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Doing Something About the Climate

Mark Twain supposedly wrote, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." That got a laugh from readers in 1897—not only could nobody influence the sun and rain, but nobody could even imagine how to try. You might as well shake your fist at the law of gravity. But what was a joke a hundred years ago is sounding more and more scary these days, because the weather might be changing, and it might be our fault. And if it's our fault, then it's our responsibility to fix it. I'm talking about the various phenomena we lump...

Dinosaur Extinction

The reign of dinosaurs ended about 65 million years ago. The search for the cause of this extinction has brought together a diverse array of scientists -- astronomers, chemists, ecologists, physicists, evolutionary biologists, oceanographers and geologists. The Milwaukee Public Museum is playing a central role in this research. Hundreds of hypotheses have been proposed to explain the extinction of dinosaurs including: competition from the mammals, diseases, and even allergies to the newly evolved flowering plants. But these kinds of explanations could not explain all events associated with the extinction. More importantly, because the extinction happened to both land and sea...

Collecting rocks

The Earth is made of rock, from the tallest mountains to the floor of the deepest ocean. Thousands of different types of rocks and minerals have been found on Earth. Most rocks at the Earth's surface are formed from only eight elements (oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium), but these elements are combined in a number of ways to make rocks that are very different. Rocks are continually changing. Wind and water wear them down and carry bits of rock away; the tiny particles accumulate in a lake or ocean and harden into rock again. The oldest...

Geology Of Ward Valley

Ward Valley has a long geologic history, but many of the valleys geological facets relevant to nuclear waste dump siting are of quite recent origin. About 10 to 20 million years ago, as the San Andreas Fault began to move and volcanoes erupted in the Berkeley Hills, tectonic forces pulled the earths crust apart in a belt that parallels the lower Colorado River. This event (known to geologists as "extension") shaped the present landscape. The lower part of the extending crust was relatively hot and therefore stretched (ductile deformation), to double its previous width. The cold and rigid upper crust...