Showing posts with the label geology

Fukushima, Six Years Later

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster could have been much worse. But it may have been avoidable.

Meltdowns and non-nuclear explosions at the power plant didn't directly kill anyone.

More than 40 patients who were evacuated from a nearby hospital died later. They had been critically ill. Getting rushed away from a nuclear incident in progress wouldn't have been good for their health.

Three former power company executives now face criminal charges.

The earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns in 2011 killed nearly 16,000 folks and left many others homeless. Many folks still can't return to their homes. Quakes happen. This one was nobody's fault.

What happened in Fukushima is another matter. I'll be looking at the disaster, what's happened since, and why questioning authority can be a good idea.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Old Truths, New Aspects

The biggest critters with backbones are living today: baleen whales.

Finding the largest of them started getting harder about a century back.

We didn't quite drive the blue and fin whales to extinction, happily.

We're learning when they got so big, and maybe why.

We're also learning more about origins of dinosaurs and the domestic cat. It's not the same origin.

One happened around the time we started storing grain, the other 200,000,000 years ago. Give or take a bit.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Climate Change, Whirligig Icebergs

Climate change is still in the news. Don't worry, I won't rant about impending doom, or say that Earth's climate isn't changing.

This planet's climate has been changing for several billion years. I'd be astounded if it stopped changing now.

How much we know and understand about our own past, and Earth's, is also changing. I'll be talking about that, and why I'm not upset that we're learning.

I'll also take a look at (real) climate change, why I think we are not doomed, and choices we must make soon. "Soon," in this case, is somewhere in the next millennium or so. My opinion. We really do not want to make these decisions hastily....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Mars: Leaky Red Planet

What we're learning about Mars, and a new type of really small spacecraft, reminded me of earth, air and kilts.

Also pharaohs, Thomas Paine, and Lord Kelvin. By then I was running out of time to write something more tightly-organized.

I figured you might be interested in some of what I have written. On on the other hand, maybe not. So I added links to my ramblings before and after what I said more-or-less about the science news, and figure you can decide what's interesting and what's not.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Earliest Life: Maybe

We're not sure how skulls found in central China fit into the family tree. They're a bit like Neanderthals, a bit like folks still living in that part of the world, and not quite like anyone else.

Other scientists found what may, or may not, be the oldest evidence of life found so far. That's in Quebec, Canada.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Pollution: Still Learning

Scientists found PCBs and PBDEs in deep-sea critters, armyworms are on the march in Africa, and Mexico City's air isn't as clean as we'd hoped.

Rational concern seems reasonable....

...Last week I talked about blaming our tools for our mistakes. (February 10, 2017)

This week I'll revisit Lovecraft's "placid island of ignorance,"sort of....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Gems, Metal, and Earth's Core

The Fire of Australia, a whacking great chunk of opal, isn't particularly interesting from a 'science' viewpoint.

But I'm human, which is probably why anything big and shiny gets my attention: including that rock.

Wrenching myself back on-topic, scientists found a stream of liquid metal flowing at the edge of Earth's core. Studying it may help us learn why Earth's magnetic field flip-flops at apparently-irregular intervals. What we'll learn is beyond me: we didn't know much about geomagnetic reversal when I started school.

We still don't, for that matter. As I keep saying, there is a very great deal left to learn.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Pluto’s Cup-Capped Mountains

Before the New Horizons mission, we knew Pluto was very cold, had little or no atmosphere, and that was about it. (October 30, 2015; July 10, 2015)

Now scientists think they've spotted 'ice volcanoes' on Pluto that look a lot like shield volcanoes on Earth and Mars....

...we're rational creatures, created in the image of God, and "little less than a god." Studying this universe, and using that knowledge is part of our job. So is using our power responsibly....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Zircons and Earth's First Life

Bits of carbon encased in zircon crystals more than four billion years ago may have come from living creatures.

Then again, maybe not. Either way, we're learning more about Earth's long story....

...This space-time continuum doesn't work like Anaximander's model, either. Anaximander's cosmology had Earth in the center: but he speculated that we might not be standing on the only world, and that worlds change.

Aristotle's cosmology had Earth in the center of the universe, too: but he didn't think multiple worlds existed. About 16 centuries later, educated Europeans like Dante Alighieri had a very high opinion of Aristotle....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Organics on a Comet, and Earth's Early Magnetism

Scientists found evidence that Earth's magnetic field is more than a half-billion years older than we'd thought. As usual, that raises more questions.

The European Space Agency's Philae lander detected a "rich array" of organic compounds on Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko 67P, including hydrogen cyanide (HCN). This is a big deal, since much of Earth's water came from comets: and HCN may have helped life begin on our world.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Climate Change, Deccan Traps: Still Learning

Scientists found a two-century lag between temperature changes near Earth's poles — and maybe a "bipolar seesaw" temperature cycle.

Other scientists say that shock waves from the Chicxulub impact may have triggered volcanic eruptions in the Deccan Traps and elsewhere....

...We don't, I think, have all the answers about how Earth's climate changes and what we should do about it: but we're discovering what some of the questions are. That's a good start.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Setting Earth's Thermostat

Events like the Pinatubo eruptions of 1991 happen about once a century — on average — roughly.

Some scientists say that next time there's a Pinatubo-scale eruption, we should deploy a fleet of instrument-carrying aircraft, balloons, and satellites: to see exactly what happens when sulfur dioxide and other chemicals get dumped into the upper atmosphere.

