It turns out my friend had put a LOT of thought into this exact question. Enough to do a masters in geology, his work ultimately making it into a high profile journal with writeups in places like the NY Times.
He started talking to various geologists about what might survive as telltale markers of our civilization. Buildings or structures of any sort? Ha! Statues and monuments? Maybe we’d notice the odd deposit or two of minerals.
After going through a long list of candidates, he settled on carbon cenospheres. These are little balls of carbon almost exclusively made in internal combustion engines as the result of aerosolizing fossil fuels. Sixty million years ago, our love of the ICE will show up in the fossil record as a light dusting of cenospheres covering the earth—contemporaneous with massive numbers of species going extinct due to mankind’s other influence.
And as my friend was telling me his story, this is where my hair stood on end. Sixty million years ago we see a massive species extinction... and a light dusting of carbon cenospheres covering the globe.
But we also see unnatural levels of iridium at the same point. And, while it’s hypothetically possible some industrial civilization was mining iridium and blanketing the globe with it, it’s more probable that the iridium was delivered by an asteroid.
But how would you know? So my friend, as part of his research, went taking samples of his cenospheres from around the globe. What he found was interesting: namely, the further one gets from the Yucatan (where scientists had already validated there was an asteroid strike), the cenospheres get smaller. The big heavy ones precipitated out of the air closest to the Yucatan asteroid strike. Hardly likely to be coincidence.
So much for ancient civilization this time around.
However, his work rewrote a critical understanding of the KT asteroid extinction event. Namely, we previously thought most of the carbon at the KT boundary was the result of giant forest fires ignited by the strike. However we now know that the strike must have aerosolized massive oil fields under the Yucatan at that time and set them ablaze.
Not a bad contribution to science starting from a sci-fi premise!
1. Ancient civilization enters industrial and post-industrial era.
2. Carbon levels rise, so do global temperatures.
3. In a desperate attempt to save themselves they try geo-engineering by slamming a massive asteroid in the too hot and thus unpopulated area of Yucatan.
4. Goes wrong.
I can see it working as sci-fi novel
Which means maybe we should be a bit more careful about bleating our existence out into the universe these days...
"We've been sitting in our tree chirping like foolish birds for over a century now, wondering why no other birds answered. The galactic skies are full of hawks, that's why. Planetisms that don't know enough to keep quiet, get eaten".
- bacteria with engineered enzymes for recycling (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16856246) mutate/go wild and wipe out most/all traces of civilization
- what we can find today is just slightly elevated levels of whatever these bacteria mostly ignored.
“Fifty-six million years ago, Earth passed through the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). During the PETM, the planet’s average temperature climbed as high as 15 degrees Fahrenheit above what we experience today. It was a world almost without ice, as typical summer temperatures at the poles reached close to a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Looking at the isotopic record from the PETM, scientists see both carbon and oxygen isotope ratios spiking in exactly the way we expect to see in the Anthropocene record. There are also other events like the PETM in the Earth’s history that show traces like our hypothetical Anthropocene signal. These include an event a few million years after the PETM dubbed the Eocene Layers of Mysterious Origin, and massive events in the Cretaceous that left the ocean without oxygen for many millennia (or even longer).”
Also, how long would it take for the oceans to reabsorb that oxygen? Do the current records follow these expectations?
Perhaps there are proxy signals? For example, there's ocean re-oxygenation faster (or slower?) than expected? Could a species that required more oxygen tip the scales?
Plus, it’s possible that some hypothetical dino civilization mastered bio-degradable materials early on before taking to the stars ;-)
Invasion of the Space Dinos!
Wasn't the article more meaning "the oldest part of the earths crust, that's still on the surface"?
eg everything else has been buried, or destroyed, via other geological processes
“For example, the oldest large-scale stretch of ancient surface lies in the Negev Desert. It’s “just” 1.8 million years old—older surfaces are mostly visible in cross section via something like a cliff face or rock cuts. Go back much farther than the Quaternary and everything has been turned over and crushed to dust.”
The article is in no way stating the oldest bit of the Earth's crust is 1.8 million years old. Crust has a specific meaning, the chemically differentiated rocks at the surface i.e. everything but the very very rare bits of exposed mantle. Oldest oceanic crust is <200 Ma, oldest continental crust dates to the Hadean (4.4 Ga, if you set the bar at only zircons).
Bones are common, fossils are formed by a relatively rare geologic process. Fossilization supplants slow to rot organic material with stone, embedding it in the strata, in just the right conditions. It's unclear to me what (if any) industrial rememants would become fossilized and if they'd be recognizable as such.
Going past a few tens of thousands of years, fossils start to either be of very large things, or of very large communities of small things.
I'd be surprised if any future scientists could find even a single piece of modern jewelry a million years from now.
Granted the coral fossil in the living room is many small animals, but it’s not a big object.
