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Improved genetic simulations identify human genes passed down from Neanderthals, Denisovans

You could have your mother to blame for a predisposition to baldness, but you might need to thank a Neanderthal for your ability to fight off disease. In the past decade, researchers have identified a number of genes in the human genome that they believe originated in Homo sapiens’ close evolutionary kin, Neanderthals and Denisovans. Now, a study published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution has identified additional traces of such archaic genes in modern human DNA. 

07 Dec 2016

The path to gypsum is four steps long

Drywall and plasters made from both natural and manufactured gypsum are commonly used in home and building construction around the world, in part because of gypsum’s widespread availability. Despite its abundance, and its seemingly simple makeup, however, relatively little is known about how the calcium sulfate mineral forms in nature. In a recent study, researchers have shed new light on the multi-stage process by which gypsum grows — and the findings could help develop more efficient ways to manufacture the material.

08 Nov 2016

Ancient landslide gave us Zion Canyon

It took about 20 seconds for the Sentinel rock landslide to tumble into Zion Canyon, but those seconds changed the landscape for thousands of years.

 
03 Oct 2016

Geomedia: Television: 'NOVA' for the earth science enthusiast

“NOVA,” the weekly prime-time science series that airs on PBS, is known for producing high-quality TV documentaries on subjects ranging from espionage and the military to ancient civilizations and nature. Naturally, much “NOVA” programming touches on topics in geoscience, so we decided to review several recent hour-long episodes that might be of particular interest to our readers.

15 Jun 2016

Mesa Arch's 'hum' measured to track health of rock structure

For decades, structural engineers have listened to the tiny vibrations of buildings and bridges to detect internal damage or weakness. In recent years, geoscientists have begun employing this technique, called “structural health monitoring,” to discover the hidden inner workings of natural rock features. In a new study, researchers have applied this method for the first time to examine a rock arch — Utah’s famous Mesa Arch — to determine whether this delicate structure is stable or soon to collapse.

12 May 2016

Burgess Shale fossil find offers glimpse of early parenting

Parenting behaviors of many modern animals are well known. Marsupials, like kangaroos, keep their young in pouches, and brown bear mothers are famously protective of their offspring, for example. By caring for their young, parents can increase the survival chances of their offspring. But for all we know about animals today, the origins of parenting are much less understood. Now, a new study has shed light on one of the earliest demonstrated examples of parental behavior in animals: brood care among ancient shrimplike arthropods.

10 May 2016

Model targets better understanding of recurring Indian-Pacific storm systems

Scientists have known for decades that the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) — a massive gathering of thunderstorms that forms intermittently over the Indian and western Pacific oceans — impacts regional and global weather. Predicting the impacts, however, has been more difficult because relatively little is known about the phenomenon, at least compared to El Niño and some other weather patterns. But in a new study, scientists have devised a mathematical model that clarifies how the MJO develops and progresses, which may pave the way for more accurate predictions of its effects.

26 Apr 2016

Medieval earthquakes in Nepal may help reveal the region's tectonic future

The magnitude-7.8 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal in April 2015 triggered landslides and damage that killed more than 8,500 people and injured at least 20,000, including many in and around Pokhara, the country’s second largest city. In a new study, scientists have found evidence that the city — also a major center of tourism in Nepal — and its surroundings sit atop debris from several large medieval-age quakes, confirming that the recent temblor is only the latest in a region with a long history of major earthquakes.

21 Apr 2016

Uranium contamination in aquifers could be linked to nitrate

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant life, but plants can only take up so much so fast. When excess nitrogen enters the environment by way of fertilizer and manure runoff, as well as in automobile and industrial emissions, it becomes a pollutant that can leach into waterways, carrying with it unintended — and often undesirable — consequences. In a new study, researchers have found evidence of one such consequence: elevated uranium levels in two major U.S. aquifers.

17 Feb 2016

Fire-fountain carbon sheds light on lunar origins

The moon was once thought to be virtually devoid of water and other volatile materials — a presumed consequence of extreme heating during its formation. But a recent study of lunar volcanic glasses, from samples brought back by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, is adding to the growing stack of recent evidence suggesting the moon is not the volatile-free place scientists once suspected. The findings bring us one step closer to understanding the moon’s origins.

03 Feb 2016

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