We know that the stuff causes regional and global climate changes: but we don't know exactly how the process works.

There's more than pure scientific curiosity behind wanting this knowledge. Earth's climate is changing, which is par for the course: but we're at a point where our actions can affect climate.

The job at hand is leaning how Earth's climate works, how it changes, and what causes the changes. Then we'll decide what to do about that knowledge....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Found: Genes for Fins, Paws, and Hands

Scientists found the genetic code mice use for growing paws — in spotted gar, after they thought about what happened to fish 300,000,000 years back.

An amateur fossil hunter found a complete ichthyosaur skeleton in Wales, professional fossil hunters found parts of a critter that isn't quite an ichthyosaur in China, and other paleontologists described a cat-size dinosaur that lived in what's now Montana.

Still other scientists named a Cambrian — thing — after an esteemed colleague. Quite a few Cambrian critters are just like nothing that lives on today's Earth.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Earth's Wandering Poles, A Comet, a Wobbling Moon

Robot explorers observed a comet as it whizzed past Mars, there's something very odd about a moon of Saturn, and Earth's magnetic field will probably flip much sooner than predicted.

About Earth's magnetic poles switching places: I'm pretty sure we'll notice the event, but it won't be 'apocalyptic.'...

...Earth's magnetic field is weakening a whole lot faster than scientists expected. Our planet's north and south magnetic poles will switch places "soon:" on the geologic time scale.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

New Maps for Earth and Moon, and India's Mars Mission

Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography discovered thousands of previously-unknown submerged mountains in data from satellites designed for measuring ice caps and ocean currents. Other scientists found a long-buried rift system on Earth's moon, and India's space program put a spacecraft in Mars orbit — on their first try....

...I'm pretty sure that most 'pure science' has practical applications: given time. Sometimes, given a lot of time. It took about two millennia for the aeolipiles of Vitruvius and Hero of Alexandria to make the transition from laboratory curiosities to steam engines and spaceship motors....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Scientific Discoveries: an Invitation to "Even Greater Admiration"

This universe has been around for about 13,798,000,000 years, give or take 37,000,000. That's the current best estimate, from 2013.

It's big, too. The photo shows part of the Hercules Cluster of galaxies. Light from that bunch of galaxies traveled for about 500,000,000 years before reaching us.

What we see is the Hercules Cluster as it was around the middle of the Cambrian here, roughly when the first trilobite showed up.

Taking the universe 'as is' makes sense: for me, anyway. I would much rather learn more about this wonder-filled creation, than insist that the Almighty is limited to what folks knew a few centuries back.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

African Wildlife: During the Cretaceous

Scientists are are learning more about Africa's wildlife: as it was some 100,000,000 years ago....

...Maybe you've seen that "are you satisfied?" cartoon chap, Mr. Squibbs, in another 'A Catholic Citizen in America' post. If so, feel free to skip straight to my take on dinosaurs in the news.

If you're wondering what "tampering with things man was not supposed to know" and dinosaurs have to do with my faith — the short answer is that I'm Catholic, so using my brain is okay.

Despite what some tightly-wound folks seem to believe, science and Christianity, faith and reason, get along fine. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 159)

I suspect part of problem some have with science is how big the universe is — and how years it's been since life began here on Earth....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Volcanoes and Fossilized Brains: Studying Earth's Past

We're learning that there's much more to learn about this universe. My response to our expanding horizons of knowledge is delight. Others react differently.

A Christian worldview and shameless interest in God's creation may seem like an odd combination, so before sharing what I've read about volcanoes, the Grand Canyon, and fossilized brains, I'll discuss why I accept reality "as is."...

...Like the psalmist, the works of God make me jubilant.

That's why I share what scientists are learning about the vast, ancient, and astounding universe....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

South American Dinosaurs, Large and 'Small;' and a Changing World

Leinkupal laticauda isn't the smallest known dinosaur. That honor goes to Compsognathus, a turkey-sized fellow you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. Leinkupal may be the smallest sauropod, though: and probably among the last of that line....

...Older than the Mountains

(From Jon Sullivan, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Mountains in the Teton Range, seen from Jackson Hole, Wyoming.)

My parents and I visited Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks when I was young, and spent a day in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Years later, seeing photos we'd taken, I was surprised that my memories of the Teton Mountains were accurate: They really did look as big as I remembered them.

It was summer when we were there, which may explain why one of the glaciers was noticeably lower on the mountain when we left. The mountains themselves hadn't changed, of course. If I went back there today, I doubt that they would be appreciably different.

Over a human lifespan, or even se…

Moons, Solar Origins, and a Crash that Cracked the World (Maybe)

Scientists seeking niches for life in the universe have a new tool, we've finding stars that shared our sun's origin, and have more clues about Earth's early years....
A Hypothetical Habitable Moon
(From Lucianomendez, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.
("Artist's impression of a hypothetical habitable moon of Upsilon Andromedae d.")

That's a cool picture, but we don't know if Upsilon Andromedae d has moons: let alone one with an atmosphere, ocean, and clouds. Using a new exomoon detecting technique, we may soon know how closely the artist's impression matches reality....

...A few years ago I ran into an intriguing bit of informed speculation: Earth may be about as small as a planet can be, and still support life: and that's another topic.
Exoplanets: Hot Jupiters, Super-Earths, and More Scientists have cataloged 1786 planets orbiting other stars. These exoplanets are in 1106 planetary systems, including 460 multiple planetary systems.…