But typically those are extracted from deposits with lots of similar pieces, like the three-foot-long slab of fossilized seabed I had. Professionals might carefully carve something like that up and turn it into lots of small fossils of fish, but they all came from the same chunk of rock.
That's what I meant by "large communities of small things".
So, it's possible that some bunker of physical storage of wealth, with gold bars for instance, will survive a hundred thousand years longer than most of the rest of our civilization. Or, maybe one of our many many landfill deposits will end up with just the right conditions to preserve for a long time the preservable stuff. But I don't think bits of gold jewelry will just be sifted out of the dirt.
Come to think of it, the best bet for evidence of our civilization a million years from now are currently the bits we've left behind on the moon, and Musk's roadster! (The latest calculations have a 6% chance of it crashing back to Earth within the next 3.5 million years -- but it will continue to swing back around every hundred years or so until then.)
Take Mesoamerican gold for instance: only about a thousand years have passed since much of it was made by humans, but it's still considered a rare and valuable archaeological find. (Granted, it was produced in smaller quantities than today.)
Gold is melted by fires; gets scattered and buried by a million years of bioaccumulation; seas move, rivers appear or disappear, continents drift a little, climate changes, glaciers come and go and further destroy evidence.
Google is feeding me a lot of really dumb stuff at the moment when trying to come up with numbers, but I'd guesstimate that most traces of our civilization would be buried a hundred feet below the surface after a million years' time. That makes it pretty difficult to find small things.
There is some hope though! It's thought that the melting process was done in Spain so as to allow a reliable royal assay, if so then some of the ships that sank in the trade may have holds full of crushed and squashed precious artefacts.
I can find one not-great reference suggesting that carbon fiber items are expected to be in landfills for on the order of hundreds of years -- not very long in geological scales. Steel rusts and degrades spectacularly easy, and a lot of the steel we've produced is exposed to conditions helping it along.
Neither of these items is susceptible to the process of fossilization; it's that process that helps preserve some things for a long time. The stuff we make has to last that long all by itself, and we're not that good at making things yet.
We also see things trapped in glaciers, but if the timescale is large enough for all the glaciers to have melted...
(I was going to raise the same point, thinking of low-background steel and the effects of nuclear testing on our atmosphere, but after some more reading it appears that most of those isotopes decay over shorter periods or weren't sufficiently elevated to be discernible from the background, if it were being examined in the far future.)
Article on Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ice_People_(Barjavel_nov...
Highly recommended! At least from my recollection!
I am giving a talk on my Masters project this week at the University of Hartford. I was doing some background reading a found this thread and your comment! Interestingly the Atlantic published article last year abut a new report (Nature Scientific Reports) that hinges on my Masters work:
We need to have a beer some time and catch up!
Turning sci-fi into science speaks volumes to your creativity and intellectual capacity to run an idea to ground.
Geostationary is only stationary in relation to a specific point on earth (geo). It just means it stays above a point on earth. It requires regular minor adjustments.
L1, L2, and L3 aren't stable. L4 and L5 are... but you would still need to adjust for the earth and moon not being perfect spheres; the moon moving slowly away from earth; tidal variations; solar wind; debris; etc.
L4 and L5 would last the longest, but not 60m years.
Someone else mentioned the objects we've placed on the moon. Seems to me that those would last the longest. The moon gets hit by small meteorites daily, but nothing that would destroy what's up there.
Nuclear reactors are recognizable for their crazy isotope distributions for billions of years. Geosynchronous sattelites might be stable for that long, too. The anthropocene mass extinction is likely to show up in the fossil record, and the rapid climate change based on burning carbon out of the ground (which doesn't match the isotope mix of atmospheric carbon) will likewise be detectable from sediment.
Wastes, particularly those that get everywhere such as plastics.
I am told that one long-term marker of human presence on earth at this time is that strata being laid down at present contain small pieces of plastics.
See "The geological cycle of plastics and their use as a stratigraphic indicator of the Anthropocene" https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221330541...
"Human impact has created a 'plastic planet'" https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160127083854.h...
edit Even though it will change over time into something other than plastic,
1) it will affect the composition of rocks being formed now
2) through sheer ubiquity, some of it is likely to enter into the fossil record.
I think that we might be more likely to find concentrations of metals left over from artifacts of civilization. If so, would these look different from naturally occuring metals?
"microplastics everywhere". http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43363545
"Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists", "pervasive and persistent nature" https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/12/micropla...
"The deep sea is a major sink for microplastic debris"
We don't know what the effect of millions of years on this debris will be, but I am suggesting that due to the fact of the human species as a geological force, most of the rocks from this era will be a bit unusual in composition.
Your best bet for metals might be gold as it is not typically reactive with water or oxygen. And as a reminder, we do sometimes find solid blobs of gold... :-)
I also agree that the I-beams would rust away, as would rebar embedded in concrete. Would they remain as identifiable shapes or would the material migrate?
