The other critical innovation was the modern steam engine, which was intimately related to coal. Burgeoning coal mines quickly exhausted deposits above the water table and began digging deeply into the earth, and water in the mines became a great problem. Not only were floods killing miners, but standing water made mines inoperable. Romans pumped water from their mines (). So did British mining operations, and around 1710, combined the ideas of a and an to make the , to pump water from coal mines. In a parallel case of using coal for smelting, the coal-fired Newcomen engine was . It was the first of its kind, primitive compared to later engines, and its spread was gradual. . He eventually invented an improved version with a that was . The steam engine that powered the Industrial Revolution was thus born, although, as with coal, its spread was gradual, and wind and water power were competitive with coal for nearly a century. The hydrocarbon-fueled steam engine was the key to the Industrial Revolution, in which the energy of ancient sunlight was exploited to generate previously unimaginable power. A steam locomotive of 1850 roaring through the English countryside would have been inconceivable to an English peasant of 1500. From a to to to less than five hundred years, the duration of each Epochal Event continued to shrink as levels of energy use increased dramatically and with each event.
The orientation of the Americas meant that few innovations traveled between continental civilizations. The only pack animals in the Americas, llamas and alpacas, never made it past South America before the European invasion. But there was a continual migration of innovations between China, Europe, and the Fertile Crescent. That is thought to be partly why Eurasian cultures became technologically advanced over those of sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, and Australia.
In the tables above, some dates have ranges as such old dates often have relatively thin evidence supporting them, which can be interpreted in different ways. Those dates will be adjusted as the scientific evidence and theories develop. As I was writing this essay, a study was published that may have pushed back . Moving dates can change some theories of causation, but few scientists will dispute the idea that Earth’s atmosphere was primarily oxygenated by . It is the only plausible mechanism for that oxygenation event Earth’s continuing high atmospheric oxygen content.
Earth’s volume is about one trillion cubic kilometers, its core is believed to be about 90% iron, and the rest is largely nickel. The is thought to be mostly oxygen and silicon, and the remainder is largely composed of the lighter alkali and alkaline earth metals, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium. Those mantle metals are primarily bound in oxides. The mantle makes up more than 80% of Earth’s volume. The crust also is almost solely comprised of oxides. Silicon dioxide (sand and glass are made from it) is the most prevalent compound and the crust is, by mass, nearly 75% oxygen and silicon (), and nearly all of the remainder is aluminum, iron, and those lighter and earth metals. All other elements combined amount to less than 2% of Earth’s crust. An accompanying presents the current estimates of the relative concentrations of Earth’s mass and atoms that are relevant to this essay.
In their dance around an , electrons exist in “.” The most stable electron configuration exists when the electrons fill the shells and each electron is paired with another, and each electron spins in the opposite direction of its partner. The classical view of an electron had an electron orbiting the nucleus much in the same way that Earth orbits the Sun, but quantum theory presents a different picture, in which an electron is a . Even then, a hydrogen electron’s orbit does not look much different from the classical image, and the classical view largely suffices for this essay in presenting the energetic aspects of the electrons’ properties.
Paleobiologists are fascinated with the history of life on Earth, and I share their sense of wonder. If I can impart the slightest sense of that to my readers, this essay's first half will be successful for that alone. However, just as a math curriculum builds on itself, as each class forms the foundation of the next one, this essay's first half is intended to help readers develop a foundational understanding. With that foundation built, the information in this essay's last half can make a profound impact and help readers achieve personal paradigm shifts. That is essentially this essay's purpose. Studying this essay's first half is far from a waste of time for those whom I seek, but is vitally important.
This essay presents a , and nearly half of the events happened during the timeframe covered by this essay's first half, which includes almost the entirety of Earth's history. Humanity's tenure amounts to a tiny sliver of Earth's history, and surveying pre-human events was partly intended to help readers develop a sense of perspective. We are merely Earth's latest tenants. We have unprecedented dominance, but we are quickly destroying Earth's ability to host complex life. As my astronaut colleague openly wondered, is ? Is our path of destruction inevitable, as we plunder one energy resource after another to exhaustion? Will depleting Earth's hydrocarbons be the latest, greatest, and perhaps final instance?
Few people on Earth today have much understanding of the relationship between . Most people think that money runs the world, when it is only an accounting fiction. Money by itself is meaningless, and financial measures of economic activity can be highly misleading. I noted long ago that scientists had little respect for . that obscured the role of energy while exalting money. What a coincidence. Understanding this essay's first half will help with comprehending the last half, and the connections between energy, ecosystems, and economics should become clear.
