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erin wayman

Down To Earth With: John Underhill

“The Odyssey” follows Odysseus’ 10-year journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. John Underhill, a stratigrapher at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, has been on his own odyssey over the past seven years — to test whether Ithaca actually existed. For centuries, scholars assumed that the people and places described by Homer in his epic poems were fictional, but archaeological finds elsewhere, such as Troy and Mycenae, have proven that these stories were grounded in reality.
 
01 Jun 2011

Down to Earth With: Alexander Stewart

Sgt. Alexander Stewart was brought up to believe serving in the military was an obligation all young men should fulfill. In 1991, at the age of 17, he answered the call of duty and joined the U.S. Army, which took him to Alaska with the 6th Infantry Division (Arctic)(Light). The state’s endless snow and ice fascinated Stewart, and after he left active duty, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in geology. In 2007, he completed a doctorate at the University of Cincinnati — in glacial geology, of course. Now he teaches the subject at St. Lawrence University in New York.
 
04 Apr 2011

Benchmarks: April 9, 1895: James Edward Keeler confirms Saturn's rings not solid

On April 9 and 10, 1895, astronomer James Edward Keeler snapped the most important photographs of his life. With a 13-inch (33-centimeter) refracting telescope, Keeler captured proof that Saturn’s rings were not solid disks, but instead a collection of particles revolving around the planet. The discovery put to rest a question that astronomers had been pondering for more than two centuries.
 
01 Apr 2011

Keeler's legacy

James Edward Keeler led a brief life, but his legacy lives on. Scientists have named several natural phenomena after him.
 
01 Apr 2011

Saturn's rings: The remains of an icy moon

James Edward Keeler’s work didn’t end all speculation about Saturn’s rings. For example, scientists still don’t know when they formed, but researchers are getting closer to understanding how they came to be.
 
01 Apr 2011

Benchmarks: July 11, 1997: Neanderthal DNA unraveled

On July 11, 1997, six scientists announced they had sequenced DNA from a Neanderthal fossil. It was the first time anyone had analyzed the genetics of an extinct hominin, and the findings gave paleoanthropologists a new perspective on Neanderthals’ place in the human family tree.
The team, led by Svante Pääbo, then at the University of Munich in Germany, recovered the DNA from an upper arm bone. The bone was part of a collection of fossils discovered in 1856. Quarrymen working in the Feldhofer Cave in Germany’s Neander Valley found 16 bone fragments — including a skullcap, ribs, arms, legs and part of a hip — from several different individuals. The bones resembled human bones, but there were some striking differences: The skull had pronounced brow ridges and a low, sloping forehead, and the limb bones were extraordinarily thick.
11 Jul 2010

Down to Earth With: Sharon Mosher

Sharon Mosher was born with a rock in her hand, as her mom used to say. As a child in Illinois, she was fascinated by geology, conducting mineral tests on rocks in the chemistry lab her dad set up for her in their basement. She decided she wanted to be a geologist the moment she learned that’s what you call a person who studies rocks.

01 Mar 2010

Down to Earth With: Randy Olson

Marine biologist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olson made a name for himself in 2006 with the release of his first feature-length movie, “Flock of the Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus.” He followed that success with last year’s “Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy.” These movies feature hot-button science issues, but they are not documentaries. Rather, Olson says, they are designed to entertain and spark an interest in the scientific topic — whether evolution or climate change — so that viewers will want to learn more.

23 Jun 2009

Down to Earth With: Marc Kuchner

Marc Kuchner likes to joke that when he feels sociable at a party, he tells fellow guests that he is an astronomer. But when he wants to be left alone, he says, he tells them he is an astrophysicist. At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Kuchner spends his time thinking about planets outside the solar system and looking for ways to better see them — and he’s devoted some of his time to working on the Terrestrial Planet Finder, a proposed NASA mission to look for and image Earth-like exoplanets. For his work on improving the detection and understanding of exoplanets, SPIE, an international society that advances light-based research, awarded him the group’s Early Career Achievement Award earlier this year.

23 May 2009

Down to Earth With: Paleontologist and astronomer Tom Kaye

What do paleontology, astronomy and paintball guns have in common? For one, they have all been pursuits of Tom Kaye. Kaye, a research associate at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Wash., is a self-taught paleontologist and an amateur astronomer. But he’s not content with just digging fossils and observing constellations. His ambitions are much greater. In July, for example, he set off a paleontological debate when he and his colleagues suggested in PLoS One that soft tissue that was discovered in a tyrannosaur fossil in 2005 was nothing more than bacteria trapped in tiny grooves on the bone.
 
04 Oct 2008