Columbia Goes to the Moon

Fifty years ago, when astronauts first landed on the moon, they carried not only humanity’s highest hopes but an important experiment from Columbia.

On the afternoon of July 20, 1969, Gary Latham ’65GSAS, a thirty-three-year-old geophysicist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, arrived at NASA’s Manned Spaceflight Center (now the Johnson Space Center) in Houston to witness the fulfillment of thousands of years of curiosity and wonder: humanity’s first attempt to land men on the moon…

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Death bed

05_Passaggio KTMany are aware that dinosaurs disappeared nearly 66 million years ago, after a major climate change that made their environments inhospitable. Most people know about the dinosaurs disappearance, but few know that what happened at the end of the Mesozoic era was actually a mass extinction. Well, maybe even fewer people know that some clues of what happened in that period have been first found in central Italy, close to Saint Francis’ hometown, near a small city in the Apennines called Gubbio. The story is about father and son, Louis Alvarez, a Nobel prize physicist, and Walter Alvarez, a renown American geologist at Berkeley with a love for Italy.

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The geology of Rome’s sampietrini

What’s so special about the “sampietrini”, those little square bricks typical of Rome’s old roads? The sampietrini have been used since the times of pope Sixtus V in the late 1500s but the name was invented later in 1725 after the new paving project of St. Peter’s square. “Hard as a sampietrino” is a common expression in Rome. Sampietrini are made of a hard and heavy volcanic rock. It is very interesting to a geologist: at first sight, you might confuse it with basalt; well, maybe a special kind of basalt. Actually, it is not correct to call it basalt. It is a rather rare rock around the world, but not in the Mediterranean area. But everything would be clearer if we knew more about the basalts themselves…

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I danni dell’ignoranza

airgunL’ignoranza non è solo brutta ma fa anche danni molto gravi. Recentemente il Senato aveva approvato una nuova legge contro i reati ambientali, un’ottima legge se non fosse per una norma che inseriva tra i reati anche la tecnica di prospezione sismica a mare utilizzata normalmente in tutto il mondo. Per fortuna del progresso scientifico e tecnologico e dell’immagine del nostro paese, già non troppo edificante, per cui si fatica ad attrarre investimenti esteri, il Senato ha approvato la legge contro gli ecoreati eliminando la norma contro le prospezioni a mare. Ed ecco che la rete pullula di proteste contro il governo che avrebbe dato così via libera ai petrolieri con le loro bombe a mare, le cosiddette “bombe sismiche”.  Continue reading “I danni dell’ignoranza”

Ho scoperto di essere un criminale!

photoIo un criminale? Mah… in realtà faccio il geologo, ho lavorato anche come rilevatore, in contatto con la natura, ho fatto un po’ di ricerca all’università, mi sono sempre considerato un ambientalista (magari tenendo in considerazione che anch’io guido la macchina, uso energia, ecc.). Ora sono in una piccola azienda che si occupa di esplorazione e ricerca di idrocarburi. Ma forse non dovrei dirlo in giro…

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