Heroes

The Earth has survived some serious catastrophes. Here are the 4 worst.

Our planet's had a bit of a rough past. But the Earth is nothing if not a survivor.

Here are the four worst things the Earth has survived so far:

1. The Big Splash, aka that time the universe punched Earth in the face and may have created the moon

Imagine a young Earth. Like, super young. Only 20 million years after the solar system even formed. A little precious baby Earth.


And then imagine the universe smashing it in the face with an object the size of Mars.

Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech/Wikimedia Commons.

That's the giant impact hypothesis, also known as The Big Splash. Scientists who back this hypothesis think that about 4.5 billion years ago, just after the Earth formed, another proto-planet called Theia may have slammed into it, ejecting rocks and magma out into space. Ouch.

It's not all bad, though. Some of that rock and magma may have coalesced out there in space and eventually turned in our moon. If this is true, it helps explain some of the weird things about our moon, like why Earth rocks and Moon rocks look so similar.

2. The Oxygen Catastrophe, aka that time Earth's entire atmosphere turned into poison and then turned the sky blue

After surviving The Big Splash, Earth had a nice little period of time where it got to relax and, you know, enjoy being covered in magma and stuff.

So relaxing. Image from ESO/L. Calçada/Wikimedia Commons.

Eventually, however, a combination of gas emerging from inside the Earth and meteors crashing into Earth created oceans and an atmosphere around the planet. There were even some wiggly little bacteria-like things swimming around Earth's prehistoric oceans too.

But those oceans, skies, and wiggly things would have looked totally alien to us. That's because there was pretty much no oxygen in Earth's atmosphere (which would have made the sky orange and the ocean blood-red). That was just fine for primitive life-forms, though, because if you're a little anaerobic microbe, oxygen is super poisonous.


Before oxygen, most of the Earth's atmosphere would have been methane, which would have made its surface look a lot like Saturn's moon Titan. Image from ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Wikimedia Commons.

Then, about 2.3 billion years ago, some little upstart cyanobacteria discovered photosynthesis and decided to start pooping out oxygen. After all, for them, oxygen is just waste, right?

For about 200 million years, cyanobacteria did just that. Most life on Earth kind of ignored it until suddenly oxygen was everywhere and nearly everything died. (Way to go, cyanobacteria.)


Cyanobacteria, the ultimate party poopers. Image from Doc. RNDr. Josef Reischig, CSc./Wikimedia Common.

In fact, there was so much oxygen, it broke down the methane in the atmosphere and rusted the iron right out of the oceans, which turned the ocean and sky blue.

That wasn't so bad: Earth got some nice little green life-forms, and the ocean no longer looked like something out of "The Prince of Egypt." All was well. Right?

Hahaha, no. It gets worse.

3. Snowball Earth, aka that time Earth was more frozen than a Disney movie

It turns out the Earth was totally using the methane in the atmosphere to keep the planet from from freezing — so when the cyanobacteria from The Oxygen Catastrophe broke down the methane in the atmosphere, there was nothing more to say than ... welcome to Snowball Earth.


Image from Stephen Hudson/Wikimedia Commons.

Scientists aren't sure whether this was a complete freeze or if there was a thin band of non-frozen water around the equator, but that's little consolation to the vast majority of the Earth, which was under ice sheets that could have been miles thick.

This probably hasn't happen just once, either. This kind of Earth-over deep freeze has happened again and again and again. The last bout of global freezing may have taken place about 650 million years ago.

But hey! Eventually Earth broke out of its little winter wonderland (possibly thanks to volcanoes), and life suddenly began flourishing like crazy!

Look at these trilobites! Image from Heinrich Harder/Wikimedia Commons.

In fact, for a while, things were going pretty well. Earth was starting to look like, you know, the Earth we know today. Too bad there was at least one more giant setback waiting in the wings.

4. The Great Dying, aka that time everything on Earth almost died

With The Big Splash, The Oxygen Catastrophe, and Snowball Earth solidly in the planet's rearview mirror, and a bunch of plants and animals running around on land, things were looking pretty good.

Then, about 250 million years ago, The Permian Extinction, a disaster so horrible scientists sometimes call it The Great Dying, happened. It more than earned its name, too. 96% of marine species went extinct as did 70% of land vertebrates.

What caused it? Scientists still aren't sure. Some think it might have been a collision with an immense asteroid or runaway methane or maybe what we now know as Russia simply ... exploding.

Either way, we know it took millions of years for life on Earth to recover. A lot of the more popular lineages of animals, like trilobites and a lot of mammal-like reptiles, were wiped out, leaving huge vacuums in the ecosystem. A few lineages did survive, however, including the ancestors of modern mammals and dinosaurs. Dinosaurs!

OH HEY, DID SOMEONE SAY DINOSAURS? Image from Dominik Reinold/Pixabay.

Thanks to climate change, today the Earth is going through some transformations too. With the planet's history as proof, chances are the Earth will survive climate change, too. Whether that includes humans, however...

Look, here's the thing. I like the skies the color they are now, thank you very much. I don't want to live through seas of lava, mile-thick glaciers over Acapulco, or the skies changing color (unless you're talking about a beautiful sunset or the northern lights, of course).

Fighting climate change isn't really about saving the planet. It's about saving ourselves and the other creatures that call Earth home. No matter how cool an ice planet with red skies sounds.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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