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June 9, 1938: Huang He Diversion: Largest Act of Environmental Warfare in History

By Nate Burgess

The Huang He (Yellow River) has been called “China’s Sorrow.” The name pays tribute to the millions killed by the river’s churning, muddy waters in a long history of dramatic diversions and massive floods. One of the most notable recent events in the river’s troubled history occurred in June 1938, when the Nationalist Chinese Army diverted the river to block invading Japanese troops. In both number of deaths and geographic scale, this event was the largest act of environmental warfare in modern history.

09 Jun 2009

Benchmarks: May 29, 1919: Solar eclipse "proves" relativity

By Nate Burgess

On May 29, 1919, the moon’s silhouette crept slowly over the sun, bringing premature night to observers in a broad swath of the Southern Hemisphere between South America and Africa. Few onlookers realized that this event would provide the first successful test of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

01 Jun 2009

Geoscientists Without Borders: Geologists Lend a Hand

Craig Beasley’s one-year term as president of the Society for Exploration Geophysicists had a challenging start. After about two months in office, a magnitude-9-plus earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra on Dec. 26, 2004, triggering a powerful tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

SEG members wanted to help, but did not know how to contribute their expertise. “I could encourage members to donate money and time, but how does that distinguish a contribution from SEG from what people would normally do?” Beasley says.

08 May 2009

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