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orionx103

Evolution and the Future

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This post is mainly just to get your mind going, and not to start a debate about evolution. I don''t want to get into that, really. Just take some time to think about the question and give a good reply. I don''t care if you use normal science or science fiction or even just what you guess would happen for a basis of your response, as long as you took the time to think about it. Also, correct me if I''m wrong in what I say. I won''t take offense. According to modern science, the earth is 4.5 billion years old. From what was essentially nothing, life developed in four billion years. The first life was unicellular bacteria. After the Precambrian era came the Paleozoic era, which is split into three different epochs: the Age of Invertebrates, the Age of Fishes, and the Age of Amphibians. After the Paleozoic era and the Age of Amphibians came the Mesozoic era and the Age of Reptiles, when the dinosaurs were dominant. If my math is correct, it took roughly 106 million years for reptiles to involve into dinosaurs. Most will agree that the Mesozoic era and the Age of Reptiles ended when an asteroid or meteroid (someone can clarify) hit the Earth. Most all life was wiped out. The remainders evolved into everything we have today in this, which is the Cenozoic era and the Age of Mammals. We humans are the dominant species. It took half a billion years for us to evolve from unicellular bacteria. Now, what would the world be like in another million, five million, ten million, or half a billion years if right now an asteroid hit and wiped the majority of us out? Personally, I think the only species that would survive would be deep water fish and small land animals that don''t need as much pure oxygen and not as much to eat. What would evolve from these? I think large mammals would evolve again, but differently. Would insects, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, or birds be dominant? Now let''s change the story. What if an atomic bomb was to go off? I think the radiation would end up wiping out most humans do to its cancer-causing abilities and that it would make most species steril. In Stargate SG-1, a race called the Asgard used to have humanoid bodies, until a major disaster made them all steril. After that, the began cloning their bodies and transferring their minds into the cloned bodies. After cloning bodies so many times, they ended up looking like stereotypical grays. Maybe that could happen to us as well? Cockroaches'' shell absorb radiation in stead of allowing it to affect them. Since a radioactive blast wouldn''t affect them, maybe they''d evolve into the next dominant species. Take into account also the fact that an atomic blast wouldn''t destroy our houses, buildings, plants, and so on. How might that affect the evolution of remaining species? Tell me what you think. Orion "Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own." -BRUCE LEE

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Atomic blasts wipe out most things in the immeadiate area. Also take into account that the only nuclear weapons ever employed on actual targets were in the 9-15 kiloton range. Most ICBM weapons have 3-25 individual thermonuclear weapons, yields typically ranging from 0.9-25 megatons each. Also account for a lot of missles aimed at each major metropolitan target, hitting it not once but several times at least. Cities would be decimated, but extremely remote areas would only have to contend with fallout. But there wouldn't be many buildings of great importance left; in fact, a civilization digging up our ruins would first wonder why if we were so advanced, did we not build cities? Then they might develop giger counters and realize there is a nice band of radioactive soil in the upper layers of their excavation sites ;-)(1) I don't think a nuclear war alone would wipe out the humans as a species, nor natural disaster (short of something going wrong with the sun), or even a metoer/cometary strike unless it was large .

Countries/areas that aren't involved in a major nuclear exchange (South America, Africa, the South Pacific including Australia and New Zealand) would be mostly left standing, and would only have to contend with all the nasty radiation and environmental effects. This would probably lead to the human species holding on, but just barely. If the current level of technology is lost (likely), then a rising civilization (human derived or otherwise) would have to contend with several factors; the depletion of easily accesable mineral reserves (zinc, copper, iron, coal, oil), possible artificial geographic barriers/passages (areas of persisting radioactivity), and the difficulties (and possible advantages) of being a creature evolving after a small (or large?) mass extinction.

Humans of the early Bronze and Iron Ages were actually able to pick up their vital ores right up of the ground; later, they hollowed out shallow mines. As these and other civilizations exploited thier natural resources, all of the easily accessable ores have been mined. There are some types of iron bearing minerals (iron oxide being an important example) still available in many areas at the surface, but these are the sorts that are prohibitively expensive or difficult to refine iron/copper/zinc/whathaveyou from (high temperatures, exotic chemical/acid combinations). What of all that ready-refined metal we leave lying about now? Most of it will be lost to oxidation. It is quite difficult (though possible with advanced chemistry knowledge and skill) to get the iron (or copper etc) out of an -oxide. This means no metal tools, armor, weapons etc.; where this hurts most is that tools wear out quickly. This is due to precision tools wearing out quite quickly and being difficult to fashion at all, thus making the detailed and reproducable measurements necessary for science (and therefore the evolution of complex ideas of chemistry and physics) and the construction of complex machinery very difficult at best and impossible at worst.

