More than 252 million years ago, 90 percent of marine and terrestrial species, from snails and small crustaceans to early forms of lizards and amphibians, abruptly died out. The end-Permian extinction, also known as the “Great Dying,” was the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history and probably the closest life has come to being extinguished. Possible causes include immense volcanic eruptions, rapid depletion of oxygen in the oceans, and—though this is unlikely—an asteroid collision.
Although the causes of this global catastrophe are unknown, an MIT-led team of researchers including EAPS professor Sam Bowring has now established that the end-Permian extinction was rapid: mass die-outs both in the oceans and on land took less than 200,000 years—the blink of an eye in geologic time. The researchers also found that this time period coincides with a huge buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide that probably triggered the collapse.
With further calculations, the group found that the average rate at which carbon dioxide entered the atmosphere during the end-Permian extinction was slightly below today’s rate of carbon dioxide release due to fossil-fuel emissions alone. It is thought that in less than 20,000 years during this period, increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide triggered severe global warming, accelerating species extinction. It probably took five million years for Earth’s ecosystems to recover from the devastation.
The big new idea for making self-driving cars that can go anywhere
The mainstream approach to driverless cars is slow and difficult. These startups think going all-in on AI will get there faster.
Inside Charm Industrial’s big bet on corn stalks for carbon removal
The startup used plant matter and bio-oil to sequester thousands of tons of carbon. The question now is how reliable, scalable, and economical this approach will prove.
The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images
Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.
The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it
Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.