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Neanderthal genome project reaches its goal

December 19, 2013 7:49 pm | News | Comments

An international research team has produced a high-quality genome sequence of a Neanderthal woman from a toe bone found in 2010 by Russian archaeologists. The genome will allow detailed insights into the relationships and population history of the Neanderthals and other extinct hominin groups.

Diamonds in Earth’s oldest zircons are nothing but laboratory contamination

December 19, 2013 7:21 pm | by Iqbal Pittalwala, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

In 2007 and 2008, two research papers reported in the journal Nature that a suite of zircons from the Jack Hills included diamonds, requiring a radical revision of early Earth history. The papers posited that the diamonds formed, somehow, before the oldest zircons, or more than 4.3 billion years ago. A research team now claims the oldest “diamonds” on the Earth are simply fragments of polishing compound.

Researcher develops new seismometer for studying ice sheets

December 16, 2013 9:34 am | by Katie Jacobs, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

To support research efforts in Antarctica, a Penn State Univ. geoscience professor has developed a new type of seismometer, which measures the way seismic waves move through the ice. The “geoPebbles” act as laptops without screens. Equipped with WiFi, they don’t have to be plugged in and charge wirelessly, letting scientists collect data without exposure to the cold.

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Can we turn unwanted carbon dioxide into electricity?

December 12, 2013 5:54 pm | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are developing a new kind of geothermal power plant that will lock away unwanted carbon dioxide underground and use it as a tool to boost electric power generation by at least 10 times compared to existing geothermal energy approaches. The technology to implement this design already exists in different industries, so the researchers are optimistic that their new approach could expand the use of geothermal energy in the U.S.

Astronomers solve temperature mystery of planetary atmospheres

December 11, 2013 4:07 pm | News | Comments

An atmospheric peculiarity the Earth shares with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune is likely common to billions of planets, Univ. of Washington astronomers have found, and knowing that may help in the search for potentially habitable worlds. The paper uses basic physics to show why this happens, and suggests that tropopauses are probably common to billions of thick-atmosphere planets and moons throughout the galaxy.

Runaway process drives intermediate-depth earthquakes

December 11, 2013 11:02 am | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists may have solved the mystery of what drives a type of earthquake that occurs deep within the Earth and accounts for one in four quakes worldwide. Known as intermediate-depth earthquakes, these temblors originate farther down inside the Earth than shallow earthquakes, which take place in the uppermost layer of the Earth's surface, called the crust.

Scientists publish first radiation measurements from the surface of Mars

December 10, 2013 1:55 pm | News | Comments

In the first 300 days of the Mars Science Laboratory surface mission, the Curiosity rover collected soil samples in Gale Crater while the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector made detailed measurements of the radiation environment on the surface of Mars. Southwest Research Institute scientists have published the results of these studies, comparing them to typically doses received on Earth.

The search for more life in the solar system

December 5, 2013 8:51 am | News | Comments

In a finding of relevance to the search for life in our solar system, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Univ. of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research have shown that the subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa may have deep currents and circulation patterns with heat and energy transfers capable of sustaining biological life.

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Study: Ocean crust lavas could store many centuries of industrial carbon dioxide

December 4, 2013 10:54 am | News | Comments

At high pressures and low temperatures, such as those in the deep oceans, carbon dioxide occurs as a liquid that is denser than seawater. Researchers in England have identified regions beneath the oceans where the igneous rocks of the upper ocean crust could safely store very large volumes of carbon dioxide.

Airborne radar looking through thick ice during NASA polar campaigns

December 3, 2013 7:47 am | by George Hale, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Scientists are interested in how the shape of Greenland’s hidden bedrock affects how ice moves, and have been employing a powerful radar technique that has been used in Antarctica to see through thousands of feet of ice. Mapping this terrain a key factor in making predictions about the future of these massive ice reservoirs and their contribution to sea level rise in a changing climate.

Unusual greenhouse gases may have raised ancient Martian temperature

November 27, 2013 11:36 am | by Anne Danahy, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

The presence of molecular hydrogen, in addition to carbon dioxide and water, could have created a greenhouse effect on Mars 3.8 billion years ago that pushed temperatures high enough to allow for liquid water. This is according to a team of researchers who believe this is the only way for giant canyons like Nanedi Valles could have formed.

A possible cause of the end-Permian mass extinction: Lemon juice?

November 25, 2013 11:05 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Rain as acidic as undiluted lemon juice may have played a part in killing off plants and organisms around the world during the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history. About 252 million years ago, the end of the Permian period brought about a worldwide collapse known as the Great Dying, during which a vast majority of species went extinct. The cause of such a massive extinction is a matter of scientific debate.

