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Another one bites the dust: Goodbye to the American Museum of Natural History’s gem and mineral gallery

Understanding rocks, minerals and geology is critical to understanding the environment. […]

12 favorite sea slugs of the man who’s discovered more than 1000 of them

Terry Gosliner’s lifelong passion for nudibranchs has taken him all over the world in search of the surreal sea slugs; here are his greatest hits. […]

The dirt on Alan Nicholson’s Yorkville Residence

It’s a nice mix of heavy rammed earth topped with a very light roof […]

There’s a secret hidden continent beneath New Zealand

Scientists have been studying the huge submerged landmass for decades and are now pushing for its recognition as a continent. […]

Why the Italy Quake Was So Severe

NYT

Read the original: Why the Italy Quake Was So Severe

The Earth Could Become a "Plastic Planet"

This article originally appeared on Inverse. By Ian Stark Plastic will cover an increasing amount of the Earth’s surface by mid-century, while steadily mixing into the ground and oceans, researchers from the University of Leicester, UK report. Scientists argue that plastic may best define our current period within the Anthropocene. https://t.co/fhvQA45WeJ pic.twitter.com/L3WBzAPL0t January 23, 2016 A new study, “The geological cycle of plastics and their use as a stratigraphic indicator of the Anthropocene”, published in the journal Anthropocene, proposes how humans have moved into the Anthropocene period — a time when the Earth’s ecosystem and geology are directly affected by human activity — and how the planet’s exterior has been altered by human-produced materials. University of Leicester’s Jan Zalasiewicz, Professor of Paleobiology from the Department of Geology is the lead author of the article, and explains to Science Daily that “Plastics were more or less unknown to our grandparents, when they were children. But now, they are indispensable to our lives. They’re everywhere — wrapping our food, being containers for our water and milk, providing cartons for eggs and yogurt and chocolate, keeping our medicines sterile. They now make up most of the clothes that we wear, too.” “The planet is slowly being covered in plastic.” -Prof.Jan Zalasiewicz, Leicester Univ.https://t.co/yVFAHCLj5V pic.twitter.com/ZEfoAtItkw January 26, 2016 According to the research, plastics are not only “evident in terrestrial deposits, they are clearly becoming widespread in marine sedimentary deposits in both shallow- and deep-water settings. They are abundant and widespread as macroscopic fragments and virtually ubiquitous as microplastic particles; these are dispersed by both physical and biological processes,” as well as through the overall food chain. Furthermore, the ocean transports plastics, sometimes via patches of garbage that float around the globe, sometimes sinking to the sea floor or washing up on beaches. Professor Zalasiewicz also notes that such materials, poured into landfills over several years, become part of the sedimentary cycle — even providing the ability to record natural history by preserving artifacts and other buried matter, creating “techno fossils.” “Once buried, being so hard-wearing, plastics have a good chance to be fossilized — and leave a signal of the ultimate convenience material for many million years into the future. The age of plastic may really last for ages.” MORE FROM INVERSE: Nacreous Clouds Light Up British Skies, Signal Our Doom NASA Shares 360° Image of Mars Made With Facebook’s Oculus Rift Technology Tata Motors Names Car ‘Zica,’ Soon to be Renamed Apple Rumors Include New iPhone Plus iPad and Apple Watch Updates Should You Care About Hooti, the New Twitter/Snapchat Hybrid App? Photos via University of Leicester — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Surprising Discovery From Really Old Moon Rocks

One of the biggest scientific surprises that came out of the rocks hauled back to Earth by the Apollo astronauts of 60’s and 70’s was the discovery that much of the Moon’s trademark cratering came during a single, catastrophic event. Known as the Late Heavy Bombardment, it was an unimaginably violent fusillade of asteroids or comets (or both) that tore through the inner Solar System about 3.8 billion years ago. The cause is still unknown, although theorists think it might have happened when Jupiter and Saturn readjusted their orbits and another giant planet was ejected from the Solar System entirely. If the bombardment occurred at all, that is. But a paper in the new journal Science Advances suggests that maybe it didn’t—or at least, not all at once. “It’s not a bad theory,” says lead author Cameron Mercer, of Arizona State University, “and in some parts of the planetary science community, it’s accepted as gospel.” Until now, the only direct evidence challenging the prevailing, single-bombardment theory had been pockets of impact-related melting in lunar rocks that appear to have been formed at different times. The measurements used as evidence, however, are somewhat crude and far from conclusive. Now, however, Mercer and his co-authors have used ultraviolet lasers to study lunar samples brought back back by the final Apollo landing mission, Apollo 17, more than 42 years ago, and have found evidence of at least three major melting events, presumably caused by powerful impacts, at 3.8, 3.7 and 3.3 billion years ago. All of that evidence was found in just one rock, but another sample, collected a few hundred feet away, showed evidence of yet another bombardment, this one occurring 3.83 billion years ago. “This calls into question just how well we know the chronology of lunar impacts,” Mercer says. The problem with the earlier estimates, says co-author Kip Hodges, also at Arizona State, is that they were based on samples weighing tens of milligrams—which is actually large when you’re looking for evidence than can be microscopic. Scientists would heat up the bits of rock, then measure the relative amounts of radioactive potassium-40 to argon that emerged. Since potassium decays into argon at a known rate, they could calculate how long it’s been since the rocks last melted. But if there are pockets within the samples containing ancient, melted rock of different ages, you’d only get their average ages—and that’s what evidently happened, at least in some cases. The new analysis is a lot more precise: it looks at rock fragments a thousand times smaller. “Thirty-five years ago,” says Hodges, “all we could really say ‘there’s been melting,’ but now we can look with much finer resolution.” The new analysis is based only on rocks from the Taurus-Littrow valley, where Apollo 17 touched down. Now, says Hodges, “we’ve begun work on rocks from Apollo 16, and we’ve got some coming from Apollo 15 as well.” If Taurus-Littrow alone experienced at least four impact events, there’s no telling how many more might be inferred from samples at the other sites. Still, even if rocks from all six lunar landings are studied, they represent only a tiny fraction of the entire lunar surface. Extrapolating too much from them would be a little like collecting scoops of rock at half a dozen spots in North America and pretending you understand all of Earth’s geology. The lunar sample set remains narrow even if you add material returned by the Soviet Union’s robotic Luna probes and Moon rocks that have fallen to Earth as meteorites. “If we want to know the real history,” says Hodges, “we need more samples. It’s really time,” he says, “to start thinking about going back.” […]