, to survives away from the diverse songbed from which we have sprung. A more complete comprehension of the bio-harmony and features of each instrument is key.
The memory of goldfish was upgraded to months by scientists and amateurs. Studies show temporal discrimination learning has a residual legacy, which will inform the action of the fish for months afterwards.
Testing fish was done with food, showing positive actions rewarded and a memory built on this. Fear is another motivator that shows learned behaviour. The third great motivator for nearly all lifeforms is reproductive, although this is best understood as biological or physiological, not as external stimulus altering / developing behaviour.
The three make up the core of what defines instinct. Remembering the smell, the sound, the location of such stimulation for long periods is a test for emotional memory, whereby a trigger relives a stressor or attractor, and the response to it.
In Learning strategies during fear conditioning (2009) fish are given the choice to flee or attempt social subordination. They test using socially elevated (read: significantly larger), same trout species to provide the fear. They recognize that only half the small fish population seeks to escape, while the other half ‘submits’ to a more stressful, not necessarily mortal situation.
The ability to choose between action and inaction is interpreted as an evolutionary optimization strategy, since either may or may not succeed. Escape from a previously safe, now dangerous environment to an unknown environment is not a survivable guarantee.
The same study discusses how levels of cortisol response to stress (heightened glucocorticoid and central monoaminergic response) as contributing between proactive and reactive activity in the face of fear, and stress. Showing blunted responses to stressors leads to proactive, escape impulse.
species’ adaptive leadership
When a species fills a well-established, biological niche, it follows known patterns and behaviours. It happens to all species where climatic changes will disrupt normal routine, and demand the population find a way to adapt. This disruption will cause stress to its members, as they search for options, and an atmosphere of fear and alarm will prevail.
As noted, the ‘cool head’ (one not as impacted by fear-induced biochemistry) most often responds to fear with an escape instinct. Success builds the heuristics of decision-making. Frequent successful escape would improve their skills in navigating an escape.
For those less likely to displace themselves in difficult situations ranging from annoying to stressful to dangerous, a frequently escaped individual would be a natural guide to follow if it is finally required to escape to survive.
In this way, the level head is a natural leader as stress levels increase to become intolerable in others. Cool nerve is displayed in the lead animal of a pack, one less traumatized by sudden danger, and ready for the opportunity to show prowess and cunning.
When a certain population had its local water supply dry, escapees may head in all directions to look for relief. Each group has its leaders. Those that find new water sources and survive will remember their lesson, and the individual who brought them there.
A population may have moved towards a polar region for heat, drought relief, the same group and in turn faced a transition to winter, another reason escape. Again an escape in all directions is likely not successful for everyone.
Those that manage to move back to the original local water supply now past drought and refilled will have two escapes which together constitute a migration. Seasonal and eventually generational reinforcement of the cycle would eventually become a behavioural instinct in the clan or species.
Creating such a new cadence or learned instinct into a population or species. It should be acknowledged that to successfully adapt to a calamity is exceedingly difficult. It results from species migration, division and eventual extinction most of the time.
Yet the process does promote adaptive leadership as an advantage, especially in prolonged turbulent periods. When stability renders the need for leadership mute, it may become a force of disruption, knowing itself to be advantaged when fear prevails in the population.
Beyond the capability to learn and retain memories is the ability to share memories and experiences with others. Lessons in life are provided by parents, family and clan members. By virtue of age, all become teachers.
Animals use direct experience and elder guidance when learning about food and risk of being prey. The young learn how and what to eat, and how to avoid dangers. Teaching is seen in nearly every type of animal from ants and bees to humans.
There are circumstances whereby animals can transmit a lesson by observation, without direct experience. Social learning is observed in guppies and in blackbirds, where the experience of an individual may direct the response of the group to an unfamiliar stimulus. This allows animals to know a danger or desirable food source by the actions of another.
Following the actions of another is a less emotional, not based on memory, but the act itself reinforces the lesson. Instinct is similar whereby a sense of what to do guides individuals or groups, without knowing why, while experience confirms the validity of the instinct.
Birds, insects, fish and animals all share this trait. They primarily rely on individual and group instinct, the rules embedded in genes to survive.
When instinct fails to safeguard the population and its survival is threatened, a range of survival strategies may be employed, from inaction to various escape actions, all looking for a proper response to stabilize the lifestyle.
Three social features combine for a lasting species wide effect. A novel problem presents itself which in turn draws leadership from the population. Successful adaptation is remembered, and passed along into the surviving population. Repeated success of actions become familiar behaviours, eventually imbedding as new genetic memories and instinct.
Ant / Fungus Mutualism
Ants have always provided an intriguing example of communal life, a complex society second only to humans. Colonies of millions of ants live and work in determined unison for the colony.
Another feature about 220 new world ant species is that harvest plants to be used as nutrition to grow a fungus. The fungal agriculture / mutualism is said to have evolved some 60 million years ago, certainly far ahead of humans.
emotional intensity as memory priority
There is a certain link between emotion and memory. Have / Have-Not states are triggers for contentment or stress. Given that animals have the ability to remember the method to obtain food and reduce stress, it is should be understood memories in themselves carry a certain residual emotion.
The emotional memory is one that more vividly remains and is quickly recalled. Requiring a food source, a shelter or means to avoid a large adversarial stressor will kick start those emotional memories into gear more quickly than non-emotive, neutral memories such as seeing landscape.
There is a natural correlation between continually facing challenges and emotional memory. Proper memory management can be an advantage as similar future challenges will more quickly offer previous solution methods.
In facing new challenges, the individual will draw from a combination of instinct (species specific memories), experiencially similar memories, and observation of others, their reactions, their emotions, both in the same species and in others as heuristic input to new situations and decisions.
It may be their lack of movement that relegates plants and flora to a life not driven by the communal and individual. With a bit of quiet and time, we see the movement.
We observe growth movement directed by awareness of sun, wind and the neighboring plant, fungus or rock. We note that below ground, roots spread and intertwine to become a rich matted network. For fungus, the mushroom is only their flowering expression of the mycelial underground, while plants use the nutrition of the earth to build-up upwards and add to the biomass from above.
The harshness of seasonal change and animal / insect predation requires plants to rush their growth in numbers and work together to optimize their spot in the forest.
The 1973 book Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird describes experiments done with plants by various scientists and specialists. This book was regarded as making psuedo-scientific claims of plant sentience.
One story was of a former C.I.A. polygraph expert named Cleve Backster, who hooked up a galvanometer to the leaf of a dracaena, a houseplant. He claimed that the thought of a fire caused the plant to signal electrically, mimicking a stress.
The book’s perceived thaumaturgy put an unspoken 25 year scientific moratorium on the neorobiology of plants. Only recently scientists have begun to study and accept how plants actively react to each other and environmental stimuli. Researchers are unearthing evidence that, far from being unresponsive and uncommunicative organisms, plants engage in regular conversation. The Intelligent Plant
Volatile Organic Compounds
Plants release both airborn and subterranean communication using volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The communications underground are facilitated by fungal filaments known as common mycelial networks that allow transmission between plants. (Plant Talk)
Plants warn neighbors of herbivore attacks, they alert each other to threatening pathogens and impending droughts. Interestingly VOC-induced defense responses—both intra- and interspecies have been acknowledged in several plant species, including lima bean, broad bean, barley, and corn.
Zdenka Babikova sprinkled vegetation-devouring aphids on eight broad bean plants and sealed each plant’s leaves and stems inside a clear plastic bag. This was no act of malice, though; it was all in the name of science. Babikova, a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, knew that aphid-infested bean plants release odorous chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air to warn their neighbors, which respond by emitting different VOCs that repel aphids and attract aphid-hunting wasps.
It has been noted that the dangers facing a plant and causing it to emit complex organic compounds has been shown to provide no benefit to the endangered plant. Yet a system that is receptive to VOC and other stimuli, and is able to emit them to the benefit of others is a profound biological integration.
“In sagebrush, lima bean, and poplar, VOCs released from damaged parts of a plant induce resistance in intact sections of the same plant, suggesting that each individual plant uses the signals to coordinate its own physiological responses.”
In this manner the volatile organic compounds emitted and received in plants acts as a nervous system, giving it response and awareness. This allows both the individual and the neighboring plants to share and benefit by VOC messaging.
The compounds can also be to repel or attract other species that would help protect them. Beyond avoiding danger, VOC can also be used as part of the plant’s reproductive system. Everyone who has every smelled a flower knows the attractive power of the scent.
One example is a study in Science found that the caffeine produced by many plants may function not only as a defense chemical, as had previously been thought, but in some cases as a psychoactive drug in their nectar. The caffeine encourages bees to remember a particular plant and return to it, making them more faithful and effective pollinators.
It is well known that animals, both prey and predator, use sound to be aware of danger and opportunity. This extends into realms humans barely hear. A study of the bat and moths reveals that while bats use sonar to locate themselves and their prey, moths themselves also emit sound that mimics bat sonar and acts like a counter.
One of the central principles of the Secret Life of Plants was that plants are sensitive to sound. This ranged from classical music and calm voice positively stimulating plants, to yelling and chain-saws that caused defensive reactions in plants. Monica Gagliano has studied VOC-like communication among plants that were isolated from such contact, with the suggestion that sound emmision / reception may be another medium used by plants.
Gagliano and colleagues cited a study showing that the roots of young corn plants grown in water make clicking sounds, and that when sounds in the same frequency range were played back to the roots, they responded by bending toward the source.
In an experiment, Heidi Appel, a chemical ecologist at the University of Missouri, found that, when she played a recording of a caterpillar chomping a leaf for a plant that hadn’t been touched, the sound primed the plant’s genetic machinery to produce defense chemicals.
Another unpublished experiment, done in the lab of Stefano Mancuso, found that plant roots would seek out a buried pipe through which water was flowing even if the exterior of the pipe was dry, which suggested that plants somehow “hear” the sound of flowing water.
Gagliano goes further to illustrate memory in plants, using wind as a pre-cursor of light. With exposure to a regular regime of wind and light, plants ‘learned’ to grow toward wind, even in the absense of light. Pavlov’s Plants – Reconsidering Plant Memory
Interesting is the noted Pando Stand of quaking aspen trees in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest. The shared root system and cloned trees are a single organism, estimated to weigh some 6,615 metric tons and covering 420,000 square meters. It is the largest known largest plant in the world.
