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january 2013

Down to Earth With: Brian Tucker

Some of the world’s most densely populated cities are at highest risk for earthquake-related disasters. Geophysicist Brian Tucker has spent the last two-plus decades trying to help the developing world avoid such disasters, and in 1991, he founded the nonprofit GeoHazards International (GHI) to bring the developed world’s risk-mitigation techniques to high-risk communities in the developing world.

27 Apr 2015

Moon could have formed from Earth after all: Reviving and revising the giant impact theory

Scientists are revisiting the age-old question of how Earth’s moon formed. New models indicate that it could have been born from the Earth following a giant collision after all.

The idea of a moon-forming collision is not new. The giant impact theory — the idea that a catastrophic collision about 4.5 billion years ago between Earth and a protoplanet about half Earth’s size created a disk of molten rock, gas and debris that consolidated to form the moon — was first set forth in the mid-1970s.

04 Feb 2013

Drinking toilet water: The science (and psychology) of wastewater recycling

Would you drink water that came from a toilet? The imagery isn’t appealing. Even knowing that the water, once treated, may be cleaner than what comes out of most faucets, many people are disgusted by the idea. But in places like Singapore and Namibia, limited supplies of freshwater are being augmented by adding highly treated wastewater to their drinking water. As climate change and population growth strain freshwater resources, such strategies are likely to become more common around the world, and in the United States.

28 Jan 2013

The dangers of solar storms: That which gives power can also take it away

Were a massive solar storm to strike Earth, the impacts could rival or exceed the worst natural disasters humans have ever faced. In last month’s issue of EARTH, we explored what is known about solar activity, the sun and its interaction with Earth. This month, we examine the possible effects of solar activity and the vulnerability of power grids and satellites, as well as what is being done to reduce that vulnerability.

21 Jan 2013

How strong was the Carrington Event?

NASA has described the magnetic field of the coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the 1859 Carrington Event, the largest solar storm ever detected, as “extremely intense” relative to other CMEs. The amount of plasma it ejected is difficult to estimate, but more important in determining its strength is how fast it arrived.

21 Jan 2013

Superquakes, supercycles, and global earthquake clustering: Recent research and recent quakes reveal surprises in major fault systems

A number of recent big earthquakes around the world have humbled many earthquake researchers. The March 2011 magnitude-9 superquake off Tohoku, Japan, and the December 2004 magnitude-9-plus temblor off Sumatra were both far larger than what scientists expected those fault systems to produce. Based on these quakes, and on recent research that contradicts long-held paradigms, it is becoming clear that the types and sizes of large earthquakes that a given fault system is capable of producing remain poorly known for most major fault systems.

07 Jan 2013

Apps: Improving home energy efficiency in 2013

‘Tis the season for making New Year’s resolutions. We here at EARTH probably can’t offer much assistance when it comes to diet and exercise tips to help burn off unwanted pounds. But if your goals for 2013 involve understanding your family’s energy consumption patterns and possibly reducing your power bills, you’ve come to the right place.

04 Jan 2013

Travels in Geology: Famous fossils and spectacular scenery at British Columbia's Burgess Shale

Of all the famous fossil localities in the world, perhaps none is as widely celebrated as British Columbia’s Burgess Shale. High in the Canadian Rockies, the Burgess Shale contains some of the oldest and most exquisitely detailed fossils of early life on Earth. Visiting the Burgess Shale requires some preparation — you must hire a guide and hike 22 kilometers at high elevation — but for a fossil enthusiast, the payoff is worth every step.

01 Jan 2013

The Burgess Shale bestseller

The Burgess Shale owes much of its fame to a book called “Wonderful Life” by the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Published in 1989, the book was a bestseller. The title is a reference to the scene in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which George Bailey’s guardian angel replays the tape of life as if George had never been born, to dramatic effect.

01 Jan 2013

Getting there and getting around the Burgess Shale

Traveling to the Burgess Shale requires a plane ticket, a guide, and the legs and lungs to hike high into the Canadian Rockies.

01 Jan 2013