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Anthropogenic Rock-making Histories:

J. R. Underwood's Rock Cycle Category

Richard Brook Cathcart
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Stone tool-making is a reductive process. Synthetic rock manufacturing, an additive process, will not forever be confined to only the Earth-biosphere: 21st century Homo sapiens remains, still, Vitruvian Man housed within a Vitruvian World. So, with Homo quadratus, Leonardo da Vinci's imaginary naked male figure with outstretched limbs in mind, this brief focuses on humanity's ancient past, hodiernal and possible future massive creation of artificial rocks within our openly exploitable Solar System. This preliminary, mostly Earth-centric, account expands the factual generalities underlying the unique non-copyrighted systemic technogenic rock classification first publicly presented (to the American Geological Society) during 2001, by its sole intellectual innovator, James Ross Underwood, Jr. Innovation creates value. Underwood's pioneering unique exposition of an organization of this ever-increasingly important aspect of the spatially expansive anthropic rock story, material lithification, will herein be extended both backwards in recent geological time (and forward by informed speculated future geological time) for the broader socially stimulative group-purpose of encouragement of a fuller 21st century treatment of this explicative subject-chart by geoscience, space science and bioscience historians. In an unusual exposition style, uncommon artificial stones will be contrasted with familiar man-made stones using the technique of suggestive futurism. In this way, historical facts will be interlarded in the main text rather than relegated to a sectioned essay.

1. Introduction

When James Hutton (1726–97) stated in 1788 there was "... no prospect of an end ..." for Earth, he meant there were then no measured indications of our planet's eventual absence from this particular Solar System, not that it was an eternal object timelessly existing in the Universe's volume of space (Stewart, 2010). Some perceive humankind's frontier of "space" as the entire Universe minus the Earth. Of all places, seemingly vacuous universal space alone can appropriately be perceived as a true wilderness where, before 4 October 1957, there were no material artifacts of human existence1; extraterrestrial space alone is the last vast apprehensible place where humans are yet primarily surrounded by things they have not fabricated. Eventually, after billions of years of geological time have elapsed, the whole Earth could become engulfed by the expanding solar photosphere when the Sun reaches the forecasted red giant branch phase of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (Iorio, 2010). Then, the Earth, finally, will vaporize into a barely palpable boiled-off smoke-like end-product – an Earth vaporized terminates the residence time of all of its planetary materials and propels them into interstellar space where, unless they are detected and ultimately harvested from the solar wind by intelligent beings (Hempsell, 2005), such wispy materials are most likely to exist forever as heliosphere "waste" unappreciated by any known life-form. For many coming revolutions about the Sun, Earth will surely endure massive global change (Dutch, 2006) yet, ultimately, Earthly future geological time likely ends naturally or artificially (Cathcart, 1983; McCarthy and Seidelmann, 2009). Thus, George Hoggart Toulmin (1754–1817), who once did vigorously assert the eternity of Earth, and presumably the other then-known planets too, is now all but forgotten by geoscientists, his once-popular public opinion dismissed by moderns as useless rhetoric.

Founded in 1807, the Geological Society of London is the world's oldest geoscience-focused social group meeting periodically. On 19 February 1830, in a lecture to the group's gathered membership, Adam Sedgwick (1785–1873) admonished geoscientists to foreswear hyper-environmental futurism and not "... to speculate about the physical revolutions of the ages which are not yet come" (Sedgwick, 1834). The irrefutably direct precursor to all global contamination and pollution is the solid litter from our ancient progenitors' stone-knapping industry (Faisal et al., 2010); today's personal computer wireless mouse resembles in its most useful, aesthetically pleasing form the knapped dead animal dressing tool-blade first wielded by our ancestors some 35,000 to 50,000+ years ago! Apart from speech, the human hand is the agent of a person's most deliberate motor activity and it is quite interesting that the already remarkably expressed human desire to manipulate the enveloping environment does not confine itself to our own globe-homeland. Nowadays, however, geoscientists are charged with the daunting task, a very challenging goal, to try to understand the past, present, and future behavior of the whole Earth. As planetary passengers – the determined crew of "Spaceship Earth" – our resolving species has assumed the arduous task of safe disposal of our most enduring industrial discards, trash such as extremely high-level radioactive wastes, quite unlike the Earth at Oklo, Gabon (Kikuchi et al, 2010). Should Spaceship Earth be apprehended as a non-subjective identifying synonym for Gaia, and vice-versa? 21st century geoscientists are acutely aware solidifiable Earth-atmosphere gaseous pollutants are an industrial survival macro-problem (Zeman, 2007). That is why government agencies worldwide have sought, and in many instances been granted, broad mandates to humanely codify internal dosimetry, toxicology, and atmospheric chemistry (Mickley, 2007). Since coinage of "geochemistry" in 1838 by Christian Schonbein (1799–1868) – he was the discoverer of ozone – such interest has been extended logically to other bodies in this explorable Solar System.

Unquestionably, Homo sapiens' most important task, and that of many of its ever-more robotized machine creations as well, is mind-endowed biological life's preservation (Sagoff, 2008; Raudsepp-Hearne et al., 2010; Piersma and van Gils, 2010). A single bacterium, producing progeny via binary fission, can double its species-presence in one-half hour; within less than three days' time, if not eaten by voracious predators and also blessed with an infinite or indefinable food supply, that reproducing bacterium could attain a mass equal to the solid Earth! Insistent space scientists enthuse still motivated by the social "bubble" – collective American societal over-enthusiasm for unreasonable monetary investments as well as scientific and engineering efforts first incited by the NASA Apollo Program (Gisler and Sornette, 2009) – that for humans to live permanently on Mars micro-organisms must be introduced to that planet's evidently abiotic soil (Cockell, 2010; Olsson-Francis and Cockell, 2010) so that, subsequently, productive agricultural tasks can be dutifully performed that result in bountiful crop harvests; it seems, then, that rapid micro-organism reproduction is a vital beneficial prerequisite for any future Mars human settlement (Roach, 2010).

Proponents of the so-called Medea Hypothesis (Ward, 2009) suggest that Earthly life, eventually, eliminates itself and, further, that the Earth then enters a new period of geological time: perhaps the "Anthropocene" (Zalasiewicz et al., 2010) terminates suddenly and the following, barely opened, "Kerocene" transitions rapidly to a "Kenocene" period (Prosh and McCracken, 1985)? Inspired by viewing the tiny creature-deposited famously white chalk cliffs of Dover at Dartford, England, scientific microscopy was initiated by Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723) in 1667. Before the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider commenced experiments in the USA during 2000, and the Large Hadron Collider in Europe first came online in 2010, international legal actions, vetting lawsuits brought to the attention of examining courts by some famous geoscientists, alleged these two exotic laboratory matter-creation and manipulation test devices could disrupt or destroy Earth by introducing so-called black holes below the planet's crust, literally to cause a beautiful, colorful, yet essentially blue-shaded Solar System celestial body to disappear almost instantly from the Universe, forever (Johnson, 2009).