Scientists have estimated the Pando stand to be anywhere in between 80,000 and one million years old, although cattle and unpredated deer populations have kept it from next generation growth.
Honey fungus – forest symbiosis
Another even larger lifeform is the Blue Mountain honey fungus in Malheur National Forest, Oregon. It is spread underground over 10 square kilometres, and is said to be from 7,567 to 35,000 tons.
It is said to be from 2000 – 8500 years old, and is the largest of 5 similar individual genets in the same area. Armillaria ostoyae, commonly known as the “shoe-string” fungus, parasitizes, colonizes, kills and decays the root systems of various conifer hosts, resulting in what forest managers know as Armillaria root disease. While being a pathogen and tree-killer, Armillaria ostoyae can also maintain itself in dead woody material for many years as a saprophyte.
It should be noted that trees are able to grow within the bounds of the organism, meaning fresh conifers are able to take root and grow. In this capacity, the fungus acts as a plant farmer.
The boreal forest, or more accurately the taiga is Earth’s single largest biome. This forest is 14% of the Earth’s land surface (nearly 2 billion hectares, 1/3 of the forest worldwide), nearly ringing the Arctic. The forest floor has root systems that actually cross species, where spruce trees have symbiosis with mosses, keeping out undergrowth in return for the added moisture moss gives the forest floor.
Another feature is being able to control squirrel populations by having all trees suddenly not produce as many seeds, or following up with a bumper seed year. Another claim was that trees could also produce a chemical that promoted rain, and in doing so change weather. Such a large forest is able to hold, release, and receive atmospheric moisture.
The transformation of glacial scrubbed rock into arable land begins with lichens and mosses. This adds a more moist, nutritional layer where hardy grasses and plants can take hold further develop the ground layer ahead of forest cover, as conditions warm. Large complex biospheres are able to adjust and mitigate environmental challenges.
To their credit, trees and forests are responsible for pulling life from the sea into freshwater and on to land. The ancient tree, Wattieza gave much needed shade and organic litter 385 million years ago, enough to allow species such as Tiktaalik to transition to a semi-land environment only a few million years later.
The Dance of Life
There is an innate quality to life to be aware and manipulate its environment. Cummulative food, reproduction, death cycles build into complex biological systems of populations among other species, both past and present. Our advanced biosphere has a massive life system.
Put us in a closed ark and we know we can’t survive on lettuce, or potato alone. But it is more complicated than just adding a dessert, although that helps. There is value in knowing what is required for multiple timeframes, for a year, ten years, a thousand years.
Certainly new environmental features such as more gravity, less sun, increased solar rays, and smaller habitable and closed systems will add to the complexity of sustaining manmade biospheres. Success in transplanting humans and their companion species also must work without the benefit of millions and billions of years of adjustment.
The longer the duration away from Earth, the more genetic adjustments in the local population will be seen. One feature that genetics and current human spaceflight share is the push for redundancy systems. Genetic experience and cosmonauts know that to better avert catastrophic collapse, an abundance of spare parts is a requirement in the isolation of space. Having a robust genetic pool to draw from for a new bio-system best assures successful rebalance in the face of dramatic, possibly cascading environmental challenge.
Humans, with their ability to manipulate their environment are poised to extend the jurisdiction of Earth’s life to other worlds. To do so successfully, there needs to be a more thorough understanding and sensitivity to ecosystemic accord. We must appreciate that our species must travel as a multi-species cohort, an ark. We are the ark builders and must become better keepers of our support host. Chickens and corn may be on the invite list, but so also nitrogen-fixing bacteria and crickets.
We are at an evolutionary moment equivalent to abiogenesis, 4 billion years ago and the great oxygenation event, the first biological transformation of the Earth. Of note is that trace evidence of life is found only 500 million years after the formation of the planet. If proper conditions are what is required, plenty of star systems have existed in the past 14 billion years of our universe with planets with a variety of life possibilities.
Our continued willingness to locate life elsewhere in our universe will probably lead to it. It is in our core instincts to seek it out and our skills improve changes of finding it. At this point it is an eventuality that other life will be found. It’s probably in our best interest to not find it for centuries, and to cross a biosphere closer to its conception, a less tangled bio-rhythm. This would better ensure survival of our own.
A peak into breathtakingly rich evolutionary tree of life on our planet
Watching the Tree Grow
In larger science, one sees the general picture of our evolutionary path, and the species past and present in our biosphere. The biological tree continues to grow newer branches, and that new species develop, populate, overtake, disappear to successive species through time. The legions practicing sciences build knowledge continually and reveal detail about the splendor of the tree of life that is our planet. It is breathtakingly rich.
There have been hundreds of millions of species that have appeared and gone over billions of years, leaving the 8.7 million we share the planet with today. Together we are the eons-long dance, morphing in and out of species, adaptations, mutations. Some are fragile and easily lost (dodo, giant panda), while other species are highly adaptive and successful (trees, birds, humans). Like our own lifetime, species are born and eventually disappear, their residual memories leave varying degrees in the lifeforms that continue.
Most of us accept this conceptual transition between species without much sense of the transformations. Evolution is presented in a binary way, switching in time from one to the better species in a linear progression. We envision one species, eventually producing a second, like a generations-long cell division. It is presented that newer species start with genetic attributes which provide enough advantage that when expressed find favour, become prevalent and, with isolation becomes distinct from their parent.
With the sheer volume of species, genus, family, order, class phylum, it is understandable that the progression of one species into another is less clear. Yet observation reveals indications around us that are evidence of such changes.
Biological division and classifications of species is continued into species’ population studies within the species, down into the individuals with the varied feature sets. All breeds of dogs are a species, all horse breeds belong to a species. It is the individual differences in any species that are early indicators of evolutionary adaptation. Bigger tusks, shorter ears, nutritional allergies speak to variation.
Eventually distinctions lead to new species in populations that have been isolated from others, such as the seven million years that separate Asian and African elephants, species which can no longer interbreed. (Motty). Another example is the genus Equusfrom which all horses, zebras and donkeys originate some 4 – 5 million years ago, a species group that can still produce hybrid, but sterile offspring, that cannot reproduce.
Pulled to a shorter interval we have in the canine family, Coywolf is a recent, successful canid hybrid, bridging the 100,000 year species bridge between wolves and coyotes. This indicates that close species can be brought back together and their hybrid is a new species. The isolation and recombination of species, races and breeds is a central factor in evolution.
A recent study it is understood that evolution has happened in a new Galapologos finch species which began breeding endogamously in 3 generations, rather than 100’s of generations, as previously understood. Such rapid speciation suggests the actual morph events can respond quickly to new environmental conditions, but seen in the backdrop of millions of years, where such conditional changes are infrequent. \
A tectonic earthquake, or volcanic event may separate populations suddenly, which could trigger a species adaptation. Add isolated population bottlenecks and one can appreciate that the trigger initiating speciation can be a relatively short burst of activity that may settle into millenia of adjustment and refinement.
It should reason that the evolutionary map of species develops at a similar tempo as the climatic development of the the Earth. This would be long periods of relative stability interspersed with upheavals of varying regional and global magnitudes.
Modern Human Gene pool
For humans, genetic isolation can no longer happen in our contemporary. easily-traveled world. Paleontology is discovering that multiple waves of humanoids out of Africa set up modern humans to product of recent species mixing.
When modern humans appeared in Africa some 300,000 years ago, and later spread out of Africa, they encountered other humanoid species, such Neanderthal and Denisovans, among others hominim subspecies with 40,000 to 1.9 millions years between them. The following are species which may have been contemporary and had opportunity to interbreed with modern humans.
The entire known history of humanity is 4 million years old from Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis (2.5 millions years ago), and homo erectus (1.9 million years ago). East Africa and possibly other geographies provided sympatric coexistence for H. erectus and H. habilis for several hundred-thousand years, which further supports the more diversified process of evolution.
How much homo sapiens and sympatric humanoid species interbred is unclear, but the opportunity, and likelihood is there. This image collection above shows how humanoids such as homo erectus and homo habilis developed multiple subspecies in their geographic isolation. It must be remembered that such development would have been done both inside and outside Africa.
It shows that multiple subspecies can develop and exist in geographical proximity to one another. It suggests that isolated subspecies and estranged populations of hominids may have split away and been recombined in a number of ways over millions of years. Such mixing would have led Homo Sapiens to localize according to the subspecies encountered.
The mighty volcanic and its human bottleneck
The apocalyptic Toba super-volcano eruption in Indonesia (c. 70,000 years ago) has some suggesting a bottleneck of the human population. This proposes a human population of only 10,000–30,000 non-African individuals that survived the extreme environmental change around the Arabian peninsula.
There is evidence pockets of population survived the event in various geographies. Low numbers and difficulty with frequent glaciation would keep localized groups isolated for possibly long periods of time. Population bottleneck promotes many more individuated genes from survivors of various localities. Given the extensive spread and depth of humanoids, this could have brought many distinctions to prominence.
If we consider the human species on the cusp of visiting and settling off-world, distinct habitat conditions would push towards adaptation, while isolation could eventually keep those changes away from other humans in other corners of the solar system or galaxy.
A smaller world with less mass and gravity would produce taller individuals, whereas a larger world with more gravity would see stronger bodies. Water worlds, desert worlds, those with intense solar radiation; little or high atmospheric pressures, exposure to different gas, element, molecular, microbial mixtures; any and every place would be unique in its offering.
It may happen quickly that humans and sybiotic species colocated in isolated, environmentally diverse locations would begin to modify, and could quickly go as far as becoming new species. Think about the person, who was born and lived entirely in the 1/3 Earth-gravity of Mars. Such a person would probably require serious physio-therapy, or prosthetic aids to be able to withstand their weight being tripled when visiting Earth.
It is unlikely that it will take hundreds of thousands of years for humans to begin to diverge quickly, as the potentially severe new conditions pressed on our physiology. Plants and animals given new environments will either adapt quickly, or not succeed. A few hundred years of celestial body separation will likely be enough to see a dramatic differentiation of species that once originated on Earth.
