Taxonomy term

january 2015

Did three convicts survive their escape from Alcatraz? Modern modeling adds to a decades-old mystery

What is known about the caper is that three inmates — brothers Clarence and John Anglin, along with Frank Morris — dug their way out of the supposedly escape-proof federal penitentiary, located in San Francisco Bay, on the night of June 11, 1962. Leaving realistic-looking heads sculpted from papier maché, complete with real hair, in their bunks as dummies, the convicts made their way to the shoreline with a makeshift raft assembled mostly from several dozen rubber raincoats. They slipped off the island into dense fog and were never seen or heard from again.

14 Jan 2015

New species of titanosaurus discovered in Tanzania

The Cretaceous landscape was dominated by huge herbivorous sauropods, the largest land animals ever to walk the planet. Fossils from many of these massive creatures have been unearthed around the world, but the recent discovery of a new specimen of titanosaurus in Tanzania is among the first sauropods found on the African continent.

14 Jan 2015

Marine mammals blamed for first New World tuberculosis

When Europeans arrived in the Americas they introduced an array of new infectious diseases that decimated the native populations. Now, a new genetics-based study published in Nature shows that the emergence of tuberculosis in Peru seems to have predated the arrival of the Spanish — and that seals and sea lions may be to blame instead for the ancient infections.

13 Jan 2015

The '100-year flood' fallacy: Return periods misleading in communication of flood risk

The “100-year flood” is a familiar term to anyone who lives in a flood-prone area or has ever looked at a flood map before buying homeowner’s insurance. Return periods, or recurrence intervals, like this are standard parlance for describing the magnitude and potential hazard of floods, as well as other hydrologic events like storms and droughts. Although such terms have long helped policymakers and the public try to make sense of severe weather, one researcher suggests they may confuse the issue more than clarify it.

11 Jan 2015

Golden Gate ghost ships rediscovered

Just beyond San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is a shipwreck graveyard where as many as 300 vessels lie in silty underwater repose. A team of NOAA researchers conducting a two-year study to identify and map the long-forgotten ships in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the adjacent Golden Gate National Recreation Area has announced the discovery of three wrecks: the 1863 wreck of the clipper ship Noonday, the 1910 shipwreck SS Selja and an unidentified early steam tugboat wreck tagged the “mystery wreck” — all now obscured by mud and silt on the ocean floor.
 

11 Jan 2015

Skinned oceanic plates may be origin of ophiolites

Long recognized as slivers of oceanic crust incongruously emplaced on land, ophiolites are distinctive sequences of basalt, gabbro and peridotite found globally near former and current convergent zones, where oceanic tectonic plates subduct under continents. But scientists don’t have a clear idea why or how ophiolites split from downgoing plates and find their way onto land. Now, a new study suggests part of the answer may relate to weak layers of mantle that allow oceanic crust to be peeled, or “skinned,” from subducting slabs as they descend.
 

10 Jan 2015

Utah gravity slide was one for the record books

When Washington state’s Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, the volcano’s northern flank gave way, sending about 2.5 cubic kilometers of material down its slopes and into nearby valleys in what was the largest debris avalanche in recorded history. But roughly 22 million years earlier, one of the largest-known volcanic landslides the world has ever seen occurred in southwestern Utah, according to a study in Geology. That one, estimate the study’s authors, released between 1,700 and 2,000 cubic kilometers of ash, tuff and sandstone — nearly 1,000 times as much as Mount St. Helens — over a 3,400-square-kilometer area.

09 Jan 2015

1912 not an exceptional iceberg year

A new study disputes the notion that an exceptional number of icebergs were floating in the North Atlantic the year the Titanic collided with one at roughly 42 degrees North latitude and quickly sank, killing more than 1,500 people. However, the study also suggests that weather conditions around the time of the sinking likely pushed icebergs farther south than normal for that time of year.

08 Jan 2015

Textbook mantle plume theory may need revision

Every basic geology textbook has a section on mantle plumes, which have long been thought to underlie certain island chains and other volcanic hot spots, but hard evidence in support of narrow columns of magma upwelling from deep within the Earth’s mantle remains scant. Now a new study suggests that the long-held plume theory should be abandoned altogether.

07 Jan 2015

Neanderthals dined on pigeons

The butchering, cooking and eating of birds has previously been thought to be an enterprise unique to modern humans, who were smart enough to catch them. However, a discovery in the dolomite caves of the Rock of Gibraltar shows that Neanderthals were the first to enjoy avian fare.

06 Jan 2015

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