Journey to the Center of the Earth 
by David Schneider 
Since the advent of plate tectonic theory in the 1960s, geologists have recognized that that many parts of the earth’s crust and mantle move horizontally. But most of that motion is exceedingly sluggish: usually less than 10 centimeters a year, which would barely outpace a growing fingernail.
Four years ago, seismologists Xiaodong Song and Paul Richards (both then at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) discovered that one part of the solid earth—the inner core—moves quite a bit faster, rotating in such a way that much of its surface shifts more than 10 kilometers a year. Such breakneck speed is possible because the inner core floats within a immense liquid shell…
(read more: American Scientist)
image: Kelvinsong

Journey to the Center of the Earth 

by David Schneider 

Since the advent of plate tectonic theory in the 1960s, geologists have recognized that that many parts of the earth’s crust and mantle move horizontally. But most of that motion is exceedingly sluggish: usually less than 10 centimeters a year, which would barely outpace a growing fingernail.

Four years ago, seismologists Xiaodong Song and Paul Richards (both then at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) discovered that one part of the solid earth—the inner core—moves quite a bit faster, rotating in such a way that much of its surface shifts more than 10 kilometers a year. Such breakneck speed is possible because the inner core floats within a immense liquid shell…

(read more: American Scientist)

image: Kelvinsong

Marianas Trench: The Deepest Depths
by Becky Oskin
The Mariana Trench is a crescent-shaped trench in the Western Pacific, just east of the Mariana Islands near Guam. The region surrounding the trench is noteworthy for many unique environments. The Mariana Trench contains the deepest known points on (the surface of the) Earth, vents bubbling up liquid sulfur and carbon dioxide, active mud volcanoes and marine life adapted to pressures 1,000 times that at sea level. 
The Challenger Deep, in the southern end of the Mariana Trench (sometimes called the Marianas Trench), is the deepest spot in the ocean. Its depth is difficult to measure from the surface, but modern estimates vary by less than 1,000 feet (305 meters). 
In 2010, the Challenger Deep was pegged at 36,070 feet (10,994 m), as measured with sounds pulses sent through the ocean during a 2010 survey by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…
(read more: Live Science)
image: NASA/UNH Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center

Marianas Trench: The Deepest Depths

by Becky Oskin

The Mariana Trench is a crescent-shaped trench in the Western Pacific, just east of the Mariana Islands near Guam. The region surrounding the trench is noteworthy for many unique environments. The Mariana Trench contains the deepest known points on (the surface of the) Earth, vents bubbling up liquid sulfur and carbon dioxide, active mud volcanoes and marine life adapted to pressures 1,000 times that at sea level. 

The Challenger Deep, in the southern end of the Mariana Trench (sometimes called the Marianas Trench), is the deepest spot in the ocean. Its depth is difficult to measure from the surface, but modern estimates vary by less than 1,000 feet (305 meters). 

In 2010, the Challenger Deep was pegged at 36,070 feet (10,994 m), as measured with sounds pulses sent through the ocean during a 2010 survey by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…

(read more: Live Science)

image: NASA/UNH Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center

Researchers offer explanation for higher survival rate of freshwater organisms after Chicxulub asteroid impact:  After studying what likely occurred in the aftermath of Earth being struck by the Chicxulub asteroid, a team of researchers in the U.S. has found evidence to suggest organisms in freshwater lakes and streams fared far better than did organisms that lived in the oceans. In their paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, the team offers an explanation of why freshwater fish and other organisms had lower rates of extinction than did those that lived in the sea…
(read more: PhysOrg)
painting by Donald E. Davis/NASA

Researchers offer explanation for higher survival rate of freshwater organisms after Chicxulub asteroid impact:

After studying what likely occurred in the aftermath of Earth being struck by the Chicxulub asteroid, a team of researchers in the U.S. has found evidence to suggest organisms in freshwater lakes and streams fared far better than did organisms that lived in the oceans. In their paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, the team offers an explanation of why freshwater fish and other organisms had lower rates of extinction than did those that lived in the sea…

