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Benchmarks: April 26, 1986: Nuclear explosion at Chernobyl

By Carolyn Gramling

A rusting Ferris wheel dominates the skyline of Prypiat, Ukraine’s ghost town. A few kilometers away, within a massive concrete structure called the Sarcophagus, are the remnants of the worst nuclear disaster in history: the ruins of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s reactor number four — and about 200 tons of highly radioactive material.

24 Apr 2009

Earth: The movie (not the magazine)

Blogging on EARTH (the magazine)

Earth Day is over. But you don’t have to wait until next year to celebrate the planet. Disney’s new movie “Earth,” which opened Apr. 22, offers some spectacular views of the planet and its inhabitants.

23 Apr 2009

Benchmarks: March 1, 1872: "Bone Wars" heat up

By Brian Fisher Johnson

Edward Drinker Cope stood before a smoke-filled audience at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pa., on March 1, 1872. One of the nation’s leading paleontologists, Cope would present his latest fossil find: an extinct flying reptile he designated Ornithochirus. Certainly the piece would be recognized as a major contribution to the scientific understanding of ancient life. More importantly, Cope thought, he would receive credit as its discoverer.

27 Feb 2009

Scientists Go to the Movies

Hollywood’s sometimes sloppy depiction of scientific concepts often galls scientists. Some productions strive for accuracy; others — well, they wing it. Not surprisingly, there are gaffes. Movie stars burst through glass without a scratch, plants grow where they shouldn’t and woolly mammoths help construct the Egyptian pyramids. Now, the National Academy of Sciences is fighting back.

30 Jan 2009

People of the Ice

“We do not come to Antarctica because we are in love with Antarctica. We come to Antarctica because we want a mystery to solve, and we love a challenge. And there’s one here.”

With those words, Adam Lewis, a glacial geologist from North Dakota State University, sums up the human story at the heart of “Ice People,” an austere, unpretentious and often gorgeous documentary about scientists working at the end of the world.

09 Jan 2009

Benchmarks: January 3, 1961: Three men die in nuclear reactor meltdown

By Cassandra Willyard

Of the hundreds of thousands of caskets buried in Arlington National Cemetery, only one is lined with lead to prevent the body from leaking radiation. It holds the radioactive remains of Richard Leroy McKinley, one of three men killed when a nuclear reactor exploded in the nation’s only fatal nuclear accident.

02 Jan 2009

Benchmarks: December 3, 1984: Bhopal gas leak kills thousands

By Cassandra Willyard

On Dec. 3, 1984, Aziza Sultan woke to the sound of coughing. When she opened her eyes, she could see that the room was filled with a white haze. She heard people shouting “Run, run.” Then she too began to cough. Each breath burned her lungs.

03 Dec 2008

November 26,1872: Great Diamond Hoax Exposed

By Cassandra Willyard

On a foggy day in 1871, two men walked into the Bank of California in San Francisco. One held a rifle and the other gripped a large buckskin pouch. Both were covered in a thick layer of grime. Initially, the nervous teller took the shady drifters for bank robbers. But his anxiety turned to elation when they showed him the contents of their pouch — a shimmery bounty of diamonds, rubies and sapphires.

26 Nov 2008

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