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  • richardmitnick 9:29 am on June 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Clues to the impact of climate change may seep from a volcano in Costa Rica", Another NASA scientist-Florian Schwandner- had been the first one to propose studying carbon fertilization on a tropical volcano’s shoulders., Every year tropical forests soak up more than 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide., Michigan Tech University, Research suggests that higher concentrations of the gas could actually protect forests., Rincón de la Vieja- an active volcano in Costa Rica, The constant low-level discharges of carbon dioxide from volcanoes might bathe surrounding forests in enough gas to run an enhancement experiment “for free.”, ,   

    From The Washington Post via Michigan Tech University: “Clues to the impact of climate change may seep from a volcano in Costa Rica” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    From The Washington Post

    June 8, 2020
    Daniel Grossman

    1
    Steam and hot gases rise from the crater of Rincón de la Vieja, an active volcano in Costa Rica. Two scientific teams are measuring the carbon dioxide that seeps from cracks in the volcano’s foundation to determine its impact on the surrounding tropical forest. (Dado Galdieri/Hilaea Media)

    Chad Deering trudges up a dry river channel on the north side of Rincón de la Vieja, one of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes. He wears a baseball cap emblazoned with the phrase Semper Fi, a token of his tour of duty with the Marines, and lugs a peculiar apparatus, part of a sensitive gas-testing kit, that looks more like a metal mixing bowl. The bedrock here is smooth lava, a lifeless tear in the rainforest that blankets Rincón de la Vieja’s flanks.

    Along with two teams of scientists, Deering is pursuing not potential volcanic drama but something imperceptibly gradual — carbon dioxide seeping invisibly from cracks in the volcano’s foundation and exposing the surrounding environment. The question is whether that elevated exposure is a positive, a negative or neither — and what it might mean for the fate of tropical forests globally.

    The stability of the world’s climate depends in part on these areas.

    2

    3

    4
    TOP: Ecologist Josh Fisher, left, and graduate students Nel Rodriguez Sepulveda and Katie Nelson traverse one of Rincón de la Vieja’s slopes. MIDDLE: Graduate students Nel Rodriguez Sepulveda, left, and Katie Nelson walk near the volcano. They and other researchers are measuring carbon dioxide levels around Rincón de la Vieja. BOTTOM: A scientist gauges the airflow in the tropical forest surrounding the volcano. (Dado Galdieri/Hilaea Media)

    Every year, tropical forests soak up more than 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a substantial share of what’s emitted by power plants, industrial smokestacks and vehicle exhaust pipes. Yet how increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall will affect them long term remains unclear.

    While many climate scientists believe that tropical forests will begin to absorb progressively less CO2, other research suggests that higher concentrations of the gas could actually protect them, an idea dubbed carbon fertilization.

    In Costa Rica’s natural laboratory, a dense, steamy tangle in the country’s northwest corner, the teams hope to get closer to the answer. The issue is “one of the biggest uncertainties in climate projections of the fate of the planet,” says NASA scientist Josh Fisher, the ecologist leading the trek. He believes the study “could be a game changer.”

    If extra carbon dioxide revs up Rincón de La Vieja’s jungle, the teams should find bigger trees, more carbon-dense species or some combination where gas levels are particularly high. One group is working on the volcano’s wetter north side and the other on its drier south side, to better assess and then compare two different ecosystems.

    But how to tease out other conditions that also can affect tree growth and the species mix, including altitude and soil moisture? U.S. Forest Service biologist Michael Keller, a tropical forests expert who, though unaffiliated with the project, is following it closely, says such confounding factors make the research a “high risk” experiment.

    Still, he considers it a creative approach to the urgent problem of forecasting the tropical “carbon sink.”

    Research needs data. And on this day, the north-flank team has hit a snag getting it. The river bed has become a deep canyon that abruptly ends beneath sheer walls. The one woman and five men huddle over a computer tablet with a high-resolution map of their intended route.

    Deering, a volcanologist from Michigan Technological University, stabs a finger swollen with bug bites at a spot tantalizingly close but inaccessible. “I want to be here,” he says.

    5
    Graduate student Jacob Bonessi inputs data after measuring carbon dioxide levels around Rincón de la Vieja. (Dado Galdieri/Hilaea Media)

    A crazy idea

    Another NASA scientist had been the first one to propose studying carbon fertilization on a tropical volcano’s shoulders. Several years earlier, Florian Schwandner had helped the Philippines set up a successful network for detecting early symptoms of eruptions of 8,000-foot Mount Mayon, with sensors to track the flow of carbon dioxide from faults in its foundation. (One telltale sign of an oncoming eruption is when that flow suddenly increases.)

