Category: Planetary Science

State of the Human’s ‘Crashing’

Once upon a time, Miles crashed a server with his project Geology of Game of Thrones. Today on the show, we’re featuring a short piece in which Miles shares the backstory to the project (and the server hullaballoo), as well as the connection he sees between Geology of GoT and the Anthropocene. Today’s episode was produced by Eileen Williams of the Stanford Storytelling Project, and was originally broadcast on their podcast State of the Human.

Check out the entire State of the Human episode Crashing.

Carbon Footprint of Superheroes

We are all hugely grateful for the sense of justice and security that superheroes provide. Their service to society is, of course, immeasurable. However – did you ever stop to consider the environmental impact of all this crime fighting?? …No? Well, we here at Generation Anthropocene are proud to announce that our own Miles Traer, PhD took it upon himself to pioneer a new field of energy accounting. Herein we announce the carbon footprint of superheroes, and, *HOLY ENERGY CONSUMPTION BATMAN*, there are a lot of emissions to account for.

Drawing from his extensive experience as a research scientist, Dr. Traer (again, PhD) addressed many outstanding questions about our caped crusaders’ copious carbon counts. For example, what exactly is the power source Tony Stark uses to power Ironman’s suit? How many calories does Flash eat to run at the speed of light? What rare materials are needed for Spiderman’s webbing?

Again, we recognize the vital role our superheroes play in keeping us all safe. But let us always remember that there are trade-offs, and at the end of the day we ALL need to do our part to help save the planet.

Read the entire Carbon Footprint of Superheroes now!

Prefer to test your knowledge first?! Take the quiz.

Earth in Human Hands

“What if life isn’t something that happens *on* a planet, but is something that happens *to* a planet? What if the planet itself is alive?” Thus begins one of the many intriguing thought exercises in astrobiologist David Grinspoon’s new book, Earth in Human Hands (available Dec. 6, 2016). David has long been a friend of the show, in large part because he possesses a unique ability to bring the geologic imagination to life. His approach to the Anthropocene READ MORE

Are we alone in the universe?

How did life begin on Earth? Curiously, scientists often search for the answer on other planets or moons in our solar system. After all, if we want to see whether our theories are right, we need to find another example of life somewhere. The search has taken us to some strange places seemingly frozen in time that give us hints to what Earth looked like billions of years ago when life first appeared in the geologic record: places like Mars that show evidence of fossil oceans, and places like Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, that show evidence of liquid water oceans containing organic READ MORE

The Dino Crater

One of the best tales of all time from geologic history is the story of the meteor impact that killed the dinosaurs. As it turns out, though, there are still many unanswered questions about what exactly happened the moment the meteor connected with our planet. In fact, until recently, scientists had yet to collect sediment cores from the center of the impact crater. On today’s show, producer Michael Osborne talks with Sean READ MORE

Kim Stanley Robinson

Think of the Anthropocene as a science fiction thought experiment. We imagine future geologists looking back into the rock record, and trying to pinpoint when humans became the dominant geologic force. In many ways, science fiction is the perfect genre for exploring environmental issues – running out scenarios and “what ifs” to their extremes, and imagining how that world would look and feel. Award-winning science fiction author READ MORE

Sounds of Space

When we think of space, we typically think of beautiful images taken by powerful telescopes and interplanetary rovers. We think of the rings around Saturn; the giant red spot on Jupiter; or Martian rover selfies. But what does the surface of Mars sound like? What haunting melody should we expect from our Sun? And what do these sounds teach us about our cosmic neighborhood? On today’s episode, producer Miles Traer takes us READ MORE

Hidden Water

Most of the changes scientists see on our planet are either visible to the naked eye or directly measurable.  But changes to our water systems are among the most difficult to see.  In this episode, we travel from the Antarctic ice sheet capturing over 60 percent of all freshwater on Earth, to massive groundwater aquifers that remain particularly elusive, to a freshwater system that acts as the primary economic, cultural, and environmental driver of southern Asia.  In short, we go in search of hidden water.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

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The Urban Equation

As cities continue to grow, scientists are trying to define the “Urban Equation” – a mathematical expression that defines not just a group of buildings, but a complex network of physical and social interactions.  Why?  Because our cities control previously elusive aspects of human evolution.  To understand our cities is to understand us.  In this episode, Luis Bettencourt and Tyler Nordgren discuss various elements of the urban equation.  We see how complex networks give rise to creativity; how to break an urban metropolis down into a series of mathematical symbols; and how our cities are dramatically affecting a cultural connection reaching back nearly 400 years.


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This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin Macleod (Tracks used: Finding Movement and Perspectives.  License available here)

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The geology of Game of Thrones

Image Map

This is Westeros as it exists in the days of tumult, in the days following the death of King Robert Baratheon, in the shortening days that warn that winter is coming.  But this is also the geologic history of Westeros, reaching far deeper through the annals of time than the reign of any of the Seven Kingdoms.  We pieced this geologic history together from character observations, town names, official Game of Thrones maps, and the principles of geology learned here on Earth.  Using only limited data we were able to reimagine 500 million years of planetary evolution, including volcanoes, continents rising from the oceans, and ice ages (with guest appearance by white walkers and dragons).  To explore the history, and to view our maps of the geologic reconstructions, click the numbered icons on the map, or on the links below. READ MORE