The Evolution of Fire

Fire is evolving. The three necessary ingredients for fire – heat, fuel, and oxygen – each appeared at different times in geological history, meaning that fire wasn’t always around on Earth’s surface. Fire historian Steve Pyne describes the origin and evolution of fire over the past 420 millions years on Earth, including history’s true Promethean moment.

In a bonus segment, producer Mike Osborne chats with paleoclimate scientist Jud Partin about his new publication exploring the Younger Dryas, the most recent time in Earth’s history to experience abrupt climate change. Hear Jud describe what happened as Earth left the last ice age and why he’s still optimistic about abrupt climate change today.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

Fire recordings by matucha and dynamicell.

Seeds of Change

image taken by CIAT

At the dawn of the agricultural revolution, humans began to tinker with our seeds.  Over millennia, we’ve managed to breed plants for selective traits and grow more food.  As certain crops now dominate our agricultural fields, what will happen to all of those original seeds – and their genetic information – that were used to create our modern food system?  We travel to the extreme northern latitudes and visit the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to see how they are trying to curate our changing seeds.  In our second story, we see that humans aren’t the only force that tinkers with seeds.  With climate change, certain crops might adapt their own biology to warmer conditions.  Cassava, a major food staple worldwide that feeds over one billion people, has already shown the potential to adapt in a strange way – by producing more cyanide.  We speak with biologist Ros Gleadow to explore the complex relationship with climate change and the changing biology of cassava.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

History is a Mess

The very idea of an Anthropocene suggests that the world is changing faster than ever before.  And a growing number of historians, archeologists, and geologists are looking at our modern world in the context of deep time to place the rapid changes in their proper context.  In today’s show, Ian Morris discusses how societies have developed through all of human history – from Neanderthals to iPhones – and points out some trends we can extract and investigate from archeological data.  Specifically, Morris explains how geography drives human social development, but development changes the very meaning of geography.  If that sounds a little complicated… well, it is. But we speak with Ronan Arthur about the Native American Navajo as a sort of case study of this geography/social development concept.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

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A Slight Digression: Invertebrates

Invertebrates. Gutless, spineless– but perhaps underappreciated invertebrates. We probably don’t spend enough time thinking about that other category of organisms on earth, so on this episode we’re going to spend some time with maybe the most overlooked group of Eukaryotes: Fungi. As it turns out, there are (at least) five MIND BLOWING facts about fungi that we all need to know. We’ll then travel to Southeastern Alaska to study the changing forest community. A wave of climate-driven ecological change is sweeping across the region, and we’ll learn about what this means for forests and the people who live there. Finally on today’s show we leave the invertebrates and debut a new segment that we’re calling Convos with Kau (as in coversation with Kaustubh Thirmulai, PhD candidate in paleoclimate at UT-Austin).

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (license available here)

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