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sarah derouin

Benchmarks: December 5, 1952: The Great Smog smothers London

On Friday, Dec., 5, 1952, a blanket of thick, yellow smog settled over London, cloaking the city for five days straight. Smog wasn’t uncommon — Londoners called these days “pea-soupers,” based on the yellow-black color — and there were notable smog episodes from the Industrial Revolution (late 1700s) through the 1950s. But the haze of the city’s infamous “Great Smog” of 1952 long overstayed its visit. The lingering smog killed thousands, and its residual effects lasted for decades.

05 Dec 2017

Dino deaths cleared the way for frogs

Frogs make up almost 90 percent of amphibians, and with 6,775 described species, frogs are considered one of the most diverse groups of vertebrates on the planet. In a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers indicate that frogs’ rapid diversification stems back to the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg, formerly the K-T) boundary, about 66 million years ago, when nonavian dinosaurs and many other animals went extinct.

30 Nov 2017

Benchmarks: November 18, 1929: Turbidity currents snap trans-Atlantic cables

On the evening of Monday, Nov. 18, 1929, a magnitude-7.2 earthquake ruptured off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Those living on the Burin Peninsula, a foot of land that reaches into the Atlantic Ocean, reportedly felt five minutes of shaking — a confusing sensation, since no one in the area had experienced an earthquake before. “Suddenly this roar — this loud banging — [occurred] and the kettle and the plates started to dance,” Gus Etchegary, a resident of the Burin Peninsula who had experienced the quake, described in a documentary video produced by The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Website.

18 Nov 2017

Desktop seismology: How a maker-inspired device is changing seismic monitoring

The Raspberry Shake — a personal seismograph invented in 2016 and named after the computer that powers the instrument (the Raspberry Pi) — was intended for hobbyists. But the device’s usefulness quickly became apparent to a much wider audience, including scientists and educators around the world. 
16 Nov 2017

Microbes influence ooid formation

The formation of carbonate spheroids called ooids is a bit of a mystery. They are thought to form in warm waters saturated with carbonate, which combines with calcium to form concentric layers of calcium carbonate on shell fragments or sand grains. Some scientists have suggested that the presence of microbes might encourage calcium carbonate to precipitate out of water to form ooids in a process called organomineralization.

10 Nov 2017

Second stars can distort planet size estimates

When light from a star is blocked by another celestial body — as when the moon obstructed light from the much-larger sun during the recent solar eclipse — astronomers can estimate the density of exoplanets that orbit the star. And from the density, they can determine whether a planet is rocky like Earth or gaseous like Jupiter. But a new study in the Astronomical Journal shows that such density assessments, which are normally calculated from the size of the planet, may be skewed by the presence of “hidden” stars.

08 Nov 2017

Pharmaceuticals in urban sediments reveal wastewater treatment effectiveness

People take pills to relieve headaches or syrups to ease a hacking cough, and eventually these medications can make their way into streams and rivers around the world as humans excrete the chemicals. Scientists are now using concentrations of common pharmaceutical products (PPs) in river sediments in Orléans, France, to determine how effective four water treatment plants have been at removing chemicals from the environment.

03 Nov 2017

Down to Earth With: Deep-sea biologist Stace Beaulieu

People often find their way to the geosciences after a college class sparks their interest. But not Stace Beaulieu, a senior research specialist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Mass. — she knew what she wanted to do at age 6. Beaulieu grew up in Florida and spent her childhood snorkeling and reading science magazines with pictures of deep-sea creatures that tantalized her imagination and piqued her curiosity. “I had a one-track mind pretty much from elementary school through grad school — I never changed my mind. I was so excited about learning about what was deeper. I still am today.”

02 Nov 2017

How long will the lava flow? Predicting eruption durations with satellite monitoring

If you live near a lava-spewing volcano, it could be helpful to know just how long molten rock might flow during a fiery eruption. In a new study, scientists report that they can calculate how long lava-flowing eruptions might last based on satellite data.

27 Oct 2017

Lollipop-shaped ice found in clouds

A sky full of lollipops might sound like a candy-filled dream, but these “treats” aren’t what you might think.

Researchers discovered tiny lollipop-shaped ice crystals, or ice-lollies, during research flights in 2009 and 2016 over the Atlantic Ocean. 

09 Oct 2017