One easily understood concept of evolution is the sudden reduction of many species in the biosphere which allows for the rise of new opportunities and adaptations. Faced with a vaccuum, a smaller, but advanced biosphere blossums after a period of retreat or stasis. This is similar to the burst of life that follows a forest fire, or more regularly, after winter.
It should also be noted that when populations are small, natural selection actually becomes weaker, and the effects of randomness grow more powerful. A devastating event may see survival species as ‘superior’ in their traits, but still have a small population stock to grow and evolve from.
Many agree that a cataclismic asteroid strike on the Yukatan pennisula 65 million years ago led to the extinction of most dinsaurs and reptile species. The rise of mammals and grass plants was to follow.
The third largest extinction in Earth’s history, the Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction had two peak dying times separated by hundreds of thousands of years.
During the Ordovician, most life was in the sea, so it was sea creatures such as trilobites, brachiopods and graptolites that were drastically reduced in number. (443 million years ago – 85% of marine species lost)
Three quarters of all species on Earth died out in the Late Devonian mass extinction, though it may have been a series of extinctions over several million years, rather than a single event.
Life in the shallow seas were the worst affected, and reefs took a hammering, not returning to their former glory until new types of coral evolved over 100 million years later. (375 million years ago, 75% of species lost)
The Permian mass extinction has been nicknamed The Great Dying, since a staggering 96% of species died out. All life on Earth today is descended from the 4% of species that survived. (251 million years ago, 96% of species lost.)
During the final 18 million years of the Triassic period, there were two or three phases of extinction whose combined effects created the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event. Climate change, flood basalt eruptions and an asteroid impact have all been blamed for this loss of life. (200 million years ago, 80% of species lost.)
The Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction – also known as the K/T extinction – is famed for the death of the dinosaurs. However, many other organisms perished at the end of the Cretaceous including the ammonites, many flowering plants and the last of the pterosaurs. (66 million years ago, 76% of all species lost.)
Bottlenecked species surviving mass-extinctions is a repeated theme in evolutionary science. Understandably large, complex species are most drastically impacted, while smaller, or more versatile species have a better change to start new species clusters. The retained variances in a smaller surviving population will become the prevalent features in the new.
Biome pockets of life manage to struggle an existence during and after these extinctions, which leads to a pulse of new species, breaking out into new opportunities. Animal species usually depend on the extent flora has penetrated a region. Fewer plants means the geography can support less animal life.
Today we are Noah, looking for a path forward from the Holocene extinction of our times. This time around, a sentient species is challenged to survive it, a species that needs to preserve itself and support species.
Typically, ‘recovery’ from mass extinction events typically occurs over 10 million years or more. It is to be seen whether humanity survives this current extinction event. If we do, it will be an interesting to know whether the advantages and advances of our species in understanding and manipulating our own environment will spur Earth’s life to other planets and systems.
Either interstellar humans will find ‘life’ commonplace in the many kinds of locations, or they will bring life to the places where they set up. It will be interesting to find out, but we will not know for centuries, millenia, or more.
Life-changing conditions for Evolution
Beyond the catastrophic extinction events which kill off most life, and set up opportunities for survivors, a more accessible evolutionary model revolves around adaptation as the main driver of evolution.
One of the greatest changes life brought to Earth was the introduction of high levels of atmospheric oxygen. The Great Oxygenation Event (GOE) some 2.4 billion years ago introduced oxygen into the oceans and atmosphere. Cyanobacteria was the original phylum of species to produce this oxygen.
As oxygen levels increased, cellular specializations known as eukaryote developed, distinct from the single-celled lifeforms dominated up to that time, and even today. This new cell type leads to animal and plant species. Eukaryote cells developed plastids (1.5 billion years ago), the cell type found in plants and algae, and contains chlorophyll can carry out photosynthesis.
“oxygen levels in the environment, and the ability of eukaryotes to extract energy from oxygen, as well as produce oxygen, were key factors in the rise of complex multicellular life. Mitochondria and organisms with more than 2–3 cell types appeared soon after the initial increase in oxygen levels at 2300 Ma. The addition of plastids at 1500 Ma, allowing eukaryotes to produce oxygen, preceded the major rise in complexity.”
Eukaryotes and cellular specialization enabled a single lifeform to have symbiotic, mutually beneficial collections of cell types. Multi-cellular plant life opened the door to larger and diverse animal life.
Interplanetary – Interstellar Speciation
The idea that lifeforms may be transmitted from planet to planet, or even between star systems is being to settle. A large meteor or astroid strike on a planet with life can potentially blast a large mass beyond the gravitational pull of the planet. The Allan Hill meteorite found in 1996 in Antarctica and originating from Mars opened the debate whether it contained life.
More importantly inter-celestial fragments opened the notion that large meteor or asteroid strikes on Earth would carry chunks of the earth with its lifeforms to space. Studies show that some species could survive interstellar flight, such as the small water-bear (tardigrade), nematode worms, cynobacteria, spores, or seeds. It has now been discussed that the diversity of life on Earth can be transferred off the planet when high atmospheric dust is knocked from gravitational orbit by charged particles and set on its way to other planetary or even interstellar bodies. Large volcanic activity can list participate in getting masses of dust, debris with varying fauna/flora into the upper atmosphere.
We currently believe life to have originated naturally on our own planet. The process has yet to be duplicated by scientists, so it is certainly a rare event.
The possibility that life could move from one planet to another means than the natural process by which life arises from non-living matter (known as abiogenesis) need not happen in every system that has or has had life. It could have come from elsewhere and created a new biosphere from a small biological sample that landed on another celestial body with favourable conditions.
The most recent large meteor impact took out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. The escape velocity of Earth is 11.2 kilometres per second (approximately 40,000 kph). In the 570 billion hours since that event, material ejected from the Earth at the lowest velocity could have traveled over 2000 light years. High-speed meteors have been seen going as fast as 72 kilometers per second, extending the range to 15,000 light years.
If a large meteor strike were to have thrown biological material into space during the much earlier Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction some 440 million years ago, when another asteroid strike may have been responsible. Fast-moving material from such an ancient event could have covered 100,000 light years, and reached every corner and beyond the galaxy. The Milky Way galaxy has 100 – 400 billion stars.
Number of stars within 250 light years = 260 000. Within 5000 light years, there are approximately 300 million stars; the number of stars within 50,000 light years = 200 billion, our Sun is 26 000 light years from the centre of the galaxy.
The Milky Way Galaxy
Between large fragments created occasionally by asteroid strikes, and cosmic particles scraping atmospheric dust on a continual basis, Earth may itself be responsible for a panspermia of the entire galaxy, and could have reached different targets with material from various geological time periods in Earth’s life. Hundreds of millions of years after any interplanetary specimen successful hosted on other hospitable celestial bodies, the local biosphere could be as profound and radical as Earth.
As the discussion of the ALH84001 meteorite speculated whether life on Earth could have come from Mars, it is also to be considered whether life may have come from outside our solar system. If abiogenesis happened elsewhere in parallel to Earth, or any other system, the Earth and other planets in the galaxy could already be a mix of life from multiple star systems, both host and.
The web of life may be vastly more complex than we understand it today.
Sizing Up Species
It could be argued that early cyanobacteria, its addition of oxygen and subsequent yearly glaciation contribute to the development of a global life form, as expressed in seasonal flux. It is argued that until adequate oxygen was available, the Earth was largely ice-free.
Bringing down atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and raising the oxygen levels led periodic glaciation starting with the 300 million year-long Huronian glaciation. (see blog entry – Before floods, there were puddles).
The slow change in oxygen levels allowing frozen Earth eras did not impact the planatery biosphere in such a sudden way. The transition did help mold life into cooler adaptations, and more diverse multi-cellular structure.
Cold oceans allowed nutrients deep in the ocean to more easily circulate to cool sunlit surface waters, unlike a warm water blanket which repels the upswell.
Cold water can also hold more dissolved oxygen than warm water. More oxygen and food allowed animal life to thrive, a phenomena still seen today in arctic/antarctic water.
Seasonal light variations are also drastic as polar summer days can last weeks, or months, unlike the regular 12 hour daylight at the equator. The light means continual photosynthesis and growth.
In nutrition-fortified, oxygenated, well-lit seas, plant life explodes. Masses of zooplankton flourish allowing legions of fish and seabird to thrive. On land, cooler, drier climates kept vegetation from growing into a jungle-heap. Sparse forests, open woodlands, and savannas promotes animal mobility.
Bergmann’s Rule describes how larger animals benefit in colder climates since smaller surface area-to-volume ratio minimize energy requirements. Advantage is given to size, as large fauna more easily keep warm, can go longer periods without food, and have greater protection from predators.
Many are familiar how ice ages since the dinosaur extinction shaped large land and marine mammals into what is known as the Pliestocene Megafauna.
Human punch and dodge (features, adaptions, mutations)
Closer to human history, evolution has both bottleneck and adaptive processes playing a role in the development on our species, our cultures. Looking at some of these actors, we can begin to see how our own actions play a role.
Homo Sapiens have existed as a species for 200-300K years. During this time there have only been human civilizations for the last 10-15K years. It may well be the case that humans had to build themselves and survived conditions that would allow civiilzation to grow from their initial lifestyles. Disease-resistance and social convention are requirements developed as humans begin to live closer together.
It should also be remembered that the human population at the end of the last ice-age and the beginning of civilizations was about five million. The thousand+fold human population explosion to seven billion means many genetic variables will find their place in the species at a more much quicker rate.
Over the last million years since man first controlled (and fell in love with) fire, there is evidence suggesting humans evolved the ability to better tolerate smoke, as well as the gastro-intestinal ability to eat charred meat and vegetables.
We have long set fires for the hunt, to clear brush areas to promote fresh growth, to heat, transform, protect. The human eye knows the profound mystery of watching a flame, whether candle or inferno.
Cooked food gave rise to a reduced need for large cutting and grinding teeth, and less of a diverse need for bacterial culture to resist illness caused by rancid food, and food preservation made possible more free time.
Language and Music
Spoken language may coincide with the speciation of modern humans. Some argue it may have been the fireside leisure. Entertainment is humanity’s first currency. Like the notion that beer predates bread as a use for wheat, it’s probable that music came before spoken language.
