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As with the previous Epochal Events (, , ), imagine an English peasant of 1500 being placed in the midst of London in 2014, or visiting today's average American home. The only metal in an English home of 1500 might have been some tools and eating utensils. Wood and wool were the primary materials in an English home. Some metals of the modern world would be vaguely familiar, but plastic would be unrecognizable. English peasants’ homes had thatched roofs, dirt floors, no plumbing, and people rarely bathed. Glass windows only existed in rich homes, which were built like fortresses. London was a walled city in 1500, and nobody went outside after dark if they valued their lives. Sewers did not yet exist, and violence and capital punishment were common. In England in 1500, only 1% of women were literate and only 10% of men. About half of all people died before adulthood, and if they survived that long, they could expect to live into their early 60s if they were lucky. Few made it to 70. Only rich people were fat. Strangers roaming the countryside could legally be enslaved. Modern appliances and machines would all be incomprehensible, and all electronic devices would seem magical. How much of a modern TV show would be understandable? Cars, trains, airplanes, and rockets would be mind-boggling. By 1500, news would have filtered into learned circles that Spain discovered some Atlantic islands, but nobody yet suspected that new continents had been discovered. The telescope would not be invented for another century, Earth was seen as the center of the universe, and the . Imagine trying to explain the Apollo moon landings to that peasant, if the peasant did not regard it as some fairy tale (many people ). Could an English peasant from 1500 dropped into 2014 London have ever adapted?

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The invasion of North America from Asia (with a little migration from North America to Asia), while important, was not as dramatic as what happened in Africa a few million years later. About 24 mya, Africa and the attached Arabian Peninsula began colliding with Eurasia. The once-vast Tethys Ocean had finally been reduced to a strait between the continents, and one of Earth’s most dramatic mammalian migrations began. By about 18 mya, proboscidean had migrated from Africa and they reached North America by 16.5 mya. An left Africa but stayed in Asia. As with the North American interchange with Asia, however, the greater change came the other way. Rodents, deer, cattle, antelope, pigs, rhinos, giraffes, dogs (including the ), and cats came over, along with small insectivores and shrews. Most of the iconic large fauna of today’s African plains originated from elsewhere, particularly Asia. Asian animals invaded and dominated Europe and Africa, and became abundant in North America. In general, Asia had more diverse biomes and was the largest continent, so it developed the most competitive animals. That principle, which Darwin remarked on, became very evident when the British invaded Australia in the 18th century: imports such as rabbits and foxes quickly prevailed, and . The most important Miocene development for humans was African primate development, but that is a subject for a later chapter.

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In recent years, Neogene temperatures have been the focus of intensive research. What appears to be the proximate cause of elevated temperatures was a dramatic change in global ocean currents. The final closing of the , the isolation of Antarctica, the creation of , and the opening and closing of land bridges, such as in the Bering Sea and ultimately the land bridge between North and South America, created dramatic changes in ocean currents and global climate. One result was fluctuating . Its production declined beginning about 24 mya, and its weakness lasted until about 14 mya. Consequently, Earth’s oceans were not stratified as they are today, and warm water extended far lower into the oceans than it does today. Also, it reduced the temperature gradient between the equator and poles, which drives global currents: the greater the differential, the more vigorous the currents. It was still an Icehouse Earth, but the “mid-Miocene climatic optimum” was relatively warm. The past three million years are the coldest that Earth has seen since the that ended 260 mya, but this . While the steadily declining carbon dioxide levels of the past 150-100 million years is the ultimate cause of this Icehouse Earth phase, relatively short-term and regional fluctuations have had their proximate causes rooted in other geophysical, geochemical, and celestial dynamics.

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By the 1850s, Germany was , and seminal discoveries and achievements came from German labs. As agriculture became industrialized, two nutrients were identified as key limiting resources as per : phosphorous and . Until 1909, humanity’s source of nitrogen for agriculture was manure. Guano was even the main source of nitrate for gunpowder when World War I began in 1914. After a century of failure by many eminent chemists, in 1909 made one of history’s most momentous breakthroughs when he . That energy-intensive process is responsible for half of humanity’s food supply today. It is also partly responsible for a great deal of water pollution, , and proliferation of weaponry. Haber has also been called the father of chemical warfare, as he was instrumental in , but he nevertheless won his Nobel Prize in 1918 for his nitrogen breakthrough. Phosphorus, which forms the , is the sole element that humanity has not found a substitute for in industrial civilization. Energy makes nitrogen and other elements more available or allows for substitution, while phosphorous must be mined or recycled. German chemical wizardry continued after World War I, and Germany was the center of science in the early 20th century. Relativity and quantum theory, the two pillars of today’s physics, were developed in Germanic nations, and Einstein, , , , , , and dominated physics in the early 20th century, with relatively minor contributions from American, British, and French scientists. From the first Nobel prizes awarded in 1901 to the rise of Nazi Germany in 1933, more than a third of the awards in and went to Germans, and if the Swiss, Dutch, Austrian, Danish, and Swedish laureates are added, they amount to well more than half, particularly for their theoretical work.

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Those oceanic changes profoundly impacted Earth’s ecosystems. Not only did most warm-climate species go extinct, at least locally, but new species appeared that were adapted to the new environment. about 35 mya and were replaced by whales adapted to the new oceanic ecosystems that are still with us today: , which include dolphins, orcas, and porpoises; and , which adapted to the rich plankton blooms caused by of the new circulation, particularly in the . Sharks adapted to the new whales, which culminated with in the Oligocene. With the land bridges and small seas between the northern continents unavailable in colder times, the easy travel between those continents that characterized the Eocene’s warm times ended and the continents began developing endemic ecosystems. Europe became isolated from all other continents by the mid-Eocene and developed its own peculiar fauna. At the Oligocene’s beginning, the was no longer a barrier between Europe and Asia. More , although from competition, an extinction event, or other causes is still debated, and competition is favored. About half of European mammalian genera went extinct, replaced by immigrants from Asia, and some from North America via Asia.

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clarifying moment in American history - The Atlantic

Although our species, (named if we consider that Neanderthals and an are subspecies of but I will use in this essay to denote today’s humans), is the only survivor of the past several million years of human-line evolution, many of our cousins and ancestors were recognizably human. When did language begin, especially spoken language? Language certainly predated the appearance of . All great apes readily learn sign language, and even when monkeys chatter, the , and there is plenty of evidence that great ape vocalizations can . The and their corvid cousins can be hard to believe; they can solve some problems better than great apes can, and birds do not have a neocortex, but seems to function like the neocortex does. Becoming that began to . If fossils are sufficiently preserved, important anatomical features can provide key evidence for human abilities and behaviors. Turkana Boy, for instance, had his inner ear, which is responsible for balance, preserved well enough so that it provided more evidence that he did not spend time in trees (it is larger in primates that regularly climb). Similarly, the , which succeeded , apparently enabled keener hearing than its predecessors were capable of, and may have reflected the beginnings of spoken language. There is strong evidence that . As with many other human traits, the potential for language seems to have existed with monkeys (), and it kept developing more sophistication over vast stretches of time, and structural and cognitive changes interacted as human language developed into today’s version.