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callan bentley

Geomedia: Books: A witty look at "The Ends of the World"

Our planet has been through some harrowing episodes, particularly in the form of mass extinctions since the advent of multicellular life. How organisms came to perish in these events should interest all conscious, intelligent forms of multicellular life lucky enough to still be alive — you and I included. A great way to satisfy that interest is with “The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions” by Peter Brannen, a well-paced, well-sourced and well-written guide to mass extinctions.

21 Mar 2019

Getting There and Getting Around Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is served by three major airports: Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Reagan National is closest to downtown and is conveniently served by the Metro subway system. For those with window seats, flights in and out of DCA offer views of the Piedmont-Coastal Plain boundary along the Potomac River, in addition to exciting views of the National Mall. Dulles is a roughly 45-kilometer drive west of downtown D.C. in the exurbs of Northern Virginia. Window-seaters approaching IAD can spy quarries excavating rocks from the Culpeper Basin, as well as the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west. Flights to BWI, about 50 kilometers north of downtown D.C., offer views of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries draining the Coastal Plain. The airport is served by a commuter train that runs to Union Station, Washington’s downtown rail hub adjacent to the U.S. Capitol. Automobile traffic in and around the city is often heavy, and a cab or rideshare from IAD or BWI into the city can take upwards of an hour. Rail service aboard Amtrak into Union Station, which is on Metro’s Red Line, may be a convenient option for some visitors to D.C.

11 Dec 2018

Travels in Geology: Touring the Capital Geology of Washington, D.C.

This month, the American Geophysical Union will host its annual fall meeting in Washington, D.C. Take a tour of the city’s unexpected geology, showcased in both natural rock outcrops and the capital’s diverse suite of building stone found in museums and monuments on the National Mall.
07 Dec 2018

Geomedia: Books: "This Gulf of Fire" recounts the 1755 Lisbon disaster

In the panoply of history-altering natural disasters, Lisbon’s destruction on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, 1755, stands out. You may have heard of this Portuguese calamity in the context of tsunami coverage, but it was a sequence of three disasters — an earthquake, a tsunami and a fire — that combined to level much of the city and claim tens of thousands of lives. Some scholars suggest a fourth calamity was the way the aftermath was handled, but author Mark Molesky seems more charitably inclined on that front. In “This Gulf of Fire: The Destruction of Lisbon, or Apocalypse in the Age of Science and Reason,” Molesky, a historian at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, has written the definitive scholarly account — if not the most accessible one — of that fateful day and its historical aftermath.

19 Nov 2018

Travels in Geology: Jewel of the Apennines: Italy's Monti Sibillini National Park

The landscape of the central Apennines is a manifestation of the geological processes that have acted on this region for more than 200 million years. It is a place where human history is closely tied to the terrain: a relationship that has produced terrific rewards of agriculture and art, as well as great catastrophes from earthquakes and landslides. 
14 Nov 2018

Getting There & Getting Getting Around Monti Sibillini National Park

For those traveling internationally by air to Italy to visit Monti Sibillini National Park, flying into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO) is likely the best option. Florence is another option, but Rome is closer and hosts more flights. There are several routes into the park from different directions; all the entrance points on the western side of the park are a two-and-a-half- to three-hour drive east of Rome. Bus tour services run out of Rome, but the best way to reach the park is via rental car. Rental cars are plentiful, and the good news is that, unlike driving in some parts of Italy such as around Naples or in Sicily (which is not for the faint of heart), driving in the Apennines is much more like driving in the U.S. In this part of Italy, drivers are more courteous and generally adhere to road signage and lane guidelines. All countries have driving norms that are not immediately clear to foreign drivers, however. In Italy, to avoid scorn from your fellow drivers, it’s important to remember to never pass another car on the right. Italians consider it a severe breach of driving etiquette.

14 Nov 2018

Geomedia: Books: "Quakeland" spotlights seismic risk

I was flying to Seattle when I finished Kathryn Miles’ 2017 book, “Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.” I shut the book with a shudder of dread. There’s trouble brewing below the myriad coffee shops, not just in Seattle, but also across the Pacific Northwest. Seattle and the surrounding region sit atop the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), where the diminutive Juan de Fuca Plate dives eastward beneath the sizable North American Plate, producing a chain of stratovolcanoes arrayed along the coast like pearls on a string — an explosive geohazard.

16 May 2018

Getting there and getting around the Causses

Toulouse is the best gateway to the Causses region. Toulouse-Blagnac Airport hosts plenty of flights to connecting cities in Europe, but no direct flights from the United States. Rent a car at the airport and head north to explore the region. The main highway going north to the Causses is well maintained, with fueling stations along the way that offer everything a traveler might need, including showers. Figuring out how to pay for gasoline was tricky — but that’s part of the adventure of travel.

06 Apr 2018

Travels in Geology: Underground awe in France: The caves of the Causses

The Causses du Quercy region in south-central France has been transformed into a karstic wonderland by the slow dissolution of limestone. The resulting caves, which served as shelters for early humans who left their bones, tools and art for us to ponder, are both geologically and paleoanthropologically fascinating.

06 Apr 2018

Geomedia: Books: "Half-Earth" is only half-compelling

Edward O. Wilson, professor emeritus and honorary curator in entomology at Harvard, is a scientist of acclaim and renown, a naturalist and experimentalist who has made astounding discoveries about the natural world. These discoveries range from small details about ant communication to much larger ideas related to sociobiology, the co-evolution of genes and culture, island biogeography and biophilia, for example. His work is widely known, in large part, because he’s a talented and prolific writer, and he has twice won the Pulitzer Prize.

13 Mar 2018

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