Circa 21 October 1824, when Joseph Aspdin (1778–1855) was awarded UK Patent #5022 for his "Artificial Stone", concrete first became a material potentially capable of encasing the entire planet crust, its free air and everything else (Cathcart and Cirkovic, 2006; Fernandes, 2010). Subsequently, nearly two centuries later, for the generally confined Homo sapiens civilization retaining the same extendable vocabulary of this rather prosaic, plain word ["stone"] now realizes that "... concrete ... [became a fundamentally] ... uninterruptible resource much like energy and oil and food itself" (Palley, 2010)! The ubiquitous and massive global yearly production of cement (>2,550 megatonnes, or ~4 km3) has, circa 2010, become of such commercial and social importance to the world of the anatomically modern human that if it were suddenly to halt no other known anthropogenic substance could supply its place, and such an event could not be looked upon in any other light than of a widespread calamity for human civilization! "Concrete block structures are a common sight on Mexico's landscape. Roughly 70% of the country's urban houses and an increasing number of rural dwellings are composed of blocks" (Fry, 2008). At the other end physically of the visible scale, ~100 tonnes of synthetic diamonds are produced yearly and the plasma deposition of thin diamond films, as pioneered by persons such as nano-engineering geo-material science expert Rustom Roy (1924–2010), adds to human civilization's sturdiness, perhaps enveloped indestructibility. Artificial gemstones, especially since the early 1930s, are commonplace.

But, before patented cement/concrete, there were other (unpatented) artificial stones composed of processed soil (Landa and Feller, 2009) and particulated mined rock: brick, slag, glass, and ceramic – indeed, it is the attractive exploded artworks of the grassroots ceramicist Steven Robert Tobin (born 1957) that seem to exemplify best, both geo-scientifically, artistically and technically, humankind's ages-long recorded craftsmanship history to unnatural stone working – flaking, molding, and otherwise shaping (Grande, 2007; Mansfield, 2005; Bell, 2008). Only transparent glass permitted, commencing during the 1640s in Europe, keeping air apart and apparent from the created observable and measurable absence of air (Connor, 2010), helping humans to recognize for the first time in history the likelihood that space was a vacuum and that Earth had a finite atmosphere composed of various gases. [Amazingly, "vacuum engineering", first conceived in 1988 by Tsung-Dao Lee (born 1926) may lead to the discovery of new phenomena totally unexpected (Puthoff and Little, 2002).] Human ability to garner optimum performance throughout the design-life of a facility within a minimum design-life cost requires our species to excel at infrastructure maintenance, and such amenability demands uncompromising understanding of durability, sustainability, and serviceability. Indeed, the popularly used ecological term "sustainable" means, literally, that our everyday activities might be prolonged indefinitely – that there is a closed-loop system of development that imitates/mimics the geologic rock cycle or the hydrologic cycle (Linton, 2008; Costanza et al., 2011)! A massive, inert and scrupulously conserved reinforced-concrete pylon, emplaced in 1908 in an urban parkland with absolute geographical co-ordinates located precisely on the Tropic of Cancer in Asia, continues to measure natural change in the Earth's obliquity because it is maintained well by those who appreciate its geoscience data-revelations (Chao, 1996).

  1. In Observing Earth Satellites, Desmond King-Hele (1966, page 6) noted that "we still have no satisfactory name for all the objects in orbit about the Earth .... In the absence of an accepted term ...'the wild life space' brings out the biological analogy and suggests that the objects in space are not entirely predictable in their movements...". In an amusing 17 October 1971 letter, "Will the Next Slogan Say, 'Keep Space Beautiful'" to the Sunday-issue Editor of The New York Times (Travel and Resorts Section, page XX4), Lily Quiver recounted a poem authored by A. Kulik approximately eighteen years previously: "The day wil1 come when we/can trace/Man's passage all through/velvet space,/By dirty dishes, empty jars,/Banana peels and old cigars."

  2. More than 75 years ago, UK geophysicist Sidney Chapman (1888–1970) proposed in "The gases of the atmosphere", Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Vol. 60, pages 127-142 (April 1934) that astronomers could do ultraviolet measurements better if artificial ozone holes were chemically punched in Earth's atmosphere above observatories. Nowadays, it is known that global rocket launches have a depletion effect on the planet's ozone layer (Ross et al., 2009). Much has been published since the 1980s on the topic of the polar ozone holes (Mulder, 2005; Morgenstern et al., 2008; Newman et al., 2008). Living geophysicists think that expansion and contraction of these holes are also directly affected by extraterrestrial cosmic rays (Lu, 2009). Significantly for this expose, CFCs can, literally, be inexpensively transformed into storable mineralized deposits (Burdeniuc and Crabtree, 1996).

  3. With correct pre-treatment, the prefabricated concrete panels proposed to enclose Earth won't repeat the sad events occurring at the 204,000 m3 Biosphere 2 facility in Arizona, where some of the carbon dioxide combined with the calcium in the concrete comprising the foundation used to construct Biosphere 2 to produce calcium carbonate. In effect, the oxygen present in the 1air inside Biosphere 2 at its closing became, over time, reduced because the atmospheric oxygen was locked up chemically in the walls and base of the structure and because of the activities of bacteria! About a year and a half after Biosphere 2 was "sealed" and occupied by eight humans, the ambient air's oxygen content fell from its initial 21% to ~14%. Combustion is severely limited, even made nearly impossible, when air has less than 15% oxygen content! Biosphere 2 was sealed in 1991 and unsealed in 1993 (Cohen and Tilman, 1996). The whole Earth-surface macro-engineering episode merely duplicates, on a smaller geographical scale, what actually happens to our planet at a much larger spatial scale (Nilsson et al., 2008; Catling and Zahnle, 2009). Overall, Earth's aerial oxygen content has fallen ~0.02 to 0.03 per cent since humanity's Industrial Revolution began in the mid-18th century. Interestingly, Claude Levi-Strauss (1908–2009), in his famous memoir-travelogue Tristes Tropiques ["The Sad Tropics", 1955, page 155], with regard to urban region definition, stated: a city is "a congregation of animals who enclose their biological history within its boundaries and at the same time through their every conscious action mould and shape it. ...It is at one and the same time an object of Nature and a subject of culture ... the supreme human achievement". An ideal environment, with dust and bacteria content controlled adequately, could be developed that makes impossible for any variant of the "sick building syndrome" to happen. Personally, I cannot object that some enclosing panels may, like fresh concrete deposited to make a street sidewalk, ultimately display inscriptions stick-scratched by joyful, if mischievous, children.

2. Gamut of main, unfamiliar technogenic rocks

Each year ~3.2 km2 of new seafloor Earth-crust is extruded (Stern and Scholl, 2010) – that is only 1/336th of the land area annually made impervious, largely by imbrications of concrete and other similar hydrophobic materials, to liquid surface freshwater runoffs in the USA (Theobald et al., 2009)! Today, some geoscientists believe the Earth-biosphere is becoming just an electronics-shaped human workplace, perhaps conceptually not so different from a Beta version Windows 9 personal computer platform. Warnings issued by social scientists first emerged during the late-20th century that humanity's remarkable current physical disconnection from Nature will permanently skew the base-line of what our species perceives as the entire human experience of the Earth-biosphere (Kahn et al., 2009). Moreover, for all of human existence the only means of intra-species cross-generational communication was chemical; that essential process has lately been supplemented by uncorrupted electrical information transfer, "saved" as memory, which is becoming as sturdy as pure DNA. Interestingly, the first calculators were rocks, calculus is the Latin word for "pebble", and our species' first living computer-persons made calculations by rearranging pebbles. Knowing this, is it so difficult to imagine why remote planetary surface probe operators jubilantly rejoice on live international television broadcasts over telltale pebble and boulder finds on the Moon and Mars surface?