Also has a computer RPG  by some of the people behind Planescape: Torment.
Though, I'll grant it's possible they could've been soft-bodied creatures that leave very little in the fossil record or might otherwise look ambiguous to us. A future civilization looking back on human fossils might think we lived no differently than any other Hominidae. Anatomically modern humans have been around for ~2.5 million years, if our civilization were to end in even another couple million years that would still be a fairly tiny window in which we developed the intelligence to create civilization and then went extinct. If some jellyfish species developed human-level intelligence 300 million years ago and then went extinct in the same window, it's entirely possible we wouldn't be able to recognize the difference between their fossils and those of their less intelligent ancestors/descendants.
What we can't know is if someone aimed it there.
I wonder if a swarm of artificial satellites that are little more than time capsules on various highly stable orbits, combined with radioactive markers/beacons on the moon that is arranged to somehow point towards the swarm, might survive that long? The moon's orbit is stable on the order of billions of years , but surface impacts might bury any artifacts we leave, so radiation is likely the only way an artifact can stand out millions of years from now.
If the swarm is a solid procession of one satellite passing near the Earth once every 50 years, then the markers' arrangement might be able to point to that intersection somehow. Bonus points if we can figure out passively-controlled, self-repairing solar sails for better detection. I haven't sketched the math yet though, so I don't know if we're talking about more satellites than we can create (would more than likely require von Neumann mining bots on an asteroid to produce, and definitely more mass than we can realistically lift at this time).
This has the advantage of letting us continuously launch updated capsules, as well as capture and update probes (like modifying a massive continuous loop) if our civilization lives that long.
I really Iaian Banks' idea of a civilization "restart button": deep space-resident AI-manned ships that all but just wander and hibernate within vast gulfs of vacuum, equipped with the tech necessary to reboot their civilization, and run silent all the time except when they opt-out of the service. That requires AGI and a fictional inexhaustible energy source to pull off, so we have to settle for what we can do for now.
While this is marked as "citation needed", given the information provided, it seems illogical to prefer one of the other explanations just because it sounds more amusing.
Also see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chontal_Maya which seems to at least confirm the term "Yokot'an" exists.
It is probably specious reasoning to assume that the name originated at the moment the Spanish first met the indigenous people, but it seems to be such a good story that most don't question it, even when they are debating the different possibilities.
Footprints from the Apollo missions can still be seen.
Anyways, I was thinking that the metal from the spacecraft wouldn't have gone through the weathering/oxidation that anything man-made still on earth would go through.
Even if some of them will get covered by dust and some get destroyed by asteroid impacts, the others will remain visible.
You don't get a better anoxic environment than space!
Maybe we are just looking in the wrong place for our evidence. ;)
While any particular structure has a very low probability to be preserved in 60M years, some specimens of ubiquitous artificial structures have reasonably good odds of survival. Something like a coke bottle would more likely signal a part industrial civilization.
Some years ago a friend of mine coily posed this same question to me
In this part, I think you meant coyly which has a different meaning from coily.
I am reminded of the famous talk by Richard about "where does fire come from, where does. plant get Carbon, well it gets it from the AIR, and it grabs water from the earth, and the flame that you see in fire is the energy from the sun being released!" (Paraphrasing,  )
so my point is, that if you look at Plant Life distribution and look at all of South America, with their dense rain-forest plant biome - you have a crap ton of plants which may have had the ability to absorb more carbon based on the Yucatan crater (gulf of Mexico) and thus thrive based on the abundance of the carbon flood that happened during this impact.
This is the best explanation of fire/plants/atmosphere that I have ever heard.
Why would oil concentrations happen in the places they do over many billions of years?
So why would the seemingly devoid-of-water places on earth (Middle East) be oil rich, where, at the same time, South America also has oil rich deposits?
The idea being that they are carbon-rich underlayments that become oil under pressure.
Or, how "soluble" (for lack of a better term) is carbon in Magma. i.e. how can carbon be dealt with in a magma stream other than heat and pressure which results in oil deposits over time?
So, any geologists who can educate me would be appreciated.
This article is beginning to convince me:
estimate the amount of carbon trapped in Earth's upper mantle. Scientists suggest there's as much as 100 trillion metric tons of CO2 stored there.*
So based on this data point and the comments from Richard, I think that life is a function much like the sodium-potassium pump, and oil is a function of the subduction plate tectonics which converts carbon to oil over millennia....
We will always have oil. Just how fast can we consume vs. how fast can earth produce. Supply and demand is a. universal constant.
If we were to find evidence of an industrial civilization before humans we might not even recognize it as evidence, given how different it might be from ours.
This is gross anthropomorphism. Ants don't have societies any more than the cells in our body have societies.
