34. After we’ve gone

Earth after Us coverWhat would a race of space-travelling aliens 100 million years in the future make of the Earth?

“One can imagine that they’ll be sufficiently scientifically curious to look on the world as extraordinary – because the Earth is extraordinary by comparison with all the other planets.

“And then to investigate its future present, as it were, and try to work out how this future present arose and how it survived for so long.

And to do that they’ll have to play the particular kind of history game that we call geology… they’ll have to become fossil detectives…”

My guest this week is Jan Zalasiewicz, who is a senior lecturer in the department of geology at the University of Leicester. The first ever edition of Podularity featured a geology title, Ted Nield‘s Supercontinent, so it’s fitting that we return to that subject as the programme approaches its second birthday.

Jan ZalasiewiczIn his new book, The Earth after Us, Jan decided to conduct a thought experiment on a grand scale – what would happen if you imagined applying the same techniques as we apply to the study of dinosaurs and other fossils to our own species in some far distant future epoch?

What kind of fossils will humans leave behind? What will happen to cities, cars, and plastic cups? How thick a layer will the “human stratum” be? And will it be obvious that our species once dominated the planet?

The answers are quite sobering…

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