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Benchmarks: May 31, 1889: Johnstown flood kills thousands

“It seemed to me as if all the destructive elements of the Creator had been turned loose at once in that awful current of water.” That’s how Col. Elias Unger, president of the corporation that maintained a dam and resort property called the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, described the water unleashed on the afternoon of May 31, 1889, when a dam at the club broke 23 kilometers above Johnstown, Pa. A little more than an hour later, a wall of water reached the town. In all, more than 2,200 people died in what is known as the Johnstown Flood.

02 May 2011

Down to Earth With: Evan Thomas

At age 16, Evan Thomas made a list of 100 life goals — his bucket list. At only 27 years old, he’s done pretty well so far: Graduate college with a degree in aerospace engineering — check. Get a doctorate by age 25 — almost (missed by 11 days). Work for NASA — check. Start a business, help people, travel the world — check, check, check. Get a private pilot license — check. Climb the world’s tallest mountains — in process.
 
02 May 2011

Down to Earth With: Alexander Stewart

Sgt. Alexander Stewart was brought up to believe serving in the military was an obligation all young men should fulfill. In 1991, at the age of 17, he answered the call of duty and joined the U.S. Army, which took him to Alaska with the 6th Infantry Division (Arctic)(Light). The state’s endless snow and ice fascinated Stewart, and after he left active duty, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in geology. In 2007, he completed a doctorate at the University of Cincinnati — in glacial geology, of course. Now he teaches the subject at St. Lawrence University in New York.
 
04 Apr 2011

Benchmarks: April 9, 1895: James Edward Keeler confirms Saturn's rings not solid

On April 9 and 10, 1895, astronomer James Edward Keeler snapped the most important photographs of his life. With a 13-inch (33-centimeter) refracting telescope, Keeler captured proof that Saturn’s rings were not solid disks, but instead a collection of particles revolving around the planet. The discovery put to rest a question that astronomers had been pondering for more than two centuries.
 
01 Apr 2011

Keeler's legacy

James Edward Keeler led a brief life, but his legacy lives on. Scientists have named several natural phenomena after him.
 
01 Apr 2011

Saturn's rings: The remains of an icy moon

James Edward Keeler’s work didn’t end all speculation about Saturn’s rings. For example, scientists still don’t know when they formed, but researchers are getting closer to understanding how they came to be.
 
01 Apr 2011

Benchmarks: March 18, 1925: Tri-state twister kills 695 people

On March 18, 1925, the U.S. Weather Bureau’s forecast for the Midwest was not pleasant, but not unusual for early spring: rain and strong, shifting winds. By the end of the day, that simple forecast would prove devastatingly understated. A tornado, or a family of tornadoes, created a path of destruction that stretched from Missouri to Indiana, killing nearly 700 people, destroying 15,000 homes, and forever changing tornado awareness in the country.
 
02 Mar 2011

Deadly tornadoes

Even with improved warning technology, tornadoes remain a deadly threat. Below is a list of some of the deadliest storms throughout the 20th century.
 
02 Mar 2011

Down to Earth With Richard Prum

Evolutionary ornithologist Richard Prum may be the first person to write a scientific field guide to dinosaur watching. Drawing on years of experience as a bird watcher and field researcher, Prum has made huge advances in our understanding of how feathers evolved and in turn how we view dinosaurs. Last year, Prum’s feather expertise allowed him to describe the dinosaur Anchiornus huxleyi in living color. All of this work on dinosaur feather evolution earned Prum a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called genius grant, in 2009.
 
01 Mar 2011

Benchmarks: Henri Becquerel discovers radioactivity on February 26, 1896

February 26, 1896, was an overcast day in Paris — and that presented a problem for French physicist Antoine Henri Becquerel. Becquerel was hoping to demonstrate a link between minerals that glow when exposed to strong light and a new type of electromagnetic radiation called X-rays. The weather thwarted this experiment — but that failure inadvertently produced an entirely new discovery: natural radioactivity.

28 Feb 2011

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