Taxonomy term

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Dinosaur soft tissues preserved as polymers

Since 2005, several samples of ostensibly soft tissue, such as blood vessels and bits of organic bone material, have been gleaned from dinosaur bones. The finds have stirred debate because the notion that intact dinosaur proteins could survive tens of millions of years has proved a tantalizing but difficult pill to swallow for many paleontologists. In a new study, however, researchers have identified a chemical pathway — well known in food science but not seen before in paleontology — that may be the key to long-term preservation of soft-tissue structures.

12 Mar 2019

Jump-starting earthquake insurance uptake in California

Many parts of California are at risk for large, damaging earthquakes. Yet only about one in 10 homes in the state is covered by earthquake insurance. Now, a new insurance option offers a means to supplement traditional insurance plans and provides a way for uninsured Californians to obtain at least a modicum of earthquake coverage.

08 Mar 2019

Stronger monsoon drove ancient Indus civilization into the hills

Roughly 4,000 years ago, the Indus River Valley was home to the advanced and thriving Harappa culture. But by 1800 B.C., the civilization’s sophisticated cities along the river, which drains into the Arabian Sea on the coast of what is now Pakistan, were abandoned for smaller villages in the Himalayan foothills. A new study suggests that widespread changes in the Indian winter monsoon may have resulted in flooding that forced people to resettle farther from the Indus.

07 Mar 2019

Some of Earth's water originated in the solar system's birth

When Earth first formed, the oceans of water we know today were nowhere in sight. The long-standing consensus about where our planet’s water came from posits that it was not present during Earth’s formation and that it was later brought by chondritic materials like meteorites, asteroids and comets. But new research suggests some also came from the solar nebula — the gas and dust left over from the formation of the sun that created the planets.

05 Mar 2019

Wrangling the data to choose Mars landing sites

NASA has sent four rovers to Mars, and the fifth — the Mars 2020 Rover — is slated to launch in summer 2020 for an early 2021 arrival. Selecting suitable landing sites is a critical and painstaking pre-launch step in ensuring both the technical and scientific success of these missions.

27 Feb 2019

Earliest bird-like lungs found in China

Before birds took to the air, a number of anatomical features evolved that allowed them to get off the ground. While many of these features were skeletal adaptations that have been well-documented in the fossil record, when exactly the large-volume lungs needed to power flight developed has long been a mystery. But the recent discovery of a unique fossil bearing a significant amount of preserved soft tissue, including lung tissue, has shed light on how early birds adapted to breathe in flight.

26 Feb 2019

Beryllium: the rain bringeth and the rain taketh away

High in Earth’s atmosphere, cosmic rays collide with oxygen atoms, shattering the oxygen into smaller atoms, including radioactive beryllium-10. Atmospheric beryllium-10 that falls to Earth’s surface — in precipitation or aboard dust particles — is known as meteoric beryllium-10. Researchers often use the ratio of meteoric beryllium-10 to nonradioactive beryllium-9 in soil as a tracer of soil age and processes. As beryllium-10 has a long half-life — about 1.4 million years — scientists have used it for studies of both short- or long-term soil dynamics.

25 Feb 2019

Seismometers eavesdrop on glacial outburst flood

On July 5, 2016, a previously dammed glacial moraine in Nepal burst, releasing 100,000 tons of water that barreled down the Sunkoshi River, destroying bridges, hydropower plants and roads in its path. The flood was so massive that ground shaking was felt throughout the river corridor and recorded by seismometers deployed in the wake of the April 2015 Ghorka earthquake.

22 Feb 2019

Easter Island inhabitants drank brackish water to survive

The remote Chilean island of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is famous for its 961 giant stone statues and monuments, erected between 1200 and 1600. Called moai, these statues have been a mystery for years, especially considering just a few thousand people inhabited the small, resource-limited Pacific island nearly 3,700 kilometers west of Chile. “Why did people put the statues where they did?” asks Carl Lipo, an archaeologist at Binghamton University in New York. The answer, according to new research, may have something to do with the civilization’s water supply.

20 Feb 2019

Lab-grown magnesite a boon for carbon sequestration?

Left undisturbed, carbonate minerals can naturally lock up carbon in a stable form for millions of years or longer. Triggering the formation of carbonate minerals is thus a promising means of removing and sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In recent research, scientists uncovered new details about how one of Earth’s most stable, albeit slow-to-form, carbonates — magnesite — grows in nature and have found a way to accelerate its formation in the lab at room temperature. The results could aid in developing efficient carbon sequestration technologies.

19 Feb 2019

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