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Devastation detectives try to solve dinosaur disappearanceScience News, January 2017
Below the shimmering turquoise waters of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula lies the scene of a prehistoric mass murder. In a geologic instant, most animal and plant species perished. Drilling through hundreds of meters of rock, investigators have finally reached the footprint left by the accused: Earth’s most notorious space rock impact, Chicxulub. The dinosaur killer.
Changing climate: 10 years after An Inconvenient TruthScience News, April 2016
More than 25 years before the star-studded Los Angeles premiere of An Inconvenient Truth, glaciologist Lonnie Thompson was about as far away from the red carpet as possible. It was 1978, and high in the rugged Andes, Thompson and fellow scientists were witnessing the first glimpses of a pending worldwide disaster. Rising temperatures were melting ancient titans of ice and snow. Mammoth glaciers were disappearing at unprecedented rates and withering to the smallest sizes in millennia. The delicate balance of Earth’s climate was upset.
New fascination with Earth’s ‘Boring Billion’Science News, October 2015
Earth’s long history starts with an epic preamble: A collision with a Mars-sized space rock rips into the young planet and jettisons debris that forms the moon. Over the next few billion years, plot twists abound. The oceans form. Life appears. Solar-powered microbes breathe oxygen into the air. Colossal environmental shifts reshape the planet’s surface and drive the evolution of early life.
The magnetic mystery at the center of the EarthScience News, September 2015
Earth’s depths are a hellish place. More than 5,000 kilometers belowground, the iron-rich core scorches at temperatures comparable to the sun’s surface and crushes at pressures akin to the weight of 20 blue whales balanced on a postage stamp.
Mars may not have been born alongside the other rocky planetsScience News, May 2017
Mars may have had a far-out birthplace.
EPA underestimates methane emissionsScience News, April 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a methane problem — and that could misinform the country’s carbon-cutting plans. Recent studies suggest that the agency’s reports fail to capture the full scope of U.S. methane emissions, including “super emitters” that contribute a disproportionate share of methane release. Those EPA reports influence the country’s actions to combat climate change and the regulation of methane-producing industries such as agriculture and natural gas production.
Fast-spreading crack threatens giant Antarctic ice shelfScience News, June 2015
Scientists have spotted the mortal wound that could prompt the collapse of Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf.
How to Hide Your GenomeScience, February 2014
As the cost of genetic sequencing plummets, experts believe our genomes will help doctors detect diseases and save lives. But not all of us are comfortable releasing our biological blueprints into the world. Now cryptologists are perfecting a new privacy tool that turns genetic information into a secure yet functional format. Called homomorphic encryption and presented here today at the annual meeting of AAAS (which publishes Science) the method could help keep genomes private even as genetic testing shifts to cheap online cloud services.
Galactic surprise: New find overturns theories how our galaxy evolvedThe San Jose Mercury News, January 2013
Our galaxy wasn’t always the beautiful cosmic ballet it is today. Billions of years ago, the Milky Way was a chaotic jumble of stars and gas moving every which way. Only over time did the Milky Way morph into its current uniform shape, with flat arms of starlight reaching out from a galactic core. Now, a new NASA study shows this process happened much more recently than scientists had thought.
Investigating the Venus Flytrap’s Speedy SnapInside Science, November 2012
Plants aren’t typically known for their speed, but the carnivorous Venus flytrap can close its jaw-like leaves in the blink of an eye. Charles Darwin once referred to the Venus flytrap as “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.” But despite the plant’s notoriety, its closing mechanism remains a mystery 250 years after its discovery.
A Star That Devoured Its Own PlanetsSimons Foundation, October 2017
A devourer of worlds lurks around 350 light-years away. According to a recent study comparing the chemical composition of a pair of sunlike stars, one of the stars has consumed the rocky equivalent of 15 Earths.
Crowdsourcing weather using smartphone batteriesAmerican Geophysical Union, August 2013
Smartphones are a great way to check in on the latest weather predictions, but new research aims to use the batteries in those same smartphones to predict the weather. A group of smartphone app developers and weather experts created a way to use the temperature sensors built into smartphone batteries to crowdsource weather information. These tiny thermometers usually prevent smartphones from dangerously overheating, but the researchers discovered the battery temperatures tell a story about the environment around them.
Stanford scientists eavesdrop on erupting volcano’s astonishing seismic soundStanford University News Service, July 2013
When volcanoes grumble, scientists listen.In 2009, Redoubt Volcano outside Anchorage, Alaska, began spewing towering ash plumes more than 12 miles tall. While similar volcanic outbursts are common in Alaska, seismic sensors listening to the volcano’s innards recorded something unusual: an accelerating series of earthquakes leading up to each of the volcano’s eruptions.
SLAC X-rays resurrect 200-year-old lost ariaStanford University News Service, June 2013
At first glance the beautifully bound 1797 Luigi Cherubini opera Médée looks like an impeccably preserved relic of opera’s golden age. However, flip to the final pages of the aria “Du trouble affreux qui me dévore” (“The terrible disorder that consumes me”) and you see the problem: Thick smudges of carbon completely black out the closing lines.
Making scientists into scientific spokespeopleThe Plainspoken Scientist (American Geophysical Union), June 2013
How would you bring up scientific funding if you bumped into your senator while he’s buying cheese and cured meats at the local market? How about getting a stranger interested in safer alternatives to lead-based welding solder? Communicating science to lawmakers and laypersons is important, but scientists too often get tongue-tied talking with everyday folks.
Electrifying new way to potentially predict tornado touchdownsGeoSpace (American Geophysical Union), December 2012
Tornadoes are being betrayed by their lightning in a way that could help save lives, according to researchers who made an accidental discovery.
The Iceman Cometh at 275 Molecules of WaterInside Science, September 2012
If you’ve ever dealt with an exploded can of frozen soda in the freezer, you’ve seen firsthand that ice takes on a crystal structure. At freezing temperatures, water molecules line up to form geometric shapes, creating ice’s crystal structure. The crystal structure takes up more space than the loose liquid water molecules, causing water to expand when frozen.
Infographic: ScienceWOW FactsScience, February 2014
— Thomas Sumner (@SumnerScience) February 13, 2014
— Thomas Sumner (@SumnerScience) February 15, 2014