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A Diatribe About Diatoms

August 31 is National Diatomaceous Earth Day, and it’s worth celebrating even if you can’t pronounce "diatomaceous." Diatoms – the single-celled organisms that make diatomaceous earth – are sometimes considered the “lungs of earth,” providing more than three-quarters of earth’s new oxygen. Ancient people have used it for cave painting in France, the Greeks used it as a lightweight construction material, and today it’s used in innumerable ways across many industries. Let’s take a look.
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LITTLE: Do your littles love dirt? We do! Dirt is just misplaced soil, and soil is one of the primary building blocks of life on earth.

MIDDLE: Diatoms provide big hints to how the climate has shifted in the past. Take a look at an on-again, off-again lake in eastern Africa through the eyes of diatomaceous earth!

BIGGER: When scientists excavate layers of sediment made of diatomaceous earth that date back millions of years, they get a clear picture of how the climate operates on a grand scale. Follow up with NOVA’s Polar Lab – do it soon, before it’s winter and you don’t want to think about snow!

THINKALONG: Something to Consider – Although human beings have existed on earth for a mere 200,000 years, our impact on the planet is extremely evident. In recent years, geologists have begun to argue that the changes made by humans are so significant that the current era should be labeled as a new epoch – the Anthropocene – meaning a time period in which human activity has been the dominant influence on culture and the environment. Should scientists be in agreement over labeling the current era the Anthropocene age?