An ant colony is an organism. Each individual ant has just enough neurons to do the one task that ant does. The overall organism is quite capable, true, but it's not intelligent. It doesn't learn novel things, it doesn't purposely invent, it doesn't 'know' anything.
Ants may take over the world some day, but they won't know it.
The issue you brought up about the mite is a bit orthogonal to this point. I can give you that the ant was concerned about the possibility of having a mite, and the point still remains that the ant thought it was on its own head only on basis of a reflected image of itself. (Compare to the alternative behavior: the ant tries to get the mite off the reflected image, never making any attempt to remove it from itself.)
it’s on wikipedia, with the same dead source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_test?wprov=sfti1
EDIT: Working link to the paper (in some journal of science): https://www.udocz.com/read/are-ants-capable-of-self-recognit...
Oh and lots of time and a huge amount of luck (not even ants can exist on Venus or Mars), but "luck" is just another word for selection bias, or looking backwards in time.
> Where does the leap from nothing to knowledge of that one task come in?
There is no sudden leap, only a huuuuuuuge number of tiny steps and lots of complexity of interactions.
From what I understand, the current thinking is that the ratio of brain mass to overall body size is much more predictive of intelligence than brain mass by itself. And there are odd cases too in humans like an individual with a severe case of hydrocephaly, with 95% percent of his cranial cavity filled with fluid pushing his brain matter to the sides of his skull, and this individual exhibited very high intelligence and majored in mathematics. There is a lot not known about the brain and animal intelligence, and I would not be surprised if we continue to find out amazing things about ants. I recommend an older book called "Ants at Work" by Deborah Gordon to get an idea of the complexity of ant behavior.
“It is hard for me [to say] exactly the percentage of reduction of the brain, since we did not use software to measure its volume. But visually, it is more than a 50 to 75 per cent reduction,” says Lionel Feuillet, a neurologist at the Mediterranean University in Marseille, France.
Why would a civilization even be terrestrial, wouldn't an ocean living civilization be even more likely?
Why does a civilization need to invent agriculture. Perhaps ever evolving hunting technics or even just a sudden massive change in diet could free up enough time for a mass population of a species to start concentrating their efforts on cross societal constructions.
I'm not saying that there was an ancient aquatic civilization of squids that mutated plankton to swim to their mouths. But if we want to ask such an extraordinary question, we must not limit our self in such a way that it makes it easier to deny it.
There's a book about this, can't remember the name right now. Basically it looks at very ancient maps of the Antartica that have details that we only figured out in the 20th century with equipement allowing us to see through the ice layers.
The book posits that there was a rather advanced civilization living before the last glaciation.
It also posits that all the massive flooding mythology found in most human religions is actually stories transmitted by survivors of the previous era.
And yes a great sci-fi book, even so the civilization in question is just 900,000 years old not multi millions like the original article.
If there was a planetary civilization 20 million years ago, there are tons of "invasive species" that would have spread across all continents then rather than in the 1800s. Think rats, sparrows, cockroaches, etc x 1000.
I don't think I have an argument against one back in Pangean times though.
That would make the whole premise more plausible for a number of reasons.
(Spoiler) The book is primarily concerned with the development of a miniaturized wormhole technology which allows remote viewing anywhere on Earth, and the effects this has on privacy, etc. They discover it can also be used to view backwards in time, and at the end of the book they trace the tree of life backwards towards the universal common ancestor, and discover that it was a microbe seeded deep in a geothermal vent by a civilization of intelligent trilobyte/arthropod like creatures, which knew its own extinction was imminent at the hand of a massive asteroid.
This is a great book!
We should all do this at least once. What a great practice.
Also, we couldn't be sure that there wouldn't have been ecological or cultural reasons why they just never exploited fossil fuels. Especially if they were ocean-dwelling, it's possible that other methods of generating energy were just much more practical for them to develop first.
Iron, tin, copper. If there was a pre-human civilization, they couldn't have gone beyond the stone age, else they'd have consumed the resources our iron age depended on.
eg, the Chicxulub (Yucutan) crater is 66 million years ago, and clearly hasn't been recycled else we wouldn't be looking at it. We have dinosaur fossils dating ~230-240 million years, so the crust clearly hasn't been recycled that thoroughly. Indeed, the entire Pangea theory would be invisible to us if the continents didn't remain 300+ million years later.
(I'm not saying we should have a fossil record of 'the others', as the article says, there's a survivor bias in fossils. Just that the fossils we do have wouldn't exist if the crust has been geologically renewed in the last few millions of years.)
They're talking about surface markers like roads and buildings. To replace a previous civilization's trashheaps with geological mineral seams, you'd need to pre-date Pangea.
Our iron (and other metal) mining is not "using iron up", it's just bringing the iron closer to the surface and transforming it in ways that will be undone by millions of years. Fossil fuels are a different case, though.
