By the 1850s, Germany was , and seminal discoveries and achievements came from German labs. As agriculture became industrialized, two nutrients were identified as key limiting resources as per : phosphorous and . Until 1909, humanity’s source of nitrogen for agriculture was manure. Guano was even the main source of nitrate for gunpowder when World War I began in 1914. After a century of failure by many eminent chemists, in 1909 made one of history’s most momentous breakthroughs when he . That energy-intensive process is responsible for half of humanity’s food supply today. It is also partly responsible for a great deal of water pollution, , and proliferation of weaponry. Haber has also been called the father of chemical warfare, as he was instrumental in , but he nevertheless won his Nobel Prize in 1918 for his nitrogen breakthrough. Phosphorus, which forms the , is the sole element that humanity has not found a substitute for in industrial civilization. Energy makes nitrogen and other elements more available or allows for substitution, while phosphorous must be mined or recycled. German chemical wizardry continued after World War I, and Germany was the center of science in the early 20th century. Relativity and quantum theory, the two pillars of today’s physics, were developed in Germanic nations, and Einstein, , , , , , and dominated physics in the early 20th century, with relatively minor contributions from American, British, and French scientists. From the first Nobel prizes awarded in 1901 to the rise of Nazi Germany in 1933, more than a third of the awards in and went to Germans, and if the Swiss, Dutch, Austrian, Danish, and Swedish laureates are added, they amount to well more than half, particularly for their theoretical work.
From the , elites have played the same basic games, which were concerned with gaining economic power as a means to political power. All ruling classes . The elites of city-states, whether they were in Mesopotamia or Mesoamerica, tried to militarily conquer their neighbors and form larger polities. Nations and empires have constantly formed, fragmented, and fallen over the millennia, and they almost always disintegrated because they ran out of energy. Greed and can never be satiated, and those in their thrall continually feed their addictions. often become successful politicians and corporate executives, as their affliction is advantageous in organizations in which amassing wealth and power are primary goals. For those who have encountered today’s ultra-elite and lived to tell about it, the evils that they relate about such environments are difficult for “normal” people to understand. Those at the top have elevated greed and a lust for power to nearly inconceivable levels. Just as John Rockefeller hired talented psychopaths, so do the GCs. I have encountered their agents and they talented; I will grant them that. The tried to blame my former partner for her death . He probably worked for the GCs, but was a contract agent, as many are. He later defrauded the public with the same tactics he used to help destroy our company, as did another contract agent provocateur, . People like them do not have consciences.
In the Eastern Woodlands of North America, natives began domesticating plants before 2500 BCE. It may well be an independent domestication event. Those horticulturalists largely became matrilineal societies. The was succeeded by the , in which maize seems to have made its way from Mesoamerica. Around 500 CE, the , the bow and arrow supplanted the spear and atlatl, and the "" - maize, beans, and squash - began dominating food production. When the began around 800 CE, intensive maize production began and spread, which led to rapid population growth and the rise of , which led to the only pre-Columbian North American city, at , which collapsed, almost certainly from environmental over-taxation and a cooling climate, before 1400 CE. The mound-building Mississippian culture had a familiar trajectory, as intensive agriculture led to an agricultural surplus. Men, who controlled the surplus and rose to dominance, commandeered the local religion into granting them divine status or sanction and erected monumental architecture to themselves and their divine yet invisible patrons. As in , they made their structures from earth instead of stone. Soil fertilization for maize-growing was not practiced, which rapidly depleted the soils (there were no domestic animals to provide manure, and the Indians did not adopt the night soil practices of East Asia), and the cooling of the , along with declining soil fertility, spelled the decline of Mississippian culture before Europe's first invasions of the Columbian era. The and its aftermath was a catastrophe for Mississippian peoples. Later European invaders . By the 1600s, when England began invading the Eastern Woodlands, the Mississippian culture had vanished, and by the late 1700s, the Southeastern Indians not only retained no memory of who made those mounds that they lived near, they also had no memory of the social order that built them. The Cherokee seemed to retain some vestigial memory of Mississippian culture, as they had stories of despotic Indians that the Cherokee annihilated, but the mounds had become the source of a myth that spirit warriors lived in the mounds and could issue forth and fight Cherokee enemies.
and noted that Eurasia was spread along an east-west axis, while Africa and the Americas were north-south, which made Old World diffusion easier, but that idea also has problems, as Fertile Crescent crops did not spread to East Asia due to rainfall timing differences (winter rains in the west and summer monsoons in the east). Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations had dramatic geographic limitations, which was their greatest contrast with Eurasian civilizations. However, like the migration of or the exchange when , it was easier for cultural innovations to spread along the same latitude, as they would move through similar biomes. North-south diffusion is far more difficult, as it moves through different biomes, such as tropical forests and . Eurasia's geography was more conducive to communicating innovations, which made it more cosmopolitan than sub-Saharan Africa or the Americas, which helped them technologically advance at a faster pace. Isolated peoples are usually culturally and technologically backward compared to nearby peoples who are more cosmopolitan, and people isolated by mountainous geography, such as those of the Scottish Highlands, Balkans, Appalachia, and Southeast Asia were relatively primitive compared to those around them. and are classic instances of isolated peoples keeping their cultures intact, which provided a window into the human past, but their cultures also did not "progress," which included their technology.