“(I)t appears probable that the progenitors of man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm.” (Darwin, 1871, pp. 880)
Language and music also evolve over time. What certainly started as body movement and simple sounds has become thousands of languages and musical styles.
Modern music styles such as rock or jazz, as well as modern languages with thousands of words probably could not be appreciated by humans until recently.
The vocabulary of small pockets of people such as craftmen, hunters and healers eventually gets picked up by the general population as part of the lingua franca.
In the Holocene era, regional languages and dialect are set to see large scale extinction as more humans communicate using common languages and families no longer remain in close proximity to one another.
Urban Microbial Tolerance
The rise of settlements and later cities has been made possible because of the heightened tolerance to infectious diseases. City-dwellers have spent centuries and generations in proximity and variously exposed to diseases brought to them from travelers.
Small pox, cholera, TB, typhus all took their toll on the population. Over generations these outbreaks would end, and individuals with higher tolerance to some of these diseases would become more prevalent.
The bubonic plague of middle-age Europe reduced the human population by a third, and much more in certain cities and districts. Recovery from Black Death led to increased optimism, mercantile and artistic, and opened the way to the modern era.
Humans did move into many geographies, and in doing so, limited the overall impact of all but the most global events. More recent, and more geographic, selective cataclysms lead to cultural evolution.
Another more recent volcano was the Thera eruption on the island Santorini approximately 1600 BCE. Sixty cubic kilometers of rock blasted from the largest eruption in ‘recorded’ history, and certainly led to the destruction of the nearby city of Akrotini (possible source for Atlantis story), and a weakening of the Minoan civilization, which enabled the late bronze age conquest of Mycenaean Greece.
The conquest does lead the Mycenaean to coopt many Minoan cultural artifacts. This cultural ‘leg-up’ gave rise to Greek
Human wars have disrupted and destroyed many known human civilizations and countless unknown settlements. It also acts as a catalyst to potential post-war social renewal.
Developments in warfare capability are similar to genetic experience that provides advantage to a segment of a species population. Cultural development, spread, appropriation, and destruction are impacted by war, a manmade climate-changer.
The move from softer copper to the harder (copper/zinc alloy) bronze 5000 years ago, during the Neolithic – agricultural revolution, was a move away from hunter gatherer, “the original affluent society” to state warfare, armed policing, social castes, feudal nationhood, agriculture crops, taxation & slavery.
Metal weaponry allows the strongman to push their agenda on to those not otherwise interested, or even actively resisting. History is full of the strong men with armies. The charismatic look to impose themselves over others.
The power and changes of advanced weaponry is seen again later in the Bronze Age collapse where the iron and steel change long established power structures, civilizations and dynamics.
Like the only human in the room with a spear, a torch, a blade, a sword, a gun; it gives might to those powerless without it. What follows such civilization collapses is an unprecedented new age that would not have been possible otherwise, similar to the regrowth following a forest fire.
Features & Cultures as Drivers
Ultimately a species is a collection of individuals that span generations and various genetic expressions that may or may not be a biological advantage.
The mutation of brown eyes to blue represents neither a positive nor a negative mutation. It is one of several mutations such as hair colour, baldness, freckles and beauty spots, which neither increases nor reduces a human’s chance of survival. As Professor Eiberg says, “it simply shows that nature is constantly shuffling the human genome, creating a genetic cocktail of human chromosomes and trying out different changes as it does so.” – University of Copenhagen. “Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor.” ScienceDaily, 31 January 2008.
Given there are blue eyes in dogs and cats, we can assume the blue eyed experiment is somewhat common.
The biological advantage may not always play the central role in the success of expressed genetic features. It is ultimate sexual selection determines how prevalent a random feature will become. The first blue-eyed human /dog / cat obviously was accepted and found expanded favour across generation in the local population.
The definition of common beauty and desirability within a cultures is a key driver in societies. Societies’ selection processes that over centuries molds distinct cultural groups. Trends, not individual choices will determines the prevalence of features. One example is Japanese integration of facial hair into their culture, while Chinese culture has less overall interest in it.
Trade and warfare bring societies and cultural features into contact with one another, sometimes one dominating and expanding, while others decline and are largely forgotten.
Technology driving our development, our evolution
Our current explosive growth drives innovation and challage in every field and species. In two or three generations, humans live longer, healthier and taller, albeit more stressful lives than societies before. But our species’ voracious appetite for affluence may cost us and the biosphere more than we can withstand.
We are more technically capable and driven than a century, a generation, a decade ago. We have three times the people, millions of people giving their intelligence to thousands of projects, questions, problems. It won’t be long before there are many easy solutions to numerous issues. How to ensure balance in 7 billion?
The Earth will survive humans, so this struggle is only the self-preservation of our species and the species that cohabitate this planet with us. We must make every effort to ride and tame the extinction tsunami we are now riding.
Glass became incredibly important material in the late 20th century. It could be argued that it marked the end of the Iron Age.
After the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, comes glass, the centre piece of the Information / Space Age, an era that has only recently kicked off.
In the same way the Iron advanced industrial and military capabilities, glass is a core material in this new age. It allows us to see new things, to better see ourselves, and enables us to share of ourselves in an immediate way.
This material continues to shape our psychology and our future.
Glass from Nature
Naturally occurring glass, especially the volcanic glass obsidian, was treasured by many societies back to the Stone Age in many geographies. This beautiful material can be shined smooth to be a mirror, or chipped with durable edges and for the production of sharp cutting tools.
Obsidian is a limited resource found in only some localities, and soon was extensively traded. Archaeological evidence suggests that the first true glass was made in coastal north Syria, Mesopotamia or ancient Egypt.
First forged glass
Advances in metalurgy and ceramics are evidence of human ability to make hotter fires. The wood fire has been part of the human tool arsenal for up to 2 million years. Its fire burns up 400 – 600°C. Charcoal, well drafted and focused, burns up to 1,390 °C.
As kilns, furnaces and forges improved and heated up, it was increasingly possible to melt tin, copper, bronze, iron, aluminium, pottery, and glass.
It could be argued that the classic fired brick used extensively by the Roman empire is a proto-form of glass, as sand is often part of its composition.
Bricks are fired (“burned”) at 900–1000 °C to achieve strength. Pottery kilns heat to between 1100 °C for earthenware to 1400 °C for porcelain.
tin at 231.9 °C,
lead at 327.5 °C,
Brass (copper alloy – copper, zinc) – 900 to 940 °C
Bronze (copper alloy – 90% copper, 10% tin) melts at 950 °C,
copper at 1083°C
silver at 961.8 °C,
gold at 1064 °C,
iron at 1,538 °C,
glass, at approximately 1400 °C to 1600 °C depending on the composition of glass.
Fused quartz at1650 °C (3000 F)
chromium ( for stainless steel) – 1907 °C
The earliest known man-made glass objects, of at least the mid third millennium BCE, were beads, perhaps initially created as accidental by-products of metal-working (slags) or during the production of faience, a pre-glass vitreous material made by a process similar to glazing.
Glass beads, like all prehistoric beads made of stone like jasper and agate as well as amber are very difficult to be shaped, cut, polished and drilled, all by hand.
The hours spent creating these beautiful objects made them treasured objects, an easy form of early currency. Bead qualities such as the rarity of the material, the difficulty of bead execution, the quality of the execution.
Glass remained a luxury material, and the disasters that overtook Late Bronze Age civilizations seem to have brought glass-making to a halt. It was primarily used for decorative pieces. Blown glass was again picked up in Hellenic period and was later used by Romans as crockery and broad sheet panes.
Glass is produced with:
Silica from sand (about 70%)
Soldium oxide from lime by the Solvay process
Cullet (recycled glass)
Glass blowing is indicated as having begun during the Roman era, and is present in Jeruselum in the first century. From the late 3rd century onwards window glass was made by the muff process, where a blown cylinder was cut laterally and flattened out to produce a sheet.
The end of the Roman era saw another centuries long break in the production of glass in Europe, especially in windows. The recycling of Roman glass formed the major part of the local industry and glassmaking skills declined
Glass for stained windows is seen in Euope in 7th century Anglo-Saxon culture and may be the first use of stained glass.
The venerable monk Bede wrote about St Paul’s monastery and church at Jarrow that in 675 Abbot Biscop went abroad to Francia (what is now France) to find glaziers to fill the windows of his new church, St Peter’s, which he had founded the previous year.
A cylinder of glass was blown then cut into a sheet that was cooled on an iron plate. Broad sheet glass is poor quality, with many imperfections and mostly translucent, and was most often cut into panes and placed into leadlight windows, a type of stained glass without coloured glass.
This glass is primarily for art work and vessels. Glass is blown nto a hollow iron tube. This was then transferred from the blowpipe to a punty (a steel rod) and then flattened by reheating and spinning out the bowl-shaped piece of glass (bullion) into a flat disk by centrifugal force, up to 5 or 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 metres) in diameter.
These two glass types were used until the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Venetian Angelo Barovier is credited with first adding magnesium and potassium oxide to molten glass to produce truly clear glass in the 13th century. Certainly this improved the quality of sheet glass produced as above. but more importantly produced glass that could be seen through.
With glass curvature, it was possible to see objects magnified. This led to the development of corrective lenses, to the microscope, and the telescope. These tools enabled advancements in science and understanding.
Corrective eye-wear was begun by monks pouring over and copying manuscripts. This fashion expanded as students and scholars filled the first European universities.
The idea that such lenses could improve sight, and thereby better knowledge and understanding of the world is integral to modern culture.
Astronomy had its revolutions with Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler.
With the telescope and discovery of four moons of Jupiter, Galileo confirmed the heliocentric system, demoting Earth from the universe center to an orbiting planet, among others, which in turn may have moons.
Compound microscopes feature two or more lenses, connected by a hollow cylinder (tube). The top lens, the one people look through, is called the eyepiece. The bottom lens is known as the objective lens. So today, when we say “microscope,” we really mean “compound microscope”.
Anton van Leeuwenhoek is credited as one of the earliest developers of the microscope, but the discoveries were most famously captured by Robert Hook in his book Micrographia (1665). His diagrams first spell out cellular structures in plants, leading the way toward microbiology and advances in medicine.
