The ancient Maya of Central America and Southern Mexico are famous for perfecting a calendar to which many attribute predictions that the world will end on December 21, 2012. EarthSky spoke with Professor David Stuart, an archaeologist and expert on the ancient Maya at the University of Texas at Austin. He told us that neither the Maya, nor their calendar, ever predicted the end of the world.
Lowenstein studies water droplets that have been sealed inside salt crystals for thousands to millions of years. His team is the first to try to paint a complete picture of what’s living in these drops of water.
Earth’s human population has reached 7 billion and is still climbing. Scientists say the depletion of groundwater around the world is a serious issue. They say we need to know where our water resources are, and what options society can leverage to use these resources most effectively. Bridget Scanlon is a Senior Research Scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research team works to assess water resources and offer sustainable solutions. She spoke with EarthSky’s Jorge Salazar.
You say there’s a hidden cost of water in everything we use and consume. Tell us about that.
That’s right. When you ask them how much water they use, a lot of people think of the household usage for laundry and showering and things like that. But our food choices involve a lot more water.
Deep in cracks of hot undersea volcanoes, microbes inhale hydrogen and carbon dioxide and exhale methane. They might help scientists understand life beyond Earth.
Undersea vehicle Alvin extends its mechanical arm to a high-temperature black smoker in the ocean depths. This image is from what scientists call the Endeavor Segment, at the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the Pacific Ocean Image via Bruce Strickrott/WHOI.
Pie chart of United States energy consumption by primary source, 2010, from the U.S. Energy Information Administration via Wikimedia Commons. >Make larger
Natural gas is a major source of the energy we all use everyday. It’s found deep underground, often in the company of oil. In recent decades, conventional natural gas deposits have been the most practical and easiest to produce. Now costs have fallen to enable a boom in unconventional natural gas not possible a decade ago via a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Industry estimates suggest that $20 trillion will be spent on obtaining unconventional gas and oil between the years 2012 and 2035. Geologist Eric Potter of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin explained the basics of unconventional natural gas – the what, how and why of fracking – with EarthSky’s Jorge Salazar.
Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich is famous for his 1968 book The Population Bomb. Like many before him, Ehrlich said that equal opportunities for women might be key to maintaining Earth’s population at a reasonable level.
Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Satellite images show big changes happening to Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S., where freshwater meets the sea. EarthSky spoke about it with Peter Claggett, a research geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Eastern Geographic Science Center. Claggett’s team tracks changes in Chesapeake Bay using data from the Landsat program of Earth-observing satellites.
Our mix of energy choices today is in a state of transition, from a system based on cheap oil and coal to a broader energy spectrum. Science and technology have a big role to play in our energy future by addressing inefficiencies in the ways we find, process and use energy, and by finding innovative ways of scaling up successful energy systems.
Scott Tinker is the Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas, Austin. He worked in the oil and gas industry for 17 years in research, exploration, and development, prior to coming to The University of Texas in 2000. He told EarthSky that future energy choices will likely be based on both economic realities and environmental concerns.
A simple model of CO2 injection. Image courtesy Susan Hovorka
In a world that is getting warmer, scientists are studying a technique known as carbon capture and storage to prevent the release of the greenhouse gas CO2 into Earth’s atmosphere from coal-burning power plants and other industries. The idea is to capture the CO2 (carbon dixoide), and pump it underground.
But where on Earth can CO2 from power plants be stored underground? And is the process safe and effective? Researcher Susan Hovorka of the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology has studied many sites on Earth for their potential for carbon storage. She talked with EarthSky about the latest science on this emerging technology.
Image courtesy Emily Bernhardt.
Surface mining for coal – which can include including strip mining, open-pit mining and mountaintop removal mining – has been widely scrutinized for its potential impacts on water quality, animal development and the health of plants along rivers and streams. Duke University’s Emily Bernhardt and her colleagues have recently published several high-profile papers that are providing cutting-edge science to help inform the debate about mountaintop mining for coal. EarthSky blogger Benjamin D. Duval had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Bernhardt to understand how mining impacts river ecosystems, the policy implications of this research, and about what can be done to restore Appalachian landscapes degraded by coal mining.