Taxonomy term

carolyn gramling

Conjunction injunction: Recent and future planetary alignments

February 1962: The five planets visible to the naked eye, as well as the sun and moon, all appeared within 17 degrees of each other in the sky. A concurrent solar eclipse and new moon made it possible to view the planets.

04 Feb 2015

Down to Earth With: Deep-Sea submersible Alvin

Every oceanographer knows Alvin. Since 1964, the legendary deep submergence vehicle has carried more than 12,000 scientists and other observers to the bottom of the ocean on more than 4,600 dives. Its exploits are legion: locating and recovering a lost U.S. hydrogen bomb in 780 meters of water off the coast of Spain in 1966, exploring the first-known hydrothermal vents (black smokers off the Galapagos Islands) in 1977 and surveying the wreck of the Titanic in 1986.

04 Jul 2011

Benchmarks: September 21, 1930: Alfred Wegener begins a fateful polar expedition

In September 1930, 15 polar explorers set out from their base camp at Kamarujuk on the west coast of Greenland. The team was carrying much-needed supplies 400 kilometers inland to two meteorologists waiting at a satellite camp at Eismitte at the center of the Greenland icecap. The team, consisting of German meteorologists Alfred Wegener and Fritz Loewe as well as 13 Greenlanders, traveled slowly, their dogsleds hindered by storms and frigid temperatures. All but Wegener, Loewe and one Greenlander, Rasmus Villumsen, were forced to turn back by the blizzards. At last, the three explorers managed to reach the icecap camp at the end of October.
03 Sep 2010

Benchmarks: May 18, 1952: Stonehenge's age solved with Carbon-14

Like sentinels standing guard over a millennia-old secret, the 8-meter-tall stones of Stonehenge rise above the rolling green hills of England’s Salisbury Plain. The origin, date and purpose of the arrangement of the giant standing stones, located about 145 kilometers west of London, have puzzled people for thousands of years. But in 1952, physical chemist Willard Libby, a professor at the University of Chicago in Illinois, finally provided a concrete answer to one of the site’s most enduring questions: when it was built. To do this, Libby used a brand-new geochemical technique that he had been developing based on the radioactive isotope carbon-14. Only a few years later, his work on this groundbreaking technique earned him a Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

18 May 2010

Nuclear Fallout

Willard Libby, who won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1960, was a prominent advocate of nuclear weapons testing, and worked on the Manhattan Project to help develop an atomic bomb during World War II. During the late 1950s, chemist Linus Pauling, a peace activist who won Nobel Prizes for both Chemistry and Peace, presented the United Nations with a petition signed by more than 11,000 scientists that called for an end to nuclear weapons testing. In particular, Pauling cited a 1958 speech on carbon-14 by Libby that suggested nuclear tests would produce large amounts of the radioactive isotope. 
18 May 2010

Down to Earth With: Andrew Feustel

When NASA astronaut Andrew (Drew) Feustel was a student at Oakland Community College in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., he was so interested in cars that he considered pursuing automotive design. Luckily for the Hubble Space Telescope, he took a different path, becoming one of the key astronauts in last May’s successful Hubble repair mission.


01 Apr 2010

Chile quake/tsunami news coverage: The bad and the good

Blogging on EARTH

As you would expect, there's been tons of coverage of the earthquake off the coast of Chile and the resulting tsunami in the mainstream media. And some of it has been notoriously poor.

03 Mar 2010

Hubble's pics of Pluto: Dark orange and charcoal-black

Blogging on EARTH

Today NASA released new Hubble images of dwarf planet Pluto — and far from being just an icy colorless rock, the images show a mottled, dynamic, orangey-black world that changes color with the seasons (on Pluto, the change of seasons lasts 248 Earth years — and although on Earth the seasons change due to the axial tilt of the planet, Pluto's eccentric, non-circular orbit plays a big role in its seasonal variations).

04 Feb 2010

Benchmarks: February 4, 1962: Five planets align - but no end of the world

In the movie "2012," released in theaters last November, an alignment of five planets in our solar system — supposedly foretold by the Mayans thousands of years ago — causes horrors that span nearly every earth science disaster movie cliché: solar flares, neutrinos, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, poles shifting, oceans washing over the tallest mountains in the world, cities falling into the sea, mass hysteria and, basically, total destruction of life as we know it.
04 Feb 2010

Benchmarks: January 13, 1404: England prohibits Alchemy

Alchemy, in both ancient and medieval times, wasn’t just about turning lead into gold, although such “transmutation” was certainly one desirable goal. In a broader sense, alchemists were both philosophers and the precursors to modern chemists, in that they sought to understand thedifferent states of matter, the interactions of metals, and the way in which elements were created from the original chaos. There were thought to be four elements — earth, air, fire and water — and combining them properly could produce any substance on Earth, from medicines to gold. Among the more lofty ambitions of alchemists was the search for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that was supposed to enable the transmutation of one substance into another (and perhaps act as an elixir of life).
13 Jan 2010