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Bare Earth Elements: EARTH's Top 10 online stories of 2013 ... (Yes, it's a list)

Although there have been a lot of “best of 2013” and "year-in-review" lists posted recently, there haven’t been many focusing specifically on stories the geosciences. EARTH's staff hopes you find time to enjoy one more list with this quick look back at some of our popular pieces from the past year.

31 Dec 2013

Energy 360: Moving energy - No easy feat, but a vital conversation

Trucks, trains, planes and boats move food, clothing, cars, wood, steel, medical products, smartphones, bicycles, organic milk, free-range chickens—basically all consumer goods. And energy is no exception. Coal is mined and then carried to where it is burned. Oil and natural gas are moved from where they are produced to where they can be refined into transportation fuels and myriad other products, and then moved again. Uranium is mined and transported to create fuel rods for nuclear power plants or nuclear-powered ships.

23 Dec 2013

Geologic Column: Beer's secret ingredient: geology

Geologists have a long history with beer. Earlier this year, I decided to raise my own beer appreciation to the next level and take a class on the subject. I attended the beer school at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis. A few minutes into the class, our instructor noted that the beer-brewing process uses clean water, which, he said, is basically the same no matter where you are. Unfortunately, that got us off on the wrong foot.

20 Dec 2013

Bare Earth Elements: AGU 2013 wrap-up

It’s back to the office this week for several EARTH staffers, including myself, who attended the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last week in search of interesting story ideas and fascinating folks in geosciences that we might cover in upcoming issues. With more than 20,000 participants, 7,000 research talks and invited speeches, and 14,000 posters, along with numerous other activities, there was plenty of potential material, and we spent some long days absorbing as much we could. For now, here are a few highlights of AGU 2013.

17 Dec 2013

Bare Earth Elements: IceCube observatory spurs "dawn of new age" in astronomy

The main purpose of the world’s largest neutrino observatory — the $270-million IceCube project — is to detect and hopefully identify the as-yet-only-theorized sources of exceptionally high-energy subatomic neutrinos that stream through space. In a new study, the members of the project, comprising about 250 scientists, laid out their case showing that the first of those goals — detection — has been accomplished. They detailed 28 detection events of neutrinos ranging in energy from about 30 tera-electronvolts (TeV) to 1.14 peta-electronvolts (PeV) — far higher than for any neutrinos previously observed — and suspected of having originated outside the solar system in violent phenomena like quasars and gamma ray bursts.

25 Nov 2013

World War G: Zombies, energy and the geosciences

In lieu of doing a "year in review" issue this year, EARTH asked our staff and some frequent contributors to write a short commentary on something that grabbed their attention in 2013. We gave everyone carte blanche. What follows is a collection of extremely varied, often very personal insights into how the planet impacted each individual. In this commentary, EARTH contributing editor Michael Webber draws parallels between zombies and the geosciences.

22 Nov 2013

Tackling "Boundary Faults" across the Alaska-Yukon border: A report from the field

Our two dusty trucks roll across the airstrip, casting long, late-May shadows down the runway. We spot our colleagues from the Yukon Geological Survey and realize we’ve found the right place after an exhausting 12-hour drive from Anchorage punctuated by several U-turns to find the right unmarked access driveway off the Alaska Highway at the south end of Kluane Lake. The evening air is crisp, and the towering peaks to the south are capped with snow.

15 Oct 2013

Energy 360: Leaving our corners for the radical middle: New Zealand sets an example

Energy underpins every aspect of modern life, yet it is often a source of conflict in society. Thus, considering the political ramifications of energy policies is both inevitable and important. But separating politics from science and economics can be difficult, in part because everyone, including me, has biases. Bias in and of itself is not bad; some might even consider it an unavoidable byproduct of knowledge (or the lack thereof). The challenge with energy policy discussions is to manage bias and potential conflicts of interest and conscience.

13 Sep 2013

Bare Earth Elements: Rim Fire Roundup

The devasting Rim Fire has been torching a growing patch of California for the last week and a half. The latest update from Cal Fire reports that the fire has burned about 726 square kilometers (~179,000 acres), currently making it the 7th largest fire by burn area in the state's history. EARTH offers a roundup of sites where official information can be found, as well as some of the many recent news reports covering the fire.

27 Aug 2013

Geologic Column: Assessing energy and mining workforce needs

In his 1971 book, “Encounters with the Archdruid,” John McPhee quoted Charles Park, an economic geologist who worked at the U.S. Geological Survey and then Stanford University, who said, “People seldom stop to think that all these things — planes in the air, cars on the road, Sierra Club cups — once, somewhere, were rock. Our whole economy — our way of doing things, most of what we have, even our culture — rests on these things.” Although McPhee’s emphasis was on the balance between environmental protection and our societal need for raw materials, the book highlighted the fundamental importance of energy exploration and mining, an idea that implies still another significant message: Our society needs scientists, engineers and skilled laborers who can locate and extract raw materials and energy sources from the rocks beneath our feet in order to power our economy and our way of life.

16 Aug 2013

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