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Fire on Earth: an intimate history

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Sedgwick Club Conference 2015

Earth is the only planet known to have fire. The reason is both simple and profound: fire exists because Earth is the only planet to possess life as we know it. Life created the oxygen and hydrocarbon fuel that combustion requires, it arranges those fuels according to processes of evolutionary selection and ecological dynamics, and in the form of humanity it supplies the most abundant source of ignition. Fire is an expression of life on Earth and an index of life’s history. Few processes are as integral, unique, or ancient. Yet while the significance of fire can hardly be doubted, it rarely enters the discourse of relevant disciplines or appears in standard texts of geology, biology, human history, physics, or global chemistry. This lecture will consider the most important advances in our understanding of Fire on Earth and not only emphasize new methods in observing fire today but also the 400 million year record of fire on the planet.

This talk is part of the Sedgwick Club talks series.

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