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Be prepared, this episode of Trolling with Logic is very science-heavy. But that’s why we love it. Nathan, Cal, and Jenna are joined by none other than Jenna’s brother Fred Bowyer! Fred Bowyer studies at The University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, where he is working in a PhD program specializing in the geochemistry of the Ediacaran Period -- the period lasting from about 635 to 542 million years ago -- which preceded the famous Cambrian Period.

Fred provides us with an overview of the research he’s involved with, and how modern geochemical and geophysical techniques and technology have enabled scientists to resolve Darwin’s famous dilemma and come to an understanding of the environmental conditions way back at the dawn of animal life prior to the so-called “Cambrian Explosion.” We talk about what equipment scientists in this field are using, a primer on how fossils form, why pseudoscientific creationist arguments against geological dating techniques are wrong, the question of whether a rise in oxygen precipitate the evolution of animal life in the Cambrian, what dissolving rocks with acid can tell us about prehistoric atmospheres, and more. “Ediacaran Park” may not be as entertaining as Jurassic Park, but hearing from an active researcher in this prehistoric period reminds us of the amazing power and long reach of science and technology to illuminate aspects of the distant past unreachable by earlier generations of scientists.

 

Links:

Andrew H. Knoll and Erik A. Sperling, “Oxygen and Animals in Earth History,” PNAS 111, no. 11 (March 18, 2014): 3907-3908; http://www.pnas.org/content/111/11/3907.full.pdf.

Fred Bowyer’s profile at ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fred_Bowyer/publications

Popular-science books recommended by Fred for those interested in learning more:

Douglas H. Erwin, ‘The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity’: https://www.amazon.com/Cambrian-Explosion-Construction-Animal-Biodiversity/dp/1936221039

Andrew H. Knoll, ‘Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth’: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Young-Planet-Evolution-Princeton/dp/069116553X

Donald E. Canfield, ‘Oxygen: A Four Billion Year History’: https://www.amazon.com/Oxygen-Billion-History-Science-Essentials/dp/0691168369

Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson, ‘Revolutions that Made the Earth’: https://www.amazon.com/Revolutions-that-Made-Earth-Lenton/dp/0199673462

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