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Earth’s crust is cracking up under Indian Ocean

Posted on 26 Sep 2012 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism

The whole world shuddered in sympathy back in April, as Earth’s crust began the difficult birth of a new tectonic plate boundary. Two huge earthquakes ripped through the floor of the Indian Ocean, triggering large aftershocks the world over, and providing the best evidence yet that the vast Indo-Australian plate is being torn in two. Image: Fred Pollitz

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Fossil raindrops reveal Earth’s early atmosphere

Posted on 28 Mar 2012 in Earth Science, Journalism, Physics

Some things never change. An analysis of a fossilised rain shower suggests air density on early Earth was broadly similar to today’s – and that makes it difficult to explain why Earth was warmer than it is now when the sun shone less brightly. Image: John-Morgan

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Russian hot springs point to rocky origins for life

Posted on 13 Feb 2012 in Chemistry, Earth Science, Evolution, Featured, Journalism, Life

Where on Earth is the cradle of life? The widespread view is that life began in the oceans, in the water that surrounds deep-sea hydrothermal vents. But that story is being challenged by new evidence that life began on land, which is deepening a rift between origin-of-life biologists. Image: Anna S. Karyagina

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Volcanoes may give a 100-year warning

Posted on 1 Feb 2012 in Earth Science, Journalism, Physics

A blast from the past has left tantalising hints that volcanic eruptions could be predicted decades in advance. Volcanoes can signal their intent to erupt days or months ahead of time, giving authorities a chance to evacuate the area. Now evidence of the events leading up to a Bronze Age eruption suggests it might be possible to extend that warning period. Image: miriam.mollerus

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Volcano-eating beavers evolved thicker teeth

Posted on 20 Oct 2011 in Earth Science, Evolution, Journalism, Life, Palaeontology

The volcanic activity that shaped Yellowstone national park may have sculpted something on a much smaller scale too – the teeth of some rodents. Mountain beavers have teeth with deep crowns, thick enamel and short roots – a condition called hypsodonty, typical of animals that chew gritty, silica-rich grasses. Yet they are partial to soft plants, so why the tough teeth? Image: cliff1066™

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The species that evaded extinction

Posted on 13 Sep 2011 in Earth Science, Evolution, Reviews

It is five years since Richard Fortey retired from his post as senior palaeontologist at London’s Natural History Museum. Yet that has hardly curbed his academic output or the enthusiasm that drove him to study fossils for more than half a century. If anything, he is rapidly cementing his position as one of his field’s great survivors. Image: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region

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