All Episodes

May 16, 2024 49 mins

The idea that we aren’t the first advanced civilization to live on Earth sounds like a fringe theory, but it raises a good question: How can we be so sure that a civilization didn’t arise and die on Earth so long ago that any trace of it has been erased?

See for privacy information.

Mark as Played

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff you should Know, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh and there's
Chuck and this is stuff you should know. It's just
Josh and Chuck today. Yeah, that's all right, don't freak out, Chuck.
We're gonna make it. Just sorry.

Speaker 1 (00:23):
I'm just glad we're recording. This is just a little
inside baseball here. This is our third attempt at this recording. Sessh.

Speaker 2 (00:31):
Yeah, well you diffuse my inside joke to you that
I didn't have enough time to prepare for this episode.

Speaker 1 (00:37):
So, yeah, my internet went out because of a windstorm
last week, and then we were like, you were kind
enough to be like, we'll just do it next Thursday.
And then yesterday your internet had problems, and I said, well,
let's just do it tomorrow morning, because you know, Friday
morning at eight fifty five is when the voice is

in perfect shape.

Speaker 2 (00:58):
Right, which was also very kind of you. So we've
been kind to one another throughout this ordeal.

Speaker 1 (01:03):
At least you got to do that. People. If you
want to stay married.

Speaker 2 (01:06):
Yeah, definitely, you want the other person to hold your hand,
you'd better be kind.

Speaker 1 (01:11):
But I'm excited to finally and you know, probably it
was probably good that I had a lot more time
with this, because this is one of those sort of
thought experimentee, get your brain in the right frame of
mind kind of episodes, and we love doing these, and
this is going to be a good one.

Speaker 2 (01:27):
Yeah, for sure. So what we're talking about today, Chuck,
is the Silurian hypothesis, which if I could do anything
with this thing, I would rename it. I'd be like, guys,
that was a terrible decision.

Speaker 1 (01:38):
I keep listening everybody, so right, I promise is interesting.

Speaker 2 (01:42):
So the whole thing came out of we'll explain in
a second, but we should probably talk about where it
came from and why we don't like this name. The
whole thing came out of a meeting between a guy
named Adam Frank who's an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester,
and a guy named Gavin Schmidt, who's the big wig
director for the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a NASA joint. Yeah,

and Adam Frank went to Gavin Schmidt and said, hey,
I'm trying to figure out if we could find ancient
defunct civilizations elsewhere in you know, off of Earth. What
would I look for? And the reason he was doing this.
This is a it's an answer to the family paradox,
where is everybody? Well, one answer is, well, they were here,

but now they all died out. So Adam Frank is
looking for evidence that they were there. And Gavin Schmidt said,
let me just stop you right there and up the
ante here.

Speaker 1 (02:39):
Well, actually, you know what Gavin Schmidt said. What he said,
let me tell you something, Professor Frank hey, and Professor
Frank said, oh god, I had a dime for every
time somebody did that, right, so so close. Yeah, Schmidt
was like, hey, buddy, would you say I'll one.

Speaker 2 (02:58):
Up, you'll up at okay, up.

Speaker 1 (03:01):
The ante here? What if it's planet Earth? And what
if there were ancient civilizations here? My friend? Yeah, and
they said check please.

Speaker 2 (03:11):
Yeah, Adam Frank just vomited directly all over Gavin Smith's desk,
very famously.

Speaker 1 (03:17):
Yeah. I mean, I think they sort of started chatting
about this thing, and we should point out that, you
know what we're gonna They wrote a paper. We'll get
to that in a second, and they named it Silurian hypothesis.
But neither one of them think like, oh I think
this is what happened. It's more, you know, it's a
thought experiment. It's what happens when two remarkably intelligent people
get together sometimes and take LSD.

Speaker 2 (03:41):
One of the other things about it that I think
makes it worthwhile too. First of all, these guys are
the first scientists to seriously explore the idea which you
can apply science to anything like that, and sure they
even though they don't think it's correct, they don't rule
it out. Yeah, you can't rule it out. There's not
enough information to rule it out right.

Speaker 1 (03:58):

Speaker 2 (04:00):
But the other thing that it does is that it
provides kind of like a guide to see what we're
doing now, what we're going to leave in the far
future as well.

Speaker 1 (04:11):
Yeah, absolutely so. I imagine they went to another venue,
they went to a bar afterward to have a drink,
keep this party going, and they were like, well, you know,
there's been enough time for something like this to have happened,
because when you look at the fossil record, the oldest
thing that we know of is a cyanobacteria fossil that's

about three and a half billion years old that was
from the ocean. And if you're talking about complex life,
then you only have to go back about five hundred
and forty million years ago to the Cambrian explosion. So
like anything beyond that was you know, stuff like soundo
bacteria that we know of at least, so any prior

intelligent species wouldn't theoretically be older than that Cambrian explosion.

Speaker 2 (04:59):
Yeah, they call it an explosion because everything went from
single celled organisms like you were saying, to like basically
all the types of animals on the planet today. Yeah,
just like it exploded. It's just the best name for it.
It really can't add to that. But there's another guy,
another character we need to add here, and his name
is Jason Wright.

Speaker 1 (05:19):
I like this guy.

Speaker 2 (05:20):
He's an astronomer at Penn State. And he said, whoa,
whoa guys, And this is in a separate paper that
I think even predated the Silurian hypothesis paper.

Speaker 1 (05:29):
He was sitting next to them overhearing them at the bar.