Perhaps the most damaging deficiency in FE efforts, after self-serving orientation, was that the participants and their supporters were scientifically illiterate and easily led astray by the latest spectacle. Scientific literacy can help prevent most such distractions. While writing this essay, I was not only bombarded with news of the latest FE and alternative energy aspirants' antics, but I had to continually field queries regarding whether Peak Oil and Global Warming were conspiratorial elite hoaxes (or figments of the hyperactive imaginations of environmentalists and other activists), for two examples that readily come to mind. Digesting this essay's material should have those questions answered as mere side-effects. Far from being a hoax or imaginary, Peak Oil was and , and it is all downhill from there, and conventional oil will be almost entirely depleted in my lifetime. , although both were heavily promoted in the USA in 2014. In every paleoclimate study that I have seen, so-called greenhouse gases have always been considered the primary determinant of Earth's surface temperature (after the Sun), and carbon dioxide is chief among them. The radiation-trapping properties of carbon dioxide are not controversial in the slightest among scientists, and after the Sun's influence (which is exceedingly stable), declining carbon dioxide levels are considered to be the conditions that have dominated Earth for the past 35 million years. Humanity's increasing the atmosphere's carbon dioxide content is influencing the cause of Icehouse Earth, and , and are merely proximate causes. Increasing carbon dioxide can turn the global climate from an to a Greenhouse Earth, and the last time that happened, Earth had its . But have purposefully confused the issues, and a scientifically illiterate public and have played along, partly because believing the disinformation seems to relieve us all of any responsibility for our actions. Although scientific literacy can help people become immune to the disinformation and confusion arising from many corners, and reading this essay's first half can help people develop their own defense from such distractions, my goals for this essay's first half are far greater than that.
Could this essay's first half be considered an indulgence of my childhood fascination with nature? That argument could have merit, but I have always been a "big picture" kind of thinker, even as a teenager. I am writing this essay primarily to help manifest FE technology in the public sphere and help remedy the deficiencies in all previous attempts that I was part of, witnessed, heard of, or read about. The biggest problem, by far, was that those trying to bring FE technology to the public had virtually no support from the very public that they sought to help. My journey's most important lesson was that , and an egocentric humanity living in scarcity and fear is almost effortlessly manipulated by the social managers. John Q. Public is only interested in FE technology to the extent that he can immediately profit from it. Otherwise, he goes back to watching his favorite TV show. It took many years of disillusionment for that to finally become clear to me. While this essay and all of my writings are provided for free to humanity and anybody can read them, I intend to only reach a very tiny fraction of humanity with my writings, but that tiny fraction will be sufficient for my plan to succeed. The readers that I seek have a formidable task ahead of them, but nothing less is required for my approach to have any hope of bearing fruit. This essay and my other writings are intended as a course in (also called "big picture") thinking. Studying the details deeply enough to avoid misleading superficial understandings is also a key goal. I am an accountant by profession, but one of the world's leading paleobiologists surprisingly read an early draft of this essay and informed me that it was one of the best efforts that he ever saw on the journey of life on Earth. There was nobody on Earth whose opinion I would have respected more than his, so I do not think that I am asking readers of this essay's first half to humor me. Every sentient being on Earth should know the rudiments of what this essay's first half covers.
The (c. 5.3 to 2.6 mya) began warmer than , but was the prelude to today’s ice age, as temperatures steadily declined. An epoch of less than three million years reflects human interest in the recent past. Geologically and climatically, there was little noteworthy about the Pliocene (although the was created then), although two related events made for one of the most interesting evolutionary events yet studied. South America kept moving northward, and the currents that once in the Tethyan heyday were finally closed. The gap between North America and South America began to close about 3.5 mya, and by 2.7 mya the current land bridge had developed. Around three mya, the began, when fauna from each continent could raft or swim to the other side. South America had been isolated for 60 million years and only received the stray migrant, such as rodents and New World monkeys. North America, however, received repeated invasions from Asia and had exchanges with Europe and Greenland. North America also had much more diverse biomes than South America's, even though it had nothing like the Amazon rainforest. The ending of South America’s isolation provided the closest thing to a controlled experiment that paleobiologists would ever have. South America's fauna was devastated, far worse than European and African fauna were when Asia finally connected with them. More than 80% of all South American mammalian families and genera existing before the Oligocene were extinct by the Pleistocene. Proboscideans continued their spectacular success after leaving Africa, and species inhabited the warm, moist Amazonian biome, as well as the Andean mountainous terrain and pampas. The also invaded and thrived as a mixed feeder, grazing or browsing as conditions permitted. In came cats, dogs, camels (which became the ), horses, pigs, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, deer, bears, tapirs, and others. They displaced virtually all species inhabiting the same niches on the South American side. All large South American predators were driven to extinction, as well as almost all browsers and grazers of the grasslands. The South American animals that migrated northward and survived in North America were almost always those that inhabited niches that no North American animal did, such as monkeys, (which survived because of their claws), and their small cousins (which survived because of their armor), , and (which survived because of their quills). The opossum was nearly eradicated by North American competition but survived and is the only marsupial that made it to North America and exists today. One large-hoofed herbivore survived: the . The (it weighed one metric ton!) survived for a million years after the interchange. , that , also survived and migrated to North America and lasted about a million years before dying out. In general, North American mammals were , which resulted from evolutionary pressures that South America had less of, in its isolation. They were able to outrun and outthink their South American competitors. South American animals made it past South America, but none of them drove any northern indigenous species of note to extinction.