After as little as a half-million years of bedraggled survivors adapting to ice age seas, the ice sheets retreated and the oceans rose. The of the time may have also changed, and upwelling, anoxia, and other dramatic chemistry and nutrient changes happened. Those dynamics are suspected to be responsible for the second wave of extinctions. There also seem to have been .Atmospheric oxygen levels may have fallen from around 20% to 15% during the Ordovician, which would have contributed to the mass death. Seafloor anoxia seems to have been particularly lethal to continental-shelf biomes, possibly all the way to shore. It took the ecosystems millions of years to recover from the Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction, but basic ecosystem functioning was not significantly altered in the aftermath, which is why a has been proposed as a more significant extinction event. The were laid down by the . Most oil deposits were formed in the era of dinosaurs and the processes of oil deposit formation were similar; they were related to oceanic currents. When currents came to shore via the bottom and the prevailing winds blew the top waters offshore, it became a and anoxic sediments could form. When the winds blew onshore and left via the bottom, the waters became clear and are known as nutrient deserts. The oscillation between nutrient traps and nutrient deserts can be seen in oil deposit sediments. In the mid-20th century, Soviet scientists revived an old hypothesis that oil was , a variation of which was also championed by , but improving tools and investigation invalidated those hypotheses. No petroleum geologists today seriously consider the abiogenic origin of hydrocarbons. Oil sediment formation events seem related to mantle and crust processes that created high sea levels and anoxic events, and the last great one was in the , which formed more than 10% of the world's oil deposits.
But the branch of the that readers might find most interesting led to humans. Humans are in the phylum, and the last common ancestor that founded the Chordata phylum is still a mystery and understandably a source of controversy. Was our ancestor a ? A ? Peter Ward made the case, as have others for a long time, that it was the sea squirt, also called a tunicate, which in its larval stage resembles a fish. The nerve cord in most bilaterally symmetric animals runs below the belly, not above it, and a sea squirt that never grew up may have been our direct ancestor. Adult tunicates are also highly adapted to extracting oxygen from water, even too much so, with only about 10% of today’s available oxygen extracted in tunicate respiration. It may mean that tunicates adapted to low oxygen conditions early on. Ward’s respiration hypothesis, which makes the case that adapting to low oxygen conditions was an evolutionary spur for animals, will repeatedly reappear in this essay, as will . Ward’s hypothesis may be proven wrong or will not have the key influence that he attributes to it, but it also has plenty going for it. The idea that fluctuating oxygen levels impacted animal evolution has been gaining support in recent years, particularly in light of recent reconstructions of oxygen levels in the eon of complex life, called and , which have yielded broadly similar results, but their variances mean that much more work needs to be performed before on the can be done, if it ever can be. Ward’s basic hypotheses is that when oxygen levels are high, ecosystems are diverse and life is an easy proposition; when oxygen levels are low, animals adapted to high oxygen levels go extinct and the survivors are adapted to low oxygen with body plan changes, and their adaptations helped them dominate after the extinctions. The has a pretty wide range of potential error, particularly in the early years, and it also tracked atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. The challenges to the validity of a model based on data with such a wide range of error are understandable. But some broad trends are unmistakable, as it is with other models, some of which are generally declining carbon dioxide levels, some huge oxygen spikes, and the generally relationship between oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which a geochemist would expect. The high carbon dioxide level during the Cambrian, of at least 4,000 PPM (the "RCO2" in the below graphic is a ratio of the calculated CO2 levels to today's levels), is what scientists think made the times so hot. (Permission: Peter Ward, June 2014)
Another key set of tensions are those between theorists, empiricists, and inventors. Theorists attempt to account for scientific data and ideally predict data yet to be adduced, which tests the validity of their hypotheses and theories. often produce that scientific data. Inventors create new technologies and techniques. Albert Einstein is the quintessential example of a theorist, who never performed experiments relating to his theories but accounted for experimental results and predicted them. , who performed the experiment that produced results that various scientists wrestled with for a generation before Einstein proposed his , never suspected that their experiment would lead to the theories that it did. The most important experiments in science’s history were often those producing unexpected results and were usually called failures. Einstein’s had no experimental evidence when he proposed it (it , but that was the only evidence for it when the theory was proposed), but it has been confirmed numerous times since then. Einstein expected that his theories would eventually be falsified by experimental evidence, but that the best parts of his theories would survive in the new theories.
When you fire an arrow from a bow you will see that different angles of elevation give different ranges. In a vacuum it can be seen that the maximum range occurs for an elevation of 45º. However, in air, the range and elevation are not related so simply (see the two graphs below). This suggests several good EEIs. You could merely find out which elevation gives the best range when "draw" is kept constant, but you could also propose an hypothesis along the lines of "45° gives the greatest range" and that angles above or below this give a shorter range. Further, complementary angles are said to give the same range - but this could be tested (see diagram below). Lastly - is "range" the only dependent variable you want to look at. Perhaps an archer is more interested in "time of flight" as this may give better accuracy (less time for air resistance to apply). I have attached two pages from my text that may be helpful in designing this experiment. to download them. For safety information about archery, see the comments in the EEI suggestion above.
Here's a neat EEI from Sandgate State High School courtesy of physics teacher Ewan Toombes. It goes thus: Stage1 - Design and build a Robot Submarine using plastic bottle ranging from a 1.25L softdrink bottle up to a 4L juice container which can be trimmed to neutral buoyancy so that it "floats" just above the bottom of the pool at a depth of 1 metre. Stage 2 , The Escape - Release or inject a known volume of gas into the ballast tank(s) by remote control (something that operates above but works under water that allows you to inject a known volume of gas into your submarine) that will allow it to escape to the surface carrying a "treasure" of known mass that was resting on the bottom and attached to the submarine by a slack piece of string. Stage 3 - Measure the acceleration of the submarine as it rises. Stage 4 - Calculate the acceleration it should have had due to the excess gas and use your research to explain any difference between the two. That's the start. Now think of some variables to manipulate, propose an hypothesis, justify it, design an experiment and go and investigate. Photo taken at Sandgate SHS.
