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The Azolla event is a scenario hypothesized to have occurred in the middle Eocene epoch, around 49 million years ago, when blooms of the freshwater fern Azolla are thought to have happened in the Arctic Ocean. As they sank to the stagnant sea floor, they were incorporated into the sediment; the resulting draw-down of carbon dioxide has been speculated to have helped transform the planet from a "greenhouse Earth" state, hot enough for turtles and palm trees to prosper at the poles, to the current icehouse Earth known as the Late Cenozoic Ice Age.
- "Azolla Event" | 2019-07-22 | 104 Upvotes 80 Comments
Before Present (BP) years is a time scale used mainly in archaeology, geology and other scientific disciplines to specify when events occurred in the past. Because the "present" time changes, standard practice is to use 1 January 1950 as the commencement date (epoch) of the age scale, reflecting the origin of practical radiocarbon dating in the 1950s. The abbreviation "BP" has been interpreted retrospectively as "Before Physics"; that refers to the time before nuclear weapons testing artificially altered the proportion of the carbon isotopes in the atmosphere, making dating after that time likely to be unreliable.
In a convention that is not always observed, many sources restrict the use of BP dates to those produced with radiocarbon dating; the alternative notation RCYBP is explicitly Radio Carbon Years Before Present.
- "Before Present" | 2018-07-20 | 56 Upvotes 27 Comments
Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater
The Chesapeake Bay impact crater was formed by a bolide that impacted the eastern shore of North America about 35.5 ± 0.3 million years ago, in the late Eocene epoch. It is one of the best-preserved "wet-target" impact craters in the world.
Continued slumping of sediments over the rubble of the crater has helped shape the Chesapeake Bay.
- "Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater" | 2019-12-17 | 113 Upvotes 23 Comments
Diatoms make 20% of Earth's oxygen and can double in population every 24 hours
Diatoms (diá-tom-os 'cut in half', from diá, 'through' or 'apart'; and the root of tém-n-ō, 'I cut'.) are a major group of algae, specifically microalgae, found in the oceans, waterways and soils of the world. Living diatoms make up a significant portion of the Earth's biomass: they generate about 20 to 50 percent of the oxygen produced on the planet each year, take in over 6.7 billion metric tons of silicon each year from the waters in which they live, and contribute nearly half of the organic material found in the oceans. The shells of dead diatoms can reach as much as a half-mile (800m) deep on the ocean floor, and the entire Amazon basin is fertilized annually by 27 million tons of diatom shell dust transported by transatlantic winds from the African Sahara, much of it from the Bodélé Depression, which was once made up a system of fresh-water lakes.
Diatoms are unicellular: they occur either as solitary cells or in colonies, which can take the shape of ribbons, fans, zigzags, or stars. Individual cells range in size from 2 to 200 micrometers. In the presence of adequate nutrients and sunlight, an assemblage of living diatoms doubles approximately every 24 hours by asexual multiple fission; the maximum life span of individual cells is about six days. Diatoms have two distinct shapes: a few (centric diatoms) are radially symmetric, while most (pennate diatoms) are broadly bilaterally symmetric. A unique feature of diatom anatomy is that they are surrounded by a cell wall made of silica (hydrated silicon dioxide), called a frustule. These frustules have structural coloration due to their photonic nanostructure, prompting them to be described as "jewels of the sea" and "living opals". Movement in diatoms primarily occurs passively as a result of both water currents and wind-induced water turbulence; however, male gametes of centric diatoms have flagella, permitting active movement for seeking female gametes. Similar to plants, diatoms convert light energy to chemical energy by photosynthesis, although this shared autotrophy evolved independently in both lineages. Unusually for autotrophic organisms, diatoms possess a urea cycle, a feature that they share with animals, although this cycle is used to different metabolic ends in diatoms. The family Rhopalodiaceae also possess a cyanobacterial endosymbiont called a spheroid body. This endosymbiont has lost its photosynthetic properties, but has kept its ability to perform nitrogen fixation, allowing the diatom to fix atmospheric nitrogen.
The study of diatoms is a branch of phycology. Diatoms are classified as eukaryotes, organisms with a membrane-bound cell nucleus, that separates them from the prokaryotes archaea and bacteria. Diatoms are a type of plankton called phytoplankton, the most common of the plankton types. Diatoms also grow attached to benthic substrates, floating debris, and on macrophytes. They comprise an integral component of the periphyton community. Another classification divides plankton into eight types based on size: in this scheme, diatoms are classed as microalgae. Several systems for classifying the individual diatom species exist. Fossil evidence suggests that diatoms originated during or before the early Jurassic period, which was about 150 to 200 million years ago.
Diatoms are used to monitor past and present environmental conditions, and are commonly used in studies of water quality. Diatomaceous earth (diatomite) is a collection of diatom shells found in the earth's crust. They are soft, silica-containing sedimentary rocks which are easily crumbled into a fine powder and typically have a particle size of 10 to 200 μm. Diatomaceous earth is used for a variety of purposes including for water filtration, as a mild abrasive, in cat litter, and as a dynamite stabilizer.
- "Diatoms make 20% of Earth's oxygen and can double in population every 24 hours" | 2019-07-07 | 11 Upvotes 2 Comments
The Eltanin impact is thought to be an asteroid impact in the eastern part of the South Pacific Ocean during the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary around 2.51 ± 0.07 million years ago. The location was at the edge of the Bellingshausen Sea 1,500 km (950 mi) southwest of Chile. The asteroid was estimated to be about one to four km (0.6 to 2.5 mi) in diameter and the impact would have left a crater approximately 35 km (22 mi) across.
