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mary caperton morton

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

Hurricane wrath may be reduced by rainfall

Meteorologists have gotten better and better at forecasting the paths of hurricanes and tropical storms, but predicting how intense a storm will be when it makes landfall has proved more difficult. Now, a new study offers a detailed look at how the energetic contributions of rain — once thought to be a trivial factor in such systems — can dramatically affect storm windspeeds and intensity.
14 Aug 2015

Early Earth enriched by iron rain

Iron is one of the most common elements in the Earth’s mantle and core, most of it having come from massive collisions with asteroids and other would-be planets as the early solar system took shape. But why our planet’s rocky mantle contains so much of the metal, which theory suggests should have sunk to the core, has left researchers stumped. Now, with the help of the world’s largest radiation source, scientists have replicated the conditions of early planetary formation to take a closer look at how Earth’s iron-rich mantle — and the moon’s conversely iron-poor mantle — came to be.
13 Aug 2015

A terribly low voice for a new terror bird

A recently discovered fossil skeleton is giving paleontologists a nearly complete look at a new species in the family of big-beaked giants known as “terror birds.” Thought to have grown as tall as 3 meters, these flightless birds roamed South America as apex predators before going extinct about 2.5 million years ago.
12 Aug 2015

Southbound icebergs off the hook for ice-age cooling

During the Late Pleistocene, changes in North Atlantic Ocean circulation triggered abrupt changes in global climate: In some locations in the Northern Hemisphere, average temperatures dropped by as much as 10 degrees Celsius within a few decades. Scientists have long thought that freshwater from melting icebergs traveling south from the Arctic may have instigated the circulation shifts that contributed to cooling feedback loops. But now, scientists looking at seafloor sediments collected near Iceland have found that pulses of icebergs typically arrived after the onset of cooling episodes, too late to be primary drivers of climate change.
11 Aug 2015

From fearsome predator to filter feeder

Early in the Paleozoic, giant arthropods known as anomalocaridids were the largest predators in the sea. A collection of finely preserved fossils, described in a new study in Nature and belonging to the Early Ordovician Fezouata Biota of Morocco, is now giving paleontologists a more detailed look at a 2-meter-long variety called Aegirocassis benmoulae. The fossils seem to suggest that at least this species wasn’t a predator after all.
10 Aug 2015

Stalled slabs sometimes stopped by mineral strengthening

Subduction of tectonic plates into the mantle functions as an eons-long recycling system for Earth’s crust and lithosphere. But in some subduction zones, the downgoing slabs seem to get stuck at depths of about 1,000 kilometers, held up by some unseen barrier on their journey deeper into the lower mantle. Now, scientists propose that this barrier might be related to high-pressure-induced strengthening of minerals in the rocks surrounding subducting slabs at these depths.
09 Aug 2015