The other problem is that you need to use coke as a reducing agent, so we’re back to fossile fuels.
If the human race were wiped out this afternoon, and you came back in 100 million years, you'd still be able to tell the difference between a mineral seam and a landfill or scrap metal merchant.
Lots of plastic non biodegradable (at the moment): lignin. That's why we have coal, which fueled our Industrial Revolution :)
Ended with the Carboniferous rainforest collapse, caused by climate change.
Other: "That's what the dinosaurs thought."
Does that not make it unlikely that any ancient industrial civilization lasting centuries could have existed before us? Or over tens of millions of years would more naturally occurring easy to find veins of gold and silver rise to the surface of the Earth's crust?
i am not a geologist but, as i understand it, plate tectonics cause a lot of "churn" in the crust. so i think it is certainly conceivable that a civilization could mine all the accessible veins to exhaustion but have many more veins brought up near the surface in the following 60 million years.
But what about a former civilization which only rose to the level of the Roman Empire lets say? Could we detect that?
Too early and they never industrialized at scale, so there's little to detect.
Too late and they became a stage n civilisation and are now the substrate of our universe, so there's nothing to detect.
I imagine there to be a whole world of archaeology out there we miss because everything bio-degraded. If you navigated by river and set up a society based on fishing from the river then you might make everything out of wood, with wicker being the material of choice for seats and other furniture.
Such a society could be very sophisticated, as per the people that lived in the Amazon before the white man diseases killed them all for the forest to return to apparently virgin rainforest by the time the white guys got there. So there is your scenario to detect, how would you look out for such a society that had no need for big stone structures?
Rivers used to be clear and full of fish, able to service a river dwelling human culture for as long as there are fish.
If farming happens the river is no longer clear or full of fish, so a recession of sorts hits rather than some big defining event.
We don't have historic records of the stone age, but we do have lots of archaeological evidence. And what we have found are Paleolithic stone tools, temporary camps, and some permanent settlements around 12,000 years ago. Nothing close to anything resembling the Roman Empire.
Edit: typo has -> had
Underground artefacts might survive longer, since there is no plate tectonics and little other geological activity, but finding them would be difficult.
Recently discovered Göbekli Tepehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe, the oldest megalith structure, confirmed by radiocarbon tests to be more than 12.000 years old with massive stone pillars and 3d relief stone sculptures mostly still buried is still a mystery to science and some "scientists" still think hunter-gatherers built it with stone chisels.
The interesting thing is that a study based on the drawings on the structure correlated with Younger Dryas period might explain why nothing was found about the ancient civilization that built it.
So after all the Atlantis and the flood myth found in most cultures from around the world might be real.
Well yes, that's how actual scientists work: on evidence. Until there's evidence to the contrary, the most likely hypothesis is that the structures were built with the tools and labor that we think humans possessed at the time.
I didn't find anything in your links that mentioned the myth of Atlantis.
Do a YouTube search for Younger Dryas.
Point me towards something that isn't part of the Kook Productions Network please.
Even if the best academic papers on the topic are likely to have less obviously incorrect information, you'd probably still learn a lot more by just sitting down and watching all the videos. I haven't seen the Joe Rogan thing that comes up, but I doubt that watching it would magically make you dumber or whatever.
Also, I've met enough smart people infected by silly ideas to know that nobody is immune to misinformation. Maybe I'm bored and one of those videos leads me down some YouTube rabbit hole that gets me stuck on some nonsense. I'd probably never see it coming; the people who listened to a little too much Coast to Coast surely didn't.
So while I'm excited by new ideas on just about every subject, I also have something of an immune response to them, a conscious decision that I'd rather be uninformed -- and maybe spend that time reading a book or doing something fun outside -- than misinformed. Since I'm not smart enough to know what's right and what's not when I don't know anything about the subject, I rely on the source as a strong signal of trustworthiness.
HN's just about the only guilty pleasure I've got left, but the S:N here is still better than a lot of other places.
Another name for Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma - or the Eternal Way of Life.
Please don't masquerade mythologocal saints/yogis as scientists. You are doing a disservice to the accomplishments of real historical figures like Panini, Brahmagupta etc by making statements like this. You don't have to resort to mythological characters to feel good about the supposed glorious past.
I can understand how the tales of Dasavataras can possibly have some allegorical references to evolution but claiming the rishis to be scientists only serves to further ridiculous beliefs like Quantum Mechanics and Relativity originated from Vedas, Rishi scientists developed nuclear weapons in 10000 BC etc.
The main purpose they(Puranas (post-vedic Hindu mythology)) served was to legitimize the Vishnu cult, get rid of the pantheon of older Vedic gods (Indra etc.) and to counter the rise of Buddhism. Most of these stories were made up ad hoc to suit the purposes of their times. I find them quite clever to be honest and fascinating from literary and sociological perspectives.
