Taxonomy term

timothy oleson

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

Bite marks offer best evidence yet of T. rex cannibalism

Tyrannosaurs were not the most discerning of carnivores. In addition to dining on other dinosaurs, like Triceratops and duck-billed hadrosaurs, it appears the fearsome apex predators weren’t averse to making a meal of their own kind. A series of deep bite marks on a 66-million-year-old leg bone uncovered recently in eastern Wyoming may be the best evidence yet of Tyrannosaurus rex cannibalism.

10 Nov 2015

Isotopes could reveal ancient American turquoise trade

For centuries before the arrival of Europeans, turquoise was prized among pre-Hispanic cultures of North America. Caches of the distinctive, creamy-blue-green mineral have been unearthed in crypts and other ritually significant structures in what are now the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Farther south, in Mesoamerica, archaeologists have found elaborate mosaic masks and ornamentation made of turquoise pieces. Despite multiple anthropological and historical hints, identifying where the turquoise used by different civilizations came from has proven difficult. But in a recent study, scientists have described a geochemical fingerprinting technique that may help parse the geographic origins of turquoise specimens and illuminate trade routes in ancient America.
09 Nov 2015

Rosetta spies cometary sinkholes

Large circular pits seen on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft may be sinkholes rather than craters left by explosive eruptions or impacts, according to scientists who analyzed images taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera.
22 Oct 2015

Bare Earth Elements: In honor of 'Back to the Future Day,' a few things geoscientists might (or might not) have been thinking about in 1985

Today is the day 30 years in the future to which Marty McFly — a feisty ‘80s teenager from fictional Hill Valley, Calif. — travels from 1985 courtesy of Doc Brown’s ingenious, time-traveling, “flux capacitor”-powered (though sadly also fictional) DeLorean DMC-12 in the 1989 film, “Back to the Future 2.” And the heaping pile of “BTTF” nostalgia that’s going around the Internet got me pondering a few topics that geoscientists might (or might not) have been thinking about in 1985.

21 Oct 2015