Generation Anthropocene: How Humans Have Altered the Planet for Ever. by Robert Macfarlane [The Guardian] We are living in the Anthropocene age, in which human influence on the planet is so profound – and terrifying – it will leave its legacy for millennia. Politicians and scientists have had their say, but how are writers and artists responding to this crisis?
An evolutionary burst 540 million years ago filled the seas with an astonishing diversity of animals. The trigger behind that revolution is finally coming into focus , according to the journal Nature. [more inside]
Seven fossilized brains from the Cambrian. A complex animal skeleton from the pre-Cambrian. Oxygen made by photosynthesis a billion years before the Great Oxygenation Event. Carbon made by life from 4.1 billion years ago. (Okay, maybe not so fast on that last one.)
She got off to an inauspicious start when she was born in poverty and then was struck by lightning as a small child. But when her father died when she was ten, leaving her family without any means of support, Mary Anning made her own luck with her skill at fossil finding. Her first big find came when she discovered the first complete skeleton of an Icthyosaur at twelve years old. She went on to discover pivotally important skeletons of plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and a fossil fish which was hailed as the "missing link" between sharks and rays. Despite being self taught, she was widely regarded as one of paleontology's greatest experts in the world when she died. Previously.
Troubles in Paradise is a review of the history and arguments of the creationism/intelligent design movement, written by James Downard.
Earth's Magnetic Field May Be About to Flip [summary] - "Earth's last magnetic reversal took place 786,000 years ago and happened very quickly, in less than 100 years -- roughly a human lifetime. The rapid flip, much faster than the thousands of years most geologists thought, comes as new measurements show the planet's magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than normal and could drop to zero in a few thousand years." (via)
"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
With growing fascination for the large land vertebratomorphs that are so startlingly diverse on Tatooine, I secured Imperial funding for an expedition to Tatooine, to survey the exotic megafauna and search for fossils of Tyrannodraconis that might further illuminate their evolution. My ensuing report summarizes my trilogy of investigations and discoveries from this “holiday in the suns." [more inside]
A team of geologists and geophysicists have imaged the path of a Pacific Northwest volcano's molten rock, from the subducting slab to the upper crust. [more inside]
"TrowelBlazers is a celebration of women archaeologists, palaeontologists and geologists who have been doing awesome work for far longer, and in far greater numbers, than most people realize." [via]
Massive earthquakes in Chile and Japan have been found to cause the dramatic increase in violent quakes around fracking's largely unregulated wastewater injection wells observed in the Midwest in the past two years, where injected water acts as a lubricant for geological faults that were previously thought to be "dead" or stable for millions of years.
The Timeline of the Far Future is a Wikipedia article which serves as a gateway to a ton of fascinating scientific topics on the far edge of human understanding: ~50,000 years from now the Earth will enter a new Glacial period; ~100,000 years from now the Earth will likely have experienced a supervolcanic eruption; ~10,000,000 years from now the East African Rift divides the continent of Africa in to two land masses; ~20,000,000,000 years from now the Universe effectively dies due to The Big Rip.
That rover the United States sent to Mars found something. It won't blow your mind, but it's interesting if you're into Mars geology.
Researchers in the Earth Sciences and Art departments at Syracuse University melt basalt and make their own lava flows for science and art! Here's the project's homepage, including videos. via make blog
A history of the world. As seen from space. Over a really long stretch of time. If the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and Pangea split up only about 200 million years ago, what happened before then? I never knew that geologists could reconstruct the continents' movements from before Pangea. Not only that, but they can give us a preview of what comes next. Here's three possible ways the continents might be joined in 250 million years. In the big picture, researchers from U.C. Lancashire have just finished a model of the way the Milky Way Galaxy formed. [more inside]
In 1602, a cobbler strolling outside of Bologna discovered a colorless stone with the curious ability to "accumulate light when exposed to the sun and to emit it in the darkness." His lapis solaris was to be the chemical sensation of the century. [more inside]
At the beginning of last month, Scientific American unveiled a new network of 47 blogs with 55 bloggers. Their latest posts can be found here. [more inside]
New electrical conductivity measurements show the subterranean extent of the Yellowstone supervolcano to be a lot larger than previously known.
SEED Magazine: Wealth of Nations: "Shared natural resources underpin the global economy, but our current economic system does not acknowledge their worth. Can a major new effort to assess the costs of biodiversity loss force a paradigm shift in what we value?" [more inside]
Don't continue fooling yourself. The earth is growing and expanding rapidly. Despite plate tectonics' popular acceptance in the 60s, Samuel Warren Carey, the father of modern expansion tectonics, was publicly promoting his theories of an expanded earth as late as 1981. One of the theory's most prominent modern spokesmen is comics artist Neal Adams, who has created a number of informative videos about a new model of the universe that even manages to explain why the dinosaurs died out. [more inside]
How does an ecosystem rebound from catastrophe? Thirty years after the blast, Mount St. Helens is reborn again. Interactive Graphic: Blast Zone. Also see National Geographic's feature article from 1981, chronicling that year's eruption. Previously on MeFi [more inside]
The Polar Discovery team has documented science in action from pole to pole during the historic 2007-2009 International Polar Year, and covered five scientific expeditions. The science projects explored a range of topics from climate change and glaciers, to Earth’s geology, biology, ocean chemistry, circulation, and technology at the icy ends of the earth. Through photo essays and other multimedia, they explain how scientists collected data and what they discovered about the rapidly changing polar regions. From the awesome folks at WHOI.
