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The geologic time scale is a scientific tool, but it’s also an artifact of history. Objectively measuring properties like radioactive decay can tell researchers when layers of rock formed, but it’s up to scientists, who are often building on the work of their predecessors, to decide how to slice and dice the data into geologic time frames. One of the most contentious questions in chronostratigraphy is how to define our own time. “The Holocene is kind of an arbitrary epoch,” Gill said. The Holocene epoch began about , years ago when Earth began warming after the last ice age. But according to Gill, the end of that ice age, even though it coincided with the transition to a new epoch, isn’t of greater geological importance than the end of the ice ages before it.
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