Is Our Planet Going the Way of the Dinosaurs?

We now think the big mass extinctions were caused by hydrogen sulfide bacteria. Two hundred hydrogen sulfide molecules among a million air molecules is enough to kill a human.

Is Our Planet Going the Way of the Dinosaurs?

Most of the big mass extinctions have been caused by nasty volcanic events.  The last one didn’t cause a mass extinction.  It was in the Tertiary Period.  This was in my own home state, Washington State, the Columbia River Basalts. 


Out came all this basalt, as liquid lava, and a lot of the carbon dioxide came out too, but not enough to cause the Earth to go into a really nasty mass extinction.  The mass extinctions caused by the basalts happen by simply heating the world.  When you heat the world you heat the pole more than you do the equatorial region.  When that happens, you start losing circulation.  The only reason you have wind now is you have a hot spot and a cold spot and they’re trying to equilibrate.  With an ocean current you have the same thing.  You have a cold Antarctic and then you warm them up, the ocean circulation system is dampened down. There’s much less heat difference.  

We already have very sluggish ocean circulation. The oceans are going oxic - losing their oxygen.  They only keep oxygenated now because of this vigorous mixing.  Even when you have oxygen in the atmosphere and contact with the surface, once you slow down any circulation, that whole basin can lose this oxygen.  The Black Sea is the same case.  It’s sits under a 21% oxygen atmosphere, and yet the Black Sea, except for the top several meters, in anoxic.  It’s black because it’s producing a lot of sulfur-producing bacteria and there’s very nasty gasses that are produced.  

We now think the big mass extinctions were caused by global anoxia.  The oceans themselves were so sluggish that the hydrogen sulfide bacteria were produced in huge areas of the ocean. The bottom bubbles up to the surface and starts killing things - rotten egg killing.  It would be extremely nasty.  Hydrogen Sulfide poisoning is a horrible death.  Two hundred hydrogen sulfide molecules among a million air molecules is enough to kill a human.  Just breathing in 200 of those little things amid all the million you’re getting in oxygen and boom, you’re down, horribly down.  

So, this is a really nasty poison and it was certainly present in past oceans during these short-term global warming events.  That’s why it’s really spooky what we’re doing now.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A 62-year old Russian mystery (and conspiracy theory) has been solved

Some mysteries take generations to unfold.

Winter in the Ural Mountains

Credit: Hикита Чертков / Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • In 1959, a group of nine Russian hikers was killed in an overnight incident in the Ural Mountains.
  • Conspiracies about their deaths have flourished ever since, including alien invasion, an irate Yeti, and angry tribesmen.
  • Researchers have finally confirmed that their deaths were due to a slab avalanche caused by intense winds.
Keep reading Show less

As we approach death, our dreams offer comfort and reconciliation

As patients approached death, many had dreams and visions of deceased loved ones.

Credit: Amisha Nakhwa on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

One of the most devastating elements of the coronavirus pandemic has been the inability to personally care for loved ones who have fallen ill.

Keep reading Show less

Surprising new feature of human evolution discovered

Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.

Human evolution.

Credit: Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
  • Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
  • The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
Keep reading Show less
Videos

Skepticism: Why critical thinking makes you smarter

Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.

Quantcast