Previous geographic barriers to civilization and migration (yearly or mass migrations from place to place) difficult were marked by sea, desert, and some of the larger (Himalayas) mountainous regions. Seas and deserts persist; human-built roads in some areas may persist, allowing the passage of animals or beings (sentient) from one place to another, over mountains that the would otherwise be blocked by (2). Forgetting for a moment deserts created temporarily by radioactive effects, regions where the radioactivty persists but does not make it evidently so (no life whatsoever) will allow creatures to walk into it, absorb some of the radioactive elements, causing them to die early due to cancerous growths or poisonous effects of some of the isotopes. Some areas might give an animal enough radiation to kill it outright, while still harboring plant/and or other animal life. This might tend thin out the herbivores over an unnaturally large area. This also might have implications (religious/cultural) for any sentient species in the region. Some parts of the earth might not be populated by the creatures one would expect because of the "unnatural" geographic barriers.

In some ways it is good to evolve after a mass extinction. Plenty of territory to move to (with the above restriction), fewer (different) species in compitition. In some ways, biodiversity helps, however. Many species of flowering plant share genes through hybridization caused by bees and other creatures depositing other DNA on their (pistils I think is the proper organ for a flower?). Many types of grass seed are inedible to humans for example, and hybridization of cereals (wheat, rye, etc.) allowed farming which eventually allowed job specialization and cities. Without a lot of different plants/animals to choose from, a species, sentient or otherwise, might have a hard time finding a variety of foods, meaning a potato famine might kill off a whole race of creatures that depend on potatoes. Radiation might also lead to faster evolution of bacteria and such, hurting creatures with complex internal ecosystems (mammals and other advanced life), or causing a greater rate of extinction from disease of plants or animals, contributiting to wiping out possible food sources for other beings.

This is ignoring possible long term/short term environmental effects. Those can cause a whole spectrum of possible issues.

In terms of dominant species of animals, who knows? If a mass extinction occurs, the fossil record shows us that life evolves very rapidly to compensate (if a new species has an advantage over the few others that are left, it will dominate quite rapidly it's local environment). Given that after mass extincion events there are quite a few isolated places isolated from each other by distance, sea, desert, or possibly in this scenario radioactive regions, life would evolve differently in different places, leading quickly back to a great deal of biodiversity.

The lesson here? Life is tough, but civilization (as we know it) depends on a great many fragile factors.

(1) An exception would of course be the fabled Neutron Bomb. A speck of radioactivity at the epicenter, very (or no) little blast effect, just a lot of neutrons killing most animal life in their tracks, over anywhere between a city-wide area to 100 miles in radius (depending on whose estimates, and the size of the weapon is not a factor in it's power- according to some known laws of physics, it is possible that there might only be one size/yield practical or possible. No one really knows in civilian academia, related research is somewhat a taboo). These weapons are (currently) not acknowledged as ever have been in development/deployment by any nation, but it is suspected that the now and former superpowers might posses them, and Israel is rumored (or rumored to have spread the rumors) to have developed or pursued research into this.

(2) Perhaps super-tunnels, like the Chunnel or super-bridges (such as the planned project at Gibraltar), could still be around, but in a war they would be important strategic targets, so I doubt it. Grading and blasting of roads through mountain passes creates whole areas that are now traversable on foot that were not before; bombs, atomic or otherwise, would be hard-pressed to alter this (they can remove rock, but not pile a neat barrier of it).

-----

If you want more info, try looking up non-fiction articles by Isaac Asmiov (one of the most prolific authors of fiction or non-fiction, (particularly if you put science/scientific before those two classifications)), and you will find a lot of material about the actual evolution of civilization and hopefully a specific article that talks about what I just posted in a great more detail. Also good are some books that deal with the evolution of civilization, but beware as there is quite a bit of BS for sale/loan at bookstores and libraries. A lot of pure bullshit is written on this topic to support various agendas (religious, racial, cultural, support of various whack psychological theories, author's random personal agenda). It might be fun to make a game that acts as if these ideas were true, though (some of them make good science fiction reading hee hee).

Edited for clarity.

[edited by - SteevR on May 26, 2004 5:28:35 AM]

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OT Note: The Big Bang Theory is largely a Christian theory, which doesn't receive much, if any, attention from the more established scientists. And, the first scientists in recorded history were monks. They also did the recording too.

[edited by - Onikan on May 26, 2004 9:13:05 AM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I think it was the Discovery channel that had a documentary outlining much of the scenario you described: What would happen if an asteroid wiped out all of humanity, and most land-animals altogether, right now...what would we have in 100 million years.

A lot of cool stuff, and they even took into account climate and geographical changes in 100 million years...for example, by then, the east coast of the U.S. would be largely desert, France would be a tropical jungle...continental drift brings the continents closer together, allowing massive superstorms to develop over the single enormous ocean that''s left...

Anyway, their guess was that squids would become the next sentient life-form. Eventually, they evolve to the point where they survive on land, and use their tentacles to manipulate tools, weapons, and objects, even swing from tree to tree to escape predators.

