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Departments

Designing Snowflakes

It's easy to forget that powerful snowstorms are made of tiny, delicate ice crystals we call snowflakes. Some snowflakes take a familiar six-sided form. Others are more fantastic. Either way, snowflakes can astound with their intricate beauty.

05 Mar 2010

Down to Earth With: Sharon Mosher

Sharon Mosher was born with a rock in her hand, as her mom used to say. As a child in Illinois, she was fascinated by geology, conducting mineral tests on rocks in the chemistry lab her dad set up for her in their basement. She decided she wanted to be a geologist the moment she learned that’s what you call a person who studies rocks.

01 Mar 2010

Benchmarks: February 4, 1962: Five planets align - but no end of the world

In the movie "2012," released in theaters last November, an alignment of five planets in our solar system — supposedly foretold by the Mayans thousands of years ago — causes horrors that span nearly every earth science disaster movie cliché: solar flares, neutrinos, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, poles shifting, oceans washing over the tallest mountains in the world, cities falling into the sea, mass hysteria and, basically, total destruction of life as we know it.
 
04 Feb 2010

Down to Earth With: Mike Gallagher

Mike Gallagher is not your typical science educator. After spending three years as a researcher and field geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., Gallagher decided to become a teacher after budget cuts at USGS in the late 1980s encouraged him to reconsider his career track. Gallagher went on to earn a Washington state teaching certificate (while renting a place in the belfry of a local church). As a teacher in Washington, Gallagher engaged his students with hands-on science research projects: By 1999, two of his students had even presented their research on the water quality of a local stream to then-Governor Gary Locke, who is now secretary of commerce. A windsurfer in his spare time, Gallagher now works for Michigan’s Oakland Intermediate School District, advising districts and teachers on how to improve their science education programs.

02 Feb 2010

Benchmarks: January 13, 1404: England prohibits Alchemy

Alchemy, in both ancient and medieval times, wasn’t just about turning lead into gold, although such “transmutation” was certainly one desirable goal. In a broader sense, alchemists were both philosophers and the precursors to modern chemists, in that they sought to understand thedifferent states of matter, the interactions of metals, and the way in which elements were created from the original chaos. There were thought to be four elements — earth, air, fire and water — and combining them properly could produce any substance on Earth, from medicines to gold. Among the more lofty ambitions of alchemists was the search for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that was supposed to enable the transmutation of one substance into another (and perhaps act as an elixir of life).
 
13 Jan 2010

Down to Earth With: Matt Kondolf

As a fluvial geomorphologist teaching in the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department at the University of California at Berkeley, Matt Kondolf is an ambassador from the earth sciences to landscape designers and environmental planners. Kondolf’s research in river management ranges from the impacts of urbanization on runoff and sediment yield, to river restoration, to managing salmon populations and fishing. In classes like “Hydrology for Planners” and “Ecological Analysis in Urban Design,” he encourages up-and-coming environmental planners and designers to think carefully about the geologic processes that control river formation, as well as the roles that rivers play within ecosystems. He is also active in the policy discussions that are shaping California’s and the nation’s approaches to river management.

02 Jan 2010

Down to Earth With: Buzz Aldrin

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made history when they landed and walked on the moon. The voyage left a lasting impression on Aldrin, who, at the age of 79, is one of the most vocal supporters of human space exploration.

03 Dec 2009

Benchmarks: December 1, 1959: Antarctic Treaty Signed

Science trumps all in Antarctica. For the past 50 years, Antarctica has remained a military-free, globally shared continent, dedicated to peace and scientific advancement, thanks to the Antarctica Treaty.
 
01 Dec 2009

Benchmarks: November 22, 1859: "On the Origin of Species" published

By David B. Williams

About a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to hold in my hands a first edition of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” The green cover was cracked and frayed. The cardboard backing protruded through the torn corners. I put the book down and stared at it in awe. The owner of this book was Asa Gray, one of America’s greatest botanists, an important early American supporter of natural selection, and a friend of Darwin’s.

23 Nov 2009

Down to Earth With: Lucy McFadden

Not many people can say they have an asteroid named after them. But Lucy McFadden, a self-described small planetary objects junkie, can. For nearly 40 years, McFadden has woven her two loves — astronomy and geology — into a career in planetary geology. She has mapped craters on Mercury, participated on NASA missions to comets, and collected meteorites in Antarctica, all in the interest of discovering more about the formation of our solar system.

21 Nov 2009

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