Researchers uncover secrets of Mars’ birth from unique meteorite

November 20, 2013 8:26 pm | News | Comments

As NASA prepares to launch a new Martian probe, a scientist at Florida State Univ.’s MagLab has uncovered what may be the first recognized example of ancient Martian crust. Professor Munir Humayun’s groundbreaking discoveries are based on an analysis of a 4.4 billion-year-old Martian meteorite that was unearthed by Bedouin tribesmen in the Sahara desert.

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NASA launching robotic explorer to Mars

November 18, 2013 7:39 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

NASA's newest Martian explorer, Maven, is on its launch pad in Florida, ready to soar. Bearing eight science instruments, the spacecraft will take 10 months to reach Mars, entering into orbit around the red planet in September 2014. Scientists hope Maven will help them learn why Mars went from being warm and wet during its first billion years, to the cold and dry place it is today.

Evidence of 3.5 billion-year-old bacterial ecosystems found in Australia

November 12, 2013 3:08 pm | News | Comments

Earth’s oldest sedimentary rocks are not only rare, but also almost always altered by hydrothermal and tectonic activity. The Pilbara district in Australia is a rare exception. A new study has revealed the well-preserved remnants of a complex ecosystem in a nearly 3.5 billion-year-old sedimentary rock sequence.

Rethinking the chemical makeup of Earth’s mantle

November 12, 2013 8:24 am | News | Comments

A new discovery by researchers from the Univ. of Notre Dame could change prevailing assumptions about the chemical makeup of the Earth’s mantle. The Univ. of Notre Dame team worked in cooperation with Vadim Kamenetsky of the Univ. of Tasmania, Hobart (Australia) to learn the art of conducting chemical and mineralogical analyses of melt inclusions within crystals of the mineral magnetite (Fe3O4).

Martian moon samples will have bits of Mars itself

November 11, 2013 2:55 pm | News | Comments

A planned mission to return a sample from the Martian moon Phobos will likely be a twofer, according to a study by Brown Univ. geologists. The Russian mission launching in 2020, would return samples from Phobos that contain bits and pieces of Mars itself. The study calculates how much Martian material is on the surface of Phobos and how deep it is likely to go.

The oldest ice core: Finding a 1.5 million-year record of Earth’s climate

November 5, 2013 12:24 pm | News | Comments

How far into the past can ice-core records go? Scientists have now identified regions in Antarctica they say could store information about Earth’s climate and greenhouse gases extending as far back as 1.5 million years, almost twice as old as the oldest ice core drilled to date.

Rare earth bacteria

November 4, 2013 8:06 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers has discovered a bacterium in hot springs which needs rare earth materials such as lanthanum, cerium or neodymium to grow. The bacteria need the valuable metals to produce energy as co-factor for the enzyme methanol dehydrogenase, with which the microbes produce their energy. The use of rare earths is possibly more widespread among bacteria than previously thought.

Going deep to study long-term climate evolution

October 31, 2013 10:46 am | News | Comments

A Rice Univ.-based team of geoscientists is going to great lengths—from Earth’s core to its atmosphere—to get to the bottom of a long-standing mystery about the planet’s climate. The team will focus on how carbon moves between Earth’s external and internal systems.

Scientists dig for fossils in L.A. a century later

October 28, 2013 3:28 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Digs over the years at the La Brea Tar Pits in the heart of Los Angeles have unearthed bones of mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats and dire wolves that became trapped in ponds of sticky asphalt. But it's the smaller discoveries, like plants, insects and rodents, that in recent years are shaping scientists' views of life in the region 11,000 to 50,000 years ago.

Neutrons, electrons and theory reveal secrets of natural gas reserves

October 28, 2013 3:08 pm | News | Comments

Gas and oil deposits in shale have no place to hide from an Oak Ridge National Laboratory technique that provides an inside look at pores and reveals structural information potentially vital to the nation’s energy needs. The research could clear the path to the more efficient extraction of gas and oil from shale.

Curiosity confirms origins of Martian meteorites

October 16, 2013 2:40 pm | News | Comments

Earth’s most eminent emissary to Mars has just proven that those rare Martian visitors that sometimes drop in on Earth really are from the Red Planet. A key new measurement of Mars’ atmosphere by NASA’s Curiosity rover provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origins of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origins of other meteorites.

Iron melt network helped grow Earth’s core

October 8, 2013 10:23 am | News | Comments

The same process that allows water to trickle through coffee grinds to create your morning espresso may have played a key role in the formation of the early Earth and influenced its internal organization, according to a new study by scientists at Stanford Univ.'s School of Earth Sciences.

Terahertz time-domain spectroscopy for oil and gas detection

September 12, 2013 9:49 am | News | Comments

Kerogen is a mixture of organic chemical compounds in sedimentary rocks that is a key intermediate of oil and natural gas. After five years of research, researchers in China have developed a terahertz time-domain spectroscopy method that effectively detects the generation of oil and gas from kerogen without contact or destruction of the sample material.

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