Speaker 2 (05:32):
Right, they were like covering their work while exactly so,
Jason Wright says, not to them directly, but in general,
he's like, Okay, we don't know that you have to
stop at the Cambrian explosion to look for intelligent life
on Earth. In the past. And the reason why is
because we have a really like that's using a really

limited definition of life. That's using the kind of life
that has certain body plans with the cent nervous system.
Some have like backbones, some don't, some are jellyfish. Doesn't matter, Like,
what if there's other kinds of life out there? What
if some of those single celled organisms had gotten together
and formed like a hive mind colony, right that was

capable of intelligent industrialization. We wouldn't know that, like think
out of the box, guys.

Speaker 1 (06:23):
Yeah, exactly, because you know, it's hard to wrap your
head around all we know is us and what happened
with the development of how we got to now. Yeah,
So he's like, you know, turn that off, everybody, because
that could have happened what Josh Clark just said. And
they were like, who's Josh Clark? And they said, you'll
find out sooner enough, he said, Or maybe there was

another like Cambrian like explosion that happened like way way
back before that, and maybe it's maybe they didn't leave
any fossils behind, or so few that we didn't find them,
or maybe you know, that was a cataclysm that destroyed everything,
like there was this complex life. It destroyed everything, and

it kind of just rebooted the system with these single
celled organisms, and that's what we know is the start, right, Yeah,
And they yeah, whoa buddy.

Speaker 2 (07:16):
I know it's pretty cool.

Speaker 1 (07:18):
Can I pay for this guy's drink?

Speaker 2 (07:20):
Yeah? Can I buy you a beer? So Gavin Schmidt
and Adam Frank are like, we think we're onto something here.
Let's let's kind of flush this out a little more.
And I think it was Gavin Schmidt who suggested they
call it the Silurian hypothesis. And the reason we call
it the Silurian that's a I think a period or
an epoch or something in Earth's history five hundred something

million years ago. But they weren't naming it after that.
They were naming it after a race of lizard people
who are characters on Doctor Who.

Speaker 1 (07:52):
Yeah, do you watch Do you have any doctor who experience?

Speaker 2 (07:57):
None? I feel like it's like this whole thing out
there that's waiting for me to meet it, and I'm like,
I don't know.

Speaker 1 (08:04):
I mean, I've never I don't know anything about it.
But I just caveat that because there may be emails
coming in that are like they're not lizard like people.
They are this like, I have no idea. I looked
at pictures of them like you did, and they look
like lizard reptilian type creatures.

Speaker 2 (08:21):
They do. So that I mean for all INtime process
is if you're not super into Doctor Who, they're.

Speaker 1 (08:25):
Lizard people, I really really hope.

Speaker 2 (08:27):
So the reason that they named it after this race
of lizard people and Doctor Who is that on the
in the Doctor Who universe, they lived about three hundred
million years ago, which would actually make them place them
in the Carboniferous period, not the Silurian and apparently all
Doctor Who fans are aware.

Speaker 1 (08:44):
Of that because they're all Doctor Frank's right.

Speaker 2 (08:47):
But they supposedly survived a bunch of cataclysms here on
Earth by moving underground hibernating until things cooled off a
little bit. And now they're back in the Doctor Who universe,
so they would like the ancient civilization. And so there's
two reasons why I find the unfortunate that they named
it after that. One it just makes the whole thing
silly to a degree. Apologies to Doctor Who fans, but

it it like this is an actual, like academic exercise.
They're engaged in. It has a silly thing out of
the gates.

Speaker 1 (09:18):
It's a tea. I mean again, we're not saying doctor
who is silly, but it'd be like us coming up
with like the Family Ties hypothesis or something right right,
Like it's named after a TV show.

Speaker 2 (09:28):
It says like before you even read the abstract, don't
take this seriously. But it's meant to be taken seriously.
It's not tongue in cheek at all. The paper isn't
at least or the hypothesis. The other reason why is
because every single author who wrote any piece or article
about this hypothesis afterward uses a hypothetical lizard race to

discuss what we would be looking for. And it's so obnoxious, man,
So we're not going to do that. We're not even
going to try to guess what they would be like
or look like. They're just the hypothetical ancient industrialized civilization
that we're looking for. So if we're looking for something
like that here on earth, Chuck, what would we start
to look for?

Speaker 1 (10:14):
Well? And I mean those are sort of the questions
these guys started. I guess they went to another bar
and started asking. They're pretty sloshed at this point, that's
gonna say, and they start asking even more questions. I
guess after they got over the I mean, hopefully they
didn't have to argue about Silurian. I'm praying they were
both Doctor Who fans and that doctor Frank didn't have

to convince Oh Gavin, you know, I think it might.

Speaker 2 (10:38):
Have been the other way around, and based on titles,
I think Frank would have had to go along with it.

Speaker 1 (10:43):
Okay, Well, either way, they started to sort of ask
these big questions, and what it really comes down to
are two main questions, what should we be looking for?
And in order to think about what should we be
looking for, a good place to start art is well,
what are we leaving behind that a future archaeologist or

geologist might look for?

Speaker 2 (11:07):
Mm hmm.

Speaker 1 (11:08):
And when they started poking around a little bit, they
found that, you know, there's some stuff here that that
does bear a resemblance to like possible signals that something
could have happened as far as an ancient industrialized civilization
that just went away.

Speaker 2 (11:26):
Like you can't hear it, but my jaw just dropped.

Speaker 1 (11:30):
All right, Josh's jaws on the floor. We're going to
seek some medical attention, and we'll take a little break
and we'll be right back.

Speaker 2 (11:36):
Definitely, child.

Speaker 1 (11:44):
Y s K.

