The Evolution of Cats: 1. Why A Cat?

Experts say that when dogs first evolved, they lived in trees and looked something like a civet. (Rose)

It’s true that cats evolved later than dogs, but when they first appeared they looked a lot like modern cats.  And long before the first true cat evolved, fully developed cat-like nimravids bounded onto the scene.

Fossils from those early days are rare, so nobody knows how nimravids developed, but ever since then that beautiful feline shape has prowled the forests and plains of Earth.

This story also has a human side.

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Notes on Sources

I would be perfectly happy to spend my retirement investigating Oregon’s volcanoes and reading scientific papers about cats, weather, and geology, but there’s this book, Where Cats Come From, to do and it is science writing for the general public.

This means, since I am a new writer, that I should declare my standing to write such a book.

As the eminently quotable G. K. Chesterton would say, I must be egotistical in order to prove I’m sincere.

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The Age of Supereruptions: Climate Effects

Note:  This is a volcano post, but we need to mention a few other interesting things first.  And everything is better with a cat in it.

Human beings didn’t invent climate change; it’s built into the plane.

We’re actually survivors of some of the most dramatic natural changes ever: the ice ages.

Earth started having glacial/interglacial cycles 2.6 million years ago, right around the time that our ancestors first realized that stones can be made into useful tools.  (Agustí and Antón; Coolidge and Wynn)

Since then, people have seen at least 20 ice ages come and go.  For the last million years, the 100,000-year cycle has been quite regular. (Petit and others; Smithsonian)

Our progress through ice ages and the intervening warm interglacial periods—like the one we’re in now—can be measured by the number of controlled barriers we have erected between us and the unpredictability of the great outdoors.

Not all the barriers have been successful.

It’s a rough world out there.  And even though volcanoes are the ultimate source of our atmosphere (Schmidt and Robock), they’re out to get us, too.

The deadliest eruption in history—at Indonesia’s Tambora in 1815—may have directly and indirectly killed over 100,000 people.  (Oppenheimer, 2011)

The second most extreme supereruption known (Mason and others; Self) happened at another Indonesian volcano called Toba roughly 73,000 years ago, during the middle Stone Age.  (Oppenheimer, 2011)  It may have almost  wiped out the human race by triggering a “volcanic winter.”  (Self)

Nonetheless, despite such formidable natural hassles, the definitive history of humanity, whenever it gets written, may ultimately reveal that we were our own worst enemies.

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