"The constructive process has a special place in human thinking because it is self-certifying" (Kirsh, 2010); thus, macro-engineering easily qualifies as humanity's self-approval psychological and physiological mechanism! Why else laboriously put together accurate orrerys as implements? From the moment when we navigate a playpen or explore our neighborhood aboard vehicles, we commence becoming exploratory geoscientists and, even, spacemen in spirit; Harold Leland Goodwin (1915–90) opined that during the late-20th century more people studied geoscience, bioscience, and space science that ever before. The ancient Greeks, amongst other intriguing mechanicals in their possession (Paipetis, 2010), indisputably constructed complex calculators, perhaps best exampled by the fabulous Antikythera Device (Marchant, 2009). For Charles Babbage (1792–1871) associating the operations of his clanking pre-electronic calculating machines to the operations of the whole planet Earth "was no mere analogy" (Dolan, 1998); electricity use is human technology's emblem of progress and, furthermore, ~65% of worldwide electricity use – i.e., about 11.7 terawatts out of a total 2010 human civilization use of ~18 terawatts – is by industry's "motor systems" (Worrell et al., 2009); as of 2009, "an estimated 330 terawatt-hours of energy…was consumed to operate data centers worldwide" (Meijer, 2010). 20th and 21st century science/nano-engineering is promoting the injection of miniaturized machine intelligence into everyday and extraordinary useful material objects: the first solar cells (made public circa 1954) powered Vanguard 1 in 1958 and the extra-Solar System space probe Voyager 1, the man-made object farthest from the Sun, is still powered by its thermoelectric generators instead of solar cells (Pyne, 2010). It will presently depart our Solar System forever, passing through the heliopause by 2014.

During the multi-billion-year existence of Earth so far, the gravitationally-bound planetary mineral kingdom has changed from simplicity to complexity just as life has changed perceptibly; mobile life has pushed Earth-biosphere conditions even farther than the formation and differentiation of the planet's diverse solid materials (Hazen and Ferry, 2010). For only a relatively short period of geological time has life actually co-evolved with the mineral kingdom's diversification, especially the explored and measured Earth-surface manifestations of eventuating basic processes; however, possibly >50% of the extant mineral species are directly attributable to life's existence! For example, photosynthetic organisms contribute, approximately, three times as much energy to the Earth's overall geochemical energy cycle as geological activity driven just by the Earth's interior: Walter D. Keller (1900–2001) famously announced Earth was a "slave of energy" during the 1940s and, as well, others (Kleidon, 2010) have more recently elaborated the geoscientifical truths of that topic. So, extension of repairable cements and reinforcements to future human colonies on the Moon and Mars – rather like coral structures in the ocean [bioherms] or termite mounds on land – might bring this process to other celestial body surfaces during the 21st century.

Whilst unreferenced by Hazen and his colleagues, previously Harry Donald Goode (1912–2000) had already coined the usefully vague term "geoevolutionism" and had presented his precisely useful insight to the meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1969 during the very year that two male humans first walked upon the Moon's desolate regolith and commenced to shove its crust materials around (Goode, 1969; Anon., 2000). By geoevolutionism, Goode implied that mineralogical and geological processes and major events throughout Earthly geological time changed markedly and that new geologic changes fostered new geologic processes that, in turn, brought about new changes. The unpublished espoused ideas he vigorously presented to that convention grew out of his attempts to reconcile the doctrines of uniformitarianism and catastrophism. In an astonishingly real sense that serves geo- and space scientists well, Goode brought to completion an arduous geo-and space science re-directional task first undertaken by Robert Lionel Sherlock (1875–1948) to reduce outdated geoscience's erroneous teaching emphasis on over-emphasized uniformitarianism. Humans, who even intentionally move things upslope against gravity, are Earth's premier geomorphic agent: the voluminous published literature (Craghan, 2004; Wilkinson and McElroy, 2007) on mankind's deliberate and non-deliberate movement of Earthly materials is, practically speaking, just about never-ending and is a "leading numerical indicator" measuring the notable influence of Homo sapiens on extant geological and biological process combinations (geophysical) directly related to ongoing Goodean geoevolutionism. 1,000 years ago, at least, our species began markedly to outstrip Nature's normal shifting of earthly surface materials; moderns have induced and triggered seismicity (Szabo et al., 2010). More than half a century ago, famous biologists as, for example, Jakob von Uexkull (1864–1944), assumed a static view of Nature: the so-called balance of nature cannot occur, except as a continuum – i.e., as a temporary state of Nature.

Sidney Paige (1881–1968) suspected Earth's orogenesis and epeirogenesis was steadily, possibly solely, Sun energized (Paige, 1955; Rosing et al., 2006); J. Marvin Herndon credits some of the remainder crust-change activating energy budget is completed by a smallish, erratic on/off pulsating center-of-planet-mass Earth fission nuclear georeactor (Herndon, 2006). The earliest presence of life affecting newly-erupted lava may possibly explain the continuous presence of cratons on continents first recognized, and named, by Leopold Kober (1883–1970) (Jordan, 1978). The physical stock and degradation velocity of Earth's mineral kingdom, viewed strictly as human resources is, more and more, being evaluated accurately and usefully (Capilla and Delgado, 2011). Homo sapiens exhume and inhume things on a vast geographical scale, including digging and burying artificial things such as surface landers and their associated paraphernalia on the Moon, Mars and Venus! Capilla and Delgado's compiled observations are statistical evidence – exhibits strongly reminiscent of S. R. Tobin's spectacular ceramic art! Industrial R&D uses modern investigational strategies to design advanced infrastructure materials inspired, often, by changeable Nature; the goal, as always, is to make materials that prevent as much as possible the formation of cracks. Indeed, nowadays there seems to be a pervasive geo-philosophical contention that a radical break with past civilization trends is presently occurring, that the sum of all present-day social changes globally is sufficiently apocalyptic to serve possibly as an identifiable named post-Anthropocene geological time period. Since an epoch is the start of a new geological time period, we are liable to have the distinctive opportunity to create delimiting, anthropogenic monuments on and within this planet composed of artificial stone! The built environments located within Earth's biosphere are civilization's vital infrastructure, the footprint impression in Nature of all human activity, past and present; urban "metabolism" – all of the technical and social processes that take place in cities containing skyscrapers that results in expansion, energy production and sanitation/waste elimination (Kennedy et al., 2007). See Figure 1, below. Future anthropogenic rock strata, industrially installed during the 21st century could become nameable geological dikes and sills, tilting or flat-lying man-caused igneous rock that cut across the bedding planes of the rocks intruded: for example, a potential "Stevenson's Stratum" formation subsequent to the creation, by a starting H-bomb explosion, of a self-propagating crack in the Earth-crust subsequently filled with 100 megatonnes of continuously-poured molten iron (Stevenson, 2003). In essence, Stevenson proposed an outrageously silly macro-project using an iron diaper situated at a new aerial nuclear explosive test site. However, as is often the case, he was not the first, merely the most notorious proposer of inner-Earth exploration technology since William Mansfield Adams (born 1932) had earlier offered a patented ("Nuclear Reactor Apparatus for Earth Penetration", US Patent 3,115,194, awarded 24 December 1963) self-sinking nuclear reactor designed to penetrate Earth's crust to a depth of ~30,500 m that was to leave a near-vertical trail of solidified igneous rock (anthropic rock)! Both macro-projects were meant to return remotely-collected data from deep-Earth probes. Nevertheless, the creation of rocky dikes might, in the future, serve to support mankind's unsteady land-surface infrastructure by extending deeper a regular array of vertically excavated cylindrical holes in the Earth-crust that serve to markedly attenuate certain dangerous surface vibration frequencies during, for instance, major earthquakes (Meseguer et al., 1999). Such artificial dikes may even become identified as in many ways similar to keiroliths (fault rocks and mélanges) found, for instance, at Earth-crust subduction sites and fault offset zones (Sengor and Sakmc, 2001).