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quote:
Original post by Onikan
OT Note: The Big Bang Theory is largely a Christian theory, which doesn''t receive much, if any, attention from the more established scientists. And, the first scientists in recorded history were monks. They also did the recording too.


The theory to explain away the creation of the universe and the absense of a god is a "largely christian theory"?

That makes sense to you?

MindEngine Development | E-Commerce Business Architecture

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quote:
Original post by neurokaotix
quote:
Original post by Onikan
OT Note: The Big Bang Theory is largely a Christian theory, which doesn''t receive much, if any, attention from the more established scientists. And, the first scientists in recorded history were monks. They also did the recording too.


The theory to explain away the creation of the universe and the absense of a god is a "largely christian theory"?

That makes sense to you?

MindEngine Development | E-Commerce Business Architecture


Pretty much, because if you think about it, what would be their answer to "what caused the bang in the first place"?

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Evolution wise, humanity is a dead-end. I say this given the consideration that the survival of the fittest model doesn''t apply. Compasion, Empathy, or faulty contraception all allow for almost all human mutations to be passed along in reproduction.

As for what would happen if humanity were wiped out, well, from a literary stand-point, the only stories of any interest involve human personification, so I assume another race would evolve to replace humanity.

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Well, I started a post to get your mind goin'' and it looks like that''s what I did. You''ve given me a lot to work with, SteevR. Kudos.

quote:
Original post by SteevR
I don''t think a nuclear war alone would wipe out the humans as a species, nor natural disaster (short of something going wrong with the sun), or even a metoer/cometary strike unless it was large .



Science fiction. Doesn''t matter if you think it could happen-- it''s still fun to think about what may or may not happen if it did. Nothing interesting comes out of asking, "What if this could happen," and forgetting it because it''s not possible or rational.

quote:

Humans of the early Bronze and Iron Ages were actually able to pick up their vital ores right up of the ground; later, they hollowed out shallow mines. As these and other civilizations exploited thier natural resources, all of the easily accessable ores have been mined. There are some types of iron bearing minerals (iron oxide being an important example) still available in many areas at the surface, but these are the sorts that are prohibitively expensive or difficult to refine iron/copper/zinc/whathaveyou from (high temperatures, exotic chemical/acid combinations). What of all that ready-refined metal we leave lying about now? Most of it will be lost to oxidation.



Would even stainless steel oxidize? Pardon my ignorance, I''ve not taken chemistry or even looked into it. And after 100 million years, wouldn''t it kinda be put back into a form where it could be mined?

quote:

It is quite difficult (though possible with advanced chemistry knowledge and skill) to get the iron (or copper etc) out of an -oxide. This means no metal tools, armor, weapons etc.; where this hurts most is that tools wear out quickly. This is due to precision tools wearing out quite quickly and being difficult to fashion at all, thus making the detailed and reproducable measurements necessary for science (and therefore the evolution of complex ideas of chemistry and physics) and the construction of complex machinery very difficult at best and impossible at worst.



Evolution occurs to suit the needs of a species. Maybe, without the tools needed, a species would evolve into a new species with advanced naturals "weapons" and armor. Maybe a specifically strong hide, great strength, the ability to secrete an acid or poison or something along those lines.

quote:

Forgetting for a moment deserts created temporarily by radioactive effects, regions where the radioactivty persists but does not make it evidently so (no life whatsoever) will allow creatures to walk into it, absorb some of the radioactive elements, causing them to die early due to cancerous growths or poisonous effects of some of the isotopes. Some areas might give an animal enough radiation to kill it outright, while still harboring plant/and or other animal life. This might tend thin out the herbivores over an unnaturally large area. This also might have implications (religious/cultural) for any sentient species in the region. Some parts of the earth might not be populated by the creatures one would expect because of the "unnatural" geographic barriers.



Is it possible for radiation to mutate a species, or a large number of species, without making them sterile? What if the world in millions of years had evolved from radiactive mutants?

Orion

"Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own."
-BRUCE LEE

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
I think it was the Discovery channel that had a documentary outlining much of the scenario you described: What would happen if an asteroid wiped out all of humanity, and most land-animals altogether, right now...what would we have in 100 million years.



From what I understand of the first mass-exinction, mostly just the small land animals that were close to the ground and sea creatures that lived in deeper waters survived. This actually includes turtles and alligators. Humans evolved near the equator in Europe and Asia. Take into consideration what animals in Europe and Asia, around the equator, fit into those categories. I''m guessing the biggest animals would end up evolving into the dominant species, so the biggest surviving animal (in a group made up of mostly small animals) would end up being the dominant species of the future.

Also, what if there were different dominant species for different areas? What cultural implications could this have in millions of years when the dominant species reach a sentient status?


Orion

"Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own."
-BRUCE LEE

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