Bombardments from outer space shaped the atmosphere

For the first few billion years of the Earth’s existence, the weather forecast was cloudy with a chance of asteroid. Geochemists have presumed for some time that this flurry of strikes altered the chemistry of the nascent atmosphere, but new research now offers clues as to how. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, a … Continue reading Bombardments from outer space shaped the atmosphere

Using AI to probe the dawn of animal life

A joint Australian-US team has a plan to use AI to understand the oldest complex fossils on Earth – and they’ve just received a cool US$300,000 (about $410,000) grant from NASA to do it. The natural archive of Earth’s geological record contains fossils and other signals of living creatures, which helps us understand the evolutionary … Continue reading Using AI to probe the dawn of animal life

Animal? Vegetable? Now mineral.

All other photos in this story by Ian Connellan. On a hillside just west of the Flinders Ranges, geologist Mary Droser lounges casually on a slab of 550-million-year-old sandstone. The sun has just hit its golden afternoon angle; it illuminates squiggled lines in the rocks, throwing into sharp contrast some of the earliest evidence for … Continue reading Animal? Vegetable? Now mineral.

Indigenous knowledge and the persistence of the ‘wilderness’ myth

By Michael-Shawn Fletcher, Lisa Palmer, Rebecca Hamilton, and Wolfram Dressler. According to the Oxford English dictionary, wilderness is defined as: A wild or uncultivated region or tract of land, uninhabited, or inhabited only by wild animals; “a tract of solitude and savageness”. Aboriginal people in Australia view wilderness, or what is called “wild country”, as … Continue reading Indigenous knowledge and the persistence of the ‘wilderness’ myth

Geological cold case solved by supercontinents

Geologists from the University of Adelaide think they know why cold eclogites vanished for 600 million years – and it’s all to do with the very first supercontinent. “Cold eclogites mysteriously disappeared from the Earth’s rock record between 1.8 and 1.2 billion years ago,” says Derrick Hasterok, a geologist and co-author of the new study … Continue reading Geological cold case solved by supercontinents

Why are there earthquakes in Australia?

This morning, residents in south-eastern Australia felt the earth shake beneath them for about 20 seconds. The magnitude 5.8-6.0 earthquake was centred 10km below Mansfield, 129km from Melbourne. Two later shakes, understood to be aftershocks, registered at magnitudes of 4.0 and 3.1. Gary Gibson, a seismologist at the University of Melbourne, told ABC Radio that … Continue reading Why are there earthquakes in Australia?

Sir Tannatt William Edgeworth David – knight in the old brown hat

In 1920, Tannatt William Edgeworth David was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  This gave biographer David Branagan one element for the title of his 2005 book, T.W. Edgeworth David: a Life: Geologist, Adventurer, Soldier and Knight in the Old Brown Hat. As for “the old brown hat”, Branagan explains … Continue reading Sir Tannatt William Edgeworth David – knight in the old brown hat

Searching for the dawn of animal life

Drone footage courtesy of Associate Prof Diego C. García-Bellido (South Australian Museum/University of Adelaide). If you climbed down through the branches of the evolutionary tree, from child to parent for countless generations, you would eventually meet the greatest-grandparent of us all. But when did that animal evolve? And would we know it when we saw … Continue reading Searching for the dawn of animal life

Ice age relics discovered beneath the North Sea

Scientists have created spectacular maps of drowned worlds beneath the North Sea, revealing enormous channels forged during the last ice age. “In the way that we can leave footprints in the sand, glaciers leave an imprint on the land upon which they flow,” explains James Kirkham, a geophysicist from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and … Continue reading Ice age relics discovered beneath the North Sea

Ancient lava reveals secrets of Earth’s magnetic field cycle

A study from the University of Liverpool has added to the growing corpus of evidence that Earth’s magnetic field is subject to a roughly 200-million-year-long cycle of highs and lows. The researchers used a suite of techniques from the field of palaeomagnetism – the study of past variations in Earth’s fluxing magnetic field – to … Continue reading Ancient lava reveals secrets of Earth’s magnetic field cycle

Deep diamonds have surprise organic composition

While most diamonds are formed beneath continents, at depths between 150 and 300 kilometres, a paper published in Scientific Reports has shown that two rarer types of diamond – those found in oceanic rocks, and those that form more than 300 kilometres below the continental crust – have a common, and unexpected, origin. The team … Continue reading Deep diamonds have surprise organic composition

The uncomfortable balance between biodiversity and carbon capture

Two of the most pressing environmental problems of the 21st Century – climate change and biodiversity loss – are even more strongly linked than generally realised, scientists from two United Nations panels concluded in a report issued in June. That’s a concern, because it means that efforts to solve climate change can have unintended impacts … Continue reading The uncomfortable balance between biodiversity and carbon capture