Image of Manhattan Island taken by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission
Figure 1. Manhattan Island, in New York City on 30 October 2000 as made visible electronically from the South. Hundreds of NYC’s skyscrapers appear as whitish spikes and the large rectangular green-tinted region in the center of this Endeavour Shuttle Radar Topography Mission is NYC's Central Park. The Hudson River is on the left-side of the image. All of the steel and concrete buildings appear almost ghostly in aspect, as if they were an eroding ancient geological formation! Courtesy: NASA

In his now proven 1963 theory of "chemiosmosis", Dennis Mitchell (1920–92) fostered the concept that life is powered by a kind of electricity and that, possibly, Earth-life began inside rock (Orgel, 1999; Prebble and Weber, 2003; Bell, 2007). Yet, the majority of micro-organisms alive in the space-surrounded Earth today remain undiscovered (Fierer et al, 2007). Natural and artificial rocks can be impregnated with inventoried known life; it is possible with available biotechnology to "... create a conduit for electronic communication from living cells to inorganic materials ..." (Jensen et al., 2010). After Mitchell, others – mainly brainy philosophers speaking to each other in opaque terminology – have gone so far as to "prove", by logical verbalized, mathematized, and diagramed demonstration alone, that "... even inanimate matter must have some kind of mental aspect" (Bohm and Peat, 1987; Putnam, 1988; Ford, 2009). Hilary Whitehall Putnam, arguing in his complex theorem that every ordinary open system realizes every abstract finite automaton, together with the theory of computational sufficiency, implied that a rock has a mind! Could concrete-electronics actually be a new emergent process – "emergence" meaning the appearance of a new property of a system which cannot be deduced or previously observed as a functional characteristic of the system (Addiscott, 2010; Garcia et al., 2010)? And, as well, certain insightful archaeologists allege and assert that, long ago, people invested natural stone with permanently housing human souls, that the deceased person resided in a particular natural basalt stele recovered at Zincirli in southeastern Turkey, when a hand-carved inscription so indicated. May we, then, imaginatively project into the remainder of the 21st century, especially when Earth might be enclosed by a concrete roof carrying a glass cable communication system based on circum-Earth optic fibers (Meulenberg et al., 2010) that presumably cannot be hacked by extraterrestrial aliens inhabiting other, distant part of the Universe or anyone incapable of being consistently space-faring (Launius, 2010; Hickman, 2008; Anker, 2005), whenever living organisms cease to be compelled to respond to the familiar geophysical daily, annual and lunar cycles (Foster and Roenneberg, 2008) and when, also, aerial carbon remediation efforts via direct removal of CO2 gas and its long-term underground storage in stable repositories (Matter and Kelemen, 2009: Pielke, 2010), that "open-source" World Wide Web [Internet] planetary macro-engineering, emphasizing artificial stone creation, should then prevail? I suggest that such actions – such as massive CO2 abatement and mitigation – should properly be considered a new, still-under-development, form of macro-engineering, medicinal macro-engineering (Raupach and Canadell, 2010), especially if we readily countenance "sustainable concrete" architecture (Bennett, 2010).

Currently, it is possible – almost an everyday occurrence in fact – for Mount Everest climbers to surf the WWW, browse and post Facebook updates because, via a nearby base-of-peak 3G tower installation, even at the summit – which, by the way, is limestone – access to wireless Internet makes possible video-phone calls (Skype) and texting (Evans-Cowley, 2010). Our new-found ultra-Vitruvian Man ability to connect intellectually with individuals across planet Earth's surface and with planet-orbiting spacecraft at close to light-speed has made the world we inhabit both larger and smaller simultaneously. Humans using smart cellular telephones, which contain distinctively specialized manmade ceramics with peculiar electronic properties, with appropriate applications, can monitor space weather created by the Sun and the cosmos impacting our planet (Tobiska et al., 2010). With ~46 billion Earth-size planets tallied in the Milky Way Galaxy, there are many possible aliens to be contacted (Howard et al., 2010): probably, many extraterrestrials, just like Homo sapiens, must also make artificial stone! This is one significant facet – universal application – of the categorical organization of unnatural rocks unanticipated by James Ross Underwood, Jr., or he was restricted from any topical discussion by unresponsive, possibly irresponsible, print journal editors, with some perhaps even influenced by insider peer-reviewers. (See Section 5.)

During ancient times, the Greek's myth of the Gorgons involved three winged female monsters one of who had the power to convert people into stone merely with a single glance. In today's English parlance, "to gorgonize" a person is to metaphorically petrify someone with an intimidating glare. Present-day geoscientists are investigating the means to manufacture stone by the application of developing technology; some bold geoscientists, following the histories of anthropic rock making, have not been intimidated by the near-term future mega-problem of providing a long-term macro-engineering (Cathcart, 1997; Bolonkin and Cathcart, 2009) rock-making technological fix to the anthropogenic build-up of carbon dioxide gas in Earth's atmosphere caused by worldwide industrialization and the aggregate exhaled breath of every living human (Fleming, 2010; Prairie and Duarte, 2007). Our functioning machines exhaust more CO2 gas yearly than Earth's respiring animals.

In 1589, Giambattista della Porta (c.1535–1615) first suggested that the Moon's near-side become a news medium by employing gigantic mirrors to reflect sunlight from Earth to the Moon. In 1906, George Allan England (1877–1937), the science-fiction novelist, similarly postulated "The Lunar Advertising Co., Ltd" which would project from Earth somewhat collimated light-beams towards the Moon's near-side face to obtrusively sell commercially available products to the world's public and, during 1915, he penned "The Air Trust", a fiction espousing the idea of monopoly control of the world's air supply to economically exploit the prospect of human breathing privileges! It is breathtaking, or to say the least somewhat astounding, that printed language text should ever become a major part of humanity's commonly visible outdoor "landscape" via a floodlit Moon's near-side; literally, the Moon becomes a hemispherical texting screen! Early-21st century SETI enthusiasts proposed a mirrored Moon be used to telegraph aliens not residing in this Solar System! On a parochial note, on 27 February 2001, the US Supreme Court ruled in Whitman v. American Trucking Associations (ATA, 99-1257) that only human health factors can be considered in legislating and adjudicating ambient air quality standards. "Taken at its word, the Supreme Court ruling requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency…to set air quality standards that are by definition too pristine to be in the public interest, and it requires the [lower and Appeal] courts to make sure they do" (Ross, 2001). In other words, the United Nations Organization's collective desire to limit CO2 emissions, combined with the strangest USA Supreme Court judgment means that a "Sky Trust" might, someday, be organized that could set, and enforce, global limits on aerial carbon dioxide gas ejections into the global common (atmosphere) and the impingement of air-heating sunlight, directly from the Sun or, indirectly, from the Moon (Brunner, 2010).

