Taxonomy term

julia rosen

Gifts: Holiday gift guide

Finding gifts for that special scientist can be challenging: They are often more excited by ideas and specimens than material possessions, or they are already up to their ears in gadgets. But, luckily, shops across the Internet have caught on to the fact that science is hip and have launched whole lines of novel “geekery” for the scientifically inclined.

To jumpstart your holiday shopping, here are some creative gift ideas for present and future scientists of all ages.

08 Dec 2013

Down to Earth With: David Montgomery

From the length and breadth of his body of work, you might assume that David Montgomery, a geomorphologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, is approaching the end of a highly successful career. After all, among other accomplishments, he pioneered our understanding of how river channels shape landscapes, explored how glaciers and climate determine the height of the world’s highest mountain ranges, and helped elucidate how erosion has shaped human civilizations through time. 

15 Nov 2013

The Lizard King rises

The trouble with being a lizard is that your mammal neighbors are always trying to eat your dinner, or make you into their dinner, wielding a competitive advantage scientists have long attributed to their warm-blooded metabolism. For this reason, large lizards like the Komodo dragon are extremely rare, and only occur in isolated island environments that lack other predators. Now, a giant fossil species of herbivorous lizard that appears to have happily coexisted with various large mammal species has been identified in Eocene-aged rocks from Myanmar.

11 Nov 2013

November 10, 1934: Arizona declares war against California at Parker Dam

From above, tiny green irrigation circles draw a narrow buffer along the 2,300-kilometer course of the Colorado River like the brush strokes of a zoomed-in pointillist painting. These vibrant green dots stand out against the buff and ochre hues of the desert palette, a testament to the river’s life-giving waters. Less obvious are the 6.4 billion cubic meters of water that flow, or are pumped, more than 390 kilometers from the Colorado’s gorge through tunnels and canals, up and down hills, to the agricultural and population centers of Southern California each year, and the additional 3.4 billion cubic meters that gurgle toward Phoenix and central Arizona annually.

10 Nov 2013

Slab tear explains perplexing Colombian earthquake activity

Colombia sits atop a restless intersection of tectonic plates: The Caribbean Plate is subducting along the country’s northern coast while the oceanic Nazca Plate subducts along its western edge. In between, the narrow but buoyant Isthmus of Panama continues to crash into South America like a battering ram. The complex pattern of earthquake activity produced by these disparate forces has long confounded scientists hoping to decipher the plate structure beneath Colombia.

08 Nov 2013

Eyes on the sky watch the unpredictable Draconid meteor shower

Meteor showers — nature’s superlative fireworks displays — occur when Earth’s orbit intersects a trail of debris left behind by a comet. Meteoroids from the comet stream collide with Earth’s atmosphere and ignite, punctuating the night sky with a cascade of shooting stars. Scientists can accurately forecast the timing of meteor showers using the principles of celestial mechanics; however, the intensity of the Draconid shower, which occurs every October, has proved notoriously hard to predict.

10 Oct 2013

Energy storage brings a renewable energy future one step closer

Renewable energy sources promise to address many of the energy challenges facing society: They derive power from inexhaustible supplies of sunlight and wind and have the capability to meet a substantial portion of global electricity demands without adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. However, renewable power supplies must first overcome one inherent drawback: variability.

29 Sep 2013

Think differently: renewable hydrogen generation

Most of the existing solutions for renewable energy storage represent riffs on our current energy infrastructure. They are either inherent to existing fuel sources (concentrated solar power), or linked directly to the grid (flywheels, pumped storage and compressed air energy storage). But what if the future looks radically different from today, as history has often shown it can? What if the future of energy is based on hydrogen produced by renewable energy sources?

29 Sep 2013

Benchmarks: Sept. 26, 1912: Birth of Preston Cloud, geologist who deciphered banded iron formations

Banded iron formations (BIFs) represent some of the earliest, and most controversial, evidence that the early Earth was devoid of oxygen. These deposits were recognized for their economic value in the mid-1800s, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s when Preston Cloud focused his intellect on  the origins of (BIFs).

26 Sep 2013

On the web: Mount St. Helens goes online to reach the masses

If you’ve ever felt the mysterious allure of volcanoes — both terrifying and spectacular — you can now experience the infamous eruption of Mount St. Helens from the safety of your computer. The new Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center website ( offers exciting interactive experiences and more to volcano enthusiasts and earth science students with just a few clicks of a mouse.

25 Aug 2013