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Interviews

Neanderthals bred with modern humans, study confirms

Mating between modern humans and their Neanderthal ancestors, in Europe and Asia tens of thousands of years ago, is now the only plausible explanation for the genetic similarity between the two, say scientists.

This date in science: Pluto gets a demotion

Follow along with the New Horizons mission by visiting Where Is New Horizons Now?

Follow along with the New Horizons mission by visiting Where Is New Horizons Now?

August 24, 2006. On this date Pluto was demoted from full planet to dwarf planet status.

This decision by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) remains controversial among some scientists and many laypeople. And even as Pluto continues to stir controversy on Earth, a spacecraft is winging its way toward the outer solar system – and an encounter with Pluto in 2015. The New Horizons spacecraft will be the first spacecraft ever to sweep closely past Pluto. Mission principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute spoke with EarthSky about the IAU’s decision in May of 2011. Look inside for a re-print of that interview.

Bob Hardage: Using seismic technologies in oil and gas exploration

Vibroseis sources working in unison to form a seismic source array across a CO2 sequestration site

Two vibroseis sources working in unison to form a seismic source array across a CO2 sequestration site.

Seismic waves, the same type of waves used to study earthquakes, are also used to explore deep underground for reservoirs of oil and natural gas.

Chris Zahm: Understanding and probing the world below our feet

UAV  hovering over exposed Pleistocene reef on West Caicos Island prior to climbing to acquisition height (50 m above outcrop). The UAV is manually launched and then controlled by a combination of manual and automated radio signals. Photo by Chris Zahm.

UAV hovering over exposed Pleistocene reef on West Caicos Island in the Antilles prior to climbing to acquisition height (50 m above outcrop). The UAV is manually launched and then controlled by a combination of manual and automated radio signals. Photo by Chris Zahm.

Necessary resources such as oil and water lie below our feet. Research scientist Chris Zahm of the Bureau of Economic Geology talked to EarthSky about how today’s scientists are coming to understand the world underground, while exploring for resources in safe, practical and effective ways.

Jay Kipper and Sean Murphy on nanotechnology in oil and gas production

Photo: David Stephens, BEG, Univ. of Texas

Photo: David Stephens, BEG, Univ. of Texas

Nanotechnology – that is, working with matter at the scale of atoms and molecules – shows great promise for meeting challenges involved in understanding and utilizing the harder-to-reach oil and gas reservoirs of today. That’s according to scientists at the Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC), a research organization that develops micro- and nano-sensors to transform understanding of subsurface oil and natural gas reservoirs. The University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology at the Jackson School of Geosciences manages the AEC. Two AEC scientists, Jay Kipper and Sean Murphy, spoke with EarthSky about how the success of nanomaterials in diverse fields such as medicine and automotives is being applied to petroleum science.

Michael Young on water resources in Texas

Severe drought in 2011 and 2012 in Texas raises questions about the present and future of the state’s water resources. Scientists expect groundwater supplies in Texas to fall by 30 percent by 2060. Scientist Michael Young of the Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin talked to EarthSky about what scientists know about water resources in Texas.

Canadian River, Texas. Photo credit: Wyman Meinzer

Jeffrey Paine: Retreating shoreline along Texas Gulf coast

The Texas Gulf coast is among the most dynamic environments on Earth. Jeffrey Paine talks about the retreating coastline, and the risks and value of human activity there.

Ian Duncan on environmental impact of fracking

Photo credit: danielfoster437

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is used to extract shale gas by injecting fluids into the ground to drill and frack a well. This method of obtaining energy has raised environmental concerns and is challenging some existing regulatory regimes. What does the science say? Geoscientist Ian Duncan is a research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. His current research focuses on the scientific, environmental and public policy aspects of hydraulic fracturing. He talked to EarthSky about what the science says so far about fracking’s environmental impact.

Kathryn Reese-Taylor on the Mayan calendar and 2012 doomsday prophesies

Doomsday and 2012. You’ve probably heard rumblings, if not more, about a supposed connection. Many people point to an ancient Mayan calendar – made 1200 years ago – as the source of the rumors. EarthSky spoke with Kathryn Reese-Taylor, professor of Mayan archaeology at the Canada’s University of Calgary about what archaeology says about 2012 and doomsday prophecies.

Mayan Zodiac, Image Credit: theilr

Lesli Wood: Exploring Gulf of Mexico deep water oil

To meet demand for oil, industry has pushed the limits of technology to reach new oil reserves. In the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, some estimates say there is enough oil to power the United States for 10 years or more. Geoscientist Lesli Wood is a Senior Research Scientist with the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Wood talked with EarthSky about the current challenges and future innovations involved in exploring for oil in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Map from the United States Geological Survey showing the onshore and offshore topography/bathymetry. Blue color represents the marine waters with darker colors representing deeper water (>200 meters). Of the 1300 offshore US fields in the Gulf of Mexico, the top 20 producers are now all in deep waters.