(read more: PhysOrg)

painting by Donald E. Davis/NASA

Marine organisms produce over half of the oxygen that land animals need to breathe.
Humans and almost all other animals depend on oxygen in the atmosphere or water to respire—that is, to produce energy at the cellular level necessary for survival. Most sea animals extract oxygen directly from ocean water, while land animals breathe air from Earth’s atmosphere, which consists of about 21 percent pure oxygen.
Oxygen has not always been a given element in the air; in fact, its presence is a relatively recent development in Earth’s history. Until around 600 million years ago, our atmosphere was composed of less than five percent oxygen, instead being mainly a nitrogen and carbon dioxide mixture dating back to Earth’s formative volcanic activity over four billion years ago.
Fortunately for us, organisms evolved that could use carbon dioxide, along with solar radiation, to produce metabolic energy and oxygen—a process called photosynthesis. Whlie we may think of photosynthesis as the life process of land plants, algae and a variety of other microscopic organisms called phytoplankton had been using photosynthesis long before terrestrial plants appeared…
(read more: NOAA Ocean Explorer)
Image courtesy of the NOAA MESA Project

Marine organisms produce over half of the oxygen that land animals need to breathe.

Humans and almost all other animals depend on oxygen in the atmosphere or water to respire—that is, to produce energy at the cellular level necessary for survival. Most sea animals extract oxygen directly from ocean water, while land animals breathe air from Earth’s atmosphere, which consists of about 21 percent pure oxygen.

Oxygen has not always been a given element in the air; in fact, its presence is a relatively recent development in Earth’s history. Until around 600 million years ago, our atmosphere was composed of less than five percent oxygen, instead being mainly a nitrogen and carbon dioxide mixture dating back to Earth’s formative volcanic activity over four billion years ago.

Fortunately for us, organisms evolved that could use carbon dioxide, along with solar radiation, to produce metabolic energy and oxygen—a process called photosynthesis. Whlie we may think of photosynthesis as the life process of land plants, algae and a variety of other microscopic organisms called phytoplankton had been using photosynthesis long before terrestrial plants appeared…

(read more: NOAA Ocean Explorer)

Image courtesy of the NOAA MESA Project

RNA World 2.0

Most scientists believe that ribonucleic acid played a key role in the origin of life on Earth, but the versatile molecule isn’t the whole story.

by Jef Akst (March 2014)

The ubiquity and diverse functionality of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in today’s world suggest that the information polymer could well have been the leading player early on in the establishment of life on Earth, and, in theory, it’s a logical basis for primitive life.

One can readily imagine that RNA, as a catalytic molecule capable of serving as a template for its own replication, might have reproduced itself and grown exponentially in the primordial environment. Perhaps such an RNA-based proto–life-form even replicated with an appropriate level of fidelity to allow natural selection to begin directing its evolution.

But there’s a snag: “The odds of suddenly having a self-replicating RNA pop out of a prebiotic soup are vanishingly low,” says evolutionary biochemist Niles Lehman of Portland State University in Oregon…

(read more: The Scientist)

illustration by The Scientist staff

Consensus: 97% of climate scientists agree
Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities (1), and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.
For a list of 18 American agencies making statements on this…
(read more: NASA - Global Climate Science)
image: Temperature data from four international science institutions. All show rapid warming in the past few decades and that the last decade has been the warmest on record.

Consensus: 97% of climate scientists agree

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities (1), and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.

For a list of 18 American agencies making statements on this…

(read more: NASA - Global Climate Science)

image: Temperature data from four international science institutions. All show rapid warming in the past few decades and that the last decade has been the warmest on record.

An Alternative Route to Oxygen in Space?
Researchers have figured out a way to break a carbon dioxide molecule with high-energy UV light and get molecular oxygen. Their results identify an unexpected pathway to oxygen which is reminiscent of the “Great Oxidation Event” that turned Earth into a living planet, and could help us understand how Earth’s atmosphere — and other planetary atmospheres — formed.
read the paper: http://scim.ag/1pQndPG 
image: NASA/Reto Stöckli

An Alternative Route to Oxygen in Space?

Researchers have figured out a way to break a carbon dioxide molecule with high-energy UV light and get molecular oxygen. Their results identify an unexpected pathway to oxygen which is reminiscent of the “Great Oxidation Event” that turned Earth into a living planet, and could help us understand how Earth’s atmosphere — and other planetary atmospheres — formed.

