Taxonomy term

august 2016

Hominid vs. hominin

Before genetics came along and revealed just how closely modern humans and chimpanzees are related, humans were classified in their own family, Hominidae, separate from old world monkeys, which were in the family Pongidae.

21 Aug 2016

The new kid on the block

In 2013, cave explorers discovered a trove of human-like fossils in the Rising Star Cave in South Africa. Since then, more than 1,500 fossils belonging to at least 15 individuals have been excavated from the site. The fossils display a mishmash of primitive and more advanced features that seem to place it somewhere between Australopithecus and early Homo species, such as a small cranial capacity closer to Australopiths, but with finer facial features, more like Homo.In 2013, cave explorers discovered a trove of human-like fossils in the Rising Star Cave in South Africa. Since then, more than 1,500 fossils belonging to at least 15 individuals have been excavated from the site. The fossils display a mishmash of primitive and more advanced features that seem to place it somewhere between Australopithecus and early Homo species, such as a small cranial capacity closer to Australopiths, but with finer facial features, more like Homo.

21 Aug 2016

Firefighting gets a leg up from earthquake sensor networks

Seismic networks monitor ground motion in earthquake-prone regions like California and Nevada. Now, they may also help combat other natural hazards like wildfires, which are especially common in drought-stricken western states where parched landscapes create ideal conditions for fires to spread.

19 Aug 2016

Mantle convection makes Earth's crust bob

From the earthquake-prone Himalayas and Andes to the volcanically active “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific, the boundaries of Earth’s tectonic plates are often sites of considerable geologic activity. In contrast, the interiors of tectonic plates have been thought to be relatively rigid and quiet.

18 Aug 2016

Helium escape may help predict volcanic activity

Europe’s tallest active volcano, Mount Etna, rises 3,300 meters above the island of Sicily, which lies just off the coast of Italy’s “toe.” Within 100 kilometers of more than 3 million people, Etna frequently rumbles and occasionally belches. As recently as last May, explosions accompanied lava fountains and ash erupted from one of the volcano’s craters over several days. This was just one of many eruptions in a long line of events, with historical documents dating similar outbursts back to 1500 B.C. Scientists cannot pinpoint when Etna will next erupt, but in a new study in Geology, researchers have identified a clue that may help them better understand how the volcano’s inner plumbing system changes just prior to an eruption.

17 Aug 2016

New dating of 'hobbit' sheds light on when it lived

Since 2004, when scientists first announced the discovery of fossil remains of a new species of hominin from Indonesia — dubbed Homo floresiensis and nicknamed “hobbits” due to the species’ meter-tall stature — researchers have been trying to pinpoint exactly when H. floresiensis lived and when it died off. Several recent studies shed light on the topic.

16 Aug 2016

Geologic Column: Editia elegantis: A story of science, discovery and the elegance of a wife's contribution

A simple disagreement between the author's parents — one a graduate student and the other a young wife and mother — resulted in an article in the Journal of Paleontology and a collection in the Smithsonian National Musuem of Natural History. 

15 Aug 2016

Ice (Re)Cap: August 2016

From Antarctica to the Arctic; from polar caps, permafrost and glaciers to ocean-rafted sea ice; and from burly bears to cold-loving microbes, fascinating science is found in every nook and crevasse of Earth’s cryosphere, and new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.

13 Aug 2016

Geomedia: Books: 'FORE' helps you project the future, with a laugh

What if we could project the future of nearly everything with a single type of mathematical equation? In “FORE and the Future of Practically Everything,” a book replete with humor and keen insight, retired civil and geotechnical engineer Richard L. Handy valiantly attempts to demonstrate the projective power of mathematics by exploring an eclectic assortment of examples.

12 Aug 2016

Mauna Loa's mysterious Ninole Hills were once a rift

Hawaii’s Nīnole Hills, jutting out from Mauna Loa’s southeast flank, are one of the most striking features on the Big Island, though their geologic origins have long been a mystery. A new study looking at gravity anomalies under the hills is revealing that the hills are part of an older rift system that predates the currently active Southwest Rift Zone. The seemingly sudden switch from one rift system to another may provide some clues as to how Mauna Loa grew to be the largest volcano on Earth. “A lot of different ideas have been proposed to explain how the Nīnole Hills were created,” says Jeff Zurek, a geophysicist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, and lead author of the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. It’s been suggested that the hills could be the remnants of an older summit of Mauna Loa, or its predecessor, Mohokea, or that faulting and landslides could have created the unusual topography of the hills, or that they could be from an older, inactive rift system.

11 Aug 2016

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