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Mineral Resource of the Month: Aluminum

Aluminum is the third-most abundant element in Earth’s crust, after oxygen and silicon. In nature, aluminum is bonded to iron, oxygen, potassium, silicon and other elements in common rock-forming minerals. In tropical conditions, potassium, silicon and other elements can be naturally leached from rocks to leave behind bauxite — a rock composed mainly of aluminum hydroxide with iron oxides and clay — which is the most commonly used aluminum ore. Aluminum has also been recovered from alunite, anorthosite and clay, but the cost of producing aluminum from these sources tends to be higher than from bauxite.

 
13 Jul 2012

Benchmarks: July 1, 1912: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory officially becomes the first of its kind in U.S.

Living on the fringe of an active volcano in Hawaii is a precarious venture. Because Hawaii’s shield volcanoes aren’t prone to explosive activity, you’re typically not threatened by violent eruptions such as would occur at Mount St. Helens, for example. On the other hand, the slow-moving, unpredictable lava flows can still overtake your home, even if it has avoided years of previous eruptions. 
 
02 Jul 2012

Energy Notes: February 2011-2012

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit www.api.org.

 
19 Jun 2012

Down to Earth With: Snow Hydrologist Jeff Dozier

It’s mid-January. Snow hydrologist Jeff Dozier relaxes at his sister’s cabin near Lake Tahoe, his bare feet resting on a coffee table. His teenage son, who spent the day competing in a ski race, lounges on the couch beside his father, listening to music. Snacking on cheese and crackers, the two look utterly content.

13 Jun 2012

Mineral Resource of the Month: Magnesium

Magnesium is the eighth-most abundant element in Earth’s crust, and the second-most abundant metal ion in seawater. Although magnesium is found in more than 60 minerals, only brucite, dolomite, magnesite and carnallite are commercially important for their magnesium content. Magnesium and its compounds also are recovered from seawater, brines found in lakes and wells, and bitterns (salts).

 
13 Jun 2012

Benchmarks: June 10, 1886: New Zealand’s Mount Tarawera erupts

On June 10, 1886, Mount Tarawera on New Zealand’s North Island erupted catastrophically, killing more than 100 people. With few warning signals, the explosive basaltic eruption caught many people by surprise as it rocked the mountain, forming fissures that extended for 17 kilometers into the adjacent Lake Rotomahana and Waimangu Valley. 
 
04 Jun 2012

Energy Notes: January 2011-2012

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit www.api.org.

 
19 May 2012

Down to Earth With: The Geographers of the Solar System

Certain government officials have super cool titles: for example, Planetary Protection Officer (NASA's Catharine Conley) and Oceanographer of the Navy (David Titley). I think Geographer of the Solar System would be right up there. Alas, no one actually has that title, but in a little-known office of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) nestled in the hills above Flagstaff, Ariz., I met a dozen or so people who could reasonably qualify for it.

13 May 2012

Mineral Resource of the Month: Manganese

Manganese is a silver-colored metal resembling iron and often found in conjunction with iron. The earliest-known human use of manganese compounds was in the Stone Age, when early humans used manganese dioxide as pigments in cave paintings. In ancient Rome and Egypt, people started using it to color or remove the color from glass — a practice that continued to modern times. Today, manganese is predominantly used in metallurgical applications as an alloying addition, particularly in steel and cast iron production. Steel and cast iron together provide the largest market for manganese (historically 85 to 90 percent), but it is also alloyed with nonferrous metals such as aluminum and copper. Its importance to steel cannot be overstated, as almost all types of steel contain manganese and could not exist without it.

 
13 May 2012

Benchmarks: May 15, 1909: The Northern Great Plains earthquake

In Culbertson, Mont., at a quarter past nine on a Saturday evening, Ralph Bush and H.G. Walsh were resting in the third-floor apartment of the Reed Cash Grocery when the floor began to rock, vibrating a small penknife right off their table, and sending a candle lamp clattering to the floor. At the nearby Evans Hotel, confusion reigned as the quake shook the two-story brick building, causing frightened guests to flee into the streets. On the second story of the Farmers & Merchants bank, a piano player was entertaining a social gathering at the home of Professor Dale when the shaking sent a vase crashing to the floor. The 15 seconds of quivering was so pronounced at Skelley’s barbershop that, “It rang up a 50-cent cash sale on the cash register, and it has been keeping me guessing how I can balance the darned thing,” Skelley told a reporter from the Culbertson Republican.
 
02 May 2012

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