Speaker 2 (11:48):

Speaker 1 (11:50):
I don't know that you know it stuck and sucks that.

Speaker 2 (11:53):
It's a great name.

Speaker 1 (11:54):
I could remember.

Speaker 2 (11:56):
That's the name of it. It's a great name. All right,
stucks net with an X.

Speaker 1 (12:01):
All Right, So we're back, and we were talking about
where you might or what you might look for if
you're looking for a previous advanced civilization and sort of
the obvious first place. You know, we're going to start
easy and get a little more complex here. It's just
like all the all the physical stuff, Like if you're
an industrialized, intelligent civilization, you're going to have industry and

cities and factories and things and skyscrapers and buildings, and
it's hard to wrap your head around all that stuff
being gone one day when you're living amongst it. But
like the life of a skyscraper is about fifty years
without human intervention to you know start. You know, that's
why when you go to New York, every building has
scaffolding on it practically, because you have to keep those

buildings up. They start falling apart because of corrosion and erosion.
So without that, even though it's hard to imagine, everything
will eventually be gone. And we're talking about in the
grand scheme of the big, big timeline, so like hundreds
of millions of years.

Speaker 2 (12:59):
Yeah, yeah, but for a city itself, I mean, apparently
water intrusion is a big problem for all of those
tall buildings as well as erosion and corrosion and all that.
They're like, it's not going to take millions of years
for them to go away. We're talking thousands to tens
of thousands of years.

Speaker 1 (13:17):
Yeah, and our.

Speaker 2 (13:18):
Cities will be just completely rubble, especially ones that are
built on like solid ground or rocky ground well above
sea level, because those are the ones that are most
like open and left vulnerable to the processes of erosion
that sweep across Earth's surface and wipe the whole thing clean.

And yeah, it wouldn't take very long. The stuff that's
underground might be a little more easily preserved, like they're
you know, any under any city, there's a huge network
of infrastructure of pipes and cables and tunnels and hard
hats and stuff like that that conceivably, even after the

city above is long gone, that stuff could could be
preserved to a certain degree.

Speaker 1 (14:07):
Yeah, for sure. And we should shout out this guy
that did you dig him up? Or was that Livia
I think found him. Yeah. His name is it starts
with the J, but as yan Zeala Schevitz, and he's
a paleontologist at the University of Lester. Nice work, oh
boy in the UK. And we shout him out because he,

you know, he sort of let us down this path
of looking underground, potentially looking underwater because things would just
deteriorate a lot slower down there. But he's just a guy.
I just want to recommend if you're if you want
to get into some heady sort of YouTube stuff, just
google yan Zella Schevitz. It's z A l A s

I E V I c Z. Because I went down
a little because we had so much extra time, just
a little bit of a rabbit hole. This guy, he
has a bunch of YouTube where he speaking to the
university groups and classrooms and things, and he's just super
smart and interesting.

Speaker 2 (15:08):
Yeah, the stuff he's into is super cool too. But yeah,
he himself gets it across really well.

Speaker 1 (15:14):
I like it.

Speaker 2 (15:15):
Yeah, so he points out he was the one he
I think he chose San Francisco. Like San Francisco's a goner.
It's not gonna be around very long once we're gone.
And by the way, I keep saying once we're gone.
Remember that amazing two thousand and seven book The World
Without Us by Alan Weisman.

Speaker 1 (15:31):
Never heard of it?

Speaker 2 (15:32):
Oh, yes you have. It was like all the thing
back in two thousand and seven. They made like TV
shows about it and all that. So this guy basically
went to the trouble of figuring out in five years,
ten years, fifty years, one hundred years, thousand and so on.
That sounds familiar what the planet would be like, yeaf
if humans just suddenly vanished, And like he goes into
detail of like the processes of erosion and crosion, what

effects it's going to happen. It's just so fascinating.

Speaker 1 (15:58):
That's super cool.

Speaker 2 (15:58):
Yeah, it is super cool. Like the series, at least
one series I think on like Science Channel or something
like that was what was worth watching too. But that's
I mean, that has a lot to do with what
we're talking about. So the top side city's gone, the
stuff underneath might be preserved, but the cities that are
built along water and there's a lot of cities that
are built along water. Yeah, they like say New Orleans

is actually built below sea level. When people are gone
from New Orleans, New Orleans is gonna go away really quick,
but it will probably get preserved or at least covered over,
if not preserved by a lot of the muck, the
delta muck that's brought down the Mississippi River, and that
will could conceivably create the conditions to preserve the whole
city in some form of fashion.

Speaker 1 (16:44):
Totally. But and you know, a lot of the thought
experiment is like introducing things and poking holes in it.
There's not a lot, like you know, if you lived
in an urban area. It's kind of hard to think
that there's not much urban area in the world, but
there really isn't. I think the liberal estimates have it

at about a little less than three percent, like two
point seven two point eight percent of the world has
been urbanized. Some people put it as low as one percent.
So there's there's a lot of just land out there still.
So you're looking if you're looking for an ancient civilization,
I mean, who's not to say that it could have
been like fifty percent of the earth, But chances are

it would be something a little more like what we're doing.

