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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.

David Stuart on the Mayan calendar and 2012 doomsday predictions

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.

Tim Lowenstein on a world of microbes buried alive in ancient salt

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.

Bridget Scanlon on groundwater depletion and solutions

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

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.

James Holden explores life thriving in deep, hot undersea vents

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.

Eric Potter explains what, how and why of hydraulic fracturing

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.

Paul Ehrlich and the vital role of women in this century

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.

Photo credit: Alfred Weidinger

Peter Claggett sees changes to Chesapeake Bay with Landsat

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.

Scott Tinker: Past, present and future of energy

Photo credit: epSos.de

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.