Taxonomy term

january 2012

Dangerous dust: Erionite - an asbestos-like mineral causing a cancer epidemic in Turkey - is found in at least 13 states

As North Dakota’s state geologist, Ed Murphy has spent a fair amount of time mapping the geology of the Killdeer Mountains in the western part of the state, hiking up and down buttes of the White River Group and the Arikaree Formation. In the 1980s, he and colleagues mapped large deposits of rocks bearing erionite — a zeolite mineral formed when volcanic ash is altered by water — that may have had some commercial use.

31 Jan 2012

Down to Earth With: Lee Allison

Lee Allison was head of the Arizona Geological Survey. EARTH interviewed him in 2012 and spoke with him about the latest issues in Arizona geology and the complicated politics of potash and uranium mining.

27 Jan 2012

Tracking plastic in the oceans

Despite worldwide efforts to curtail plastic use — to ban plastic grocery bags, to switch to reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic bottles, and to get rid of the microplastics in cosmetics, for example — we still produce more than 260 million tons of plastic each year. Almost a third of that plastic goes into disposable, one-time-use items. Only about 1 percent of it is recycled globally, so much ends up in landfills. Worse still, some of the plastic winds up in the world’s oceans.

24 Jan 2012

Setting off a supervolcano

Supervolcanoes are one of nature’s most destructive forces, but given that there are no recorded observations of super-eruptions — the last occurred 74,000 years ago in Indonesia — scientists don’t fully understand how they work. Now a team studying the world’s fastest-inflating volcano, Bolivia’s Uturuncu, is shedding some light on how supervolcanoes become so powerful.

17 Jan 2012

Source code: the methane race

Ten years ago, John Eiler couldn’t convince anyone to build him his dream machine. He wanted a mass spectrometer that could measure the mass of common gases with extreme precision and sensitivity, but such a device would cost more than a million dollars and might not find a market: The companies that could make it didn’t think they would be able to sell more than just the one to Eiler, which didn’t make it worth their while. Even Eiler didn’t know exactly what problems he could solve with the device, though he had a hunch it would be useful.

10 Jan 2012

Benchmarks: January 3–5, 1982: 18,000 landslides wreak havoc on the San Francisco Bay area

When a storm battered California’s San Francisco Bay Area in early January 1982, the rain was intense, but not without precedent. The region had historically endured heavy rains during the winter months, with individual storms sometimes bringing more than half the annual average rainfall in a single 36-hour span. But a collection of unique factors in 1982 created a recipe for a landslide disaster. First, two weather fronts merged, bringing copious amounts of rain to an already saturated region. Second, the rising population had resulted in a construction boom in the iconic hills of the Bay Area. During three days of relentless rain from Jan. 3–5, 1982, a record 18,000 individual landslides occurred, killing at least 25 people.
02 Jan 2012

Astronomy under the ice: Scientists use Antarctic ice to study some of the tiniest particles in the cosmos

Deep below the glacial surface at the South Pole, where the Antarctic ice is crystal clear yet pitch black, a 3-D array of more than 5,000 custom-built and precisely positioned sensors, each about the size of a basketball, lies frozen in place. The sensors keep watch for thousands of momentary flashes of blue light that zip by every second, some the result of collisions between neutrinos — nearly massless subatomic particles with no electrical charge — and the relatively large atomic nuclei in the frozen water.

01 Jan 2012

Where on Earth? - January 2012

Clues for January 2012:
1. This park hosts massive sandstone formations that geological evidence suggests are ancient solidified sand dunes that were later uplifted into a vertical position.
2. The ancient solidified sand dunes are the biggest formations in the park, supposedly formed in the Permian, and attract climbers, hikers and photographers.