Speaker 2 (17:31):
For sure, And so like you were saying, like, that's
one of the cool things about this as a thought experiment,
Like you raise this point and then you like poke
holes in it, then sometimes you can kind of support
it instead. And so, like a legitimate question would be, like,
why are we assuming that an ancient civilization from millions
of years ago in Earth's history had cities? Yea, and

point the reason why if they have any kind of intelligence. Typically,
the more of an intelligent organiz you put together, the
more advanced it becomes. Like twelve thousand years ago, there
was something like fifteen million people across all of planet
Earth tops. But then as we started to grow in
density thanks to agriculture and animal domestication, all of a sudden,

our technology started to develop at a really rapid pace geologically speaking,
and now here we are. So we could assume that
there'd be some form of density, because you need x
number of intelligent organisms to advance to an industrialized civilization,
one would imagine, So there's actually a legitimate reason to
think that they would have cities that we could look

for the problem is this, Chuck, and you know this
as well as I do. We'll see the Earth does
not like things like cities and ruins or fossils. Let's
talk about fossils.

Speaker 1 (18:52):
Yeah, I mean that seems to be the next best
place to start looking. If let's say the buildings are gone,
fossils are or how we know what happened in our
distant past. But fossils are tough, just because of how
rare they are and how hard it is to make one,
and how sort of lucky it is that they happen

to begin with, and that we find them. The t
rex is a great example, just a little like back
in the envelope math. Some estimates say that somewhere in
the neighborhood of twenty thousand t rexes at any given
time during their run, we're walking stomping around planet Earth
with their tiny little baby arms. They were around for

about two and a half million years. That comes out
to roughly one hundred and twenty seven thousand generations on
the lifespan of a t rex. So we're talking total, roughly,
of course, about two and a half billion individual t
rexes that lived and died at any point in their history,
and we only found fifty fossilized skeletons, which is about

two millions of one percent of the total population.

Speaker 2 (20:02):
Yeah, I should forewarn you that two millions of one
percent is my math personally, but I did use an
online percentage calculator like three different times to make sure
so it's it's accurate.

Speaker 1 (20:13):
My friend, Oh, I know the math people are always
checking checking you. I was about say, getting your back,
but really trying to.

Speaker 2 (20:19):
Prove you're getting I got a target on my back,
that's what they're trying to get.

Speaker 1 (20:24):
Uh. But you know the movie Jurassic Park, as silly
as some of that stuff was with great movie, don't
get me wrong, but you know the the mosquito being
covered in amber, Like if you if you look at
that movie, like that one mosquito got trapped in amber.
And that's kind of what we're talking about here, is
just sort of the dumb luck of the fossil happening

to begin with a and then that fossil that's buried
eventually getting pushed up to the Earth's surface where we
can find it, right but within the window between it
popping up and it being findable to it eroding to
where it's not findable anymore. It's like it's it's all.
I mean, that's why we don't have, you know, billions
and billions of fossils, is because it's just really rare

to make one and find one.

Speaker 2 (21:10):
Yeah, not just making one, but yes, finding one. It's
all a product of time and space and a really
complex formula. And I saw an article called how Can
I Become a Fossil? By John Pickerel from twenty eighteen
on BBC really well worth reading.

Speaker 1 (21:25):
Did it start listening to the Doobie Brothers.

Speaker 2 (21:29):
Nice, Oh yeah, rip Dicky Bets.

Speaker 1 (21:32):
Huh well not Almond brothers, but sure, well yeah, I
know I knew that, but yeah, okay, I mean they're
both brothers. Yeah yeah, same time period, Rip Dicky Bets.
That was that was a tough one.

Speaker 2 (21:42):
If you had been in my brain, it would have
been no, I got yeah, of course.

Speaker 1 (21:46):
And it's also nine twenty.

Speaker 2 (21:47):
So John Pickerell cited an estimate that one tenth of
one percent of all the species that have ever existed
has had one of their individuals fossilized. Oh wow, so
just really tiny, tiny percentages of fossils are ever created.
But and also I got to just say this quote too.
There's another article called the scene as a joke.

Speaker 1 (22:09):
Yeah, I thought you were going to skip this one.
This is great.

Speaker 2 (22:11):
Yeah. A guy named Peter Brannan who's a science writer,
wrote it, and basically he's explaining like just how insignificant
humans have been on Earth, even as much as we've
affected Earth. It's just how insignificant it actually is, and
how easily Earthball shake our our stuff off. Yeah, but
he had this great quote. I think you should say it.

Speaker 1 (22:32):
Oh, okay, do you know where he's from so I
can prepare.

Speaker 2 (22:38):
No, let's say Austria, Cherk.

Speaker 1 (22:43):
I mean, I guess that's sort of German. I'm just
going to read him as American. This is this is
a great quote. Each fossil was its own miracles, sampled
randomly from almost two hundred million years of history. A
few stray, wind blown pages of a library.

Speaker 2 (22:59):
Isn't that great?

Speaker 1 (23:00):
Yeah? That really drives it home.

Speaker 2 (23:02):
It really does. So hats off to Peter Brandon and
John Pickerel. Definitely go read those and also go watch
youtubes of Yon Zelhevich, z Lushevich.

Speaker 1 (23:11):
Right, Zela Schevitz kind of likevitz.

Speaker 2 (23:14):
Right but with a Z.

Speaker 1 (23:16):

Speaker 2 (23:17):
So all of that said, though, we have discovered really
really old fossils. The oldest hominid our ancestor, the oldest
indisputable ancestor to humans, Australipithecus and amensis, was walking around
four and a half almost four and a half million
years ago, and we have a skeleton of that guy.

So as miraculous as fossilization and discovery of fossils is,
it does happen.

Speaker 1 (23:46):
Yeah, absolutely, And that's hominids are our old buddy. Yan
Zelisovitch is like, you know what else could happen is
we're creating a bunch of potential techno fossils as we advance,
Like somebody could find a smartphone one day, somebody could
find a grocery bag that's been fossilized. Sure, the more

likely thing that's going to be found is not some
smartphone that you could plug in and then reboot.