Although reflections in water and smooth obsidian have been part of human culture for millenia, the modern looking-glass with plate glass was developed in the 1500s by Venetian glassmakers on the island of Murano. They covered the back of the glass with a mercury-tin amalgam, obtaining near-perfect and undistorted reflection.
Mirrors became household items in the Renaissance. Steven Johnson discusses the impact of the mirror in his book How We Got to Now, how the changing psychology of this era partly fueled by this ability of humans to be able to see themselves clearly, which feeds into the growing interest in the individual, be it human rights or literature.
19th Century advances
1843: An early form of “float glass” invented by British steel industrialist/inventer Henry Bessemer, pouring glass onto liquid tin. Expensive and not a commercial success.
1874: Tempered glass is developed by Francois Barthelemy Alfred Royer de la Bastie (1830–1901) of Paris, by quenching almost molten glass in a heated bath of oil or grease.
Machine-rolled glass is introduced in 1888.
In the Single Roll Method, molten glass is poured onto a metal table and a single metal roll is used to flatten it into a sheet. Sometimes called “hand cast” sheet glass.
In the double Roll Method, molten glass is passed between a pair of rotating metal rolls to form the sheet.
The down side with machine rolled glass is the distortion from flaws on the surfaces it is rolled on.
Vertical Draw Method
Vertical Draw Method is where molten glass is pulled up vertically through a slit in a large one-piece refractory block that is floating on the glass surface. The annealing lehr is mounted vertically over the draw chamber. Drawn glass is generally more pristine than rolled glass because its surface has remained untouched during forming.
Float glass is first launched in the UK in 1959. It was Sir Alastair Pilkington. who perfected the method. Molten glass is pulled from the forehearth atop a bath of molten tin. The process produces a perfectly smooth sheet of uniform thickness in high volume. The float process is used to produce virtually all common window glass and plate glass today, thus the term “float glass.” This became the basis for all modern glass.
In the 20th century, new types of glass such as
Laminated glass for uses such as car windows
Toughened glass, for use in smart phones
Reinforced glass for bullet-proof, and pressure glass
Glass-ceramics – used in glass-ceramic cooktops
Fused quartz – used in halogen lamps, telescopes
fiberglass for insulation, boats, electronic circuit boards
Optical fiber for communications
Photovoltaic solar panels for energy generation
Windows for buildings
These have increased the use of glass as a building material and resulted in new applications of glass. Larger, clearer, stronger, thermally enabled building glass became common in a new constructions.
The largest such panes are seen in shopping centres and store front, a view into the offerings within. Some ballistic laminated incorporates a polycarbonate layer as an internal core to reduce the weight of the product. Bear in mind glass weighs 2.6 kg per 1mm of thickness over a square metre. Therefore the average shopfront glass of 3m x 3m say 10.8mm thick will weigh 252.72KG, over a quarter of a tonne.
The greenhouse brings the possibility of having a controlled environment in which plants can be grown, without the outdoor restrictions such as temperature, wind, and moisture.
Glass curtain walls
Multi-storey buildings are more frequently constructed with curtain walls |(an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural) made almost entirely of glass. When glass is used as the curtain wall, a great advantage is that natural light can penetrate deeper within the building.
Float glass became the bed rock of glass manufacturing worldwide and the process is still the one used today. Since then the manufacturing of laminated glass has developed. This is as it sounds, literally bonding two or more sheets of glass together to create either safety, security, bullet and blast resistant, or acoustic glazing. This is available in thicknesses ranging from 4.4mm right up to50mm +.
Glass block made its debut in the 1930s and quickly found its place in many commercial, industrial, and residential applications. The glass block was originally developed to provide natural light in manufacturing plants.
Vacuum glass tubes
Early electronic components, diodes and triodes were housed in vacuum glass tubes. The evacuated tube allows for more precise control of electric current between electrodes. Its most common usage is in lighting and diodes.
The use of artificial light has been another a significant step glass provides in giving humans control over their environment. As much as telescopes allow us to see into the past vastness of space, and microscopes open the way to a cellular, structural understanding, the advances of glass-housed lighting have given sight to the many naturally dark corners.
Florescent tubes is a partial vacuum and a small amount of mercury. An electric discharge in the tube causes the mercury atoms to emit mostly ultraviolet light. The tube is lined with a coating of a fluorescent material, called the phosphor, which absorbs the ultraviolet and re-emits visible light.
The incandescent bulbs produce light by a filament heated white-hot by electric current, protected from oxidation with a glass or quartz bulb that is filled with inert gas or evacuated.
Thomas Edison may not have invented the bulb or first harnessed electricity, but Edison’s success is his development of an entire, integrated system of electric lighting.
With the use of electrical power, the florescent and the incandescent light bulbs gave a purpose for distributing electricity to the population. This single factor changed the way humans could interact with their environment, no longer limited by the need for natural light to see.
The electrical grid has become the backbone to society, with lighting, refrigeration & home entertainment quickly becoming an essential service for modern life.
A diode is a two-terminal electronic component first built into a glass vacuum tube, which conducts primarily in one direction (asymmetric conductance).
The terminals, called anode and cathode do not relate to the voltage polarity of those electrodes but the direction of the current: whether positive charge is flowing into or out of the device.
Conventional current flow, in most cases, has positive charge leaving the device via the cathode, and positive charge flowing into the device via the anode.
The standard diode is commonly used for conversion of AC (alternating current) using in electrical transmission to DC (direct current) the preferred electricity for circuitry.
A triode is a glass vacuum tube consisting of three terminal electrodes inside an evacuated glass envelope: a heated filament or cathode, a grid, and a plate (anode). Triodes were used in electronic amplification for radio and telephony, widely used in consumer electronics such as radios, televisions, and audio systems until it was replaced in the 1960s by the transistor.
Silicon carbide & the LED
This compound of silicon and carbon is also known as carborundum. It was first made in 1890 and initially used as an abrasive. It is bonded to be a very hard ceramics and used in applications requiring high endurance, such as car brakes, car clutches and ceramic plates in bulletproof vests.
With Silicon carbide, Henry Joseph Round, personal assistant to Guglielmo Marconi, was the first to report electroluminescence from a solid state diode using a crystal of silicon carbide and a cat’s-whisker detector, a thin wire that lightly touches the crystal to produce light. This lead to the development of the light-emitting diode.
The LED lighting has revolutionized home lighting, by only requiring a fraction of the electricity and cost of incandescent lighting.
A laser diode is an electrically pumped semiconductor laser in which the active laser medium is formed by a positive-negative junction of a semiconductor diode similar to that found in a light-emitting diode.
The laser diode is the most common type of laser produced with a wide range of uses that include fiber optic communications, barcode readers, laser pointers, CD/DVD/Blu-ray Disc reading and recording, laser printing, laser scanning and laser surgery.
Crystalline silicon (c-Si), the crystalline forms of silicon, is the dominant semiconducting material. It is cut into think wafers and used in photo voltaic technology for the production of solar cells and integrated circuitry.
Integrated circuitry is primarily a collection of transistors, also known as chips. A modern chip may have several billion transistors in an area the size of a human fingernail.
The impact of integrated circuitry in computers, phones, and cars has already been at the center of a societal transformation.
Solar power with photo voltaics is only now accounting for a portion of the world’s energy use, and will likely become increasingly dominant as a source of renewable energy.
Wafers are formed of highly pure (99.9999999% purity), nearly defect-free single crystalline material. One process for forming crystalline wafers is known as Czochralski growth.
A fiber-optic cable is made up of incredibly thin strands of glass or plastic known as optical fibers used for computer networking, telephone systems, and medical applications such as endoscopy.
One cable can have as few as two strands or as many as several hundred. Each strand is less than a tenth as thick as a human hair and can carry something like 25,000 telephone calls, so an entire fiber-optic cable can easily carry several million calls.
Fiber-optic cables carry information between two places using entirely optical (light-based) technology. Because glass does not conduct electricity, fiber optics is not subject to electromagnetic interference. It also is much more difficult to splice into, so using a data sniffer to steal network data is nearly impossible.
Information travels roughly 10 times further before it needs amplifying—which makes fiber networks simpler and cheaper to operate and maintain. Signal loss (attenuation) is minimized, making it possible to have larger distances covered wtihout signal boosters.
Fiber-optic cables can carry far more data than copper cables of the same diameter. In 2012 a research group at the Technical University of Denmark managed 43 terabits per second over a single optical fiber with just one laser transmitter. In a more user-friendly unit, 43Tbps is equivalent to a transfer rate of 5,375 gigabytes per second.
Between gorilla glass and silicon wafer of smart phones, the old Cathode ray tube monitors for computers and today’s optical fiber networks with optical laser repeaters, glass has played an central role into today’s information revolution.
Viewports in Space
Some say that spacecraft have no need of windows or portholes, for much the same reason as a submarine or even a modern warship. (*) Windows represent structural weakness, and there really isn’t much to see in any event.
Unless the spacecraft is orbiting a planet or docking with another ship, the only thing visible is the depths of space and the eye-searing sun. And unlike submarines, windows on a spacecraft also can let in deadly radiation. That said, the space viewport is part of the spacecrafts being built.
Apollo Command/Service Module windows
The CM had five windows. The two side windows measured 13 inches (330 mm) square next to the left and right-hand couches. Two forward-facing triangular rendezvous windows measured 8 by 13 inches (200 by 330 millimetres), used to aid in rendezvous and docking with the LM. The circular hatch window was 10 5/8 in. diameter (27 cm) and was directly over the center couch.
Each window assembly consisted of three thick panes of glass. The inner two panes are made of aluminosilicate and make up part of the module’s pressure vessel. The fused silica outer pane served as both a debris shield and as part of the heat shield. Each pane has an anti-reflective coating and a blue-red reflective coating on the inner surface.
Soyuz is is a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space programme in the 1960s that remains in service today. On the latest Soyuz versions (since Soyuz TM), a small window was introduced, providing the crew with a forward view.
NASA Space Shuttle windows
The space shuttle had 9 cockpit triple-paned, optical-quality fused silica windows. There are six thermal panes in the windshield, two in the overhead windows (observation windows) and one in the side hatch.