Durango Bill's Home Page. With topics that include: 3D end-to-end tour of the Grand Canyon, the origin and formation of the Colorado River, and examples of river systems that cut through mountain ranges instead of taking easier routes around them in Ancestral Rivers of the World. [more inside]
Science Hack is a unique search engine for science videos focusing on Physics, Chemistry, and Space. For example, things to do with sulfur hexafluoride. Still growing, the editors are presently indexing other scientific fields of study including Geology, Psychology, Robotics and Computers. Ever wonder why things go bang?
Suspending Life. "If almost every species on Earth was killed some 250 million years ago, how did our ancient ancestors survive and evolve into us?"
British diplomat William Hamilton (whose 2nd wife Emma is perhaps best known for having a scandalous public affair with Horatio Nelson) loved volcanoes. His 1776 book Campi Flegrei: Observations on the volcanoes of the two Sicilies* used stunning hand-coloured illustrations by Peter Fabris to demonstrate to the scientific world that volcanic processes can be beautifully creative as well as horribly destructive. [via this post at the nonist, which, in case you hadn't noticed, has been really great lately] [more inside]
There are holes in the earth's crust! It turns out that the ozone layer was just keeping up with the Jones's; in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, there is a patch of several thousand square kilometers where the mantle is exposed. 'The team of scientists from Cardiff University stress there is no need for the public to panic about the giant hole even though they describe it as "a gaping open wound in the Earth's skin".' The scientific team departs today to investigate the hole. They will be detailing their progress on a blog. And you can ask them questions about their project, which they may answer online.
The site design is somewhat unfortunate, but The Virtual Cave features lots of photos and information on, well, caves and cave formations. We've all heard of stalagmites and stalactites, but I'd never heard of cave draperies or cave pearls before. Then you've got your helictites, your aragonite, and your splash stalactites (found in lava tubes). And they've got a Show Caves Directory of caves in the United States that are open to the public, with addresses and contact information by state.
Athanasius Kircher was the 17th century's Jesuit version of the übergeek. His scholarly attentions were drawn to egyptology, astronomy, magnetism, languages, optics, music, geology, mathematics and many many other pursuits. The "dude of wonders" invented novel machines such as the mathematical organ and magnetic clock, established one of the first museums, published about 40 academic works (with beautiful accompanying illustrations) and was globally revered as one of his time's greatest intellectuals. He is also the main link in the Voynich manuscript mystery. [MI]
The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary region is under the ocean, off the coast of Massachusetts. For 11 years geologist Paul Valentine has been mapping this area. Sea floor maps are available. Also, there are many images of features such as glacial valleys and moraines. Other photographs show underwater life.
Instead of liquid water, Titan has liquid methane. Instead of silicate rocks, Titan has frozen water ice. Instead of dirt, Titan has hydrocarbon particles settling out of the atmosphere, and instead of lava, Titanian volcanoes spew very cold ice.
Can we predict volcanic eruptions? PBS aired a NOVA program called "Deadly Shadow of Vesuvius" in 1998 which suggests that we can by monitoring small scale earthquakes which "swarm" as an eruption approaches. Why is this important now? Look at this map, which indicates the occurence of over 40 earthquakes under Mount St. Helens just today, with 10 being over 3.0 on the Richter scale. The Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network has issued a series of alerts with more detail. National Geographic is reporting that an eruption is imminent.
Quake to hit LA "by September 5," predicts a geophysicist at UCLA's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. Some skeptical, while others say it's not junk science.
Bus-size jade boulders found in Guatemala Great NY Times story [Google'd here] of archeologists tracking down a mother lode of translucent blue jade after it was exposed by a hurricane. The vein solves the mystery of where the ancient Olmecs got the jade for beautiful carvings like these. Olmec civilization, famous for its colossal stone heads, is itself considered something of a mother lode for later Central American peoples like the Maya. Meanwhile, some scientists in Guatemala are digging up things that are much less fun than jade.
Next Thursday, NASA will announce the discovery of huge water ice oceans on Mars. Lying less than a metre beneath the surface south of 60° latitude, the water ice reservoirs if melted would form an ocean 500m deep covering the entire planet. NASA insiders believe these findings could result in a manned landing within 20 years.
50 foot long single spar crystals found in a Mexican cave 1,000 feet below the surface! Smithsonian has links to other related sites. This one has pictues. More pictures can be found in the April 2002 print issue of Smithsonian.