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Hominid vs. hominin

Before genetics came along and revealed just how closely modern humans and chimpanzees are related, humans were classified in their own family, Hominidae, separate from old world monkeys, which were in the family Pongidae.

21 Aug 2016

The new kid on the block

In 2013, cave explorers discovered a trove of human-like fossils in the Rising Star Cave in South Africa. Since then, more than 1,500 fossils belonging to at least 15 individuals have been excavated from the site. The fossils display a mishmash of primitive and more advanced features that seem to place it somewhere between Australopithecus and early Homo species, such as a small cranial capacity closer to Australopiths, but with finer facial features, more like Homo.In 2013, cave explorers discovered a trove of human-like fossils in the Rising Star Cave in South Africa. Since then, more than 1,500 fossils belonging to at least 15 individuals have been excavated from the site. The fossils display a mishmash of primitive and more advanced features that seem to place it somewhere between Australopithecus and early Homo species, such as a small cranial capacity closer to Australopiths, but with finer facial features, more like Homo.

21 Aug 2016

Teaching geology to biologists: An essay on an interdisciplinary field trip in Africa

On a trip to Tanzania, the author tries to impart to undergrads an understanding of the relationships among geology, ecology and culture that will enhance the students’ knowledge of the landscape — a challenge made difficult by the dramedy of life on the savanna. 
10 Aug 2016

Artists draw inspiration from fire and ash

Volcanoes have been shaping human culture and art for millennia — from Roman art to Victorian paintings and literature to modern poetry.
28 Jul 2016

Volcanoes and historical politics

As well as influencing art and faith, volcanoes are often portrayed as the very manifestation of the human condition. Expressions of anger are readily described as “volcanic.” They have become a metaphor for anything of suitable magnitude or wrath. One such painting sees a volcano become the embodiment of the French Revolution.

28 Jul 2016

Getting there and getting around Zermatt

Zermatt, a car-free resort town at the foot of the Matterhorn, can be reached from major international airports in Geneva, Zürich or Milan. All three airports offer nonstop flights from several North American cities and have numerous rental-car agencies. Switzerland has four official languages, of which German and French are the most commonly used, but road signs are easily followed by English speakers, making it easy to navigate around the country. However, private cars are not allowed in Zermatt, so you might instead want to take one of the Swiss Rail Network’s clean and reliable trains to Zermatt, a 3.5-hour trip from Zürich or a four-hour trip from Geneva. If you do drive, you must park in a garage in Täsch, 5 kilometers north of the resort town, and take a train or taxi into town. The village itself is quite walkable; a 10-minute stroll will get you across town.

20 Jul 2016

Illustrating Geology: Great images that transformed the field

“The Map” is perhaps the single-most recognized depiction within geology, but it is just one of many historically transformative images in a field that relies heavily on illustration and visualization to help convey information and shape our understanding of the natural world.

17 Jul 2016

Travels in Geology: Sculptures of wind and ice: Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores

Two of the U.S.’s four national lakeshores are in Michigan. Visit them both for a look at how an ice sheet drastically reshaped the landscape, eroding and carving dunes, cliffs and the Great Lakes.

07 Jul 2016

Legend of the Sleeping Bear

Sleeping Bear Dunes gets its name from a Chippewa legend that tells the story of a mother bear and her two cubs who, fleeing a fire in the woods of Wisconsin on the other side of Lake Michigan, plunged into the lake and began swimming to find safe haven.

07 Jul 2016

'P' is for phosphate: Could urine solve a fertilizer shortage?

Phosphorus is essential to plant growth, but there’s a looming shortage, which could leave global agriculture without the fertilizer needed to feed growing populations. Some scientists think, with some tweaks to our sanitation system, human urine could be mined for the necessary phosphorus.

26 Jun 2016

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