The outer pane, also called the thermal pane, is a .6 inch thick plate of fused silica glass, approximately 35″ x 45″.
The outer panes of the windshield serve as a critical part of the thermal protection system, keeping the high heat of reentry away from the manned compartment of the vehicle. The inner panes form part of the pressure vessel where the crew lives.
In more than sixty missions over the fourteen years, space shuttle windows have had a few encounters with on-orbit particulates (space debris and micrometeoroids). In that time, 177 impact features (chips) were found on the STS outer windows (through STS-65). Forty-five of the damages were large enough to warrant replacement of the window.
International Space Station cupola
The Cupola is an ESA’s contribution to the space station assembly.
It is a spectacular technological, robotised control room with seven windows, which will allow the astronauts to see 360° around the International Space Station. It is a flight control center for the ISS during spacewalks, spacecraft maneuvers or work requiring the station’s robotic arm. It was launched aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-130 in 2010.
The Cupola is 6.5 feet wide (2 meters) , 4,9 feet high (1.5 meters) and with a diameter of 9,7 feet (3 meters). The dome-like Cupola is forged from a single 1.8-ton chunk of aluminum with slots for six trapezoid-shaped windows and one large circular view port that is the largest window to fly in space.
It has external shutters for each window, which – clamp over the view ports to protect the glass from micrometeorite impacts and solar radiation. They can be opened by the crew inside the Cupola with the simple turn of a wrist.
Each window has three subsections: an inner scratch pane to protect the so-called pressure panes from accidental damage from inside the Cupola; two 25 mm-thick pressure panes to help maintain the cabin pressure and environment (the outer pane is a back-up for the inner pane); and a debris pane on the outside to protect the pressure panes from space debris when the Cupola shutters are open.
Beyond the seven windows in the cupola, the International Space Station has the Lab nadir window (WORF – window observation research facility), the window in the Japanese Kibo module, thirteen windows in Zvezda, the Russian Service Module.
In the past, crewed spacecraft ranging from the Apollo capsules to the Shuttle and the International Space Station have used quartz glass in windows. The craft’s structural integrity was ensured by a multiple panes of glass that could not only withstand high temperatures and pressures but also do so without cracking.
All is set to change with NASA’s Orion spacecraft and it’s six windows made of an acrylic plastic material that is stronger than glass, but has similar optical properties.
It’s the same material commonly used in aquariums ranging from small home tanks to giant public displays. These not only handle the constant pressure of thousands of gallons of water, but also touches by the public numbering in the millions.
Glass continues to be a central material shaping our world. The magical appeal of crystals and obsidian continues to pull us in to screens and windows into the worlds around us, mirrors, virtual and real that attempt to show each of us in these worlds.
Putting glass in window frames creates an improved method to isolate two sides of the glass. One side of the glass envelopes, protects and isolates, while the other allows you to see through, to see another environment.
Aquariums and space portals separate two different environments; telescopes allows view into our distant past, the microscope helps us understand the building blocks of life, cameras capture and make views scientific, creative or mundate available to anyone.
We have glass screens, corrective vision and building windows in front of nearly the entire human population. Humans are working towards improved artificial intelligence which will certainly improve the interactive aspect of the advanced capabilities of glass.
The central role of glass will have a pivitol role in the development and future of humans. We`ve only really begun to see its impact on us personally, and on civilization. It`s worth keeping an eye on it.
The new family moved continents six weeks after I was born in ’63, a second time when at four, then eight, nine, 16, by myself at 18. Europe to North America to South America to Europe to North America. We still went back to some places, and visited still others, but it was Dad who went everywhere for work. He was of the finest trans-nationals and brought every part of the world back to us. We were meant to explore this world and participate its wonder.
Transit was the dinner talk, and pass the salt. Moving is the mantras. Trips to see people, intersecting in places all over, a maze of humanity. The best parts were planning and remembering the trips. I vicariously traveled the world with him. The smell of long return family suppers, the wine-breathed stories of bazaars and the gracious people met, his satchel often came with fresh leathers, burlap coffees, or exotic wood carvings. Holding such a piece while hearing its heritage could bring a tear. A coin chest full of foreign, historical leaders.
A defining kid memory was living in Venezuela and taking a South American 60’s vacation. I sat in an airport lounge, riveted by the Moon land. Afterwards we climbed into the thin metal, twin engine tail-dragger DC-3, flying between peaks to Cuzco. I can vouch, planes do get hit with lightening, knocking them about. From there we took the train into the mountains, and the jeep up to Machu Pichu.
There was an easy link between their Saturn rocket, Apollo capsule, Lunar lander and my shiny DC-3, train and jeep ride, stages in our travels to mysterious, dangerous places. It seemed expected that space flight would soon be normal for everyone who wanted it.
Machu Pichu was my first experience with anything ancient, and for a kid, it was Flintstones’ gigantic. Intermittent thick cool fog banks rolled in and gone again, with yellowed summer grass terraced down the steep slope, and darker green peaks all around. The colourful poncho felt good in the cool.
The mountain teemed with perfect large rock walls, grass and with people full of colour, police horses and smiling officers, while in all directions the landscape fell away into deep valleys and distant peaks.
It wasn’t just some place with rocks. If it wasn’t already sacred to the first peoples at this site, it certainly was to us centuries later.
It was crowds collected for a summer festival at a natural sanctuary made sacred by ancient man and the gathering. It spoke to a primal fulfillment, we had all traveled far to a significant place and moment. Humans have always looked to gatherings and the stars for direction and meaning. It is our mission, and it felt significant.
We made our way off the mountain to the coast and boarded a 200 person ship and sailed north through Columbia, to the canal, towards Venezuela. Slot metal horse racing on the deck was fascinating. At a stop, the gangway dropped us into the Cartagena port side market, bursting with sights and smells of fruit, fish, coffee and leather.
Somewhere there in the hot Panamanian summer haze of mosquito ponds with tall water birds and alligators, I fell into 3 days of mumps induced delirium, rocking slowly in the ship. The canal was a series of lakes and locks, a marvel of humanity they said, ships pulled by mechanical mules. I only saw it in my nightmare sweats. It seemed a long interplanetary passage.
We were almost home, we lived a day’s sail on the other side of the canal.
Valencia is only a couple hours from the coast, and we spent many weekends driving there and back, the shuttle to paradise. During the week, we went to the pool club, with a lookout to a slow river and an alligator community. Our house edged onto a neighborhood tropical forest, that teemed with cicada, birds and a few sloths in the heat.
A few weekends, dad would to talk a local longboat skiff operator. He’d take us out on a tarp covered outboard, into the sand iles archipelago out towards Aruba. We’d snake through huge sandbanks with small islets of green, and small and huge beached wrecks, baking in the sand and salt. Around every bend was another spectacular view.
He dropped us on a bigger island with a two km bay, where a huge rusted cargo wreck was beached up on the shore a few hundred metres away. Not going near it was rule 1, but I remember we came out of the water twice, once for oil sludge, and another for a hammerhead shark. Having the rotting metal colossus looming while snorkeling the reef fish below was yet another world. I was ready for Star Wars.
We moved back to Europe in October when I was seven. From shorts and sunshine to darkness and mist, and the wonder of snow. We played cards under sunlamps after school to acclimate to grey days that ended at 3 pm.
I missed outdoor hum of the tropics, the birds and the cicada. But we hardened, and for our second winter, we moved to North America in q971, where long distance car trips became the norm. I was hugely impressed when they took the moon buggy for drives on the moon. I wonder if it is still there.
With the addition of winter, I finally had the last accessory for the child astronaut. A snowsuit shielded me against the harsh elements.
Humanity had turned a leaf; the age of the astronaut/cosmonaut has begun.
In 20th century days, robotics was the domain of science fiction and film. Two things drew interest. A future with robots of humanlike construct manipulating the world around them, and the interactive possibilities of evolving artificial intelligence.
Early personal computers, without graphical interface, showed their potential to express the fantastical eye. Ray-tracing turned numerical formulae into scenes, where every photon in a view is rendered visible. Fractals are a mathematical abstraction used to describe and simulate naturally occurring objects. Chaos theory deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.
Adding these concepts to computing has dramatically increased the ability of the digital environment to more accurately model the physical world. A human generation of hardware and software improvements have made the tools building real life model increasingly accessible and provided significant versatility.
As much as the visual arts pulled me to movie theatres to see the future world made real, the tools also advanced to actually make the future. Advances in the visual arts have fueled human expression of the future. The evolution of circuitry, machinery and robots is first envisoned by the pioneers and then pursued by technicians attempting to make it real. As the toolset expanded, so did the refinement of the vision
The internet and 3D printable world make programming and integrated circuitry more and more versatile. Industrial and medical uses of robots have become more commonplace, machines that could manipulate the physical world with programmed purpose and tactile response.
Advances in memory, big data, sensor versatility, and machine-learning allow for the beginnings of artificial intelligence, algorithmes that agraggate and augment the user experience.
Personal Assistant with a Head
The door opens to personal ‘robots’. The personal assistant in your phone or network is being given its own exo-skeleton. A number of interactive models exist or are soon planned.
They are just at the beginning. Not one can go get you a drink from the fridge, but many provide tools at would allow expanded capabilities. What they miss in tangible physical skills, they try to make up for in personality and a physical anthropomorphic humanoid expression and appearance.
The first step is the assistant who can bring intelligence to its personalized user, remembering, reminding, responding, and picking up the habits of the user. It is the human requesting a verbal response. The robotic side is the ability to perform actions and tasks in the physical world will follow.
The following list is a sample of both command response robotic, and intelligent interactive assistant devices (with cutesy faces) coming to the consumer market at the moment (2017/04). It is not intended to be complete, but anyone knowing of others is welcome to let me know. I believe this field to be one of the most interesting technical areas.
Here’s a list of personal assistants, so we can follow-up, and track their evolution.
Open source and easy to use, BUDDY connects, protects, and interacts with each member of your family. BUDDY is also democratizing robotics. BUDDY is built on an open-source technology platform making it easy for global developers to build applications.