Because the Western Hemisphere’s inhabitants were virtually all in their Stone Age, they as greatly as Old World civilizations did, and many societies were environmentally sustainable and provided seeming answers to questions that scientists have asked about Old World civilizations’ development. The natives of coastal California were familiar with agriculture, as it was practiced by nearby inland tribes, but they never adopted it. California was so bountiful, and its climate was so human-friendly, that its natives retained their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Similarly, northward on the Pacific Northwest's coast, natives created an economy in which half of its calories derived from salmon runs, and those peoples were relatively sedentary without agriculture. Natives turned the Great Plains into a big pasture for bison, and the biome was partly maintained by annual burning of the grasslands. In Mesoamerica, farming has been sustainable for thousands of years. In the Amazon, the natives transformed the rainforest, and a higher proportion of plants and trees provided human-digestible foods than in any other “wild” place on Earth, those natives also terraformed thin tropical soils with ceramics (maybe unintentional) and charcoals (intentional) and made super-soils called and . In summary, native practices in the Western Hemisphere were often sustainable if not quite abundant. But when civilizations arose, they had problems that were like their Old World counterparts'. Their problems were also environmental and not just the injustices of hierarchal societies, often steeply hierarchical.
As will become a familiar theme in this essay, the rise and fall of species and ecosystems is always primarily an energy issue. The Ediacaran extinction is a good example: Ediacaran fauna either an energy source for early Cambrian predators, ran out of food energy, ran out of the oxygen necessary to power their metabolisms, or lacked some other energy-delivered nutrient. After the extinction events, biomes were often cleared for new species to dominate, which were often descended from species that were marginal ecosystem members before the extinction event. They then enjoyed a of relative energy abundance as their competitors were removed via the extinction event.
Another major advance happened in the late 20th century: the ability to analyze DNA. was discovered in 1953. In 1973, . In 2003, . was accomplished in 2005, for orangutans in 2011, and for in 2012. The comparisons of human and great ape DNA have yielded many insights, but the science of DNA analysis is still young. What has yielded far more immediately relevant information has been studying human DNA. The have been identified. Hundreds of falsely convicted Americans have been released from prison, and nearly 20 from , due to Human DNA testing has provided startling insights into humanity's past. For instance, in Europe it appears that after the ice sheets receded 16,000 to 13,000 years ago, , and for all the bloody history of Europe over the millennia since then, there have not really been mass population replacements in Europe by invasion, migration, genocide, and the like. Europeans just endlessly fought each other and honed the talents that helped them conquer humanity. There were , but other than hunter-gatherers being displaced or absorbed by the more numerous agriculturalists, there do not appear to be many population replacements. In 2010, suggested that male farmers from the Fertile Crescent founded the paternal line for most European men as they mated with the local women. DNA testing has demonstrated that all of today’s humans are , of whom a few hundred and conquered Earth. The , as well as genomes of other extinct species, and for a brief, exuberant moment, some scientists thought that , -style. Although dinosaur DNA is unrecoverable, organic dinosaur remains been recovered, and even some proteins have been sequenced, which probably no scientist believed possible in the 1980s.
So far in this essay, mammals have received scant attention, but the mammals’ development before the Cenozoic is important for understanding their rise to dominance. The , called , first , about 260 mya, and they had key mammalian characteristics. Their jaws and teeth were markedly different from those of other reptiles; their teeth were specialized for more thorough chewing, which extracts more energy from food, and that was likely a key aspect of success more than 100 million years later. Cynodonts also developed a secondary palate so that they could chew and breathe at the same time, which was more energy efficient. Cynodonts eventually ceased the reptilian practice of continually growing and shedding teeth, and their specialized and precisely fitted teeth rarely changed. Mammals replace their teeth a . Along with tooth changes, jawbones changed roles. Fewer and stronger bones anchored the jaw, which allowed for stronger jaw musculature and led to the mammalian (clench your teeth and you can feel your masseter muscle). Bones previously anchoring the jaw were no longer needed and . The jaw’s rearrangement led to the most auspicious proto-mammalian development: . Mammals had relatively large brains from the very beginning and it was probably initially . Mammals are the only animals with a , which eventually led to human intelligence. As dinosaurian dominance drove mammals to the margins, where they lived underground and emerged to feed at night, mammals needed improved senses to survive, and auditory and olfactory senses heightened, as did the mammalian sense of touch. Increased processing of stimuli required a larger brain, and . In humans, only livers use more energy than brains. Cynodonts also had , which suggest that they were warm-blooded. Soon after the Permian extinction, a cynodont appeared that may have ; it was another respiratory innovation that served it well in those low-oxygen times, functioning like pump gills in aquatic environments.
In the Western Hemisphere, the and civilization collapses of around a thousand years ago, or the Mississippian civilization collapse of 500 years ago, have elicited a great deal of investigation. From New Age ideas that the Anasazi and Mayan peoples “ascended” to the Eurocentric conceit that the was European in origin, many speculations arose that have been disproven by the evidence. It is now known that the Anasazi and Mayan culture collapses were influenced by epic droughts, but that was only the proximate cause. The ultimate cause was that those civilizations were not energetically sustainable, and the unsustainable long before Europeans invaded North America. The Anasazi used logs to build their dwellings that today . Scientists have used strontium ratios in the wood to determine where the logs came from, as well as dating the wood with and analyzing , and a sobering picture emerged. The region was already arid, but agriculture and deforestation desertified the region around , which was the heart of Anasazi civilization. When Anasazi civilization collapsed, at Chaco Canyon they were hauling in timber from mountains more than 70 kilometers away (the strontium ratios could trace each log from the particular mountain that it came from). When the epic droughts delivered their final blows, Anasazi civilization collapsed into a morass of starvation, warfare, and cannibalism, and the forest has yet to begin to recover, nearly a millennium later.