Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Pangea Ultima - a Projection of the 250 Million Year Future



This is approximately what the Earth will look like in 250 million years. The supercontinent is called Pangea Ultima The Atlantic Ocean will be a memory and Australia will be having a land rush.

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To peer that far into the future is beautiful, wondrous. Perhaps at some point we'll also have enough data to predict future species with some reliability, and see into humanity's future as well.

Waiting for better science and better software, :-)

night sky
 
Night Sky,

We've been designing new species for thousands of years. It's called domestication, or agriculture. As far as predicting what comes after us, that would take some knowledge of which genes are changing at what rate. While we can do that now, the problem is that if the environment changes suddenly via a drought or some other disaster, all bets are off. Other genes will be selected for. We are consciously and subconsciously shaping our future by polluting the environment, overfishing the seas, and cutting down the forests. Scientists have found that catching the biggest fish makes future generations smaller. Elephants are growing smaller tusks due to poaching of elephants with larger tusks thus leaving elephants with smaller tusks around to reproduce. Polar bears are being selected to be strong swimmers as the arctic ice melts and they have to swim greater distances. I would rather Nature does the selection rather than man. Nature makes far fewer mistakes.
 
Yeah, as far as predicting what might live on Pangea Ultima and in the ocean, the problem is the stray asteroid or the next supervolcano eruption. The software would have to be a probabilities thing, based on both what we can figure out from the past and on current observations.

"I would rather Nature does the selection rather than man. Nature makes far fewer mistakes."

Now that's an interesting philosophical point. Is man Nature? Is there a dividing line? I wonder, if we were to eventually find planets with advanced life, if development would typically take the pattern it has on earth: a species gets smart, but maybe not smart enough. :-)
 
NightSky,

There are too many variables to make an accurate prediction of how multiple species evolve in a planetary ecosystem. As far as Man being part of Nature, one can say that we are part of Nature. How can we not be since we are part of the planetary ecosystem. However, look at the Garden of Eden story and Man's Fall. Mankind developed minds and became separate from both God and Nature according to the story. But the core of the story is true. When we developed minds, we couldn't feel that connection with God or Nature ( and what is God but Nature with intelligence and wisdom )and we fight Nature by trying to tame it or harness it to our needs. Witness New Orleans. We knew what would happen to that city if a hurricane hit it and still we did not prepare for it. We know that land below sea level will always flood unless measures are taken to prevent or mitigate the flood damage. Floods are natural and follow natural laws.

If you look at the collapse of many civilizations, said civilizations fell because the people destroyed or seriously damaged their local environments/ecosystems that supported them. This happened to Mesopotamia, the Maya, Angkor Wat, Caco Canyon, and Easter Island. The Vikings in Greenland died because the weather turned cold and the land couldn't sustain them. They refused to live as the Inuit and they chose to starve to death, though the Vikings have tales of similar Inuit communities starving to death as well from Inuit survivors who made it to Viking encampments.
 
I no longer frame mankind's behavior in terms of a Fall. When you said, "Floods are natural and follow natural laws" I'd parallel that with "Humans are natural and follow natural laws."

This includes the natural collapse of civilizations, and includes the natural proclivity for any species, mice or moss or men, to use all the available resources it possibly can to produce all the young it possibly can, focused on the short-term, heedless of the long-term, until "catastrophe" strikes.

It seems to me that the more we accept our behavior, individually and collectively, as natural drives, the more calm and less stressed we end up. This doesn't necessarily mean we sit around and do nothing. If we want to recycle, we do it. If we see value in supporting the Sierra Club or educating people on political issues, we do those things, too, all the while knowing that behind-the-scenes traits and adaptations are driving us, things that we will perhaps never put our finger(s) on.

It ends up very Zen-like. Here we are. No problem.

Not to say that your story is completely wrong and mine is completely right. The human brain loves to tell stories. I like my story best because I like science and because the story relieves a lot of stress and distress.

I enjoy your blog, John. It's thought-provoking and educational. I'm not trying to argue with you (too much) :-) via any comments I leave. I like sharing ideas and learning.
 
NightSky,

True, we are animals and we have drives and needs. The Fall of Man is a story and yes, people like stories to explain what they see. But we are unique among animals in that we have minds capable of foreseeing or at least planning for the future. Most predators do not kill all their prey. Their function is to weed out the less fit as part of natural selection. Predator and prey populations follow cyclical cycles based on the food available to each population. Man is different. We will kill until there is no more prey which is not very wise. You kill tigers until tigers are so rare that they are priceless, so they become ever more attractive to poaching and extinction for profit. How smart or wise is that to destroy a commons like that? (See Hardin's Essay in the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons .)We are supposed to be smart as individuals and as a species, but we usually act ignorant and stupid as individuals and as a species, more unconscious than conscious. I agree that most of what everyone does is unconscious, but then you have the conscious thinkers, doers, creators and leaders who make at least some of us stop and think, or at least, pause to wonder at it all.
 
With the predicted land rush here I better buy an acre or two ;)

Pete
(here in Australia)
 
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