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mary caperton morton

Downgrading the Great Dying

The end-Permian extinction, nicknamed the “Great Dying,” is thought to be the deadliest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Many textbooks claim that up to 96 percent of marine life died out during this event, but a new study suggests this cataclysmic number has been overestimated.
 

23 Jan 2017

Monkeys smash stone tool theories

Archaeologists have long credited stone flakes found at dig sites to tool-making hominins, but observations of wild capuchin monkeys in Brazil breaking stones may put an end to the assumption that all stone flakes were made by humans and their ancestors.

18 Jan 2017

Tornadic storms fed by perfect spirals

Sometimes, large thunderstorms called supercells spawn tornadoes; sometimes they don’t. Predicting whether supercell drafts will spiral into a tornado is tricky, with false-alarm rates running as high as 75 percent. In a new study using helium balloons to study tornadogenesis in supercells, researchers have shown that wind patterns in the lowest 1 kilometer of a storm may play a major role in forming twisters.

17 Jan 2017

How to hide a dinosaur

Analysis of a finely preserved fossil dinosaur from China has revealed the animal’s erstwhile camouflage. It appears that the meter-high Early Cretaceous ceratopsid Psittacosaurus was light-colored on its underside and dark on top, a pattern known as countershading that may hint that the small herbivore lived in a dense forest environment.

 
11 Jan 2017

Supernova explosion detected in Early Pleistocene sediments

When a massive star comes to the end of its life cycle, it goes out with a spectacular bang known as a supernova. Only three of these events have been observed in the Milky Way in the past 1,000 years. Evidence for older explosions can be detected in the form of rare elements found on Earth that are only produced by such explosions.

10 Jan 2017

Earthquake-resilient pipes aim to keep L.A.'s water flowing

Southern California is notoriously dry, and the city of Los Angeles imports its water from Northern California. But there’s a potentially disastrous hurdle to cross: The San Andreas Fault runs just north of Los Angeles, slicing across all four of the major aqueducts that deliver water to the city. In the event of a major earthquake, water supplies to 4 million people could be cut altogether. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is working to disaster-proof the aqueducts as well as the 12,000 kilometers of pipelines that run throughout the city. A recent round of testing of a new type of earthquake-resilient pipeline at a specially designed laboratory at Cornell University is reassuring the LADWP that they’re on the right track.

08 Jan 2017

Mercury's recent tectonics revealed

Not so long ago, Mercury was the least-studied planet in the inner solar system, known only from Earth-based observations and from Mariner 10’s brief flyby in the 1970s. In 2011, the MESSENGER spacecraft began orbiting Mercury, imaging the planet’s crater- and fault-scarred surface before crashing into it, as planned, in 2015. As MESSENGER spiraled downward, it took a last series of high-resolution images, analyses of which are revealing new information about the planet’s surface geology, including evidence for recent tectonic activity.

05 Jan 2017

Earliest evidence of humans in the Americas

Map showing the earliest evidence of humans in the Americas. 

01 Jan 2017

The first Americans: How and when were the Americas populated?

The latest research suggests humans first came to the Americas by boat, though along which coast remains controversial. Archaeologists and geologists are working together to try to solve the mystery of how and when the first Americans arrived. 

 

01 Jan 2017

Underwater archaeology

As the ice sheets melted at the end of the last ice age, sea level rose dramatically, drowning much of the paleo coastline of North and South America under meters of water. To find evidence old enough to be associated with the initial colonizers, archaeologists have to get wet, even donning scuba gear to search for human relics along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Such work is highly technical and expensive, but a small handful of divers trained in underwater archaeological excavation techniques insist that it’s worth the trouble. 

01 Jan 2017

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