read the paper: http://scim.ag/1pQndPG

image: NASA/Reto Stöckli

Modern Research Borne on a Relic
Airships That Carry Science Into the Stratosphere
by Joshua A. Krisch
Airships are dusty relics of aviation history. Lighter-than-air vehicles conjure images of the Hindenburg, in its glory and destruction, and the Goodyear Blimp, a floating billboard that barely resembles its powerful predecessors.
But now engineers are designing sleek new airships that could streak past layers of cloud and chart a course through the thin, icy air of the stratosphere, 65,000 feet above the ground — twice the usual altitude of a jetliner. Steered by scientists below, these aerodynamic balloons might be equipped with onboard telescopes that peer into distant galaxies or gather oceanic data along a coastline…
(read more: NY Times)
image by Keck Institute for Space Studies/Eagre Institute

Modern Research Borne on a Relic

Airships That Carry Science Into the Stratosphere

by Joshua A. Krisch

Airships are dusty relics of aviation history. Lighter-than-air vehicles conjure images of the Hindenburg, in its glory and destruction, and the Goodyear Blimp, a floating billboard that barely resembles its powerful predecessors.

But now engineers are designing sleek new airships that could streak past layers of cloud and chart a course through the thin, icy air of the stratosphere, 65,000 feet above the ground — twice the usual altitude of a jetliner. Steered by scientists below, these aerodynamic balloons might be equipped with onboard telescopes that peer into distant galaxies or gather oceanic data along a coastline…

(read more: NY Times)

image by Keck Institute for Space Studies/Eagre Institute

HOT SCIENTISTS IN THE NEWS:

Watch this adorable climate scientist explain sea-level rise with a gin & tonic

by Darby Minow Smith

A stranger at a bar challenged scientist Adam Levy on climate change. In a video response, Levy uses a classic cocktail to show how rising temperatures affect sea-level rise. Climate science, booze, and adorable Commonwealth accents? Count us in.

Remember: Do not try this at home (adding salt to a beautiful gin & tonic, that is).

(via: Grist.org)

* JESUS F’n CHRIST, I’M IN LOVE!!!

NASA explores the science of the northern lights 
Tens of kilometers above the icy waterfalls surrounding Iceland’s Kirkjufell Mountain, Earth’s magnetic field drags electrons from the sun to their visually stunning demise. The zooming particles collide with nitrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere, an interaction that produces a brilliant blue-green light show called an aurora.
Photographer Nicholas Roemmelt captured this scene on a moonlit night in March. The shot won him third prize in the “Beauty of the Night Sky” category of the recent International Earth & Sky Photo Contest…
(read more: Science News)Credit: Dr. Nicholas Roemmelt

NASA explores the science of the northern lights

Tens of kilometers above the icy waterfalls surrounding Iceland’s Kirkjufell Mountain, Earth’s magnetic field drags electrons from the sun to their visually stunning demise. The zooming particles collide with nitrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere, an interaction that produces a brilliant blue-green light show called an aurora.

Photographer Nicholas Roemmelt captured this scene on a moonlit night in March. The shot won him third prize in the “Beauty of the Night Sky” category of the recent International Earth & Sky Photo Contest

(read more: Science News)

Credit: Dr. Nicholas Roemmelt

An orthographic projection of the Eastern Hemisphere from 30W–150E, based on NASA’s The Blue Marble. The orthographic projection, a map projection used in cartography, depicts a hemisphere of the globe as it appears from outer space, where the horizon is a great circle. It is a perspective (or azimuthal) projection, in which the sphere is projected onto a tangent plane or secant plane with parallel rays, as if seen from an infinite distance. The shapes and areas are distorted, particularly near the edges.
Map: Strebe, using Geocart                                                via: Wikipedia

An orthographic projection of the Eastern Hemisphere from 30W–150E, based on NASA’s The Blue Marble. The orthographic projection, a map projection used in cartography, depicts a hemisphere of the globe as it appears from outer space, where the horizon is a great circle. It is a perspective (or azimuthal) projection, in which the sphere is projected onto a tangent plane or secant plane with parallel rays, as if seen from an infinite distance. The shapes and areas are distorted, particularly near the edges.

Map: Strebe, using Geocart                                                via: Wikipedia

We Are Dead Stars 

Every atom in our bodies was fused in the body of an ancient star. NASA astronomer Dr. Michelle Thaller explains how the iron in our blood connects us to one of the most violent acts in the universe—a supernova explosion—and what the universe might look like when all the stars die out.

This video is a collaboration between The Atlantic and SoundVision Productions’ The Really Big Questions.  Listen to TRBQ’s one-hour radio special What is a Good Death? distributed by Public Radio International.

Courtesy of The Atlantic, The Really Big Questions