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september 2009

Redefining Quaternary

Blogging on EARTH

The Quaternary Period — the geologic time period that includes human evolution up to the present — is now a bit longer than it used to be.

04 Jun 2009

Earthquake rocks Sumatra

Updated on Oct. 1:

A second, magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck southern Sumatra, Indonesia, today at about 8:52 a.m. local time; this time, the epicenter was 215 kilometers southeast of Padang, West Sumatra. The death toll from both events has risen to at least 531 people.

30 Sep 2009

Raindrop study splashes old assumptions

Predicting the weather has been central to human civilization since the Babylonians started studying cloud patterns in 650 B.C. The key to weather predictions is making correct assumptions. Today, instruments like Doppler radar that measure rainfall work under the assumption that raindrops fall at their terminal velocity. A new study, however, shows that some raindrops fall faster than they should, indicating rainfall instruments — and by extension, weather forecasts — may need some tweaking.

23 Jul 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

Scores dead, injured following Indonesian earthquake

A powerful magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck a few kilometers off the coast of West Java, Indonesia, at 2:55 p.m. local time on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. NOAA's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for the immediate region, but canceled it within an hour when no tsunami was detected.

02 Sep 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

Voyage to the plastic vortex

Out in the middle of the northern Pacific Ocean, a giant floating mess of plastic debris is drifting and bobbing among the waves. Scientists call this expanse of litter, which stretches for hundreds of kilometers across open sea, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But before last summer, there was little information about how large the patch really is, what types of debris are out there and what kind of impact it is having on ocean life.

03 Sep 2009

Art and dinosaurs

Lillian the Albertosaur strolls through the halls of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, glancing sideways at the skeletal model of a T. rex. She’s much prettier than the skeleton, from her textured brown skin, adorned with bright purple spots, to her slightly superior smirk. Neither dinosaur is actually alive: One is a fossil, and the other is a computer graphic superimposed on a photograph of the actual museum. But somehow, Lillian does liven the place up.

08 Sep 2009

Travels in Geology: Arkansas: A geologic diamond in the rough

If the budget belt is a little tighter this year, consider packing your diamond-digging trowel, bathing suit and camping gear and heading to a little-known geologic hot spot in the middle of the United States. Arkansas, “the Natural State,” boasts the world’s only public diamond mine, uniquely heated mineral springs and the Ozark Mountains of Wilson Rawls’ “Where the Red Fern Grows” lore, all within a day’s drive from much of the United States.

10 Sep 2009

Mini-T. rex fossil found in China

The Tyrannosaurus rex — arguably the most famous dinosaur of all time — was also one of the most efficient predators to ever walk on Earth. With its powerful jaws, large eyes, strong hind limbs and even tiny arms, the T. rex was uniquely designed to swiftly run down and dispatch prey. But on Wednesday, scientists announced that those characteristic T. rex features were not as unique as once thought: A new fossil find shows that 60 million years earlier, a T.

17 Sep 2009

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