Solidification of a large fraction of the Earth's existing aerial CO2 has the potential to alleviate one facet, possibly caused exclusively by Homo sapiens, of looming global change – anthropogenic global warming. Geosequestration of such artificial rock in the Earth-crust is being vigorously researched because CO2 emissions to the air are, evidently, an immediate constraint on humanity's use of nuclear and fossil fuel-derived energy; stabilizing the Earth-atmosphere's CO2 content will significantly affect energy use and the impact of climate on infrastructure and human life-styles. A gigatonne of carbon dioxide is >1 km3 as a liquid, reduced from 500 km3 when an Earth-atmosphere gas. Here it might be informative for the reader to note that even the Moon's natural, formerly pristine, regolith surface-bounded exosphere has been augmented by our actual past and potential future mechanized exploration activities (Vondrak, 1974) – celestial body climate change in an initially lunar context. If the Moon's exosphere were 10,000 times denser, that satellite's atmosphere would become stable and not removable by the constantly impinging solar wind. In the recent past the Moon was once considered a likely nuclear and thermonuclear weapon/device test-site (Richelson, 2000). Oddly, general nuclear warfare in the Earth might just produce a post-apocalyptic moonscape! If ever conducted, such tests would have generated a greenish artificial stone called trinitite, the material result of induced transformation as sand from the New Mexico desert was sucked upwards into the 16 July 1945 nuclear fireball and fell back in a dense precipitation of molten, quickly cooled glass (Parekh et al., 2006; Fahey et al, 2010; Machado, 2006). Testing even purely peaceful experimental nuclear explosives on the lunar regolith could have obliterated Neil Armstrong's chronology-initiating sterile spacesuit booted footprints (Moore, 1980; Spennemann, 2004) as well as adding/removing gases from the Moon that were first unambiguously detected during the Apollo Missions – namely, 36Ar, 40Ar, He, Na and K (Fisher, 2010).

For the Earth-biosphere, man-caused carbonation reactions – i.e., the formation of solid carbonates – could occur during a dedicated industrial macro-engineering effort that would complement natural and genetically modified green plant photosynthesis (Jansson et al., 2010; Nibleus and Lundin, 2010). Of course, some gaseous carbon dioxide, in the form of concrete, has already resulted in anthropogenic geologic strata beneath civilization's urban regions (Kazuo, 2001; Alexandrovskaya and Alexandrovskiy, 2000), even poured rock pavements and roads; a specially concocted form of injectable concrete was used to permanently seal an early-21st century Gulf of Mexico accidental oilrig blowout (Jernelov, 2010). After its cessation of banned-by-international-treaty aerial nuclear weapon testing ceased at the Pacific Ocean site, the USA capped some collected and piled nuclear waste deposits with thick, almost island-covering, concrete lids. Perhaps, these caps ought to be recognized as a typifying 20th century "tell" (Old World term) or as a landfill (New World term). The highest topographical elevation between the State of Maine and the State of Florida is the Fresh Kills Landfill located on Staten Island, New York City. Established in 1948, it was closed in 2001 after being filled to capacity and is slated to become a sealed mound-shaped parkland.

  1. See, for example, US Patent 5,948,474 issued 7 September 1999 to Norman Andrew Tiller and Louis George Grundel for "Bio-active Rock and Method for Making the Same".

3. Range of familiar essential artificial rocks

Like other animals, such as monkeys (Huffman et al., 2008), for millennia humans dug and piled only natural rocks (Turkington, 2005). During the 20th century, however, archaeologists reliably reported that ancient Mesopotamians had made synthetic basalt (Stone et al., 1998)! Nowadays, the NASA technical team contemplates creation of rod-reinforced cast basalt bases composed of subterranean and surface air-tight buildings. The ancient Romans, of course, are justifiably famed for their widespread concrete use, even using it in their extensive, empire-wide system of laboriously prepared roadways. Cast basalt (Kopecky and Voldan, 1965) in monumental dimensions continues to be a valuable factory-product and, nowadays, basalt continuous filament offered by "Sudaglass" Fiber Technology, Inc in Ukraine is used as an alternative to glass-fiber for concrete's reinforcement. Cement without reinforcement is at the present time an unsatisfying and weak building material. Victorians in the UK were intimately familiar with the durable mock-rock surface formations composed of manufactured "Pulhamite" and "Coade Stone" in the public parks (Freestone, 1994). "Liquid Granite" Ltd., invented by the UK geoscientist Pal Mangat, and like Pulhamite and Coade Stone a secret formula for the composition of a low-carbon emissions concrete filler material, has come to the foreground during the early-21st century. James Pulham (1820–98) concocted Pulhamite to join natural rocks together or crafted the material to simulate existing natural stone. As far as I know, Coade Stone and Pulhamite are currently not amenable to any on-site archaeological assessments for dating purposes.

Apparently, these artistic fake-rock public displays are extremely durable, perhaps equivalent in durability to rocky biogenerated structures (Krumbein, 2008) and various patented biocements (DeJong et al., 2006; Ivanov and Chu, 2008). Wolf Hilbertz (1938-2007) invented and trademarked BioRock, assembled by applying a low-voltage, DC electricity to a metallic mesh immersed in seawater. According to a Swedish architect, Magnus Larsson, microbial biocementation macro-projects may, in future, increase in geographical scale up to the mega-scale to stabilize some major sandy regions of northern Africa's Sahara dune landscape (Badescu and Cathcart, 2010; DeJong et al., 2011). At the very least, roads might be stabilized in vast waterless sand dune regions. In an early-21st century laboratory success achieved by Henk Jonkers in The Netherlands, which is inarguably reminiscent of Dennis Mitchell's chemiosmosis, a bio-concrete was contrived to re-seal autonomously after bacteria and food were mixed – geochemical macro-engineering infection by intentional injection – into the raw test-site sand sample (Jonkers, 2007). The Netherlands' protective sea-dyke system could soon be markedly strengthened against possible future global ocean level rise by another outdoor test effort to install cultured bacteria; this technical development can only be regarded by bioscience, geo- and space scientist-historians as a complexification of Pietro Passerini's geographical concept of the Anthropostrome (Passerini, 1984). Biocementation is best described, perhaps, as a variant of anthropic metasomatism of the type forwarded by Roelof Dirk Schuiling (born 1932) under the banner of "geochemical macro-engineering" (Ravilious, 2004). A science-fiction author, writing in a purely fictional manner and forum that is not too estranged from Schuiling's outlined scientific future reality, has proposed "slow sculpture": after millennia of natural chemical erosion, a sculpture emerges from a rock formation that was instigated by arduously-planned earlier anthropic chemical injection treatment (Mieville, 2005).

Ubiquitous bricks, formed by humans and automated factory machinery, have been omnipresent for several centuries (Holley, 2009) and, recently, archaeologists have devised examination techniques that permit accurate geological time-dating of fired clay ceramics like brick, tile and pottery (Wilson et al., 2009). In addition, French studies of bricks and mortar, done by Annick Chauvin, can now be processed in the laboratory to reveal the orientation of the Earth's magnetic field at the time of manufacture. Magnetotactic bacteria (Haltia-Hovi et al., 2010) are clear indicators of Earth's past geomagnetic field-lines. Here, it must be noted, that a few macro-engineers as, for example, Bernard J. Eastland (1938-2007), have and are examining the technical and environmental aspects of advantageous modification of Earth's eponymous Van Allen radiation belts, discovered by James Van Allen (1914–2006) in 1958 (Rodger et al., 2006). It is widely postulated that Earth's geomagnetic field strength modulates surface air temperature (Usoskin, 2005), the solubility of gaseous carbon dioxide in standard seawater laboratory samples (Pazur and Winklhofer, 2008), the ocean's seawater currents (Ryskin, 2009) and measurable electromagnetic control of crustal seismic activity (Chelidze and Matcharashvili, 2003).