Speaker 2 (24:15):
Right, they'd be like, let's see what pictures this guy.

Speaker 1 (24:17):
But it might be something like a brick or a
glass bottle that's you know, that clearly human made, that's
like artificial in shape, and it may be stamped with
like a company name or something like that. Like something
like that is more probable for a future anthropology archaeologist
to find as a techno fossil. Yeah, so, or plastic, right.

Speaker 2 (24:41):
Plastic is another good one. We actually don't know how
long it takes plastic to break down to its constituent parts.
We know that it breaks down into really really small particles,
but there's still like microparticles of plastic. It's like intact
particles of plastic. Right, And if a future like race

discovered our plastic, they'd be like, this is really bizarre. Yeah,
because by definition, the plastic we make is artificial. There
are like polymers in nature like cellulose that are an
analog to our plastic, but all the plastic we make
is not found in nature. So if they found that,
they'd be like, this is kind of weird, what's going
on with this?

Speaker 1 (25:21):
Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 2 (25:23):
And then chicken bones too, chuck, hmmm.

Speaker 1 (25:27):
Have you ever seen there was an Instagram account it
may have been called Atlantic Chicken Bones that we're just
these great pictures of chicken bones in parking lots and
sidewalks all over Atlanta.

Speaker 2 (25:37):
Right, So that's a really great point. There's the people
who are like all bully on the anthroposceine, the idea
that the humans are creating our own geological era or epoch, say,
like chicken bones are probably a pretty good bet for
like fossilized evidence of our presence. Because we raise and

kill so many chickens at Box the Mine, their bones
get everywhere, and they are anatomically different from all other
kinds of chickens because we've bred them to be different,
like have huge breasts and not be able to walk
in all sorts of terrible stuff. So if you found
other chicken bones in the fossil record, and then you

found our broiler chicken bones, you'd be like, what is this?
And also why are they in Antarctica?

Speaker 1 (26:24):
Right? I also want to point out, since I brought
up Atlanta chicken bones, I am a lover of fried chicken,
as you know. Yeah, it's probably my favorite food. And
I have been known to have car chicken.

Speaker 2 (26:37):
As long as there's no shower chicken, I'm still that's
still fine on the sand that.

Speaker 1 (26:42):
No, you want to keep it crispy, you don't want
any humidity in there. But I've always resisted the urge
to toss my chicken bones because I have dogs, and
I walk dogs, and if you're not paying attention, that
dog can snap up at chicken bone on the sidewalk
pretty easily. So just a psa there, try and keep
those chicken bones in the box.

Speaker 2 (27:00):
Yeah, and chicken bones can splinter so readily that it
can really hurt your dog's throat stomach. You don't want
a dog eating chicken bones.

Speaker 1 (27:06):
Okay, Yeah, did I ever tell you this will be
quick about when my deceased dog Buckley ate an entire
drummet that fell off the grill. No, it popped off
many years ago Buckley left us, But I looked down.
I was like, oh, shoot, chicken bone or chicken drummet,
and it was just gone. And it was gone so fast,

and Buckley was there, but I was like, he wasn't
chewing or evening. I was like, what happened to that thing?
Ten minutes later? Oh no, he barfs up a hole.
He swallowed it whole, a whole chicken drummet that was
still steaming from the heat of the grill.

Speaker 2 (27:47):
So good.

Speaker 1 (27:48):
So it was like, I mean, thank god he did that,
because that would not have been good.

Speaker 2 (27:52):

Speaker 1 (27:53):
Yeah, he swallowed that thing like a pill, and then.

Speaker 2 (27:55):
When he threw up, he wiped his mouth.

Speaker 1 (27:56):
He's like, totally right, yeah, I think he thought it
was worth it.

Speaker 2 (28:01):
So I said something earlier, Chuck, we were talking about ruins, fossils,
all that stuff. I said that Earth doesn't really like
that kind of stuff, and I was right.

Speaker 1 (28:13):
Are you setting me up?

Speaker 2 (28:14):

Speaker 1 (28:15):
Yeah, Well, because here on Earth we have plate tectonics,
we have a situation where if you're talking about the
ocean crust, it subducts below the lighter continental crust and
it's going to push everything down, down, down toward the
mantle where it melts and then eventually comes back up
via like a land volcano, maybe an undersea volcano, to

form a new crust. And it's just like this this giant,
super super slow recycling conveyor belt.

Speaker 2 (28:45):
Yeah, it takes I think, on average, about two hundred
and fifty million years for new crust to go through
that whole cycle. That's just on average. It can take
hundreds of millions of years longer. Yeah, take less, but
that's just kind of generally how slow it is. The
point is is that after X number of millions of years,
that crust is what and everything attached to it is

totally gone. Once it hits that mantle, it doesn't discriminate
everything gets melted. Everything gets melted in the middle. What
about on land, Well, land is not subject to the
forces of like subduction, right, but it does have that
erosion through wind and water, and everything just kind of

gets recycled in its own way. Plus also the plates
that do collide with one another, and there's you know,
continental fault lines obviously too, that produce earthquakes when they collide.
The stuff anywhere near those edges gets all kinds of
messed up. Yeah, and that's how a lot of mountain
ranges form. And then there's the Himalayas. The thing is

is that erosion, that process of erosion that completely recycles
Earth's surface over X number of years. An eighty eight
million year, the Himalayas will be gone. It'll just be
a meadow where they's.

