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science and society

Precise to a fault: How GPS revolutionized seismic research

Conceived in the 1960s to provide precise time and position for the U.S. military, GPS was soon embraced by geodesists and earth scientists. Today, it is an essential tool for geoscience research that extends far below — and above — Earth's surface.

30 Apr 2014

Faking quakes at full scale: Giant shake tables simulate earthquakes to make buildings safer

At a few select facilites around the world, engineers are able to shake full-size buildings to learn how to make them safer during earthquakes. Take a look at the massive shake tables that make it possible.

23 Apr 2014

Seattle's landslide risk greater than thought

Landslides have been part of Seattle’s history “from a time to which the memory of man runneth not back,” wrote famed city engineer Reginald Thomson in 1897. A new study shows that landslides will also play a central role long into the future. They will be “extensive and potentially devastating, causing direct losses and impeding recovery,” reported a team in Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

17 Mar 2014

Harvesting fog could bring water to millions

In northern Chile, as in many other parts of the world, freshwater is a limited commodity, but heavy fogs are a regular occurrence. For at least two decades, people in such areas have turned to fine mesh nets to harvest moisture from fog, but to date the nets have never been terribly efficient. Now, new research could greatly improve the nets’ efficiency, increasing the amount of water they’re able to capture.

14 Mar 2014

Commissioned artwork

In 2013, the American Geosciences Institute (AGI, which publishes EARTH) commissioned glass artist Adam Frus to create a sculpture to celebrate the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) 125th anniversary. AGI was looking for something unique to capture the essence of geoscience to present to GSA.

12 Mar 2014

Geoscience inspires glass artist Adam Frus

Adam Frus' true love for art took off when, at the age of 16, he took a glass-blowing class with his father and brother. Frus has now been working in blown glass for the better part of two decades, and in 2007, he started his own company, Frus Glass. He wasn’t always sure he wanted to be a professional artist, however, and he first pursued geology, graduating with a degree in geology from Arizona State University in 2007. Now he uses that geological background and love of the earth sciences to inform his art.

12 Mar 2014

From field scientist to filmmaker: Doug Prose

Filmmaker Doug Prose’s path to becoming a geo-documentarian wasn’t straightforward (if such a path even can be), despite his now-obvious fit in the profession. An earth science class in ninth grade that stressed rote memorization of rock and mineral samples sitting on tabletops offered little inspiration and left him wondering “why anybody would care about geology.” But a series of chance encounters and opportunities subsequently led him back to the field and eventually uncovered a passion for geologic storytelling through film that he hadn’t dreamt of while growing up.

11 Mar 2014

Brooks Ellwood and the unusual applications of magnetism

The call came out of the blue. Geophysicist Brooks Ellwood was sitting in his office in the geology department at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1990 when the telephone rang. On the other end was Doug Owsley, a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, who was calling to ask for Ellwood’s help to find the grave of “Wild Bill” Longley. Little did Ellwood realize that this seemingly straightforward request would set him off on a 10-year quest and a career he never anticipated.

10 Mar 2014

Travels in Geology: Walking toward Whitney: A journey through the Sierra High Country along the John Muir Trail

The hike to Mount Whitney traverses uninterrupted wilderness through three national parks — Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite — as well as national wilderness areas such as the Ansel Adams Wilderness and 13 different river drainages over which the ecosystems and geology continually shift. The trail brings you views of the imposing Ritter Range, the columnar-jointed basalt of Devils Postpile, red cinder cones and Yosemite’s iconic exfoliated domes. It’s not for the faint of heart (or the weak-kneed), but if you can make time for it, it’s a trip you’ll never forget.

05 Mar 2014

Be aware and prepare

Hiking the full 340-kilometer length of the John Muir Trail (JMT) isn’t a beginner backpacking trip. Make sure you enjoy slowly plodding up switchbacks carrying a heavy pack for days before you start out on this weeks-long trek. That said, I met a surprising number of people for whom the JMT was their first wilderness foray, and as far as I know, they all survived.

26 Feb 2014

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