Take Buddha for example. Once Buddhism and its crusade against animal slaughter / rituals became a hit with the masses and started competing with Brahmanism/Sanatan Dharma/Hinduism, Buddha was made an incarnation of Vishnu and added to the Purana bloatware, while simultaneously obliterating Buddhist monasteries and driving it out of the subcontinent.
What is a scientist?
Does Newton qualify as one in your worldview? He spent about half his life on alchemy.
Will any of our scientists qualify as scientists after a thousand more years of science?
And yes based on my understanding of science, Newton was a scientist and so were the undocumented pioneers who tinkered with what they had available at the time. Be it the wandering ascetics from India who studied the effects of various herbs on humans to compile treatises on medicine like Ayurveda or the priests and traders from Babylonia who arrived at mathematical results based on heuristic principles, in my worldview, they are all scientists.
"Scientist" is a modern term and I would grant historic figures only that label, if they (disregarding if their conclusions were right or wrong) tried to reason about the world in a systematic fashion and according to empiricism and logic.
I think your distinction is pretty arbitrary; in what way does a mathematician not attempt to reason about the world in a systematic fashion and according to empiricism and logic? The only real difference over time has been in our ability to determine valid logic, our rigor in what empirical evidence we'll accept, and our sophistication in how we systematically go about this process. Early philosophers were attempting each of these things to various degrees, they just weren't as good as we are now at them. Really defining the "first scientist" is like defining the "first mammal"; the category is fuzzy and doesn't really mean anything at that level of granularity.
I suspect Keynes’s desire to discredit Newton was motivated more by the former’s irrational, perhaps as the first postmodernist, impulse to deny the value of gold.
The evidence is that if you go to the top philosophers these days then they will be unaware of the right answer to the first question in studying philosophy: what is the definition of philosophy? Without having learned it, people have been going around trying to teach what they are unaware of.
Even in modern science, there is a lot of ambiguity about what scientific method 'permits'. For example, many physicists would scoff at the idea of String Theory being called real physics.
What happens, if, in some 500 years we find a definitive way to simulate experiments? I can see any physical science not validated by such a simulation being dismissed.
And his deduction of the laws of motion, thermodynamics, and gravity establish him as one of the greatest scientists ever.
EDIT: Ah, I see what you meant is that these people didn't exist.
An early example of Embrace, Extend, Extinguish?
Here is an example of that happening in the 21st century. Classic case of appropriating indigenous dieties.
> It all started in March 2015, when their simple pole-hut shrine for Dokri Burhi (earth goddess) was taken over by a saffron-coloured, tiled, electrified and gated Hindu temple for Kanaka Durga. And in accordance with Brahmin beliefs, all Shudras were barred from it. This is when the local Shudras woke up to the pattern. Almost 150-200 years ago, when a handful of Brahmin families migrated to Ichchapur, they started dislodging the Shudras, who were the original inhabitants, from their ancestral lands. As time passed, Brahmins took control of most of the land, despite the lower castes comprising the majority of the village’s population. In fact, currently, there are 22 Brahmin families in Ichchapur and about 250 odd lower caste households.
No other line of thought has been criticized, marginalized & ridiculed as much as Hinduism has been. Buddhism escaped all that criticism only because of Hinduism being the bigger target. This is also the reason why many people in Western countries resort to Buddhism & not Hinduism when they want inner peace or want to understand meditation. This is going on even now. You'll be amazed at the words used by Christian missionaries, they call Hindu beliefs as evil, the gods as satanic. Muslims? They just try to kill you if you're a Hindu, desecrate & vandalize Hindu temples, forcibly convert young girls through kidnap & rape and worse.. and I am talking of all this happening today, now and will happen tomorrow. Why? Because Hindus are a soft target, they have never harmed anybody. History is evidence to this.
Matter of fact, there is sufficient evidence that Buddhism tried to do exactly that to Hinduism & Jainism "Embrace, Extend & Extinguish" and it was successful in Afghanistan, Kashmir, SE Asia etc, but could not survive in the face is Islamic violence. Look up these regions' history if you do not believe me.
If you are interested in investigating, It'd be illuminating to contrast the belief systems in Vedas and Puranas. (Rigveda and Puranas to be more specific. ) If my memory serves right, Narayana(Vishnu) was a minor diety in Rigveda whose only claim to fame was carrying Indra on his back to circumnavigate the universe 108 times. He gradually started gaining more prominence as time passed, as a benevolent and sophisticated alternative to replace the more belligerent/primitive Indra. By mid 15th century(I could be wrong), this process was complete, with Vishnu taking over Indra completely, as established in that Govardhanagiri tale where Indra was utterly humiliated by Krishna.
