Tag: geology

Plate tectonics

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2012/03/Plate-Tectonics.mp3[/podcast] Our planet may look like a solid ball of rock, but if you could crack it like an egg (not actually something I’d recommend, although it would make for a fun scene in a science fiction novel or movie) you’d find it’s quite fluid inside. And, in fact, the Earth’s solid shell, called the …

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The Viking sunstone

[podcast]https://edwardwillett.com/wp-content/uploads//2011/11/Viking-Sunstone.mp3[/podcast] The World Fantasy Convention in San Diego, which I attended a couple of weeks ago in my guise as fantasy author Lee Arthur Chane, had as its theme “Sailing the Seas of Imagination.” It’s a shame the topic of this week’s science column didn’t hit the news until after that convention ended, because really, …

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Robotic sub to explore sinkhole

NASA is sending an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle–a.k.a. a robotic sub–to explore the world’s deepest sinkhole: Like La Pilita, Zacatón is in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas and was formed by the collapse of a limestone chamber dissolved by warm, acidic groundwater that originated in a nearby volcanic region. The current theory is that the cenote …

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Mining the Earth’s heat

We don’t hear a lot about geothermal energy in discussions of alternative, environmentally friendly energy sources, but maybe that’s about to change: A comprehensive new MIT-led study of the potential for geothermal energy within the United States has found that mining the huge amounts of heat that reside as stored thermal energy in the Earth’s …

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I used to think spelunking would be fun

That was before I knew that, along with stalactites and stalagmites, one can also find “snottites” in caves. Eeewwww.

The geological highway map of Saskatchewan

Over the years, various tours around the province, most recently last weekend with the University of Regina Chamber Singers to Swift Current and Yorkton, have given me an appreciation for the varied nature of the Saskatchewan landscape. It might be flat and treeless around Regina, but in the parklands rolling terrain is the norm; out …

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Diamonds (2002)

Few things say “Be My Valentine” more effectively than diamonds–reason enough to devote this week’s science column to these sparkling rocks. Diamonds aren’t anything fancy, chemically: they’re just carbon, like coal. But their molecules close-packed in rigid geometric fashion, and that gives them special characteristics. To begin with, diamond is the hardest substance known: the …

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Volcanoes revisited

Last month, Sicily’s Mount Etna erupted for two weeks, providing television viewers with spectacular pictures but really doing very little damage. But that’s not always the case with volcanoes. After all, the most violent explosion on Earth in modern times wasn’t a nuclear blast–it was the eruption of Krakatoa, which blew apart in 1883. The …

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Floods

Seven years ago, it was the Mississippi. Three years ago, it was the Red River. Two years ago, the Yangtze River in China. This year, Mozambique. Recent years have seen a, well, a flood of devastating floods all around the world. And they’re getting worse. In 1998, total losses from weather-related natural disasters, including floods …

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Glaciers

The first time I saw Lake Louise, several years ago, its beauty stunned me. Recently I visited it again, and the effect was the same: if it’s not the most beautiful spot on Earth, it’s darn close. What created Lake Louise still hangs above it: a mighty glacier. A drive along the spine of the …

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Volcanoes

You probably didn’t notice, since nobody but me has bothered to point it out, but August 27 was the 103rd anniversary of the eruption of Krakatoa, an active (obviously) island volcano located in the Sunda Strait, south of Sumatra and west of Java. In 1883 it blew apart in the most violent explosion on Earth …

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Mountains

I may be a prairie boy now, but I didn’t start out that way. I was born in Silver City, New Mexico, and as a small child, whenever we went back to New Mexico, I always said we were going to “my mountains.” This time of year, lots of people go to the mountains, even …

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