This is why I need a time machine

The Royal Ontario Museum has a series of short animations of life in the Cambrian. Too short. Physicists, get to work and figure out how to get a fully self-contained submersible back 400+ million years.

Round trip, please. I only want to visit.


  1. blf says

    Actually, we know a lot about suitable time machines already: They have to (appear to) be made of wood, painted blue, having a flashing light on top and an ability to hold off the assembled hordes of Genghis Khan, and say “Police Public Call Box”. The rest are mere details that even a biologist can handle.

  2. TheBlackCat says

    Pfft, building a time machine is easy. You just need a pair of black holes, a way to connect them to each other, a way to move one of them, and a ship that can survive the journey from one to the other. The catch is that it can’t take you back before it was built, which won’t help you get to the Cambrian unless those anomalocarids were a lot smarter than we think and left one for us.

  3. shouldbeworking says

    Why do people only talk to physicists when they want something? “Why do things have mass?” “Build me a tool to see small creatures”. “Build me something to see inside those small things”. We’re being treated as second class scientists!

  4. ChasCPeterson says

    Nice vids. Here another good one, I believe an earlier offering from the same folks. (large .mov file but worth it).

  5. Al Dente says

    I want to know more about Marpolia spissa. It’s described as a bush-like filamentous cyanobacteria:

    Marpolia forms dense tufts up to 5 cm in length composed of numerous filaments. Filaments tend to branch near the base of the tuft. Each filament averages about 40 microns in width. Filaments are composed of an outer sheath and one to four strands of inner cells. Each cell is about 2 microns in length. M. aequalis has a central stem and stronger branching structures than M. spissa.

    Is this a colony of bacteria or a biofilm? I was under the impression that bacteria is unicellular.

  6. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Why do people only talk to physicists when they want something?

    Well, I’m a chemist, and if something deals with time, not just matter, I pass it off the physicists.

  7. ealloc says

    Cool, I just spend the afternoon reading Stephen Jay Gould’s excellent book “Wonderful Life” about the Burgess Shale. I recognized the Anomalocaris, but I was hoping to also see the weirder organisms like Hallucigenia, Aysheia and Opabinia!

    Also, Gould mentions that because the shale was formed by mudslides it predominantly caught bottom surface dwellers, and largely missed all the swimming organisms! So even though the video shows a mostly empty sea, my uneducated guess is there were probably plenty of swimming organims we don’t know about.

  8. dmgregory says

    Awesome, that’s the museum that hosted the evolution-themed game jam I participated in last week. :)

    Thanks again to everyone in the Horde who offered suggestions in the Lounge thread!

    Some nice games came out of that jam. There was one where whatever killed your character on one life was assumed to be the dominant selective pressure on the population – so you’d respawn some generations later better-adapted to avoid that particular death (eg. after dying from predation, your next incarnation would be faster). There was one that literally simulated an ecosystem and organisms reproducing with variation, although it tended to bog down and crash with more than a dozen or so offspring active at once. There was a beautiful game about competition for prey between owls and hawks, there were fossil-hunting spins on DigDug and Bejewelled, games about delicate interdependencies in food webs, etc.

    I’ll confess I didn’t finish mine in time, but I hope to get it wrapped up for their September showing. :)

  9. newenlightenment says

    Can I have the machine after you? Wanna visit the Carboniferous and get me a pet Meganeura

  10. David Marjanović says

    Is this a colony of bacteria or a biofilm? I was under the impression that bacteria [are] unicellular.

    Many cyanobacteria form filaments – basically a one-dimensional biofilm.

    One bacterium, two bacteria.

  11. Paulino says

    GAH!!! They insist in this Nectocaris = squid!! I want a time machine too and stop them before they publish that Cambrian Kraken non-sense! Even the wikipedia still put Nectocaris as a cephalopod…