Have you heard of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, ICS to its friends?  Neither had I until I read an article by Ian Sample in the Guardian Weekly.  The ICS decides the names and dates of the geological eras, periods, epochs and ages, most of whose names we are aware of without necessarily knowing when they started and finished, or even what they mean.  We know there were dinosaurs during the Jurassic period.  We are now in the Cenozoic era, the Quaternary period and the Holocene epoch.  You hadn’t noticed?  Tch tch.

Apparently there’s a great debate going on about the word ‘Anthropocene’, coined by Dutch chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen in 2000.  This has now entered the language, referring to the period during which human activity is the dominant shaper of the planet.

The ICS has not officially endorsed it.  But I think the horse (which appeared in the Tertiary period) has bolted.  Dragging it back into the stable would be like trying to persuade people that ‘data’ is plural.