Earth secrets ~ Page 2 din 14

Things we don not know for sure – how it’s happening, how was created, how it is. Questions that people do not know the answer!

What causes a superior mirage?

A question from a visitor. He writes, “Last summer while in my sailboat in southeast Alaska I could see what appeared to be icebergs floating in the sky. They appeared about 15 miles away. Icebergs were present, and the weather was calm, clear and warm. What makes this occur?” What you saw is what’s called a superior mirage — the kind of mirage that gives …

Bioreactors – bacteria are encouraged to flourish

Every year, Americans generate some 220 tons of waste that’s a little over four pounds of curbside garbage per person, per day. And much of this waste ends up in landfills, where there’s not enough air, water, sunlight and bacteria to let it decay quickly. In a landfill, garbage decomposes slowly. Bacteria convert available organic materials into gases, including greenhouse gases such as methane and …

Alaska Glaciers

“Are the glaciers we see here in Alaska remnants of the last ice age — or newer, more recent formations?” The geologists we talked with said that some Alaskan glaciers are very dynamic. For example, the glaciers of southeastern Alaska receive large amounts of snowfall each year. These glaciers give rise to a lot of melting, and — if they reach the sea — they …

Predicting El Nino

El Nino is a warming in the Pacific Ocean that can affect weather half a world away. So far, predicting El Ninos has meant looking for subtle changes in sea surface temperatures and wind currents. But these changes signal that an El Nino has already begun. For example, last July, experts at the U.S. National Weather Service announced that a mild El Nino was already …

Scientists turn weapons into tools

The U.S. military uses small, remote-controlled airplanes for combat and spying. These are called uninhabited aerial vehicles, or UAVs. But Frank Cutler and his colleagues see a whole new use for these aircraft. Frank Cutler: . . . we’re exploring the use of UAVs, trying to heavily leverage what the Department of Defense has invested in them, and what the Federal Aviation is investing in …

Biodegradable – it can be broken down

If a substance is biodegradable, it means it can be broken down into its basic chemical building blocks in soil or water. The prefix “bio” means that the job is done by living things — primarily microorganisms such as bacteria. Everything natural — from rocks to paper — will biodegrade eventually. Crude oil, for example, from inside Earth will biodegrade in its natural state. Oil …

Free Fall at NASA

Scientists have learned a lot about how fuels burn by doing experiments in the near weightlessness of space. But space experiments are very expensive. How to do these sorts of experiments on the cheap? Combustion — the burning of fuel — is our main way of producing power and propulsion.┬áPeter Sunderland is with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. He’s looking for ways to …

Sandra Faber

In 1990, astronomer Sandra Faber diagnosed — and later helped correct — a major flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope. We talk with her about her current work on how galaxies form and evolve. Sandra Faber is an astronomer at the University of California’s Lick Observatory. She’s renowned for her studies of how galaxies form and evolve. In 1994, Faber and her colleagues began to …

Life in Clouds

Some people walk around with their heads in the clouds, but what about life on the insides of clouds? With a question that stumped a lot of experts. A reader wants to know, “Does anything live in clouds?” We talked to scientists — from microbiologists to cloud experts. Every single one said “interesting question” — but no one had a solid answer. The only life …

The key to the sloth’s success – South American sloth

If you could see a sloth up in the trees of South America, you might think it was moving in slow motion. That slowness is actually the key to the sloths success. If sloths are so slow, how come they haven’t been gobbled up by predators and gone extinct? South American sloth On the contrary, the slow movements are the essence of its success. Sloths …

Maps of Earth’s ancient landscapes

Ronald Blakey at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Blakey, a geologist, creates maps of Earth’s ancient landscapes. Ronald Blakey: I’m actually an artist. . . and so I understand colors and how colors blend and how you can overlay serveral colors or blend several colors together to get an effect and so forth. Now granted, when I do this on the computer, I’m using pixels …

Petrified Wood – how the trees turned to stone

Hundreds of millions of years ago, a massive flood ravaged what is now Arizona. Trees were sent crashing from stream banks. When groundwater passes through buried wood, it deposits minerals, usually silica, inside the tiny cell spaces. Over millions of years, these deposits replace almost all of the original organic material, turning the wood into stone. You need silica to petrify wood. Silica binds to …