Taxonomy term

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Before Lucy: Older hominid Ardi challenges thinking about human evolution

Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis fossil, has long been the poster child for early human evolution. But now she’ll have to share the spotlight with an even older hominid. After spending the last 15 years studying an ancient hominid species about the size of a chimpanzee, scientists revealed details about the 4.4-million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus in a press conference today.

01 Oct 2009

The trailblazers

Volcanologists have long been assessing the impacts of volcanic ash and gases on the environment and human health. This effort began in earnest when volcanologists at the U.S. Geological Survey undertook extensive studies of the environmental characteristics of ash from the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruptions. These studies included water leach tests showing that rain falling onto fresh ash can be quite acidic due to the liberation of acidic gas species that condense onto ash particles in the eruption cloud.

01 Oct 2009

Report from Ground Zero

How geoscientists aid in the aftermath of environmental disasters

01 Oct 2009

Earthquake rocks Sumatra

Updated on Oct. 1:

A second, magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck southern Sumatra, Indonesia, today at about 8:52 a.m. local time; this time, the epicenter was 215 kilometers southeast of Padang, West Sumatra. The death toll from both events has risen to at least 531 people.

30 Sep 2009

Powerful earthquake strikes Samoa

Updated on Sept. 30:

A tsunami spawned by Tuesday's earthquake, which struck in the Pacific Ocean between American Samoa and Samoa, swept across the islands on Tuesday, local authorities reported Wednesday. Authorities in the region are reporting that the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has risen to at least 111 people, including 22 people in American Samoa, 82 people in Samoa and seven in Tonga, according to a report by CNN.

29 Sep 2009

Moon much wetter than thought

The moon isn’t quite the bone-dry place scientists once thought; instead, its surface is covered in water, according to a landmark finding announced by scientists at NASA today.

24 Sep 2009

Getting a master's in social geology

At first glance, it seems like an obvious solution to a problem: Villagers need vegetables and an aid organization has money to buy tools and seeds. Striving to create a sustainable program, the aid organization develops a training plan to teach the villagers how to garden, invests in local workshops, and purchases tools to distribute to the participants. All plans seem in order and the project is poised for success. However, the project’s managers encounter the first of potentially many obstacles when they realize that shovels are impossible to use if you don’t have shoes.

24 Sep 2009

Musical magnetic reversals

Although Earth’s magnetic field currently points toward the North Pole, the planet’s magnetic dipole flips direction every few hundred thousand years or so. Engebretson tracked the last 85 million years of these magnetic reversals, with higher pitches representing shorter polarities (a period of time when the direction of the magnetic field stays the same), and lower pitches longer ones.

22 Sep 2009

Earth tides in A major

Earth experiences small, millimeter-sized tides, called Earth tides. Using a dataset from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California from A.D. 1600 to A.D. 2200, Engebretson calculated the net gravitational force of the sun and the moon at particular intervals and then mapped them onto the A major scale.

22 Sep 2009

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