The Weakening Pulse of Life

When shadows shaped the land,
Earth’s pulse ebbed low –
suspended filings curled
through unseen veins.
Across vast and silent sands
the ether stretched,
rich with the unspent vows
of life.
Here, titans of soft
and sprawling form
pressed their weight
into the stone –
marking time with broad
and frond-shaped limbs.

The shield retreats.

Atoms stripped away
by searing solar streams –
carried off
like chaff in wind.
Life, in its burgeoning swell,
clung to change
amongst the thinning veils –
on the weighted breath of air.
Beneath us still
these currents shift,
weaker now –
stirring deep memories
of times less contained,
a world unbound.

An artist’s impression of life on Earth during the Ediacaran period (Image Credit: University of Rochester illustration / Michael Osadciw).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that a magnetic field collapse may have triggered the emergence of animals on Earth.

In the prehistoric world, a time when the earliest large-scale life forms were emerging on Earth, our planet’s magnetic field was experiencing a significant change. Usually providing a protective shield against cosmic radiation and solar winds, this magnetic field is crucial for maintaining life-sustaining conditions. During the Ediacaran period, approximately 600 million years ago, the Earth saw the flourish of macroscopic animals known as the Ediacara Fauna.

Researchers have now analysed ancient rocks from the Ediacaran period and discovered that the Earth’s magnetic field was then about 30 times weaker than it is today, the lowest ever recorded. This prolonged weakening, lasting at least 26 million years, happened simultaneously with significant rises in atmospheric and oceanic oxygen levels. The findings suggest a potential connection between the weak magnetic field and increased atmospheric oxygen, vital for the development of complex life. With a weaker magnetic field, solar winds could more easily remove hydrogen atoms from the Earth’s atmosphere, preventing their combination with oxygen to form water vapour, and thus boosting oxygen levels. This significant hydrogen loss during the Ediacaran period may have enhanced the oxygenation of the atmosphere and oceans, supporting the evolution of advanced life forms. This research offers valuable insights into how shifts in Earth’s environment may have influenced early life’s diversification and evolution.

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