Silurian age: when dinosaurs went through the industrial revolution (science video).

In the shadowy depths of geological history, hidden between the layers of sediment and fossilized trilobites, could there lie traces of an advanced civilization that roamed the Earth before us? Dr. Gavin Schmidt raises this beguiling question, known academically as the “Silurian Hypothesis.” No, we’re not talking about lizard people or ancient aliens; rather, we’re diving into a speculative scientific thought experiment that keeps many a geeky researcher up at night, pondering over soil samples and atmospheric data.

The name “Silurian Hypothesis” may make you think of the Silurians from “Doctor Who,” a race of intelligent, ancient, and—admittedly—reptilian humanoids who once ruled the Earth. But let’s set our TARDISes aside for a moment. In reality, the Silurian Period existed around 443 million years ago, a time mostly known for its marine life and certainly not for its smartphone-wielding, latte-drinking urbanites. The idea here is to question: if there were a high-tech civilization back then, would we be able to tell?

Dr. Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist who probably doesn’t have a pet trilobite (but you never know), poses this query not to scout for interstellar ancestors but as a way to assess our scientific methods. Could our tools of discovery and exploration detect the legacy of an old civilization millions of years after its existence? We’ve seen how fossils, footprints, and ruins provide clues about ancient cultures, but what about civilizations so old that even their most enduring monuments have turned to dust or, more likely, fossil fuel?

Imagine a society that existed 100 million years ago. They could have had their own version of electric cars, computers, and even Wi-Fi (let’s call it “Dino-Fi”). Yet, over such immense timescales, metals corrode, concrete crumbles, and all that might be left could be a smattering of peculiar isotopes or layers of pollution in sedimentary rocks. Even their equivalent of the International Space Station would have long ago fallen back to Earth and become as indistinguishable from the rocks as a meteorite.

The Silurian Hypothesis serves as an eerie mirror for humanity, reflecting how our own advanced civilization will leave its mark—or lack thereof—on Earth’s geological record. Every piece of plastic, every skyscraper, and maybe even traces of our internet could become the cryptic ruins for future civilizations to scratch their heads—or antennae—over.

Interestingly, the premise adds another layer of complexity to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). If recognizing an ancient civilization on our home turf is so fraught with uncertainty, what does that imply about finding such civilizations on distant exoplanets? Will we know an alien city when we see one, or will it look more like a curious arrangement of rocks or a slight alteration in atmospheric composition?

In the end, the Silurian Hypothesis brings us back to a fundamental question: what does it mean to leave a lasting legacy? Is our imprint on the Earth, with its melting ice caps and growing landfills, the kind of history we want to leave behind? It gives us a pause, as if looking into a temporal rear-view mirror, offering a chance to think before we leave footsteps too heavy for future generations—be they human or otherwise—to follow.

In any case, as we continue to decode the Earth’s ancient past, we might not find any prehistoric laptops or dino-sized Ferris wheels, but we may find a lesson or two on humility and the transient nature of even the most advanced civilizations. Whether or not there’s a lost chapter in Earth’s history, we have the pen in hand to write the next one. Let’s make it worth reading.

Silurian age: when dinosaurs went through the industrial revolution (science video).
Silurian age: when dinosaurs went through the industrial revolution (science video).


Colonel Frog is a long time science fiction and fantasy fan. He loves reading novels in the field, and he also enjoys watching movies (as well as reading lots of other genre books).

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