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october 2009

Putting Earth's history to sound

Geophysicist Dave Engebretson of Western Washington University in Bellingham has struggled with his eyesight since birth. But when his vision took a serious downturn in 1996 — today he has difficulty recognizing faces up close — Engebretson grasped for the world of sound. He has made a considerable hobby out of audifying scientific data — taking numbers from datasets and setting them to sound frequencies to create seconds-long clips at his home studio.

22 Sep 2009

Nanoscale carbon capture

Thanks to a bit of luck, the key to carbon sequestration may lie in a circular, bowl-shaped compound that draws carbon dioxide right out of the air.

27 Oct 2009

New cousin joins primate family tree - but it's also no missing link

Blogging on EARTH

Darwinius — the purported primate “missing link” that made headlines last spring — is back, sort of. Scientists have now found a close cousin of the primate — and they say the new fossil is no more a missing link than Darwinius was.

21 Oct 2009

Surviving field school: Better than reality TV

David Harwood’s geology field course for future teachers is not a network reality show — but it should be. The three-week course has all the humor, drama, exacting challenges and bleepable moments of “Survivor.” But in contrast to the staged setups of TV “reality” shows, Geology 160 offers billions of years’ worth of authentic geological history that students see, taste and scrape from under their fingernails.

20 Oct 2009

Geology 101: Reading the story in the rocks

David Harwood’s field geology course gives future teachers an introduction to several of geology’s most fundamental principles, including the stratigraphic basics described by Nicholas Steno in 1669. Go to the head of the class with this quick primer.

20 Oct 2009

NASA's LCROSS crashes on the moon

Blogging on EARTH

Usually, NASA hopes its space probes land safely at their destinations. This morning, the agency was planning for a big explosion on the moon — all in the hopes of confirming the presence of water on our nearest neighbor.

09 Oct 2009

Glaciers, not eruption: False alarm volcano mystery solved

When deep, long-period earthquakes started shaking the area around the Katla volcano on the southern tip of Iceland in 2001, officials feared it was a sign of an imminent eruption, as such quakes can be. So they were surprised when nothing happened. A new study identifies the source of the spurious signals: collapsing glaciers around the volcano, not the volcano itself. The finding may help researchers more accurately monitor other glacier-covered volcanoes.

07 Oct 2009

Venus' gentler, Earth-like past

Today, the surface of Venus is a hellhole, seared by scorching temperatures, crushing pressures and a toxic atmosphere of carbon dioxide with occasional clouds of sulfuric acid. But evidence is mounting that billions of years ago, Earth’s evil twin planet was a much more pleasant place — a second blue marble covered by water. The latest data come from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft, which has spent three years constructing a detailed map of the surface of the planet’s southern hemisphere and finding new evidence for Earth-like plate tectonics and a watery past.

07 Oct 2009

Chemical clues reveal ancient geography

Reconstructing the history of supercontinents requires careful detective work. A variety of geological processes wipes the evidence clean, like a burglar who smears away his fingerprints. Yet even the most cautious criminals leave clues behind — and so do supercontinents.

07 Oct 2009

The vital statistics

Ardipithecus ramidus was a hominid that lived in Ethiopia’s Afar region 4.4 million years ago. After spending more than a decade studying the species, scientists can now provide a sketch of what the hominid looked like:

Brain: Ardipithecus had a brain size similar to that of a female chimpanzee, about 300 to 350 cubic centimeters.

Stature: Standing 120 centimeters tall and weighing 50 kilograms, Ardipithecus was about the size of a chimpanzee.

01 Oct 2009

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