Bricks formed of concrete, instead of clay, can now be engineered with doubled durability via deliberate insertion of a patented nano-sized additive that causing slowing of the normal penetration of chloride and sulfate ions from applied snow-clearing road salt, seawater contact and adjacent salinized soils (Bentz et al., 2009; Lee et al., 2010). [Seawater-resistant iron rebar-reinforced concrete ships were built during both World War I and II (Nilson, 1980; Williams, 1992).] This is possible because the basic molecular structure of cement has, finally, become mostly understood by geo- and space science experts (Pellenq et al., 2009) after, possibly, nine millennia of Homo sapiens adaptation and use of all sorts of cementations (Bentur, 2002). Obviously, in terms of nano-sized manipulability of materials, the complex behaviors of objects changes at a scale of ~100 nanometers when forces not in play in a major way at the macroscopic scale become predominantly evident at the microscopic scale and, thus, a true nano-engineering limitation on cement's function probably exists.

Pavements (roads, sidewalks et cetera) contribute to Earth's global change (Santero and Horvath, 2009); pavements are composed of concrete and, of course, asphalt laced with reinforcing additions such as highly-comminuted, efficiently recycled concrete chips (Holley, 2003; Karnes, 2009). Intriguingly, James F. Black and Barry L. Tarmy (1963) proffered a coast-sited, rain-inducing macro-project for northern Africa that involved asphalted ground coating to increase local rainfall in that arid region. If realized, such a desert macro-project would at least equal in boldness any macro-project suggested by the pioneers of interplanetary communication based on geographically mega-scale landscape reformation and nighttime illumination (Raulin-Cerceau, 2010). It was during his professional work life in Libya that James Ross Underwood Jr. (born 1927) first came to realize the importance of anthropic rock; being a keen observer, he was struck by the ubiquity of Roman cement "outcrops" present on Libya's beaches as well as inland from the coast. Roman harbor structures were constructed of hydraulic concrete more than 200 years, at least, before the birth of Christ (Oleson et al., 2004). The Mediterranean Sea's floor is famously littered with sunken consignments intermittently deposited by humans moving over it by ship and boat for thousands of years (Heezen and Hollister, 1971). Leading up to the publication of his ideas on anthropic rock in the 2001 paper, J. R. Underwood had presented the concept orally at two professional meetings during 1972 and 1976. A number of persons at those meetings, and later in their writings verbally described examples of remarkable anthropic rocks that they had encountered in their extensive professional fieldwork at many places.

The constancy of factory-fabricated rocks, including glass blocks, featured in the many attempts undertaken, so far, to immobilize unwanted high-level radioactive wastes; the 20th century geoscientist Alfred Edward Ringwood (1930-92), a researcher in Australia, famously developed a titanate ceramic he named "SYNROC", an acronym for "synthetic rock" in which dangerously radiating nuclear wastes were to be lodged for storage for a vitally significant period of geological time (Bloomfield and Vurdubakis, 2005). Chernobyl's New Safe Confinement structure, designed to encapsulate the Russian Federation's defunct nuclear fission Reactor #4 is, in part, composed of high-quality concrete to resist the long-term erosive effect of flowing freshwater present in a humid climate (Onishi et al., 2007). (Ignoring Sigmund Freud's advice that repressed instincts are dangerous to the human psyche, macro-engineers want to hide from public view all the ugly wastes humans discard.) Long-term entombment of dangerously radioactive nuclear waste is necessary to permit additional nuclear power-plants to be built (Flanagan et al., 2010). The world's most-used building material, concrete, constantly under improvement in dedicated laboratories in many nation-ecosystems since the early-20th century, has engendered and promoted some far-out ideas in the development of a multi-disciplinary study-field of Earth and planetary materials (Millward, 1979); in the same year of Millward's publication, for instance, the macro-engineering researcher David J. Sheppard announced low-Earth orbiting space-stations as well as hollow interplanetary and interstellar spaceships ought to be put together from standard unitized concrete segments (Sheppard, 1979); compartmentalized concrete spacecraft would be strongly resistant, generally unaffected, to the solar wind's known distinctly anti-biological effects (Harrop and Schulze-Makuch, 2010). Submarines, consisting in the main of ultra-strong concrete, have been built for non-commercial and non-military applications (Cohen, 2002).

4. Future Lunar-Mars anthropogenic rock use contexts

Besides using concrete, the avant-garde E. Nader Khalili (1936-2008) proposed that sometime during the 21st century human-generated lunar magma would be employed, that could also be used to create ceramics and vitrified adobe building materials for the construction of inhabitable structures fixed on and in the Moon's flat-gray colored surface (Khalili, 1989; Grugel, 2008). The Moon's tenuous atmosphere cannot cause wind-induced stresses and vibrations on surface structures built by humans, although the continual flux of micro-meteorites, and sometimes macro-meteorites (Buratti and Johnson, 2003), will pose some considerable threat to all artificial structures, and near-perpetual cosmic and solar radiation is utterly deadly to unsheltered humans. (Earthlings are fortunate that air's surface density equivalent is ~10 m of seawater so that only a rocky/metallic bolide of >10 m diameter, or larger, ever reaches the ground to deplete its kinetic energy suddenly in a violent, sometimes deadly, impact event.) Foundational stability for any building's foundational land parcel (Snow, 2002) imposed on the Moon must be predictable (Wilkinson and DeGennaro, 2007). The Sun and Moon appear about the same diameter when those two sizeable Solar System bodies are viewed from Earth.

The Industrial Revolution transitioned humans from a world-civilization reliant on recent solar power to a world-civilization utilizing non-renewable "solar capital" such as coal, petroleum and natural gas, expensively exhumed from the ground; 21st century macro-engineers are lending their skills and talents to help Homo sapiens find, and successfully tap a gigantic large-scale potential resource of solar power, the Moon. Because it is a power source obtained extraneous to the Earth-biosphere, harnessing sunlight striking the Moon has none of the legal and social drawbacks of global wind power generation (Kaffine and Worley, 2010). Because of Earth's proximity, the round trip communication period for a Moon industrial installation is ~2.42 seconds (at lunar perigee) to ~2.70 seconds (at lunar apogee); thus, hands-on remote control of indoor, outdoor and process operations thereabouts can be done efficaciously from a command centered situated within the Earth-biosphere, or from a space-station orbiting our homeland. During the 18th century, the farmer-geoscientist James Hutton embraced the anthropomorphizing viewpoint by describing the Earth as a "super-organism" and, tellingly, the same outlook is displayed regularly by James Ephraim Lovelock (born 1919), originator of the Gaia Hypothesis. So, in a useful sense, shifting the source of civilization's energy production away from Earth during the 21st century permits us to entertain the idea of future Moon macro-engineering as a helpfully medicinal activity!

Seemingly, it is only a matter of time until human space exploration enters a new phase that will include additional manned and unmanned landings and intrusive geotechnical macro-engineering applied for survivalist infrastructure construction: in short, in response to a need for an affordable and reliable "clean" [nearly consequence-free] energy supply, Homo sapiens will undertake a radical – or, if the reader prefers, ambitious – new type of adventure (Spennemann, 2007). Indisputably, people have an unquenchable affinity for personal discovery and mediated tele-presence and tele-existence adventure (Sarukkai, 2010; Tachi, 2009)! "A society that can destroy life on Earth by the careless1 application of fluorocarbon deodorant sprays is indeed beyond the pale of any rational calculation of survival chances" (Feenberg, 1999). Yet, we must do such rigorous thinking during the 21st Century lest we actively contribution to our species' rapid economic impoverishment and near-term future extinction, in essence almost complete erasure from Earth's intrinsic geological time stratigraphic record (Bonnet and Woltjer, 2008). Some space historians tout a robotic lunar ecopoiesis test-bed on the Moon as an experimental prelude to Mars' 21st century terraforming (Boston et al., 2004), where concrete may be a considerably more practical construction material because the key ingredients for concrete are more readily available on Mars than on the Moon.

