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timothy oleson

Big quakes topple traditional views of fault behavior

If rules are made to be broken, then perhaps conventional wisdom is made to be overturned. The spate of large earthquakes in recent years — the magnitude and location of which have defied scientific expectations in several cases — has provided ample support for these maxims, at least within earth science. For all the confusion, though, data emerging from these events are reshaping and improving our understanding of how faults operate.

14 Apr 2013

Bare Earth Elements: Mars-Observing Fleet Set to Face Silent Treatment

Outbound communications from NASA to its group of Mars-observing orbiters and rovers will be curtailed starting April 4. And as of April 9, no commands will be sent in the Red Planet’s direction. Lest anyone worry that this radio silence has to do with sequester-related budgetary constraints affecting the space agency, don’t fret, it’s only temporary and it has more to do with orbital, rather than fiscal, dynamics. The planned break in communication is a result of an impending planetary configuration, known as a solar conjunction, that will put the sun directly between Earth and Mars.

03 Apr 2013

Well-healed faults produce high-frequency earthquake waves

Much like our voices create sound waves with a variety of low and high pitches, or frequencies, earthquakes also produce seismic waves over a spectrum of frequencies. The seismic waves’ frequencies determine, in part, how far they travel and how damaging they are to human-made structures. But teasing out the details of how quake-generating faults influence seismic frequencies is no easy task, mainly because faults tend to be buried deep underground.

10 Mar 2013

Benchmarks: March 1913: The first complete geologic timescale is published

Ask a geologist when the Paleogene Period started and odds are very good the answer will be about 65.5 million years ago. Ask about the Carboniferous and you’ll likely hear 359 million years ago. Ask how old Earth is and the answer will almost invariably be 4.55 billion years, give or take a few tens of millions of years. Today, most geologic ages are well established and widely agreed upon. But the geologic timescale wasn’t always so settled.
 
08 Mar 2013

Down to Earth With: Terry Plank

“You’re a genius! Now here’s half a million dollars to use however you please.”

That, in essence, was what geochemist and volcanologist Terry Plank was told when she received a surprising phone call early last October. The voice on the other end of the line was that of Robert Gallucci, president of the MacArthur Foundation, who was calling to inform her that she’d been selected to receive one of the foundation’s 23 fellowships — the so-called “genius grants” — for 2012. The prestigious, “no strings attached” grants award $500,000 over five years to innovative individuals to allow them the flexibility to pursue creative, often otherwise out-of-reach interests.

18 Feb 2013

Bare Earth Elements: Voices from GSA 2012

Glimpsing the lighter side of a conference

Last November, EARTH's Tim Oleson attended the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C. To get a different perspective on the conference, he talked to some of the assorted geoscientists there about their experience: why they had come, if they were enjoying themselves and, because it was a gathering of geoscientists, how the beer was. It was a chance to catch attendees while they simply enjoyed the occasion and the company of kindred spirits while away from the rapid-fire schedules of the technical sessions and academic lifestyles.

14 Feb 2013

Benchmarks: February 3, 1953: Jacques Cousteau's "The Silent World" is published, opening a window on the underwater world for millions

Few names are as evocative as Jacques Cousteau. The sunlight-infused blue glow of the marine subsurface, the endless array of otherworldly creatures that populate the ocean, and masked divers stealthily easing through the sea — trailed, of course, by glittering streams of bubbles emanating from Cousteau’s famed contraption — are morsels of the vivid imagery that his name often brings to mind. And with good reason: After all, he’s the one who introduced us to the real world below the waves, long before Bob Ballard found the Titanic or the Discovery Channel showed us what it’s like to swim with the sharks.
 
03 Feb 2013

Apps: Improving home energy efficiency in 2013

‘Tis the season for making New Year’s resolutions. We here at EARTH probably can’t offer much assistance when it comes to diet and exercise tips to help burn off unwanted pounds. But if your goals for 2013 involve understanding your family’s energy consumption patterns and possibly reducing your power bills, you’ve come to the right place.

04 Jan 2013

Bare Earth Elements: A geo-themed pop quiz in honor of 12/12/12

Think you have your geo-vocabulary down, or want to test your geo-jargon chops? Be our guest!

Rearrange twelve 12-letter words using 12-word definitions as clues. Some are a little easier, some are a little harder. All are geo-fantabulous!

Email us your name and answers by 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 14, 2012, for a chance to win an EARTH Magazine T-shirt.

12 Dec 2012

Simple organic compounds detected by Curiosity on Mars

Too early to tell if findings are evidence of biological activity, scientists say

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, Curiosity, has detected evidence of simple, chlorinated organic compounds in soil sampled recently from the red planet, project scientists announced Monday from the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The scientists characterized the finding as very exciting, but they stressed that the results do not provide “definitive" evidence of past or present life on Mars.

03 Dec 2012

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