Coming to the claims on Buddhism, once again, examining the Rigvedic and post Rigvedic belief systems can help you hypothesize how things unravelled. (Replacement of Horse with Cow as the sacred animal, renouncement of non vegetarianism, incorporation of Tantric belief systems etc ) Destruction of Buddhist monasteries and massacring the monks is quite well documented too. Read about Pushyamitra Sunga for example.
I mean, we understand relativity well enough to predict astronomical movements and to account for it when synchronizing GPS, we understand biology well enough for genetic engineering and complex medicine, chemistry well enough to create exotic materials and superconductors, quantum mechanics enough to harness it for computation, physics enough to split the atom, space travel, astronomy, etc. We understand a lot more than "the most basic things."
Can you be more specific about what things you feel science cannot address? It seems like the one and only proven method for understanding our universe.
I think you are taking an extremely parochial view of things by calling Vedas as "mythology". I believe I do not have to tell you about "Any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"... You look at the advanced technology that we unfortunately lost and you think it is magic (mythology in your words). Look around you & think of all the insane (to current humans) & incredible accomplishments of humans that our sciences of today still cannot explain convincingly how they were possible.
By the way, Indra was not a god - god, it was a role, the role of the king of gods. Besides the trimurthis anybody can become Indra. And Buddhism, if you have read it is by far very similar to Hinduism sans the gods concept, but it still embodies the concept of isht-devata by making buddha the preferred god. Both + Jainism are what are known as dharmic gods & have a not of commonality between them that the differences are quite obscure.
Finally, there is no such thing as Brahmanism except in the minds of those who felt threatened by Hinduism & its natural concepts and approach to the betterment of humanity in general. In other words, once you remove Brahmins and Hinduism will cease to exist.
Further, there was never a case of obliterating Buddhist monasteries (by Hindus)! Why would that be if Buddha was an avatara? Again these are narratives that want to paint anything coming out of (ancient) India & hinduism in very bad light. It is mischievous at best, please do not fall for such gimmicks & false narratives & do not feed them. There were some fights between Jains & Buddhists for a very brief time, but with Hinduism it was rarely physical because of the (earlier mentioned) concept of Ishta-devata / polytheism.
> Look around you & think of all the insane (to current humans) & incredible accomplishments of humans that our sciences of today still cannot explain convincingly how they were possible.
Examples? I can't tell whether you're referring to ancient constructs (great pyramids, stone henge) or modern engineering (technology, medicine)... the former is uncertainty among multiple plausible theories while the latter is quite well understood (albeit difficult to learn).
> Any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
Contingent upon a perspective of ignorance.
Incandescent light bulbs are magic to a medieval society, yet we consider them to be relatively primitive lighting devices. Once the fundamentals are known (electricity) the "trick" becomes obvious and even trivial (resistance makes wire hot, hot wire is bright). Fundamental understanding also allows us to rule out mythical magic.
Both. Pyramids, gravity, Indian temples, stone henge, the patterns in the universe, cells etc. Like one simple example near where I used to live - the architecture of the Konark temple where it had a sort of magnet to levitate the "vigraha". The magnet was at least ~50 tonnes. http://www.thekonark.in/konarkfloatingidol.html
Another temple where the pillar does not even support the temple's roof: https://www.indiatimes.com/culture/travel/this-temple-has-a-...
Musical pillars made of stone. http://www.themysteriousindia.net/singing-pillars-hampi/
You may baulk at these, because your perspective is from probably an arrogant modern scientific outlook, but these buildings & structures predate even the pyramids. Many just too many of these have been destroyed by religious fanatics who cannot tolerate an alternative mode of thought besides Islam & Christianity, so what survives is a sorry remnant of that era, which even so is impressive I think.
> Fundamental understanding
Contingent upon a perspective of ignorance. Is that not correct?
For example, we use light as a form on energy in lasers etc, but only 70 years ago, this would have NOT been a fundamental understanding. The problem is that most of today's people, except the really great people like Einstein, Hawking, Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Tesla etc, try to dismiss (& worse appropriate) any sciences that simply originated in the Indian subcontinent, and I am not sure why that is the case. Why do you think every major civilization in the last 500-600 years wanted to find a path to India. Why do you think the American native people are still called Indians? Why do you think strides in Science & Math were monopolized in the Indian subcontinent & it required the onslaught on the Islamic hordes first and then the European / British hordes to stop the progress of all such advancements? You may not be aware that the industrial revolution of Britain & Europe was funded by India & Indian wealth. Anyways, I digress. My point is that "fundamental understanding" is not limited to a set of people, it just requires time & since India is part of the longest surviving civilization (even the face of 80% destruction) there is a lot of understanding we can acquire from what the rishis had accomplished. We should not throw them all away just because we cannot make head or tail of it...
>> Such as?
> Pyramids, gravity, Indian temples, stone henge, the patterns in the universe, cells etc.
So... your claim is that ancient civilizations had more advanced knowledge of patterns in the universe, cells, and gravity? Based on what?
