Taxonomy term

january 2017

Benchmarks: January 31, 1961: Ham the chimpanzee, first hominid in space

Early on the morning of Jan. 31, 1961, a chimpanzee named Ham, outfitted in a diaper, waterproof pants and a space suit, was sealed into a capsule and loaded onto a Mercury-Redstone 2 spacecraft in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Six hours later, Ham the Chimp, named after Holloman Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, N.M., where he was trained, became the first hominid to travel into space.

31 Jan 2017

Fungi stabilize steep slopes

The steep slopes of Switzerland’s high Alps are unstable — with loose soil and few plants — which poses hazards such as shallow landslides. In a new study, researchers have found that the symbiosis between plant roots and mycorrhizal fungi helps ground gravelly hillsides, suggesting a possible eco-engineering tool to stabilize the slopes.

30 Jan 2017

Temblor: An app that brings home your seismic hazard

The public has a serious thirst for seismic knowledge. But the language that matters to homeowners is dollars and safety. Temblor was founded with the goal of making seismic resilience personal and the language accessible.
30 Jan 2017

Early birds quacked

Researchers have found the oldest-known avian voice box from an ancient bird that lived more than 66 million years ago. Scientists found the vocal structure, called a syrinx, while examining the fossil remains of a specimen of Vegavis iaai, a Late Cretaceous diving bird similar to modern ducks and geese. The finding suggests that the prehistoric bird may have “quacked” like modern ducks, says Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the new study in Nature.

27 Jan 2017

Initial earthquake behavior does not predict outcome

Can seismologists tell from the first few seconds of recorded seismic data how big an earthquake is going to be, or does it take longer and require data that come in after a quake rupture has progressed along the fault? The answer to this question underpins the usefulness of earthquake early warning systems and has perplexed scientists for decades. In a new study, researchers looking at near-source seismic recordings from shallow crustal earthquakes have found that, within the first few seconds of rupture, large and small earthquakes appear indistinguishable from one another, hinting that initial rupture behavior may be universal among variously sized events.

26 Jan 2017

Cave paintings confirm mystery European bison species

Ice-age hunters had an intimate knowledge of the animals they coexisted with — and this familiarity is clearly depicted in paintings on cave walls throughout Europe. Inside a cave in France, scientists recently identified artistic evidence dating to about 17,000 years ago of a previously unknown hybrid species of cattle crossed with bison. The paintings confirm findings from recent genetic studies of fossil bison, the researchers say.

25 Jan 2017

Moon formed from pulverized Earth mantle

Scientists have long thought that the moon was formed when an impactor crashed into Earth, some 100 million years after the planet’s formation. But details of this collision, and how the moon formed in its aftermath, remain puzzling. Now, researchers have found new potassium isotopic evidence that suggests the moon condensed from a superheated cloud of Earth’s mantle material after an extremely violent collision vaporized the impactor and much of the proto-Earth.
 

23 Jan 2017

Downgrading the Great Dying

The end-Permian extinction, nicknamed the “Great Dying,” is thought to be the deadliest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Many textbooks claim that up to 96 percent of marine life died out during this event, but a new study suggests this cataclysmic number has been overestimated.
 

23 Jan 2017

Comment: Crazy times in the Arctic

As atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations increase, the resulting warming and its effects are most pronounced in the Arctic, where last year’s sea-ice changes and temperature fluctuations are surprising even seasoned experts. 
 
23 Jan 2017

Road salt may be a larger problem for lakes than thought

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that approximately 30 million tons of road salt were applied to U.S. roads during 2015 to speed up the melting of snow and ice. Recently, scientists have observed increasing impacts on ecosystems and water quality linked to its application. New research, for example, finds that road salt influx is geochemically disrupting the ecosystem health of urban lakes in Michigan, and it may even lead to rising methane emissions from the lakes.

19 Jan 2017

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