Viewed from the Earth-surface, the natural full Moon is ~0.0000067 as bright as the Sun; like sunlight, moonlight penetrates seawater, affecting plant photosynthesis (Coops et al., 2010).; full Moon illuminance, at the zenith, at the distance equal to the mean equatorial parallax nowadays equals ~0.215 lux (Austin et al., 1976). Earth's air warms by 0.020 C at the time of the full Moon, when the Sun is opposite the Moon on the other side of Earth – compared to the time of the new Moon (Anyamba and Susskind, 2000). The nearby natural satellite's grayish regolith is so visibly different from our familiar surroundings that "moonscape" is a synonym for "eyesore", "blighted" and "scarred"! Complete industrialization – imagine a 1977-style twinkling "Disco Ball" (Echols, 2010) orbiting in Earth's night-sky – of the Moon's 37.96 million square kilometer surface is, far too often, portrayed as humanity's goal-quest for additional energy, ores and other resources. The Moon's far-side is the only celestial body surface site in this Solar System which is completely unaffected of Homo sapiens' electronic and light pollution disturbance (Maccone, 2008). All realistic free-ranging macro-engineering concepts foresee the very high economic cost of ensconcing comfortable Earthlings on the Moon and no resurgence of flamboyant male dancing supposedly attractive to women set to repetitive, now-out-of-favor, popular music (Neave et al., 2010)!

Nevertheless, a future 11.5% coating of the surface, a Moon-plating macro-project plan called LUNA RING, has been fully concocted that would install a ~400 km-wide strip of solar panels girdling the Moon's 10,914 km-long equator! The LUNA RING macro-project will entail selenographical modifications including surface leveling preparation for the laying of photovoltaic sheeting composed of industrially transformed in situ regolith and, possibly, simultaneous installation of railroad track that would encircle the Moon. On Earth, "soil solarization", a method of heating the soil during cold seasons by covering the soil with polyethylene sheets (Al-Kayssi, 2009), partially replicates the effect of enclosing 4,365,600 square kilometers of the lunar regolith – a blanket usually 2 to 30 m thick sitting atop a fractured crystalline base – beneath an anthropogenic layer of anthropic rock (LUNA RING photovoltaic cells arranged and arrayed en mass) (Shimizu Corporation website). In other words, the Moon's equator may become an enormous belt-shaped pavement of solar panel tended by remotely-controlled robots set on a stabilized lunar regolith where lunar dust was previously mitigated by widespread pre-plating sintering, also done by automatic or tele-existence operating mode robots. What exactly would the Moon's albedo be after installation of a super-structure composed of several kinds of sunlight reflective processed materials? Might there be off-setting benefits such as heating Earth's air if an abrupt global atmosphere cooling begins to affect human civilization's agriculture (Engvild, 2003)? Certainly, no harmful glare must be emitted that could endanger unprotected human eyes looking upwards from the Earth-surface (Smith, 2005). LUNA RING is feasible because moonquakes have Richter-scale magnitudes of 1 to 2 resulting in ground motions of only ~1 nm and robot and LUNA RING electronics can be "hardened" [shielded] to resist the large lunar diurnal temperature variation. If an industrial establishment thereon freely emits waste gases at a rate ~100 g/s, an atmosphere will commence to accumulate above the regolith because the solar wind's erosive effect – thermal stripping – will be fully counter-balanced. Such an artificial lunar atmosphere is unlikely to modify our species' anticipated lunar industry activities.

  1. For meaningful exactness, I would use "uninformed" rather than "careless".

  2. For those too young, or too forgetful due to agedness, to clearly recall this immodest period of modern human history, a sparkly "disco ball" is a roughly spherical mirrored object, suspended from the ceiling that reflects light directed at it in many directions, producing a glittering visual display. First used in the 1920s, it came to the forefront of popular culture during the 1970s.

5. J. R. Underwood Jr.'s anthropic rock categories

Earth, as our species knows and professedly loves it currently, has a closed-loop geologic cycle in which source rocks are eroded rapidly in the crust and continuously recycled by Nature and Homo sapiens. [This interpreted cycling is fashionably illustrated in a disco ball-era novelty educational comical cartoon, "The Crust-Ocean Factory" drawn and explained by Robert Minard Garrels (1916–1988) and F. T. MacKinzie (1971).] In contrast, the Moon evidently has an open-loop geologic cycle in which the rubbly crystalline crust is irreversibly pulverized by infalling and impinging Nature alone. The most irrefutable geoscience evidence that Earth-crust rocks are recycled is an unconformity (Gregor, 1992); currently, Earth's non-contiguous seafloor deposits of sedimentary carbonate (CaCO3) are undergoing dissolution, and will probably continue to do so for >1,000 years to come, because of the ocean's anthropogenic acidification (Boudreau et al., 2010); man-made things as, for example, concrete ship hulks resting on the seabed will also dissolve by the same destructive process if the existing oceanic circumstance is not ameliorated technically on a grand-scale (~70% of the planet's area)!

Figure 2. J. R. Underwood Jr., circa 1978. Credit: JRU
James Ross Underwood Jr. struggled, literally for years, to outline a professionally suitable classification for all anthropic rocks; its basic premise of his published organization is that all rocks that have been made, transported, or shaped by Homo sapiens should be referred to as "anthropic rocks". ["Anthropic", of course, derives from the Greek anthropikos, meaning "human".] The example descriptor provided – for a sedimentary rock that has been made, shaped, and transported by humans – would be in contrast to the descriptor for a conventional sedimentary rock that has been shaped and transported by humans: allo-, meta-, anthropic sedimentary rock. At first, during trial organization efforts, he had thought about reserving the term "anthropogenic" only for those rocks made by humans and using the term "anthropic" for those conventional rocks shaped and transported by people, differentiating between those by using prefixes "meta-" and "allo-". Still, he came to the over-arching conclusion that it would be well to refer to all rocks made by living and deceased persons with the all-inclusive umbrella term, "anthropic rocks". He further proposed that anthropic rocks be subdivided into three sub-classes: (I) anthropogenic rocks – those made by humans; (II) anthropotechnic rocks – those modified by humans (carvings, inscriptions et cetera, and (III) anthropokinetic rocks – those moved by humans.

He has stressed repeatedly that it is the concept of anthropic rocks rather than the choice of terms to designate them that is all-important, and if the sub-classes seem somewhat clumsy and awkward, keep in mind that in the not-too-distant past new terms such as "autochthon" and "allochthon" were accepted by structural geologists and geotectonists because of their usefulness. A major goal of classification is to facilitate communication, written and oral, in this instance about a special class, anthropic rocks. It accomplishes the following: (I) enhanced awareness and common understanding of these prevalent rocks; (II) increase the accuracy of geologic maps of regions where anthropic rocks occur – see, for instance, Thorleifson et al. (2010); (III) increase societal awareness of the role of humans in altering the Earth-surface and its materials and (IV) in the same manner that metamorphic rocks were recognized as a distinctly different class of rocks in the 19th century, the recognition of anthropic rocks in the 21st century will improve understanding of the Earth as a planet in a singular Solar System.

Commencing circa 1972, he played with various thoughtful combinations of prefixes and rock names: iganthropic, sedanthropic, metanthropic, anthroigneous, anthrosedimentary, anthrometamorphic. But, after a period of time elapsed, he decided somewhat ridiculous complications would arise when the concepts of transportation and shaping by humans were added to the specialized, exceeding unmemorable vocabulary. Lithification of Earthly materials is the key stage in the creation of anthropic rock and so, in 2001, he published his lithogenesis categories in a professional geoscience journal (Underwood, 2001a). Underwood deemed it necessary to do so because of the increasingly better known volumetric importance and the pronounced unique genesis and characteristics of anthropic rock. In other words, an additional class of rocks, anthropic or man-made, was proposed as a means of recognizing their ramifying abundance and significance.

