Science Round-up: The real black panther returns, replicating results, scaly mammals
I’d like to propose a project. It involves sending something into space, but it’s simple enough. It doesn’t need any high power instruments, or any real support infrastructure on Earth.
The goal of this project would be to land on the Moon a bit of text, carved into some material that would survive the next billion years of so of cosmic rays and micrometeorite buffeting. A single page with a simple message:
On the adjoining world, life appeared more than four billion years before this plaque was created. And for many millions of years, it thrived in astounding diversity.
At the end of that time, a species appeared which was intelligent enough to manipulate its environment. It replaced forests with fields to grow the foods that it liked best. It removed animals from its surroundings and replaced them those it could easily kill and eat. It built its homes everywhere and spread in incredible numbers, until that species and the ones that it maintained for food made up all but a tiny fraction of complex life on the planet.
Eventually, that species made such an impact that it altered the very chemistry of the air and water around it. The atmosphere became warmer. The seas more acid. Caught between the surging billions and the drastic changes to the environment, other life on the planet began to die away by first dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, and finally millions of species. Even the smallest things, tiny creatures that had once swarmed everywhere, faded away.
The time from when it first began to seriously manipulate its environment, to when this species brought its world to the brink was amazingly short—only a few hundred turnings of the planet around its star. There was no way for any other species to survive this sudden, unprecedented onslaught. No other species in life’s long history had such capacity to cause rapid change.
And then ...
And that’s how the plaque should end. And then. But not just those words; there should also be room for a few paragraphs more. Room for someone to stand there in decades or centuries yet to come and write the happy outcome. Room to record how humankind pulled back from the brink. How it recognized the real crisis at last. How it rebuilt, restored, renewed. How it saved its one precious home and became a worthy citizen of that world, and of others.
Room for that … or silence.