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june 2011

Gauging nuclear disasters

A nuclear accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as an incident in which people died or property damage topped $50,000. In 1990, IAEA introduced the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) to rate and rank nuclear accidents. INES is a logarithmic scale that consists of seven levels: 0 (Deviation, no safety significance), 1 (Anomaly), 2 (Incident), 3 (Serious incident), 4 (Accident with local consequences), 5 (Accident with wider consequences), 6 (Serious accident) and 7 (Major accident).

31 May 2011

Don't forget about the Christchurch earthquake: Lessons learned from disaster

In the aftermath of the devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, attention quickly turned away from a much smaller, but also highly destructive earthquake that struck the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, just a few weeks earlier, on Feb. 22.

17 May 2011

Japan's megaquake and killer tsunami: How did this happen?

On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. local time, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake ruptured a 500-kilometer-long fault zone off the northeast coast of Japan. Its epicenter was 130 kilometers off Sendai, Honshu; it occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 32 kilometers. The temblor violently shook northeast Honshu for six minutes, and collapsed its coastline by one meter.

17 May 2011

Mysterious disease sounds the death knell for bats

These are dark days for bats. Hundreds of thousands of tiny white-nosed bats have died over the past few winters, falling to cave floors across the eastern United States. The killer is White Nose Syndrome, a mysterious disease inflicted by an unusual cold-loving fungus that attacks bats while they are hibernating. Come spring, as few as 5 percent of the bats in heavily infected roosts are still alive.

18 May 2011

D-Day's Legacy: Remnants of invasion linger in beach sands

Before dawn on June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops began storming the shores of Normandy, France, in what would be the turning point of World War II. Troops poured out of planes and off ships along an 80-kilometer stretch of coastline. More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 airplanes supported the ground troops. The battles were bloody and brutal, but by day’s end, the Allies had established a beachhead. Gen. Dwight D.

27 May 2011

Travels in Geology: Stonehammer Geopark: A billion years of stories

Stonehammer Geopark lies along the rugged Bay of Fundy on Canada’s southeast coast. Centered on Canada’s oldest incorporated city, Saint John, New Brunswick, it is the first North American member of the Global Geoparks Network, 77 parks established over the past decade with the assistance of UNESCO. Geoparks strive to connect people with the landscape, highlighting the intersection of society and geology.

06 Jun 2011

Creationism creeps into mainstream geology

It was easy to miss the part where the field trip leader said the outcrop formed during Noah’s Flood. After all, “During these catastrophic flood flows, turbulent, hyperconcentrated suspensions were observed to transform laminar mudflows” sounds like a reasonable description of alluvial fan processes. And “massive marine transgression” sounds scientific enough. But when creationist geologists use those phrases, they take on a very different meaning.

10 Jun 2011

The Coconino's starring role in the creationist-geologist battle

Arizona’s Coconino Sandstone — a deposit seen in the Grand Canyon and elsewhere — plays a central role in the creationist argument that the upper rocks of the Grand Canyon were deposited during Noah’s Flood. In fact, the posters presented by students and faculty of Cedarville University at the 2010 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Denver, Colo., pushed a consistent narrative: The Coconino did not form in an eolian (wind-blown) environment. Why is this so important? If the Coconino is eolian, it means the Flood did not happen.

10 Jun 2011

Endangered snow: how climate change threatens West Coast water supplies

If you turn the tap on in Seattle, the water flowing from the faucet likely originated as a clump of snow. In winter, snowflakes fall in the Cascades, accumulating in thick snowpack. The snowpack stores water in winter and slowly releases it in spring and summer as temperatures warm and snow melts. As snowmelt flows down the mountains, some of it is diverted and collected in reservoirs — destined to arrive in the homes of more than 1 million people.

17 Jun 2011

Blogging on EARTH: Arsenic provides a G#ALA event in the science world

In reporting what’s new and exciting from the world of scientific and technological innovation, science writers are quick to use expressions like “Scientists say … ” and “According to researchers … ” (Mea culpa.) They are, after all, convenient devices to introduce the sentiments of some subset of the scientific community as opposed to one, or maybe several, individuals.

23 Jun 2011

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