A gifted little guy with a mind of his own. He’s a real-life robot like you’ve only seen in movies, with a one-of-a-kind personality that evolves the more you hang out. He’ll nudge you to play and keep you constantly surprised. Cozmo’s your accomplice in a crazy amount of fun.
Jibo experiences the world, and reacts with surprisingly thoughtful movements and responses that show he’s no ordinary bot. So while he’ll gladly snap a photo or send a message, he’ll also get to know you and the people you care about, for more meaningful relationships.
Moving : 25 degrees of freedom and a humanoid shape that enable him to move and adapt to the world around him. His inertial unit enables him to maintain his balance and to know whether he is standing up or lying down.
Feeling : The numerous sensors in his head, hands and feet, as well as his sonars, enable him to perceive his environment and get his bearings.
Hearing and speaking : With his 4 directional microphones and loudspeakers, NAO interacts with humans in a completely natural manner, by listening and speaking.
Seeing :NAO is equipped with two cameras that film his environment in high resolution, helping him to recognise shapes and objects.
Connecting : To access the Internet autonomously, NAO is able to use a range of different connection modes (WiFi, Ethernet).
Thinking : We can’t really talk about “Artificial Intelligence” with NAO, but the robots are already able to reproduce human behaviour.
Pepper, the robot who understands your emotions
Pepper is capable of identifying the principal emotions: joy, sadness, anger or surprise.
He is also capable of interpreting a smile, a frown, your tone of voice, as well as the lexical field you use and non-verbal language such as the angle of your head, for example.
The combination of all this information enables the robot to determine whether his human interlocutor is in a good or a bad mood.
Romeo is a 140 cm tall humanoid robot, designed to explore and further research into assisting elderly people and those who are losing their autonomy. Romeo is the fruit of collaboration between numerous French and European laboratories and institutions.
His size was determined so as to enable him to open doors, climb stairs and reach objects on a table.
This robot will connect to every device, switch, and lock in the house to make it easier for you to control everything. Not only will it keep your house safer but will also help decrease your electricity bills.
Shaped like a traffic cone doesn’t only plan your schedules and protect your house, it can also tell bedtime stories and teach you how to cook!
Flash Robotics designed a robot named Emys that’s supposed to teach kids another language. Emys might be successful because of its built-in tablet and unique, expressive face, which relies on three moving disks and two smartwatch displays. It was inspired by emoticons :).
The domestic robot was designed to offer an intuitive and responsive platform that is designed to be both intelligent and useful. Because of that, the Alpha 2 is completely programmable and operates on an open-source operating system.
These are already interesting studies and designs in both movement and interactivity. Advances will see mobility and intelligence integration. The evolution of higher function in integrated circuitry is picking up momentum. Utterly fascinating.
Language and cultural values define the parameters of human association, critical for early cities and civilization.
It was commonly held that agriculture was the driving force behind early cities, cultures and civilizations. Discoveries in recent decades reveal that commenerative sites pre-date the earliest cities, thereby bringing people together culturally ahead of permanant cohabitation and advanced agriculture.
Permanant settlements developed before full agricultural domestication. Humans first began to give up their nomadic life before there were fields and flocks to tend. Instead, the first requirement was to set up common belief systems and social boundaries. These allow non-related humans to spend time together, within the context of predictable behaviour and mores. Once a cultural language is established, humans can spend more time in proximity than just clan-gathering celebrations and ceremonies.
Changing the way humans feed themselves was a secondary consideration to this early cultural era in humans. The value of urban trade of wares and stories was understood early. Settlements were a focus of human interest.
Another important feature is to keep in mind is there were many corners of the Earth where this developing ‘culture’ dawned. No civilization grew in isolation; there were always communities spread across large land tracts that would fuel ideas and wealth to cultural (r)evolution. Like the majestic buildings of a capital city, civilizations are the expressions made large of an extended settlement of linked burroughs.
Early Social Casting
Agriculture was a slow development that lasted thousands of years, arguably until today. It is now seen as a result of cultural developments, not its origin. Then, as now, being a farmer is a harder lifestyle than that of a hunter. A farmer must tend the flock, the orchard, the fields every day, and can never really be away from it; the skilled hunter is required more intermittently.
Labour division in the family has young adults and children contributing as they can, while older family members plan and organize tasks to completion and teach skills. Tasks divided among those best capable in larger clans and community lead to social classes.
The first specialization is likely to be best hunter or most knowledgable gatherer. A clan`s storyteller and cultural keeper would be held in high regard, a core role for elders. The setting for cultural exchange, then as now, would be evening activity. It would have a solemn air, and invite formality as the deeds and artifacts of ancestors are brought to life.
It follows that there are times when communities are brought together. The passing of community members has, for the past 100,000 years, brought with it ceremony. The meeting of clans during various seasonal festivals has served as a focal point for people’s lives for ages. It follows that those in charge of cultural sanctuary, of monuments and sacred places would be seen as a spiritual caste.
The specialist making valuable contributions will be sought after, while the unskilled offer less. Specialization will drive barter, more formal education, and status. During fishing season, the hook maker is king, while the successful well-digger is exhalted during drought.
Genetics can hand natural skill to some in the next generation, but formal grooming is how most young people grow into social position. Achieved and ascribed status play a central role in the development of social classes and inequalities, a feature less prominent in hunter-gatherer culture.
As the last great cultural artifact to develop, agriculture may have been the last resort for those without other skills. There may in fact be truth to the age old saying: vegetarian is another word for bad hunter. The work of a farmer is appreciated, but it is rarely seen as a rarified social position.
Before the Copper Age
After the Younger Dryas a geological period from approximately 10,900 – 9700 BCE (c. 12,900 to c. 11,700 years ago), winter finally relented. It was the final heave of the the last ice age, the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation which had lasted 2.8 million years and with it, winter began to retreat.
reconstruction of Dolní Věstonice (ca. 27 000 to 23 000 BCE) – by Giovanni Caselli
Humans in Europe, the near East and South Asia began to put aside the nomadic lifestyle that defined the Gravettian culture in the West, the last of the Paleolithic age. 10,000 BCE, marks the transition from Old Stone Age, to Neolithic (New Stone) Age, also widely known as the Agricultural Revolution.
The long ice age had dropped sea levels, connecting land masses that are today separated by expanses of sea. The harsh conditions of the frozen era pushed early humans to explore and set up in many parts of the world, including the Americas, the Far East, South Asia and Australia.
With the warming trend, cultures and civilizations sprung up independently worldwide. Archeological findings of these early cultural blossoms show that technological advances are either found independently, or are shared through trade networks.
The long ice age may partially explain modern society’s blasée attitude toward contemporary climate change. Human indifference to global warming may be a recent genetic pre-disposition to the potential of warmer climates over a frozen landscape.
Some of the earliest known examples of this cultural expansion is seen in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the Nile River valley, across the Sinai to the Rift Valley on the eastern Meddeterranean, across the southern reaches of the Taurus mountains, and down into the Mesopotamian river valleys to the Persian Gulf.
Yet before agriculture, the steppe of central and southern Turkey was home to a coalescing hunter-gatherer culture.
This is a pre-historic site dating from roughly 12000 years ago, near Sanliurfa, Turkey. These structures come from a pre-pottery society. The pre-Neolithic hill was discovered by Klaus Schmidt in 1994.
reconstruction of Göbekli Tepe
Rather than an inhabited site, the large and extensive stone work is interpreted as ceremonial. The sanctuary has 23 known circular monuments around dual centre totems. Once completed, the temples in the complex was intentionally buried, with newer smaller obelisc built nearby.
The site is significant as it was built by a hunter-gather culture, at a time where stone tools and timber were the only real available to quarry, move, sculpt and erect steles. One viewpoint is that a more bountiful climate allowed large numbers of people to participate in annual ritual gatherings.
Summer – Autumn festivals must have collected clans from distant locations for annual celebrations, for families and young people to associate, for trade and story telling. Long travel suggests a weeks or months long stay at the sanctuary.
This duration gave opportunity for ritual site building, memorializing their gatherings, their growing culture, and possibly their dead. Having young adults work with older, more experienced people from other families and clans can build strong bonds, language, and continuity.
Rituals then like now, mixed with veneration of the ancients and mysteries, firelight, music, dance and possibly even intoxicants. The magical mood such events create for participants would certainly have a profound impact on young people, and further existing and new cultural codification.
It is now considered that seasonal clan gatherings first built such culturally binding complexes. Only later were more permanent large towns and domestic buildings constructed.
Aşıklı Höyük – Çatalhöyük
There were settlements that later sprung up in this region in general proximity to the temple site. To the west of Göbekli Tepe 600 km two signficant sites were discovered.
Aşıklı Höyük, in central Cappadocia ( 9000 – 7400 BCE) , and Çatalhöyük, the larger, later settlement 200 km to the northeast (7500 – 5600 BCE) are some of the earliest known.
Çatalhöyük was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed for nearly 2000 years, and flourished around 7000 BC. Its approximate population was as high as 4000 individuals. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A nearby site is Boncuklu Höyük (Beaded Mount), approximately 10 km to the north, and is considered to date to 9500 BC, before Çatalhöyük.
Mehrgarh is a neolithic settlement dating from approximately 7000 – 2000 BCE and may have had up to 25,000 inhabitants, five times the size of contemporary Çatalhöyük. It is considered the birthplace of dental surgery, and has the earliest signs of cotton usage. It is located to the west of the Indus Valley, but is considered a pre-cursor to the wide spread Harappan / Indus Valley Civilization (3300 – 1300).
Similar to the Anatolian model, this settlement spans the pre-agricultural, aceramic (before pottery), chalcolithic periods. The archeology of these sites again points to a significant cultural and urban development that predates widespread agriculture.
It is possible that ancient, pre-urban cultural monuments like Çatalhöyük will be found for the proto-Harappan, furthering the notion that cultural sanctuary sites predate cities and agriculture as the first communally built mega-projects.
Ubaid and Uruk period
Ubaid culture was present in Mesopotamia, near the Persian Gulf, approximately 6500 to 3800 BCE, while the Uruk Period in the same geography lasted from about 4000 to 3100 BCE).