Speaker 1 (30:05):
That's one of my favorite sort of facts of the
show right there. Yeah, it's hard to imagine this stuff,
but yeah, what is it eroding at like point one
millimeter per year? And again we're talking these we're talking
on timelines of hundreds of millions of years here, right,
So eighty eight million years, Yeah, that's it just go
romp in the meadow.

Speaker 2 (30:23):
Yeah, because even if we're just going back to the
Cambrian explosion. And you can argue that you can go
back further like Jason Wright did. But even if you're
just going back five hundred and forty million years, that
means continental crusts have like reinvented themselves twice since then. Yeah,
the Earth's surface has been recycled countless times. Apparently the
oldest surface stretch of Earth is only is like less

than two million years old.

Speaker 1 (30:49):
Oh geez, that's really young. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (30:51):
And the reason all this stuff is hard to imagine,
like the Himalaya is going away, is because our sense
of time is so limited to about the span of
a lifetime, yeah, plus a couple of decades. Maybe that
when we start to think a tens and in hundreds
of millions of years into the future of the past,
we just stop. It just doesn't It doesn't really make
sense to us unless we really apply ourselves with episodes

like this.

Speaker 1 (31:15):
Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 2 (31:16):
So you've got plates colliding, you've got glaciers do all
sorts of They move entire regions around like bulldozers. But
even something as humble as the movement of earthworms through
the soil over enough time, that's going to erode fossils, ruins,
subterranean networks of pipes, and essentially we're back to square

one trying to figure out what to look for for
an ancient civilization.

Speaker 1 (31:44):
Are we done almost? All right? Maybe we should take
a break and we'll come back and talk about why
we're striking out and where we go next.

Speaker 2 (31:54):
Definitely should also stuck.

Speaker 1 (32:09):
You know what, Stuck.

Speaker 2 (32:12):
That's a great name.

Speaker 1 (32:12):
Yeah, that's the name of it.

Speaker 2 (32:15):
It's a great name. All right, stucks net with with
an X. Okay, chuck. So we've seen that we can
dismiss the archaeologists, Thank you everybody, and bring in the geologists.

Speaker 1 (32:27):
Yeah, like, take your take your whip, take your fedora,
pack it all up, go take a break because the
geologists are on the scene. You can doctor Jones, you
can take a seat.

Speaker 2 (32:40):
Right, So, I can't even like, what are the geologists like?
They just they don't have a movie franchises like the
archaeologists do.

Speaker 1 (32:50):
Yeah, I mean they're not looking for grails, they're looking
for residue. So it's not it's grabby.

Speaker 2 (32:56):
Yeah, I guess they're the thing that you most associate
with is like a slight coffin a really large, empty room.

Speaker 1 (33:05):
Yeah, like there the would never be a movie called
Indiana Jones and the Ancient Tree Ring. No, you know, no, unfortunately.
But that's what we're talking about, is the fact that
if we were to have a future geologists look back,
that's what they would likely be looking for. Like, forget

the fossils, They're gonna be looking for just little bits
of residue by looking at these tiny little layers of
sediment that we deposit every day all over the place
that eventually becomes rock. And this is how we know
look back at our own past to learn things. That's
how we knew that the dinosaurs were exploded basically because

of that asteroid, and that Cambrian explosion happened because we
have studied geology.

Speaker 2 (33:53):
Yeah, we've learned to study those layers that get put
down and put down. And the problem is on Earth's surface,
as we've seen, there's the process of erosion, and there's
an entire layer across the whole globe. It's not just
in one spot, but there's a billion year stretch of
the geological record that's just gone. It's missing this. Yeah,

I hadn't either. It's called the Great Unconformity. And like
we'll just never know what was there, what happened during
that time, because there's no record of it. They think
that it was just a period where there wasn't a
lot of sedimentation put down, but there was a lot
of erosion.

Speaker 1 (34:32):

Speaker 2 (34:32):
So some people suggest that it was during Snowball Earth
one of those periods where like ice sheets cover the
entire globe three miles thick, and that they could erode stuff,
you know, pretty cleanly across the globe. It's a pretty good,
pretty good theory. But stuff like that happens. So when
we're looking on Earth's surface, you run into problems. But

because that oceanic crust takes so much longer to recycle,
we could look there and conceivably find something hundreds of
millions of years old.

Speaker 1 (35:02):
Yeah. I also got to say Snowball Earth is I mean,
that's the next great Netflix show waiting to happen.

Speaker 2 (35:07):
Maybe that's about an adventurous geologist.

Speaker 1 (35:10):
Maybe, so I love it. So, Yeah, going back to
underwater seems to be a better bet than because of
stuff like the Great Unconformity. Going back underwater, where that
process is of wearing stuff away is much much slower,
is probably a better bet for us and a better
bet for future geologists.

Speaker 2 (35:32):
Yeah, because all the stuff that enters the ocean, or
is born and lives and dies in the ocean, it
becomes detritus that eventually tumbles down to the ocean floor
and it gets locked in as sediment there, and it
happens really really slowly, Like I think zero point eight
centimeters every thousand years is about the average sedimentation. So

that means that so far we have accumulated about point
one six centimeters of ocean sediment that would bear our presence,
possibly even bear the signals that we ever lived. But
we're doing we're adding to it every day thanks to
things like nitrogen fertilizer that we overuse that enters the

water sheds and eventually goes to the ocean and then
goes and gets trapped in sediment. And so if you
were a future archaeologist or geologist and you were looking
at the layer where we existed, you'd be like, what
is all this nitrogen suddenly doing here? And then also
what are these weird polymers that used to be our plastic?

From all this stuff, all the plastic that ends up
in our oceans, those will eventually fall down to the
bottom and become trapped in the sedimentary layer. Two.

