Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Centralia Pennsylvania

I just watched an amazing story about the former city of Centralia, Pennsylvania, a city that became a virtual ghost town because of a mine fire. The fire is thought to have begun in the early 60's, and burned as something of a local oddity/annoyance until the late 70's, accompanied by problems with the poisonous carbon monoxide released. In the years after that, the heated ground, open pits, and increased smoke drew political attention, and nearly everyone was relocated. The fire is still burning under the ruined town, and is expected to burn for another 250 years.

It's a nice illustration of how vast geological time is, where events are measured in units that exceed human life spans. We forget sometimes just how brief our time here has been. A quick comparison:

The universe: 14,000,000,000 years
The earth: 4,500,000,000 years
Modern humans: 200,000 years
Agrarian humans: <13,000 years

We are but the paint on the top of the Eiffel tower of the universe's history.

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