Early developments are characterized by large unwalled village settlements, characterized by multi-roomed rectangular mud-brick houses and the appearance of the first temples of public architecture in Mesopotamia, with a growth of a two tier settlement hierarchy of centralized large sites of more than 10 hectares surrounded by smaller village sites of less than 1 hectare.
Climate change (Piora Oscillation) and the introduction of the Kish culture from the West have been attributed as reasons for the end of the Uruk period.
Jericho and the Natufian
Another pre-neolithic site is Jericho, near the western shore of the Jordan River, a setttlement present near the Ein es-Sultan spring. It is said that the Natufianculture, which existed from around 12,500 to 9,500 BC, first created the settlement between approximately 10,000 BCE.
Previously known as Tell es-Sultan, it is considered by some to be the oldest known city. Its habitation and culture were not continuous, but it has yielded many layers of archeological information.
A great deal of what is known about the history of the cities of Jericho are credited to Kathleen Kenyon , a leading archaeologist of Neolithic culture in the Fertile Crescent.
Ghassulian culture in the Chalcolithic Age
A lesser known culture was based out of Teleilat Ghassul, a settlement / site on the eastern bank of the Jordan River just where it enters the Dead Sea. It thrived over a thousand years during the first phase of the Neolithic agricultural revolution.
Researchers say the crossroads market town,Teleilat Ghassul lasted most of the Chalcolithic (Copper) Age, (4,500-3,200 BCE). It declined es as the Copper Age shifts into the Bronze Age, and neighboring cultures (Canaanite, Sumerian, and Egyptian) ascended.
It’s proximity to fresh water, salt and copper ore drew traders. herdsmen, and travellers from distant lands to exchange with and through the Ghassulian culture. Early olive, fruit and nut tree cultivation, as well as animal domestication for wool (fabrics), cheese and eggs were among cultural artifacts. Evidence of perfumes, spices, dyes, resins and wine were also to be found.
Surplus gave rise to trade, and people were quickly attracted to markets with exotics and riches. The key was to have multiple conditions focused, so a variety of goods were available.
“Ghassulian culture has been identified at numerous other places in southern Palestine, especially in the region of Beersheba. The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt and also seems to have affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan materials in Crete.”
Evidence for food storage and predomestication granaries 11,000 years ago in the Jordan Valley – link is at the site of Bab edh-Dhra, which some link to Sodom
The delicate and volatile nature of field crops such as grains and vegetables was one of last innovations to make its way into the cultures. Earth quality, pests, water scarcity made this farming risky. Extended agriculture is suggested by irrigation that would have required the work of many to accomplish, attesting to public work projects.
Certainly farming originates from nomadic seasonal plant harvests, to planted and tended orchards and gardens, to effective food preservation and storage.
Once settlements and towns became permanent, agriculture would become another way by which such places could stockpile supplies and sustain local populations and visitors. Graneries could be more filled in plentiful harvests, and better feed during winter and famine. As a concept, it makes sense, but who would do this work?
Most argue that farming is a far more laborious lifestyle than hunting and gathering. The herd needs water, pasture, milking, protection. Planting and harvests happen at specific times and are sensitive to adversity.
Understanding how and making convenient a crop field isn’t as important, as accepting the volume of work required. Preparing seed stock, planting, protecting it from animal / pest invasion, and harvest would need to be a mutual and work intensive effort. Creating the surplus would require a team and a captain who prioritized and organized activity.
Group effort for monument-building first, then settlement building open the way for group food cultivation and social ranking. Unlike hunters, or even gatherers where great skill could bring great results and social leadership, and lack of skill excluded others from participating, agricultural work could be done by unskilled members of the society. The social clan esteem of the”food provider” is reduced in agriculture.
In the context of a early castes, farmers provide a basic but non-specialized need. Their contribution to the social complex in early cultures is entry-level, except maybe the organizer of field-hands. So agriculture drew in the unskilled, the young, the old, the semi-feeble, who in hunter-gatherer society would not have had to work.
Farming becomes the stepping stone for a work-based society, where everyone should have a worth, and provide the sacrifice of themselves in favour of their families, clan, and culture and city. It also drove the interest in the organizations to seek out inexpensive workers, or even slaves. It is proposed that human cultures’ transition from hunter-gatherer to urban-agrarian required an acceptance of non-equitable resource distribution. (read: How Farming Almost Destroyed Ancient Human Civilization)
It is also likely that the transition to socially stratefied agriculture saw the rise of authoritarianism, militarism and aristocracy. Where hunter-gatherer groups rely on the skills of the most knowledgable and physically-skilled to provide the rest of the modest clan food, agrarian life spread food tasks to others and harvests to larger groups of people. The strongest, smartest, most driven in such new society could focus their energy on organizing and enforcing their projects and position.
The earliest clear evidence of the domestication of Einkorn dates from 10,600 to 9,900 years before present (8,650 BC to 7,950 BC), from Çayönü ( 7200 to 6600 BC) and Cafer Höyük (8920 BCE) two Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B archaeological sites in southern Turkey. These are approximate 600 km to the West of Çatalhöyük, near the upper Euphrates. These settlements seem to coincide with their pre-agricultural neighbors, but didn’t quite get to be as large.
Agriculture was a feature of this time, but not the dominant one. The agricultural social stratification seen in later civilizations is not evident in these earlier settlements. There are not city walls, nor palaces. They suggest a more egalitarian social order.
Definitive evidence for the full domestication of emmer wheat is not found until the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (10,200 to 9,500 BP), at sites such as Beidha, Tell Ghoraifé, Jericho, Abu Hureyra, Tell Halula, Tell Aswad and Cafer Höyük.
Respect for the dead is a cultural binder that humans have done for up to 100,000 years. Funerary Dolmen, common throughout the Neolithic world also required large scale cooperation in the community, feats that require a common focus among the population, as well as vision and leadership to organize it.
The discovery of the Ghassoulian Star painted on an interior wall has led to the thought this was an early cultural binding symbol, possibly even religious. Such an artifact points to the continued role of cultural / religious identification and organization.
That the symbol is idenfied as as star has two significances. First is the association with yearly seasons, and secondly binding the star with our own sun. Together these suggest a calendar marked by points in the year. Knowledge of this flow would be a cultural bind and be expressed in ritual.
The development of cultures would also see their decline. Factors contibute to a region becoming less influencial, and cause the abandonment of a city, and decline of a culture, a phenomena seen often in archeology. Not all human developments are progressive.
The decline of the Ghassulian culture came about for one or more of the top three reasons. A changing agricultural / resource climate, diversification in other cultures to locally source the commodities that had once been rare, and warfare. All three reasons speak to cultural obsolescence.
Bronze brought advanced weaponry, warfare and feudal rule, which is always detrimental to a border region without military might.
Written history is considered to be only 6,000 years old. Sumerian Cuneiform and Egyptian glyph mark the beginning of the Bronze Age around 3500 BCE. Earlier forms of proto-writing are seen in the Vinča symbols and signs written on the Dispilio tablet, both from central and southern Europe from the sixth millenium BCE, as well as the Jiahu symbols from ancient China of seventh millennium BCE.
The written use of numbers is much older, possibly 40,000 years old. And what are these earliest writings about? Record-keeping and tallies for gambling, horses, personal services and trade-goods. This recording of daily domestic and trade was the beginning of written language.
Numbers and early math were truly the universal written language. Glyph was attempt to unite multiple verbal languages, but those outside such a common zone would not understand.
Like any two humans who do not share a language, visual cues including body gesture, and stick drawing in the dirt may be used to get one’s message across. Fingers and recorded marks representing numbers are the cornerstone to more precise, negotiated, mercantile exchange, and may have complimented the origins of languages.
When the written word did appear, it was to register laws, transactions, and, only more recently, to capture cultural artifact.
Stories of epic adventures of heroes, their struggle and victory is far more interesting than accounting records, but were recounted by bard song, illustration, drama, music and sculpture at worksites, at meals, together in groups. Written words are a limited artistic expression of dramas, and didn’t find much early expression.
Reading text by one’s self is different than the shared artistic execution of a campfire epic, or sculpture of a common hero in a palace. It took time to develop the tool and the audience.
Bronze – Introducing State Warfare
The transition to the Bronze age saw the rise of warfare and defensive construction, a development that tended to erase cultures that were conquered or defeated, but also left behind more city walls and stone structures. Like the Chalcolithic period, the landscape saw many geographies and cultures develop and decline over the centuries, which is an important feature when reviewing ancient histories. It’s like looking at a building but forgetting that is part of a cityscape.
Starting with the Ebla kingdoms in Syria (3500 – 1600BC), a history of three destructions by invading forces. The ascent of Egypt (3150 BC), Mesopotamia (2900 BC) and the Hittite in Anatolia (1800 – 1100 BC). Strattling the cresent was the Western European civilization known as the Beakerculture grow between 2900 – 1800 BC), while to the East of Mesopotamia was Elam (3200 – 540 BC), an early Persian culture, which linked to cultures further East in the Indian subcontinent.
The early cultures of the copper age began to rub against one another, sometimes creating trade and growth, other times causing warfare and destruction. Competition is an biological imperative, but now humans had cultural and technological tools to pursue this on a scale not yet seen.
The challenges of the hunt are muted by the advent of agriculture. The achievement of a regulated food regime lessened the stories of overcoming life-and-death adversity that came from the hunt. War became one way to put back the group importance lost to the monotany of the farmer, and enhance cultural binds between people.
Feast – the key to civilization
One principle legacy from the Paleolithic stone age was the feast. A successful hunt or harvest would animate the participants. It would envigorate people, and bring them together, to share stories and songs of the day, of the past. Food and drink, and even intoxicants would lubricate such occasions.
High festivals would be organized around specific times, such as the bountiful days of high summer, and draw people from distant places. These assemblies would become significant milestones for participants, as they prepared provisions and gifts. Long travel and infrequent meetings made such gatherings meaningful. Young adults would use the opportunity to be coupled with those outside their clan or village; adults meet up with old friends, children make new connections.
Commemorative artifact gave permanance to the occasions, and to the site that held them. The attraction of people to one another pulls them together, in families, clans, and regional festivals. Language and cultural values defined the parameters of association. This is the basis upon which humans could begin to develop cities, agriculture and civilizations.