Monkeys, apes, and humans have many traits in common, and one is that members of "out-groups" are fair game. Chimpanzees are the only non-human animals today that form ranked hunting parties, and they are also the only ones that form hunting parties to . Distinct from the killer ape hypothesis, which posits that humans are instinctually violent, the chimpanzee violence hypothesis proposes that chimps only engage in warfare when it makes economic sense: when the benefits of eliminating rivals outweigh the risks/costs. Macaque wars and revolutions appear spontaneously, but chimp wars have calculation behind them, which befits a chimp’s advanced cognitive abilities; they plan murderous raids and carry them out. It is quite probable that the advancing toolset of protohumans was used for coalitionary killing when perceived benefits exceeded assessed risks/costs. Just as with , these traits probably also existed in our last common ancestor. Other animals also engage in intra-species violence, which includes spiders when key resources are scarce and contested, and when ant colonies have power imbalances, they can trigger invasion and extermination by the larger colony. But human and chimpanzee warfare is uniquely organized and calculating.
for mass extinctions have been suggested. speculated that extinctions might have regular periodicity, and other scientists have . Around 30 million years is the average time between mass extinctions, which set scientists speculating whether galactic dynamics could be responsible. from supernovas have been proposed as one possible agent, as have , but the periodicity hypothesis has fallen out of favor. The periodic nature of mass extinctions could be because it takes millions of years for complex ecosystems to recover from the previous extinction events and build themselves into unstable states again, when new events cause the ecosystems to collapse.
Studies have shown that humans and chimpanzees have the same basal metabolism, so the first possibility is considered very unlikely in our ancestors, although large brains in general . The subject of reducing energy output has an intriguing hypothesis: bipedal motion allowed humans to move by using less energy than our pre-bipedal ancestors. Human bipedal locomotion requires only a quarter of the energy that chimpanzee locomotion does, and chimps use about a quarter of their metabolism walking, although whether this was a key evolutionary event is controversial. Even though protohumans would have taken advantage of bipedal walking to range farther than chimps (humans can average 11 miles a day, while chimps can only achieve six), thereby using a relatively larger proportion of their energy on locomotion; bipedal locomotion energy savings alone might largely account for the growing brain’s energy needs. was developed to account for the required energy, which proposed that energy to fuel the growing brain came from reducing digestion costs, which was initially provided by eating more meat.
There is also evidence that life itself can contribute to mass extinctions. When the eventually , organisms that could not survive or thrive around oxygen (called ) . When anoxic conditions appeared, particularly when existed, the anaerobes could abound once again, and when thrived, usually arising from ocean sediments, they . Since the ocean floor had already become anoxic, the seafloor was already a dead zone, so little harm was done there. The hydrogen sulfide became lethal when it rose in the and killed off surface life and then wafted into the air and near shore. But the greatest harm to life may have been inflicted when hydrogen sulfide eventually , which could have been the final blow to an already stressed ecosphere. That may seem a fanciful scenario, but there is evidence for it. There is fossil evidence of during the Permian extinction, as well as photosynthesizing anaerobic bacteria ( and ), which could have only thrived in sulfide-rich anoxic surface waters. Peter Ward made this key evidence for his , and he has implicated hydrogen sulfide events in most major mass extinctions. An important aspect of Ward’s Medea hypothesis work is that about 1,000 PPM of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which might be reached in this century if we keep burning fossil fuels, may artificially induce Canfield Oceans and result in . Those are not wild-eyed doomsday speculations, but logical outcomes of current trends and , proposed by leading scientists. Hundreds of already exist on Earth, which are primarily manmade. Even if those events are “only” 10% likely to happen in the next century, that we are flirting with them at all should make us shudder, for a few reasons, one of which is the awesome damage that it would inflict on the biosphere, including humanity, and another is that it is entirely preventable with the use of technologies .
In the early 19th century, a dispute was personified by , a British lawyer and geologist, and , a French paleontologist. Their respective positions came to be known as and . Just as , so did uniformitarianism prevail in scientific circles. Under the comforting uniformitarian worldview, there was no such thing as a global catastrophe. Changes had only been gradual, and only the present geophysical, geochemical, and biological process had ever existed. The British Charles Darwin explicitly made Lyell’s uniformitarianism part of his evolutionary theory and he proposed that extinction was only a gradual process. Cuvier was , which contradicted the still-dominant Biblical teachings, even in the . Although Cuvier did not subscribe to the , his catastrophic extinction hypothesis was informed by his fossil studies. But Lyell and Darwin prevailed. Suggesting that there might have been catastrophic mass extinctions in Earth’s past was an invitation to be branded a pseudoscientific crackpot. That state of affairs largely prevailed in orthodoxy until the 1980s, after the was posited for the dinosaurs’ demise. An effort led by a scientist publishing outside of his field of expertise (a ) removed from its primacy. Only since the 1980s have English-speaking scientists studied mass extinctions without facing ridicule from their peers, which has never been an auspicious career situation. Since then, many and mass extinction events have been studied, but the investigations are still in their early stages, partly due to a dogma that prevailed for more than a century and a half, and Lyell’s uniformitarianism is influential. The ranking of major mass extinctions is even in dispute, , and a was recently .