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

Thirsty business: How the tech industry is bracing for a water-scarce future

Today’s technologies — from smartphones to laptops to smart appliances to cloud computing — require tremendous amounts of water, some of which is needed to cool large heat-generating data centers. Some of the biggest names in tech, along with government agencies and smaller businesses, are taking innovative approaches to deal with water issues — including placing facilities in the high desert. 

18 Sep 2016

Junk gem reveals new diamond-forming process

Not all diamonds are gems. Those found bearing imperfections or inclusions, known as bort or junk diamonds, are often demoted to industrial uses such as in diamond-tipped drill bits. They also sometimes find their way to scientists interested in using the inclusions to study how such stones form. Now, a team studying a junk diamond from Botswana with a large black sulfide inclusion has uncovered evidence of a previously unrecognized diamond formation process that occurs in the deep mantle.

16 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

Comment: Mudrock cement and the importance of basic research

Imagination is what drives science, and combining the diverse imaginations and funding of both the private and public sectors will allow science to be most effective in the long term.
11 Sep 2016

Zircons hold clues to early Earth

Not much is known about the first 500 million years of Earth’s history, between 4.5 billion and 4 billion years ago. We know the interior of the planet was hotter than it is today, and that Earth’s surface experienced intense meteorite bombardment, which left the surface pocked with magma-filled craters. But with no rock record available from this period — the oldest rocks are 4.04 billion years old — scientists must look to the composition of tiny grains of the mineral zircon to provide clues about Earth during the Hadean Eon. But where did the zircons come from?

09 Sep 2016

Travels in Geology: Limestone and legends in Northern Vietnam

The stunning jade islands, turquoise bays and rugged spires of Northern Vietnam are one of the world's best places to explore karst topography.

07 Sep 2016

Tiny ocean bacteria could play big role in climate

In the 1990s, researchers identified the most abundant group of organisms in the ocean as Pelagibacterales, a class of free-living bacteria that live in surface waters as a microscopic but major part of the phytoplankton community. Now, a new study suggests that Pelagibacterales could play an important role in the global climate cycle by producing dimethylsulfide (DMS), an organosulfur compound that stimulates cloud formation when it gets into the atmosphere.

05 Sep 2016

The current extinction of life will leave a scant fossil record

Life on Earth has endured five major mass extinctions, known as the “Big Five.” We know about these past events thanks to fossils: During mass extinctions, many species evident in the rock record disappeared from Earth relatively quickly. Today, human alteration of the environment is driving what scientists call the sixth great extinction, but according to new research, the current extinction differs from the Big Five in a key way: Much of the life facing extermination today will likely not be preserved as fossils. This means that, to future paleontologists looking at the rock record from today, the sixth extinction might not appear to have been such a major event.

05 Sep 2016