Taxonomy term

nate burgess

Benchmarks: August 1975: Geotimes magazine inspires name of rock formation: A Q&A with Tony Alabaster

In August 1975, an intriguing rock formation in Oman appeared on the cover of Geotimes magazine, EARTH magazine’s predecessor. This pillow lava — a type of rock that forms when hot molten basalt flows into water, such as happens in Hawaii, or erupts underwater — is one of the lowermost units of the now-famous Semail ophiolite sequence. Ophiolites, pieces of ancient oceanic crust and upper mantle later uplifted and exposed on land, were a hot geological topic in the 1970s, because they helped illuminate the process of seafloor spreading, a key puzzle piece supporting the then-revolutionary theories of continental drift and plate tectonics.
 
09 Aug 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

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

Down to Earth With: Matt Kondolf

As a fluvial geomorphologist teaching in the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department at the University of California at Berkeley, Matt Kondolf is an ambassador from the earth sciences to landscape designers and environmental planners. Kondolf’s research in river management ranges from the impacts of urbanization on runoff and sediment yield, to river restoration, to managing salmon populations and fishing. In classes like “Hydrology for Planners” and “Ecological Analysis in Urban Design,” he encourages up-and-coming environmental planners and designers to think carefully about the geologic processes that control river formation, as well as the roles that rivers play within ecosystems. He is also active in the policy discussions that are shaping California’s and the nation’s approaches to river management.

02 Jan 2010

Benchmarks: September 16, 1987: Montreal Protocol Signed

Each year in late September to early October, atmospheric scientists watch with anticipation as ozone concentrations over Antarctica drop, opening a window in Earth’s defenses against harmful ultraviolet radiation. This ozone “hole” grew steadily in the 1990s and set a record for its size in 2006: At its peak, the hole covered an average area of 27 million square kilometers, approximately the size of North America. But scientists think that the overall ozone layer is on the slow road to recovery, thanks to the Montreal Protocol — one of the most successful international environmental agreements in history.
 
16 Sep 2009

Down to Earth With: Ted Irving

Geoscience students today may take plate tectonics for granted, but the concept that Earth has a mobile crust has only been generally accepted for the past 40 years. This modern concept is due in part to the work of Ted Irving, a geologist and scientist emeritus with the Geological Survey of Canada. In the 1950s, Irving was one of the first scientists to perform a physical test of — and find hard evidence for — Alfred Wegener’s 1912 hypothesis of continental drift. Continental drift was a precursor to plate tectonics theory, which describes how Earth’s surface is not a single shell, but is divided into large plates that are constantly moving past each other.

23 Aug 2009

Down to Earth With: Jack Horner

As one of the world’s most successful dinosaur hunters and a leader in the field of dinosaur growth and development, Jack Horner needs little introduction for paleontology enthusiasts. His first big discovery, the dinosaur Maiasaura, or “Mother Lizard,” was found with the first known dinosaur eggs in the Western Hemisphere and the first evidence of colonial nesting. This discovery dispelled the notion that dinosaurs were bad mothers. Other notable discoveries include the first dinosaur embryos and the largest Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. Horner also served as technical advisor for the “Jurassic Park” films and is the partial inspiration for the main character Alan Grant.

23 Jul 2009

Benchmarks: July 4, 1054: "Birth" of the Crab Nebula

On July 4, 1054, Chinese and Japanese astronomers observed a new, iridescent yellow point of light in the constellation Taurus. This “guest star,” said to be as bright as the moon, failed to disappear with the rising sun — for a month, it shone both night and day. Even after fading during daytime, it remained in the night sky for nearly two years, by some accounts. Historians and scientists think that this event was likely the supernova that created the Crab Nebula, one of the most spectacular and rare astronomical features in the known universe.
 
04 Jul 2009