Being drawn to explosions in science, I announce with delight today’s big event: the Cambrian explosion.
Of course, it wasn’t really an explosion. For one thing, there were animals appearing before the Cambrian, during the Ediacaran, not long after one of Earth’s alleged “snowball” phases; for another, the radiation of diversity happened gradually, not like a Big Bang at all, and started primarily with the benthic organisms.
But pshaw, it’s the end of April, and we’ve finally reached the Phanerozoic, so it’s time to celebrate. I wish I could say I were celebrating by finding my way to the Burgess Shale, the amazing formation of rocks that hold a host of diverse Cambrian animal fossils, but instead I’m in Cambridge eating hummus, watching the maples bud, and debating the ethical and financial implications of a $4 decaf Americano.
The next two weeks will fly by. In a few days we’ll hit the Ordovician, then the Silurian, Devonian, and Carboniferous, each just a couple of days representing less than 100 million years. I’m planning on setting some alarms on my smart phone (which is more or less made out of rocks, and therefore a Geology Phone) to alert me to key events. For now, the only parallel I can see between my life here in Kendall Square and the sudden radiation of diverse animal life 542 million years ago is that if you take the first bit of Cambridge and add it to my name, you can Cambrian.