Earthquakes for dummies

A bit of a big headline. I’ll explain the earthquakes. Who do I think I am? Well… I’m a geologist. I know the problem. If you want to know about heart attacks, you ask a cardiologist, right? If you lose your tap, you call the plumber, not the cardiologist. Or am I wrong? Geologists know about earthquakes. They have to. It’s a must. Even if they’re not going to deal with earthquakes in their career, they must be familiar with the phenomenon. So, by academic background geologists know very well that earthquakes are an entirely natural phenomenon over which man has no influence. It is due to the fact that the Earth’s lithosphere (the most superficial rocky envelope of the planet) is divided into a series of plates and microplates; most of the earthquakes are distributed along their margins because the plates move one with respect to the other. And huge blocks of rock “rubbing” each other make a big mess. The “mess” are earthquakes: rock breaks, and the energy released at the moment of breaking propagates in all directions in the form of seismic waves, oscillations of the rocky body that also involve the surface on which we live. They are waves completely similar to those generated by a rock thrown into the water (but they are not only those – it’s just to give an idea).

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The greatest long-term threats facing humanity

Can we actually say anything about the far future? If we can’t predict when it will rain next month, forecasting billions of years hence might seem impossible.

However, not everything is as chaotic as the weather: even predictions very far ahead are sometimes possible, especially in astrophysics and cosmology. We can be confident that there will be a total solar eclipse in the UK on 23 September 2090 because the Moon, Sun and Earth move in stable, predictable orbits with very minor disturbances, and the laws of gravity are now well-tested. Similarly, we can use known astrophysics to predict what will likely happen across the Universe as it expands.

Continue reading on BBC Future

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

“…For many people, the idea of a “garbage patch” conjures up images of an island of trash floating on the ocean. In reality, these patches are almost entirely made up of tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics. Microplastics can’t always be seen by the naked eye. Even satellite imagery doesn’t show a giant patch of garbage. The microplastics of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can simply make the water look like a cloudy soup. This soup is intermixed with larger items, such as fishing gear and shoes.”

Read the entire article on National Geographic

Marsquakes Rock and Roll

Fifty years after Apollo 11 astronauts deployed the first seismometer on the surface of the Moon, NASA InSight’s seismic experiment transmits data giving researchers the opportunity to compare marsquakes to moon and earthquakes.

Seismologists operating the Marsquake Service at ETH Zurich literally rocked and rolled as they experienced, for the first time, two “marsquakes” in the university’s quake simulator. Researchers uploaded actual data from marsquakes detected on Martian solar day or Sol 128 and 173.The marsquakes were detected by the SEIS seismometer, whose highly sensitive electronics were delivered by the Aerospace Electronics and Instruments laboratory at ETH. Continue reading  

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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