- "Eltanin impact" | 2019-07-27 | 25 Upvotes 3 Comments
Earth as a nuclear furnace (geothermal heat is mostly from radioactive decay)
Geothermal gradient is the rate of increasing temperature with respect to increasing depth in Earth's interior. Away from tectonic plate boundaries, it is about 25–30 °C/km (72–87 °F/mi) of depth near the surface in most of the world. Strictly speaking, geo-thermal necessarily refers to Earth but the concept may be applied to other planets.
Earth's internal heat comes from a combination of residual heat from planetary accretion, heat produced through radioactive decay, latent heat from core crystallization, and possibly heat from other sources. The major heat-producing isotopes in Earth are potassium-40, uranium-238, uranium-235, and thorium-232. At the center of the planet, the temperature may be up to 7,000 K and the pressure could reach 360 GPa (3.6 million atm). Because much of the heat is provided by radioactive decay, scientists believe that early in Earth history, before isotopes with short half-lives had been depleted, Earth's heat production would have been much higher. Heat production was twice that of present-day at approximately 3 billion years ago, resulting in larger temperature gradients within the Earth, larger rates of mantle convection and plate tectonics, allowing the production of igneous rocks such as komatiites that are no longer formed.
- "Earth as a nuclear furnace (geothermal heat is mostly from radioactive decay)" | 2011-04-03 | 44 Upvotes 14 Comments
Great Oxidation Event
The Great Oxidation Event (GOE), sometimes also called the Great Oxygenation Event, Oxygen Catastrophe, Oxygen Crisis, Oxygen Holocaust, or Oxygen Revolution, was a time period when the Earth's atmosphere and the shallow ocean experienced a rise in oxygen, approximately 2.4 billion years ago (2.4 Ga) to 2.1–2.0 Ga during the Paleoproterozoic era. Geological, isotopic, and chemical evidence suggests that biologically induced molecular oxygen (dioxygen, O2) started to accumulate in Earth's atmosphere and changed Earth's atmosphere from a weakly reducing atmosphere to an oxidizing atmosphere, causing almost all life on Earth to go extinct. The cyanobacteria producing the oxygen caused the event which enabled the subsequent development of multicellular forms.
- "Great Oxidation Event" | 2019-07-21 | 64 Upvotes 24 Comments
You don't know ice. Neither do I, apparently
Ice is water frozen into a solid state. Depending on the presence of impurities such as particles of soil or bubbles of air, it can appear transparent or a more or less opaque bluish-white color.
In the Solar System, ice is abundant and occurs naturally from as close to the Sun as Mercury to as far away as the Oort cloud objects. Beyond the Solar System, it occurs as interstellar ice. It is abundant on Earth's surface – particularly in the polar regions and above the snow line – and, as a common form of precipitation and deposition, plays a key role in Earth's water cycle and climate. It falls as snowflakes and hail or occurs as frost, icicles or ice spikes.
Ice molecules can exhibit eighteen or more different phases (packing geometries) that depend on temperature and pressure. When water is cooled rapidly (quenching), up to three different types of amorphous ice can form depending on the history of its pressure and temperature. When cooled slowly correlated proton tunneling occurs below −253.15 °C (20 K, −423.67 °F) giving rise to macroscopic quantum phenomena. Virtually all the ice on Earth's surface and in its atmosphere is of a hexagonal crystalline structure denoted as ice Ih (spoken as "ice one h") with minute traces of cubic ice denoted as ice Ic. The most common phase transition to ice Ih occurs when liquid water is cooled below 0 °C (273.15 K, 32 °F) at standard atmospheric pressure. It may also be deposited directly by water vapor, as happens in the formation of frost. The transition from ice to water is melting and from ice directly to water vapor is sublimation.
Ice is used in a variety of ways, including cooling, winter sports and ice sculpture.
- "You don't know ice. Neither do I, apparently" | 2014-07-23 | 13 Upvotes 11 Comments
Kola Superdeep Borehole
The Kola Superdeep Borehole (Russian: Кольская сверхглубокая скважина) is the result of a scientific drilling project of the Soviet Union in the Pechengsky District, on the Kola Peninsula. The project attempted to drill as deep as possible into the Earth's crust. Drilling began on 24 May 1970 using the Uralmash-4E, and later the Uralmash-15000 series drilling rig. Boreholes were drilled by branching from a central hole. The deepest, SG-3, reached 12,262 metres (40,230 ft; 7.619 mi) in 1989 and is the deepest artificial point on Earth. The borehole is 23 centimetres (9 in) in diameter.
In terms of true vertical depth, it is the deepest borehole in the world. For two decades it was also the world's longest borehole in terms of measured depth along the well bore, until it was surpassed in 2008 by the 12,289-metre-long (40,318 ft) Al Shaheen oil well in Qatar, and in 2011 by the 12,345-metre-long (40,502 ft) Sakhalin-I Odoptu OP-11 Well (offshore from the Russian island of Sakhalin).
- "Kola Superdeep Borehole" | 2018-06-18 | 57 Upvotes 67 Comments
Oil drilling: Wrong coordinate system creates lake 1,300 feet deep (1980)
Lake Peigneur (locally pronounced [pæ̃j̃æ̹ɾ]) is a brackish lake in the U.S. state of Louisiana, 1.2 miles (1.9 kilometers) north of Delcambre and 9.1 mi (14.6 km) west of New Iberia, near the northernmost tip of Vermilion Bay. With a maximum depth of 200 feet (60 meters), it is the deepest lake in Louisiana.
It was a 10-foot-deep (3 m) freshwater body, popular with sportsmen, until an unusual man-made disaster on November 20, 1980 changed its structure and the surrounding land.
- "Oil drilling: Wrong coordinate system creates lake 1,300 feet deep (1980)" | 2018-11-30 | 32 Upvotes 3 Comments