Official recognition of anthropic rocks as a separate class results in several advantages for geoscience, space science and bioscience: (I) It brings an enhanced awareness and understanding of such unique Earthy materials; (II) It enhances verbal communication, whether written or spoken, and especially in the preparation of geologic maps and reports; (III) It enhances awareness of the role of Homo sapiens in modifying the Earth-crust and its changing mineral kingdom; (IV) It is a logical step in the same sense as was recognition of metamorphic rocks in the 19th century as rocks that originated in ways and in places other than those of the rock classes then recognized (sedimentary and igneous); (V) It is applicable to other rocky, planetary and lunar-type surfaces with virtually no alteration or revision needed whatsoever. For more than thirty years, Underwood has consistently averred that the concept of anthropic rocks is "…much more important than the terms" (Underwood, 2001b). This statement is borne out, if not satisfactorily substantiated, by the certain knowledge that Homo sapiens, yearly, emplaces intentionally ~4 km3 of new concrete (in addition to annually moving ~75 gigatonnes of rock and soil)! Advancement in geo- and space sciences can be conventional or unconventional: Underwood's anthropic rock classification entry is not an outrageous suggestion voiced by a crank (Huggett, 2002) but, instead, an innovative provocation voiced by a considerate and emphatic man with, perhaps, a streak of professional persistence willfully exhibited in order to shift a seemingly common-sense rock cycling paradigm. The anthropic rock category is an intellectual conjunction, a turning-point in all future human understanding of the most important Solar System planet – our species' homeland. Although quietly mulled for at least three decades, the shown diagrammatical rock cycle diagram (Figure 3, below) Underwood settled upon has the quality of abduction (also known as "informed guessing") that polymath and logician Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) thought constituted a critical step in every geoscientifical inquiry; like Peirce, Underwood, apparently, exhibited the old Peircean proposal in the flesh, his mind naturally adapted to guess correctly!

J. R. Underwood Jr.’s diagram of the apparently normal terrestrial rock cycle, including anthropic rock.
Figure 3. J. R. Underwood Jr.'s diagram of the apparently normal terrestrial rock cycle, including anthropic rock. Blocks represent materials, arrows represent processes. Credit: JRU

According to Victor R. Baker (2009), Peirce stated that the "… ultimate success of science depends upon an instinctive ability to reason to fruitful or productive hypotheses, that is, to guess right (formulate a correct abductive inference)". And, like the philosophers addressed in Section 2, the Peircean systematic triadic relation of signs provides a theory of metaphor – Peirce cautioned geoscientists not, by mistake, to conceive of the physical and the psychical aspects of matter as "two aspects absolutely distinct"; further, treading in the footsteps of Charles Babbage, he foresaw the future acceptability of computer-generated metaphors in geoscience (Peirce, 1887; Bruning and Lohmann, 1999). Thoughtful rocks are not an impossible reality! Unaffected by irrelevant emotionalized beliefs, which imply an irrelevant care and concern, J. R. Underwood conducted his anthropic rock geoscience investigation with an intrinsic practical approach to which C. S. Peirce might have given his unqualified thoughtful approval (Paschoale and Figueiroa, 1989).

6. Conclusions

It is an obvious fact of our (so far) unfolded early-21st century geoscience that most of Earth's carbon dioxide gas has already been converted to rock over the period of its existence as a planet in this Solar System. The standard geochemical model estimate is that if all the carbonate rock in our planet's crust were, somehow, baked out the following Earth-atmosphere would have ~60 bars of gaseous carbon dioxide; a simple calculation, which does not require a proof shown herein, as to the average thickness of rock this represents is ~408 m. If, however, only the CO2 in the present-day air were converted to anthropic rock, the global – and still to be named – stratum would, probably, be ~2.5 mm thick, or approximately a 1,275 km cube of purely anthropic rock, each side of which is ~10.81 km. Anthropic removal of all carbon dioxide gas from air – it does not condense or precipitate naturally – would kill photosynthetic plants. Warming of Earth's atmosphere today, whatever the cause (Chaisson, 2008), could force the water vapor concentration to reach as much as 4%; however, if there were no vaporous water in the Earth's air, the temperature would decrease by 20–300°C. Application of beamed laser can induce fresh-water condensation in the air (Rohwetter et al., 2010). The absence of all aerial CO2 would cause the emission of more water vapor radiation than would sustain global radiative balance1 and cause the Earth's air to become cooler. In other words, according to informed hyper-environmental geoscientists, humanity will, someday, possibly cause the onset of a new geological time period for the Earth – the abruptly materialized Anthropocene/nano-engineering transition – characterized and typified in every superficial landscape, and the ocean's bottom, by the anthropic rock class! The Anthropocene/nano-engineering transition must be taken to be a real-world as well as global human cultural event process.

Worldwide use of the Fritz Haber (1868–1934)–Carl Bosch (1874–1940) process for fixing aerial nitrogen (N, discovered 1772), converting it to ammonia, then nitrate fertilizer for agriculture sparked humankind's first air-mining industry (Canfield et al., 2010). "If, via natural or artificial processes, it were possible to reduce the Earth's atmospheric pressure, the life span of the biosphere would be extended" (Li et al., 2009) – these researchers herald a future technology of macro-engineering which could drawdown drastically the common air's nitrogen content economically: however, concrete, its future spin-offs, synthetic diamond (Freitas, 2010) and transistorized non-plant leaf-centered electric power generation multiplied by the billions, enveloping intended regions of the planet (Regalado, 2010), may become the rocky type-formation of choice for Homo sapiens. Removal of nitrogen from Earth's air could entail packaging and shipment of all excess gas for exportation to Mars, where nitrogen is apparently absent, not so far a known component of any minerals observed there.

As Henry George (1839–97) recognized and characterized in 1879, Spaceship Earth/Gaia is a "well-provisioned ship…[moving] through space". And, one might add today, it has walled compartments made of anthropic rock! In any future time of actual Mars terraforming by people, the Earth-biosphere will assume the role, perhaps, of a standing reserve for industrially productive Homo sapiens. The opposite of Sun-mining would be the exposure of planetary mantle-cores by crust excavation, thus causing the highly pressured and hot natural materials previously contained to become exposed to outer space, where such materials could cool gradually and, inevitably and eventually, form monumental anthropic rock masses of a calculable volume (Badescu and Cathcart, 2006). Such was the posited vision of the astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky (1889–1974) in his 1948 macro-engineering prediction of humanity's future total re-arrangement of all Solar System planets, including the breaking apart of the gas giant planets (Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn). It seems quite fitting to end this non-chronological historical brief by thinking of a planet famous for its telescopically visible rocky rings, especially considering the classificatory discussion of the Earth's rock cycle and the educated inclusion in it of a new category of rocks, the anthropic rock class as devised by the American geoscientist J. R. Underwood, Jr. during the ultra-exciting first decades of Homo sapiens' Space Age.

  1. The ultimate limitation on Earth-confined human solar-power use would become evident if it caused static air and a lifeless planet! Imagine the absence of romantic nights forever were Earth surrounded by orbiting mirrors reflecting sunlight onto our planet! L. C. Epstein, in Thinking Physics (2nd Edition, Insight Press, 1999, page 250), made this cogent point: "If the Sun's disc were smeared out (evenly) over the whole sky, the Earth's atmosphere would…not circulate at all".


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