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Benchmarks: October 2, 1574: Dutch unleash the ocean as a weapon of war

In 1574, the city of Leiden in the Netherlands was brought to its knees: By August of that year, about 6,000 of the city’s roughly 15,000 inhabitants had either starved to death, been killed by the Black Plague or had succumbed to dysentery. Plague doctors in their crow-beaked masks roamed the streets amid famished and diseased citizens drinking foul water from canals. No one knew when, if ever, help would come, for beyond Leiden’s walls the Spanish army was laying siege and cutting off all supply routes into the city.

02 Oct 2016

Down to Earth With: Fossil preparator Bob Masek

When paleontologists unearth a fossil and rock still entombs part of it, they take it to someone like fossil preparator Bob Masek, who cleans and prepares the fossil for scientific study, and sometimes for display in a museum. In the 1990s, Masek helped prepare “Sue,” the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever discovered, which now stands in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

 
30 Sep 2016

Geomedia: Books: "Alfred Wegener": The definitive biography of a geoscience star

Today, Alfred Wegener’s name appears in almost every geology textbook. He is celebrated as the father of the continental drift hypothesis, the forerunner of plate tectonics. This recognition is rather recent — since about the early 1970s, when plate tectonics became a unifying theory to explain the origins of continents, oceans, mountains, volcanism and many other geologic processes. During his life, Wegener’s hypothesis was rejected by many geologists, more so in North America than in Europe. The dramatic change of his status from heretic to hero thus makes Wegener’s story even more fascinating, not only to earth scientists but to general readers as well.

22 Sep 2016

Down to Earth With: Hydrogeologist Shemin Ge

When Shemin Ge graduated from high school in China, the country was still in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. During this movement, which lasted from 1966 to 1976, many colleges and universities were closed, and Ge, like most teenagers from urban areas, was sent to work in the countryside. She was assigned to a brick-making factory, where she had to haul heavy, machine-molded bricks outside so they would dry in the sun. Unless the forecast called for good weather, the teens also had to cover the bricks each evening to prevent them from cracking in the rain.

14 Sep 2016

Benchmarks: September 8, 1900: Massive hurricane strikes Galveston, Texas

Everyone said it couldn’t happen. City leaders saw no need for an expensive seawall, trusting local meteorologist Isaac Cline when he claimed that it was “impossible for any cyclone to ... materially injure the city.” And so, on the morning of Sept. 8, 1900, when the skies over Galveston, Texas, darkened with rain and the winds blew strong, residents of this booming barrier island community believed their city could weather any storm. By the next morning, the city lay in ruin, blasted by a Category-4 hurricane that killed an estimated 10,000 people — a quarter of the island’s population — and more than the combined death tolls of all other landfalling U.S. hurricanes since.

08 Sep 2016

Benchmarks: August 25, 1916: The National Park Service is established

The U.S. national parks are sanctuaries where one can find refuge in nature and marvel at its grandeur — from the glacially sculpted granitic monoliths of California’s Yosemite to the watery wilderness of Florida’s Everglades. This August, the agency that works to ensure the parks’ preservation for future generations, the National Park Service (NPS), celebrates its 100th anniversary.

25 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

Down to Earth With: National Park Service Geologic Resources Division chief David Steensen

When David Steensen started working in Redwood National Park in 1986, he did not think he’d be working for the National Park Service for more than a few years. He had been hired into a four-year fixed-term position to help restore the local watershed from the destabilizing effects of logging that occurred prior to the park’s establishment, and he knew that the park service rarely hired geologists into permanent positions.

05 Aug 2016

Geomedia: Film: A glimpse into the geology of 'Star Trek Beyond'

After a three-year wait by anxious fans, “Star Trek Beyond” hit theaters nationwide July 22. The third installment of the latest series of “Star Trek” movies, directed by Justin Lin and co-written by Simon Pegg, features more than two hours of action, stunning scenery and witty banter among the USS Enterprise crew — plus a bit of geology.

28 Jul 2016

Benchmarks: July 26, 1905: The rising Salton Sea swamps the Southern Pacific Railroad

On a scorching summer day in 1905, in the middle of a desert, the Colorado River, which had broken free from an irrigation canal and found its way to the lowest point around — the Salton Sink — swamped the Southern Pacific Railroad. Bounded by the Mojave Desert to the north and the Sonoran Desert to the south, the sink lies 70 meters below sea level at the bottom of the Salton Trough. By the time the railroad sealed the breach 18 months later, the Salton Sea stretched 58 kilometers long and 42 kilometers wide, making it California’s largest lake.

26 Jul 2016

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