Speaker 1 (36:45):
Yeah, so that super soaker that your kid lost beyond
the point where the waves would bring it back in
is eventually going to end up at the or the
trash that is floating around the ocean. All that stuff
is going to go down as well. And so this
is going to lead behind like a trace, a sediment trace,
where a future geologist might say, well, hey, I see

that there was this specific time period one hundred million
years ago where there was a spike in nitrogen, or
a spike in these weird human made polymers, or maybe
they didn't know that there were humans.

Speaker 2 (37:20):
But either way, like we're lizards.

Speaker 1 (37:22):
Yeah, something that doesn't jibe with what we have going
on today. There are all these weird spikes, So there
was clearly something going on in this time that we
now think of as our time here on planet Earth.

Speaker 2 (37:35):
Yeah, because that's how we we find mysterious signals in
the geological record. You compare it to what's above and
what's below it. And if something suddenly appears or disappears,
you know, like it's like look here, look closer here.
Now radioactivity will probably be a marker that will be
behind two from all the nuclear tests, there'll be plutonium

two forty four and iodine one nine, which have half
lives in the millions, tens of millions of years. If
we end up going out in a massive nuclear war,
you bet that will leave quite a signal in the
geological record. And one of the other things about leaving
like a record in oceanic crust is that the Earth
goes through cycles of like cooling and warming and cooling

and warming, and when it cools, the sea levels decline.
It gets sucked up into ice, and so what's under
the ocean may end up hundreds of miles inland, right
future archaeologists to find, probably more easily than they would
if it were underwater at the time.

Speaker 1 (38:37):
Yeah, for sure. So you know, sort of striking out
all over the place such that our old astronomer friend
Jason Wright is like, maybe Earth is not the place
to look. Maybe you should be you know, we should
be looking on a place like Mars that doesn't have
plate tectonics and is probably a better, more hospitable place
for some ancient thing to be discovered one day.

Speaker 2 (39:00):
Yeah, and not necessarily a Martian civilization, but an intelligent
Earth civilization that sent probes to Mars or something like that.
The European Space Agency also points out that if anybody
had been around to send like a probe out into
geosynchronous orbit the furthest reaches of geosynchronous orbit around Earth,
it would still be there. It's orbit wouldn't have collapsed yet.

So you know, we need to look for sixty six
million year old probes spinning around Earth. That's a good
good start too.

Speaker 1 (39:32):
Yeah, so all of this sort of presents a paradox
it's pretty interesting, which is that if you're going to
be an industrialized civilization that lasts long enough to leave
something behind for some future geologists to find, then that
means that you found some sort of sustainable way to survive.

And if you found a sustainable way to survive, that
means you're not making as much of a findable im
packed on Earth. You're living more sustainably, and so you're
not dumping plastics into the ocean or nitrogen into the
ocean and sort of cleaning up your act and erasing
your path a little bit better. If you're not doing that,
then that means you haven't found a sustainable way to live.

So that means you're going to as society die out
much quicker, so you're going to be just a shorter blip.
So either way, it's just going to make things more difficult.

Speaker 2 (40:24):
Yeah, whether you're long lived or short lived, the record
you leave is going to end up just being a
blip in the geological record.

Speaker 1 (40:31):
Right, Yeah, again on that huge timeline.

Speaker 2 (40:34):
So like, I'm sure some people are pulling their hair out.
They're like, how then, like it is even impossible to
find signals that an ancient civilization existed or what signals
will we leave too? And yes there are, And what
you want to look for is not like traces of
fossils or strange appearances of elements in the geological record

and sediments. Instead, you want to look at the impressions
that the effects of those things had on Earth, because
those get locked into geological records and they can stay
around for a very very long time, so much so
that we can look back into Earth's far, far far
distant past. Yeah, and we see signals that were like,

can't rule out that this some industrialized ancient civilization produced
these effects on Earth because we don't know what.

Speaker 1 (41:26):
Happened, yeah, exactly, And what we're talking about is something
called a hyper thermal event where three things kind of
line up, which is an abrupt extinction of maybe not everything,
but many, many, many species. That's pretty obvious. That coincides
with a build up of carbon in the atmosphere and
a lot of rapid coastal erosion. All of those three

things happening at once is called a hyper thermal event,
and it's a pretty good indication that something really really
big happened to wipe out most.

Speaker 2 (42:00):
Yes, and usually the hyperthermal events we found are caused
by negative carbon isotope extrusions, which is basically just a
different way of saying a ton of organic CO two
was pumped into the atmosphere and it had all of
these telltale marks, sea level rise leading to erosion, mass extinctions,
dogs and cats living together, all that stuff, right, And

so if we look in the past, there are events
that coincide with this. One of them is the Paleocene
Eocene Thermal Maximum, the PETM. It took place about fifty
six million years ago, so basically after the dinosaurs died
out and right after mammals started to take over Earth,
it got really hot. And I was trying to figure

out how hot the surface tempts and the Arctic Sea
were about seventy three degrees farrenheight twenty three degrees celsius.
That's what you find today around the Panhandle in the
Gulf of Mexico. These are the Arctic seeds today. The
global annual surface temperatures about fifty nine degrees farent height
fifteen celsius. Yeah, back then it was ninety degrees farent

hyder thirty two degrees celsius. Like, that's the global temperature,
the average across all of the globe. So it was
really really hot. And they have traced that to tons
of carbon dioxide suddenly appearing in the atmosphere causing all
these changes.

