Twitter icon
Facebook icon
RSS icon
YouTube icon

mary caperton morton

Jelly volcano reveals eruption trigger

What makes a volcano erupt? Over the years, scientists have proposed a litany of potential triggers, but there’s always room for one more. With help from dyed water, a laser and a tank of clear jelly, researchers have proposed a new mechanism that might push loaded volcanoes toward eruption.
03 Oct 2015

Travels in Geology: Rafting the Pacific Northwest's heavenly Hells Canyon

Few roads and only steep, difficult trails run down into Hells Canyon — the deepest canyon in North America — which forms part of the border between Oregon and Idaho. But the location is popular among boaters, whitewater rafters and fishermen, and a trip down the river reveals some spectacular rocks.

18 Sep 2015

Damming the salmon

In the 1940s, the state of Idaho decided that the Salmon River would be left to flow freely while the Snake would be developed for hydroelectric power to become Idaho’s workhorse river. To date, a total of 15 dams have been built along the Snake for a variety of purposes, from irrigation to flood control to hydroelectricity. Hells Canyon is home to three hydroelectric impoundments: the Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams, built in 1959, 1961 and 1967, respectively. Together they have a maximum capacity of 391 megawatts of power production. 
18 Sep 2015

Getting there and getting around Hells Canyon

The closest major airports to Hells Canyon are Missoula, Mont., Boise, Idaho, and Spokane, Wash. If you book a multiday trip with a reputable rafting company, the company will likely help you arrange shuttles to the beginning and end of the canyon, or you may need to rent a car. Most Hells Canyon river trips end in Lewiston, Idaho, which also has a small airport with regularly scheduled flights to Salt Lake City, Seattle and Boise. 
18 Sep 2015

Gender equity in dino bones

Modern birds like cardinals and peacocks offer some of the most dramatic examples of sexual dimorphism on Earth, with males and females varying in size and/or displaying different plumage, among other differences. But whether the two sexes of birds’ dinosaur ancestors also possessed different physical characteristics has long been debated. Now, in a new study, scientists using state-of-the-art measuring techniques to look at Protoceratops — a frilled, horned relative of Triceratops that’s found abundantly in the fossil record — are questioning past notions about whether the sex of specimens can be distinguished based on their fossils.
17 Sep 2015

Earliest stone tools pre-date Homo

Tool making is thought to be one of the defining characteristics of the transition from apes to early man. Now, the discovery of a set of stone tools dating to 3.3 million years ago is pushing back this critical stage of early human development by more than half a million years, and, according to one researcher involved, disproving “the long-standing assumption that Homo habilis was the first tool maker.”

05 Sep 2015

Ultraviolet lights the way for rare earth recycling

The 17 rare earth elements, widely used in everyday devices from cellphones to magnets and fluorescent lights, aren’t all that rare. They are just finely dispersed in small quantities around the world, making them difficult to mine in substantial quantities. Recycling rare earths is an attractive means to supplement freshly mined stocks, but it remains technically and logistically difficult. Now, a team has developed a more efficient method of recycling two rare earth elements — europium and yttrium — using ultraviolet (UV) light instead of traditional methods involving chemical solvents.
03 Sep 2015

Sea-level rise accelerating

Studies tracking sea-level rise over the past few decades have been all over the map, with reports variously indicating that the rate of rise has accelerated, stayed constant or declined. Now, a new GPS-based study published in Nature Climate Change indicates that sea-level rise has indeed been accelerating over the last decade.
28 Aug 2015

Oldest birds unearthed in China

The discovery of two well-preserved fossils in the Sichakou Basin of northeastern China has pushed back the known evolutionary record of birds by as much as 6 million years, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.
24 Aug 2015

De-evolving the bird beak

The transition from dinosaurs with snouts to birds with beaks was a pivotal change in the evolution of dinosaurs into birds during the Late Mesozoic. Now, biologists have partially reversed this process by transforming chicken embryos into specimens with snout and palate configurations similar to those of small dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Archaeopteryx.
21 Aug 2015