In the New York Times this week there was an article about how scientists are rethinking their picture of the early Earth. Basically, the story is this: The earliest period of the Earth’s development, some four billion years ago, is called the Hadean period, after Hades, the underworld of Greek myth. Scientists gave it that name because the Earth at that time was thought to be hot, dry, heavily volcanic, and lifeless. Now, though, some geologists are arguing that the Earth then may have had oceans, plate tectonics, and extremely simple life forms very soon after the planet formed. You may only be interested in the details if you’re an earth science teacher, but the article offers a fascinating look into the process of science, which often is as interesting as the discoveries themselves.
If you want to brush up on your geologic history (or just get a quick reference), we can help. For the digital textbook we’re developing, we produced an “at a glance” guide to the natural history of North Carolina, with some information about how scientists know this stuff (or think they know it). You can find information like this elsewhere (notably from Wikipedia) but our version is, where possible, specific to North Carolina, and might be used in a variety of settings.