Taxonomy term

march 2019

Abiotic amino acid found in subseafloor rocks

In 2000, scientists discovered a new type of deep-sea hydrothermal vent site in the North Atlantic about 20 kilometers west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which they named Lost City. Nearly two decades later, researchers have discovered that an amino acid detected in rocks beneath the site is produced by a geochemical process, rather than a biological one. The find reveals conditions that might have kick-started life on Earth.

20 Mar 2019

Neanderthals and humans suffered similar levels of head injuries

Paleolithic Neanderthals have traditionally been depicted as more aggressive than Homo sapiens, and reliant on inferior hunting techniques with close-range weapons that would have put them at greater risk of suffering gruesome injuries and shortened life spans. A seemingly high incidence of Neanderthal remains bearing evidence of traumatic injuries has helped shape the narrative that they lived harder, more violent lives and died younger than their modern human neighbors. But a new study in Nature looking at skull injuries in Eurasian hominids casts doubt on this brutish stereotype.

19 Mar 2019

How to become a cave diver

While snorkeling the spring pools is cool (no pun intended), a more in-depth way to experience Florida’s freshwater springs is to scuba dive in them. However, entering the caves requires you to get a cave diving certification. That’s because cave diving has inherent challenges distinct from scuba diving’s own challenges. Even after you’re familiar with buoyancy control, breathing control and how to work your gear (all part of getting scuba certified), there’s much to learn about the specifics of cave diving.

18 Mar 2019

Getting there and getting around Florida

For travelers flying in from out of state, Florida has several major airports, including in Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO) and Tampa (TPA), as well as numerous other options. Orlando is the most central large hub and may be the best option if you’re heading toward the state’s springs, which are concentrated in the north-central part of the state. For traveling to and between sites, a car is the best option.

18 Mar 2019

Travels in Geology: Finding Florida's hidden freshwater gems

Florida is renowned for its beaches and seascapes, but the state also has possibly the highest concentration of springs in the world, due to the karst geology and climate. Whether you are a cave-certified scuba diver, are on the hunt for fossils, or you and your family are just looking for a vacation from Florida’s more crowded beaches and theme parks, Florida’s freshwater offers something for everyone.

18 Mar 2019

Hard-knock hominid skeletons tell harsh tales

The Pleistocene was a hard time for hominids. Homo fossils from this period, when humans evolved and expanded from Africa and across Eurasia, are riddled with an unusual number of skeletal abnormalities. Swollen braincases, bowed femurs, twisted long bones, pronounced dwarfism and malformed teeth are just a few of the unusual skeletal features found in many Pleistocene hominid fossils. A new statistical study has confirmed that these anomalies occur at higher-than-expected rates in the Pleistocene fossil record. But whether this elevated incidence was mainly caused by nutritional stress or inbreeding, or if it’s an artifact of preservational bias, is unknown.

15 Mar 2019

Kerogen's nanostructure determines oil and gas reservoir capacity

The petroleum and natural gas that power engines and heat homes are extracted from the complex networks of nooks and crannies that permeate kerogen — a waxy organic mishmash that forms within sedimentary rocks as algae, terrestrial plants and other organic matter is compacted and heated over geologic time. In a new study, scientists have taken the closest look yet at kerogen’s internal pore structure, and the resulting images are helping scientists understand why some oil and gas reservoirs are more productive than others.

14 Mar 2019

Geologic Column: Newspeak for kids

To make room for words from the brave new digital world, the editors of children’s dictionaries are culling words that describe the natural world. But if kids can’t put names to nature, how will they learn to love it enough to fight for its future?

13 Mar 2019

Dinosaur soft tissues preserved as polymers

Since 2005, several samples of ostensibly soft tissue, such as blood vessels and bits of organic bone material, have been gleaned from dinosaur bones. The finds have stirred debate because the notion that intact dinosaur proteins could survive tens of millions of years has proved a tantalizing but difficult pill to swallow for many paleontologists. In a new study, however, researchers have identified a chemical pathway — well known in food science but not seen before in paleontology — that may be the key to long-term preservation of soft-tissue structures.

12 Mar 2019

Deep Space Network

Messages from Juno and other spacecraft in the far reaches of the solar system are relayed to scientists via NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), which was created in 1958. DSN consists of three sets of powerful radio antennae spaced about 120 degrees longitude apart around the world near Barstow, Calif., Canberra, Australia, and Madrid, Spain. The complexes are all situated in bowl-shaped terrain in semi-mountainous rural areas to minimize interference from external radio waves. As Earth rotates, at least one of the DSN antennae is pointed toward the spacecraft at all times. Communications via DSN begin and end at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the system.

11 Mar 2019

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