Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Under the Ground Floor
June 25, 2014 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Rocks Made Of Plastic Found On Hawaiian Beaches. But is it rock, or just fused detritus? Depends on the timescale, similar to how the beaches of Normandy are part shrapnel.

For more, see The Earth After Us, by Dr Jan Zalasiewicz , which concerns itself with such "anthropogenic marker horizon in the future rock record." Welcome to the Anthropocene, and humanity's entrance into geologic timescales, with a proliferation of technofossils.
posted by the man of twists and turns (15 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I heard about this a while ago and have been worried about it ever since. Glad to have more info.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:53 AM on June 25


This makes me wonder if the first evidence we will find of other civilizations upon other worlds won't be bones or buildings or cave paintings but the equivalent of disposable safety razor blades or food containers or cars ground into 'sand'.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:54 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


Let's speculate for a second that the planet Venus was once home to a technological civilization roughly equal to our own, and that they destroyed their ecosphere through a runaway greenhouse effect, leading to the hellhole we see there today. Would there be any detectable traces of that situation left there today?
posted by vibrotronica at 8:17 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


It does raise the entertaining possibility for these plastiglomberates getting subducted into high pressure, high temperature zones and gradually turned back into useful hydrocarbon reservoirs for future civilisations to discover and exploit... and round we go again...
posted by Devonian at 8:21 AM on June 25


I wonder how long these techno-fossils last. I wonder if there was an intelligent species of pre-mamalian synapsids if we would have any way of knowing. I always thought me might search for space junk, but after 100 million years, that probably tends to go away too. Here I'm being less pessimistic than vibrotronica, as this would be extinction due to meteor, not environmental disaster.
posted by Hactar at 8:22 AM on June 25


Re: civilization markers: I sorta asked about this!
posted by curious nu at 8:41 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


The Anthropocene designation isn't merely a curious intellectual exercise. If officially recognized it could be applied in legal and other ways. Thus scientists want to get it right. The scientific rock naming, "plastiglomerates", looks like a creative argument.
posted by stbalbach at 8:43 AM on June 25


Re: Normandy beach shrapnel. Just last week I met a teen who was in Normandy for the D-Day anniversary. He collected a small glass jar with sand from the beach as a keepsake. I've sent him the link. Now I just need to get my hands on a decent microscope...
posted by Brodiggitty at 8:47 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I would love to have a jar of that sand!

I couldn't resist pulling out the shrapnel granules with a magnet once, but then they would have to go back in forever.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:10 AM on June 25


This is the Plasticine era.
posted by Floydd at 10:33 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


This is the Plasticine era.

Oh hells yeah...especially if it means the return of giant kludgy stop-motion dinosaurs :]
posted by sexyrobot at 10:54 AM on June 25


that bldgblog blogspot is terrible. i have no idea how good the content is, because i couldn't see it through all the ads
posted by sxtxixtxcxh at 4:01 PM on June 25


How long the plastic will endure remains a matter of debate, however. Jerolmack says he doubts the material will stick around in the fossil record. After all, plastic melts
Only thermoplastic resins melt; thermosetting resins have differing reaction to high temperatures but generally decompose at some high temperature.
posted by Mitheral at 5:45 PM on June 25


Mineral Fodder: We may think we are the first organisms to remake the planet, but life has been transforming the earth for aeons
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:23 AM on June 30


Previously, The Polystyrene Epoch.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:45 PM on July 11


« Older The Supreme Court has unanimously reversed (large ...  |  Internet TV/DVR start-up Aereo... Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.