Rebecca Boyle Excavates Earth’s Earliest History

THE OPEN NOTEBOOK Earth has a memory problem. Few rocks have survived from the first billion years of the planet’s history, when all kinds of important things happened, including—perhaps—the first stirrings of life. This amnesia has made it hard for researchers to piece together our origin story, and answer the really big questions like How … More Rebecca Boyle Excavates Earth’s Earliest History

Data illuminate a mountain of molehills facing women scientists

From the peer-review process to our very concept of what it means to be brilliant, studies show that women face subtle biases and structural barriers to success in the geosciences. Every female scientist has a story. One woman was warned not to wear her wedding ring to job interviews. Another noticed that her adviser showered … More Data illuminate a mountain of molehills facing women scientists

Crystal clocks

SCIENCE How smudged crystals offer windows into a volcano’s eruptive past. Crystals in volcanic rocks contain clocks that offer clues to the volcano’s plumbing and past behavior. The technique, called diffusion chronometry, is catching on among volcanologists. It depends on understanding how the crystals grew out of a magma soup deep underground, accreting layers that … More Crystal clocks

A forest of hypotheses

Falling in love with a single theory can cut off fruitful avenues of enquiry. Here’s how to keep your mind open. The clamour in a Panamanian rainforest is deafening to human ears: bugs shriek, birds sing and bats screech throughout the humid night. To avoid attracting predators, male katydids (Tettigoniidae) trill out short, infrequent mating … More A forest of hypotheses

Thinking the Unthinkable

Rare cataclysms are hard to study and plan for, but they may be too dangerous to ignore. Read the full story in Science magazine and listen to my interview on the Science podcast.

Lava-filled cracks may encourage quakes

In 2002, residents of the eastern Congo suffered a one-two punch–a volcanic eruption followed months later by a destructive earthquake. Now researchers say the events might have been related, exposing a new source of seismic hazards in rift zones like East Africa. Learn more in my podcast for Scientific American.  

Scientists debate whether electromagntic signals precede earthquakes

Researchers have long searched for natural signals that might warn of impending earthquakes, but so far, they haven’t found anything reliable. However, a small group of researchers are studying electromagnetic signals that appear to precede major earthquakes in hopes that they may one day be used for earthquake prediction. Learn more about the approach–and criticism … More Scientists debate whether electromagntic signals precede earthquakes