Taxonomy term

march 2010

Voices: Redefining humanity through energy use

What is it, exactly, that distinguishes us from other species? The definition of humankind has perplexed scientists, philosophers and theorists for centuries. DNA composition differentiates species in a technical sense, but that definition is hardly satisfying. Certainly there must be something more ethereal that separates us from “lower” forms of creatures. Over the centuries, several definitions have emerged — from using tools to speaking — but have then been proven insufficient in some heuristic way. So I propose another option: manipulating energy.

24 Mar 2010

The Washington Monument's Apex

An aluminum pinnacle has graced the Washington Monument since 1884, but subsequent modifications have changed the look of the point. 

23 Mar 2010

March 23, 1821: Bauxite Discovered

Compared to gold, silver, lead and copper — metals that people have extracted, refined and used for millennia — aluminum is a relative newcomer. Pure aluminum was more valuable than gold when it was first discovered in the early 19th century. It graced the fine china of Napoleon III and was displayed next to the French Crown Jewels at the 1855 Paris Exhibition. Today, aluminum is cheap and plentiful, used in everyday products ranging from soda cans to jets. The transformation of the metal from unknown material to rare metal to ubiquity in fewer than two centuries is due to two pivotal discoveries: an abundant aluminum ore — bauxite — and a process of refining this ore using electricity.
23 Mar 2010

Where on Earth? - March 2010

Clues for March 2010:
1.Covering some 500 kilometers of coast across three countries, these intertidal sand and mudflats are the largest of their kind in the world and are unusual in that they are hardly altered by rivers.
2.The area hosts up to 12 million birds every year, and a large portion of it was recently chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
3.These intertidal sand and mudflats have an English name that describes them as a “sea.”
Name this sea and its location.
Scroll down for the answer

Energy Notes: November 2008-2009

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit

20 Mar 2010

Mineral Resource of the Month: Cesium

Cesium, an alkali metal that is slightly golden in color and melts in one’s hand, is one of only two metals (along with mercury) that are liquid at room temperature. It is not found in nature in its elemental state because it is easily oxidized. 

14 Mar 2010

Shell-shocked: How different creatures deal with an acidifying ocean

To survive in the ocean, soft-bodied organisms must possess one of five traits: big teeth, toxic flesh, invisibility, quickness or a hard shell. Most marine organisms that employ the latter, called calcifiers, build their hard shells from the mineral calcium carbonate. However, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are making the oceans more acidic — which, in turn, is reducing the concentration of carbonate ions dissolved in seawater that organisms use to build their protective shells and skeletons.

10 Mar 2010

Temblor flattens Turkish towns

A magnitude-6.0 earthquake struck eastern Turkey at 4:32 a.m. local time Monday. The quake was centered in Elazig province about 625 kilometers east of Turkey’s capital, Ankara. The earthquake toppled buildings, flattened homes, injured at least 100 people and killed 57, according to the Associated Press.

08 Mar 2010

Closing Istanbul's seismic gap

Since 1939, a progression of deadly earthquakes has been marching westward across Turkey’s North Anatolian Fault, stalking the mega-city Istanbul. Just over a decade ago, a magnitude-7.4 quake struck near Izmit, 100 kilometers east of Istanbul, killing 18,000 people. All signs point to Istanbul as the next likely target. But a new study suggests Turkey’s largest city may be struck by a series of moderate earthquakes, rather than one big event.

08 Mar 2010

Pacific Northwest earthquake threat heightened?

At any given time, a massive earthquake could strike the coast of the northwestern United States and southwestern Canada, the site of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Scientists have long known about the potential earthquake threat to major population centers like Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., and Vancouver, British Columbia. But scientists thought that the likely place for such a quake was off the coast.

05 Mar 2010