For the other three: it's fair to say ancient civilizations understood how they built the things they built. We have plenty of theories about how they did it, what we lack is evidence to decide between theories. Nothing was "lost", we can recreate those structures today.
> the architecture of the Konark temple where it had a sort of magnet to levitate the "vigraha". The magnet was at least ~50 tonnes.
based on myths. What evidence is there that the myths are accurate?
> Another temple where the pillar does not even support the temple's roof:
Without any pictures of the roof. Have you ever sat on an unbalanced four-legged stool?
> Musical pillars made of stone
Quoting your link: "While during the British era, two of them were cut to check if there was something else producing the sound inside. But they turned out to be hollow" - mystery solved.
> You may baulk at these, because your perspective is from probably an arrogant modern scientific outlook
I refuse the perspective of blind faith. Educated guesses are acceptable when supported by evidence, but stories alone are not evidence.
People say Jesus turned water to wine (myth) - I say doing so would violate multiple fundamental laws of physics and turn the area into a nuclear hellhole (contrarian evidence). If that even happened, he probably just dropped a packet of dried powder in the water by slight of hand (alternate competing hypothesis + Occam's razor).
>> Contingent upon a perspective of ignorance.
> Is that not correct? For example, we use light as a form on energy in lasers etc, but only 70 years ago, this would have NOT been a fundamental understanding.
Correct! And that fundamental understanding lets us separate fantasy from history.
There are Greek myths of heroes "throwing" lighting bolts with the aid of Zeus - now we understand that's not how electricity works, and obviously did not happen verbatim. We can also look back on history and recognize the human tendency to exaggerate for effect.
> Why do you think every major civilization in the last 500-600 years wanted to find a path to India.
Status, military awareness, and aristocratic luxuries (especially spices).
> Why do you think the American native people are still called Indians?
Because Columbus didn't know America was a thing. He sailed west to reach proper India, landed somewhere with brown people, and figured that was India. That label is actually pretty offensive.
> Why do you think strides in Science & Math were monopolized in the Indian subcontinent & it required the onslaught on the Islamic hordes first and then the European / British hordes to stop the progress of all such advancements?
You believe that hilariously Indocentric view of history. I suggest you look up the origin of the word "algorithm" - in truth, all great ancient civilizations contributed to math and science. When one civilization collapsed, it's knowledge was preserved by another.
> You may not be aware that the industrial revolution of Britain & Europe was funded by India & Indian wealth
That's a nice way of phrasing Britain's economic exploitation of her colonies. It almost sounds India had a choice in the matter...
> there is a lot of understanding we can acquire from what the rishis had accomplished. We should not throw them all away just because we cannot make head or tail of it...
Stories survive because they are interesting. They are a great source of inspiration for research that may lead to the truth, but the stories are not truth in and of themselves.
Let's try gravity on for size. Where's my gravity car? No, really. It would be incorrect (and indicative of a lack of familiarity with modern physics findings) to suggest such technology is limited by power storage or output.
- Douglas Coupland, Generation X
If left on the surface for millions of years, yes they would fade to nothing. But in many locations, they'd get buried in layers of swamp and sediment. Even if they shifted around via plate tectonics, many of our modern highway junctions are quite massive. With 7 billion people and the insane amount of infrastructure on our planet, surely some of that would survive if a future civilization started digging a few hundred meters through bedrock.
How long before roads churned under the pressure of the earth into indistinguishable small pieces of rock? Would they be gone in less than a million years?
As a side note, this makes me think about all the world that goes into nuclear waste burial sites, and how we're currently trying to create warnings that may need to outlast our civilization by millions of years.
When built on top of freezing and thawing soil the current roads and asphalt start crumbling away already in few years only.
On a larger scale, would a city like New York leave an area with an anomalous distribution of elements of a similar nature to what we see where there has been an ancient meteorite impact?
The problem is to find the exact spot to look at. Even today, geo-exploration is mostly a joke: drill where experience tells us to. New hotness: Have AI do inference from formalized experience.
There could be a thousand former fort knoxes or NYCs and we, with our methods, only have a snowball's chance in hell to find any.
Even our understanding of the beginning of the universe is just a model, an idea. It's not like we have proof.
From time to time it's quite important to remember how vast the knowledge is that we don't possess in contrast to the one we do.
If any artifacts are discovered on the moon, I sure as hell ain't boarding anything called Discovery One, ever.
Also, their sitcoms would by now have penetrated a decent bit of intergalactic space, and attracted some attention. Because if it happened twice on this planet, the universe at large would be teeming hi-tech societies.
Maybe the apparition of multicellular life is super rare, but once it has happened hi-tech societies are common.
Come work in corporate IT, we do this all the time :)
The point is more "Yeah, there's no evidence for this. But if there was, it would be very easy to miss."