Speaker 1 (43:21):
Yeah, and that lasted for about one hundred thousand years.
But that's not the only one. There have been other
events similar to that in the Cretaceous period, in the
Jurassic period, in the Palaeozoic era, and then in the
six million years since the PETM the Paleocene Eocene thermal Maximum,

there were even more of those hyper thermal events. And
again they sort of all bore the same similarities, right.

Speaker 2 (43:51):
Yeah, because there's only so many ways that Earth responds
to being messed with yeah, and so like all of
these things kind of do bear a strike similarity, and
there are things, there's natural things that you can point
to that could have caused them, like massive volcanic activity
across Earth, or a sudden huge depositive shale ended up

in the mantle and got recycled very quickly, and all
sorts of CO two was released in the air. Who knows.
But what Schmidt and Frank basically point too is like,
and again they don't think this is correct. They say, like,
you can't rule out, yeah, that this is a marker
of an ancient civilization creating climate change in exactly the

same way that we're creating climate change today, because we
are laying down the foundations of a geological signal that
will be detectable hundreds of millions of years in the
future as a hyper thermal exactly like the ancient hyper
thermals we've discovered in Earth's past.

Speaker 1 (44:54):
Yeah, which is basically, if we do ourselves in with
climate change.

Speaker 2 (44:58):
Yeah, because they're predicting if we just keep going with
fossil fuels just for the rest of the century, by
the end of the century, will have increased the global
temperature by about four point eight degrees celsius, which is huge.
Is that qualifies as a hyper thermal maximum, and that
PETM like the biggest hyper thermal maximum that ever happened
all of a sudden, that took place over like one

thousand plus years. We're doing this in a couple hundred years,
so it will really stick out in the geological record.

Speaker 1 (45:27):
Yeah. I think the PETM had a five to seven
celsius degree rise, and if we're looking at four point
eight in that spend of time, that's trouble.

Speaker 2 (45:38):
Yeah, and that's just by the end of the century.
Who knows if we just keep going. We're not quite
sure when the whole thing will study itself out and
what the peaks will be when it does, you know.

Speaker 1 (45:47):

Speaker 2 (45:48):
So there's one other thing that I found really interesting
is that the fossil fuels that we're using to create
inadvertently this hyperthermal and Earth's geological record is create from
the mass extinctions from the past. Those die offs turned
into fossil fuels that we use today to essentially add

all that carbon to the atmosphere, which is creating these
warmer conditions. Yeah. And then if you take it one
step further, We're eventually going to create these mass extinctions
that will create the fossil fuels for another industrialized civilization
to come tens of millions of years in the future.

Speaker 1 (46:29):
That's right. We're just insignificant, aren't we. Yeah, but also
overly significant somehow.

Speaker 2 (46:36):
That's right. If you really want to get that driven home,
go read Peter Brandon's The Anthropistine as a joke. It
really it almost made me feel like fine about climate
change because it just in the grand scheme of things,
it's so insignificant. I had to be like, no, no,
it matters. It's important. Stop thinking like that. Yeah, uh
so you got anything else?

Speaker 1 (46:57):
I got nothing else. This is long a way did
for us and a lot of fun.

Speaker 2 (47:01):
Yeah, let's hope we remembered the press record.

Speaker 1 (47:04):
Oh god, I would just retire.

Speaker 2 (47:09):
Well, since Chuck said he would just retire, of course,
that means he's triggered.

Speaker 1 (47:12):
Listener mail, Yes, this is a story from Dylan. This
is one that I know about or knew about, but
I don't know if we ever talked about it. But
it's a pretty interesting little thing. Okay, hey guys, I've
been listening to you for about two years. Helps cut
down on my commute and I often learn a lot
during the hitchhiking up. You were talking about the Curb

Your Enthusiasm episode where Larry David picks up a sex
worker so he can ride in the carpool lane to
a Dodgers game, and I wanted to let you know
something about that episode. Did you know this?

Speaker 2 (47:45):
No? I thought this was amazing.

Speaker 1 (47:47):
Yeah, that episode was actually used to help secure an
alibi for a man, Juan Catalan, who is arrested for murder.
They filmed the episode during an actual Dodgers game, and
it just so happened that one and his family were
sitting in the same section as Larry David when they
were filming, and Wan's lawyer used the raw footage from
the episode to help exonerate him. So they picked up

this guy for murder. Yeah, and they proved him wrong
thanks to this Curby Your Enthusiasm footage. He was like
he was at the Dodger game. He couldn't have done it.

Speaker 2 (48:17):
God did not want one in jail.

Speaker 1 (48:19):
Amazing. There's a short documentary on Netflix called long Shot,
and it is truly one of the stories you can't
believe is true. Thanks for the years of entertainment. I
love sharing the knowledge with you guys, food Listener mail,
Stay positive and keep testing negative. Dylan.

Speaker 2 (48:35):
Awesome, Dylan, You're a cool cat we can tell. Thanks
a lot for that great email. That was amazing and
we will definitely go watch Long Shot very soon.

Speaker 1 (48:43):

Speaker 2 (48:44):
Do you want to get in touch with this like
Dylan did, You can send us an email. Send it
off to stuff podcast at iHeartRadio dot com.

Speaker 1 (48:54):
Stuff you Should Know is a production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio up Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

Speaker 2 (49:09):

Stuff You Should Know News

Advertise With Us

Follow Us On

Hosts And Creators

Josh Clark

Josh Clark

Chuck Bryant

Chuck Bryant

Show Links

Order Our BookStoreSYSK ArmyAboutRSS

Popular Podcasts

Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

Every week comedian and infamous roaster Nikki Glaser provides a fun, fast-paced, and brutally honest look into current pop-culture and her own personal life.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.