Taxonomy term

timothy oleson

Red Planet Roundup: January 2016

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, five spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.
 
14 Jan 2016

Lake sediments suggest mild volcanic winter after massive Toba eruption

Roughly 74,000 years ago, the largest volcanic eruption of at least the last 2.5 million years — and possibly the last 27 million years — spewed as much as 5,000 cubic kilometers of magma and ash, the latter of which spread far and wide from the source. This catastrophic eruption of the Toba supervolcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has long been suggested as a trigger for a precipitous period of global cooling known as a “volcanic winter” that in turn might have driven early humans to the brink of extinction. In a new study, researchers dispute these notions, concluding from an analysis of climate-sensitive microfossils preserved in lake sediments in East Africa — the ancestral home of early humans — that the region experienced little or no cooling following the massive eruption. 
 
10 Jan 2016

Meteorites might have created Earth’s earliest continents

Massive meteorite impacts on Earth are destructive events, gouging enormous craters in the crust and raining debris over the planet’s surface. But such huge impacts may have also created some of its earliest continental kernels, called cratons, during Archean times.
 
08 Jan 2016

Subseafloor biosphere extended to greatest depth yet

Scientists studying sediments collected from the deepest scientific borehole ever drilled have found microorganisms living at astounding depths beneath the seafloor. Recent studies have previously found bacteria and archaea scratching out meager livings in marine sediments buried as deep as 1.9 kilometers, but the new find extends the known biosphere even farther down.
 
22 Dec 2015

Magnetic field around since Hadean

Earth’s magnetic field might have been shielding the planet from solar radiation and contributing to its habitability 770 million years earlier than previously recognized, according to a new study in Science.
 
17 Dec 2015

Nearly half of Americans in lower 48 at risk for potentially damaging quake shaking

An estimated 143 million Americans in the conterminous 48 states, or about 46 percent of the population, live in areas susceptible to potentially damaging ground shaking from natural earthquakes, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists published in the journal Earthquake Spectra. (The study did not assess hazards associated with human-induced quakes.)
 
16 Dec 2015

Ice (Re)Cap: December 2015

From Antarctica to the Arctic; from polar caps, permafrost and glaciers to ocean-rafted sea ice; and from burly bears to cold-loving microbes, fascinating science is found in every nook and crevasse of Earth’s cryosphere, and new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.
 
15 Dec 2015

Human hands not most advanced

Compared to chimpanzees, our recent evolutionary cousins, humans have long thumbs relative to our fingers. This trait has endowed our ancestors and us with a particular talent for grasping and working with tools, which likely contributed to our evolutionary success over the last several million years since splitting off from the last common ancestor (LCA) shared by the two groups. But rather than humans having the more evolved hand — a prevailing hypothesis since the late 20th century — a new study suggests that chimps’ hands, with lower thumb-to-finger-length ratios, have changed considerably more.
 
03 Dec 2015

Buckyballs behind Milky Way mystery

For almost a century, astronomers have observed gaps in the broad spectrum of light reaching Earth from other stars in the Milky Way galaxy. These gaps, called diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs), arise when dust and molecules in interstellar space absorb specific wavelengths of light, thus darkening those bands of light from view. Although hundreds of distinct DIBs have been recognized, scientists have only been able to hypothesize as to the identity of the molecules responsible, until now. In a new study published in Nature, scientists say they have “positively identified” one of the interstellar light-absorbers: nanometer-wide carbon cages named buckminsterfullerene, or “buckyballs.”
 
17 Nov 2015

Red Planet Roundup: November 2015

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, five spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.
 
14 Nov 2015

Pages