    At the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California, the volcanologist hoped satellite-based measurements of carbon dioxide releases would provide early warnings around the world. His research group was filled with ecologists and frequent discussion of trees’ carbon sink, although nobody knew how to forecast the sink’s future.

    A certain kind of experiment often came up in conversation: spraying extra carbon dioxide into a forest parcel to study how trees respond. Such carbon-enhancement trials had been run often in the United States and in other temperate regions and had shown that extra carbon dioxide sometimes increased forest growth.

    The studies’ relevance for tropical forests was uncertain, but the huge logistical costs of trying to replicate them in remote equatorial areas had been prohibitive.

    An alternative solution dawned on Schwandner in 2016. The constant low-level discharges of carbon dioxide from volcanoes might bathe surrounding forests in enough gas to run an enhancement experiment “for free.” He emailed Fisher, proposing a “compellingly crazy carbon fertilization idea.” Four years later, with funding from NASA, it was finally a go.

    Schwandner, Fisher, and several other scientists and graduate students recruited for the project spent months scouring geological studies and satellite images of Costa Rica, hunting for faults and vents where the 6,286-foot-tall Rincón de la Vieja might be exhaling CO2 onto its rainforest carpet. They pinpointed 16 likely regions.

    Stewing in CO2

    Deep in the jungle, Deering’s team has doubled back, retracing their steps along the river bed and away from the canyon walls. They soon discover a trail near the spot he pointed out. Their local guide, a botanist, says a tapir probably made it foraging for fruit and leaves.

    Deering and graduate student Jacob Bonessi are taking dozens of CO2 measurements daily. They stop not far from a pile of fresh tapir dung. Deering tightly clamps the metal chamber he carries onto a patch of damp jungle soil. An umbilical cord of hoses channels soil exhalations into the apparatus on his back. Buzzing over bird calls, a pump inside the case draws the gas into an instrument that computes the concentration of carbon dioxide wafting up from the ground.

    The pair gaze for a few minutes at the forest’s emerald palms and twined strangler figs. A troop of howler monkeys can be heard in the distance.

    Bonessi checks the reading, displayed on a tablet linked by Bluetooth to the electronics on Deering’s back.

    “What you got?” asks Deering. “One point one four six,” Bonessi answers. “Big time!”

    Deering whoops his enthusiasm. The number is one of the highest they’ve seen.

    6
    Volcanologist Chad Deering walks through the tropical rainforest with a gas-testing kit. (Dado Galdieri/Hilaea Media)

    All over the planet, soil exudes carbon dioxide. It’s a waste product that microbes and subterranean fauna churn out while generating energy from oxygen and nutrients. But what the scientists have detected is well above the background level seeping from the soil here. This is the type of spot, infused with extra carbon dioxide from the volcano’s fractured rock, they were looking for. The trees here are stewing in it.

    The team — traveling only with small backpacks stuffed with lunch, gear for measuring trees and bug repellent — heads to another targeted destination a few minutes uphill. Fisher dons a pair of snake-resistant chaps after a close call with a rattlesnake. Fina Soper, an ecologist and professor at McGill University, wears a custom neckerchief to protect against mosquitoes and ticks. “Badass Biogeochemists,” it reads.

    At each stop, they record the diameter of all trees bigger than a sapling inside a plot the shape and size of a soccer pitch’s center circle. Soper struggles one afternoon with an uncooperative tape measure, a special forester’s rule purchased just for this trip. She loops the metal ribbon around a trunk as broad and true as a Greek temple’s column. But the band won’t retract.

    “It figures that I’d break the most low-tech device I’ve used in my life,” she mutters, tugging on loops of the snarled steel.

    By gathering detailed observations from many sites — each exposed to a unique combination of influences — she and the others are trying to account or control for the factors that influence tree heft. They’ll then tease out the effect of each factor, especially the one that concerns them most: greater carbon dioxide.

    Fisher hopes to vastly ramp up their observations, if this initial expedition pans out, with return trips using one of the most advanced drones flown by NASA. Meanwhile, they painstakingly probe Rincón de la Vieja’s secrets. Ten days of slashing and slogging will yield the diameters of 952 trees between the two groups of scientists. Back home, they’ll calculate the mass of carbon stored in the wood of each plot using standard formulas.

    “It’s good,” Fisher says halfway through the expedition. “Everyone’s healthy. Everyone’s happy. Equipment is working.” But as he well knows, a technical problem could upend the good fortune at any time. And then, he adds with a laugh, “We’ll all be fighting with each other. And everything will go to hell.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 10:47 am on March 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Catechols, , Michigan Tech University, Mimic the wet-but-still-sticky proteins secreted by mussels., Take an underwater smart glue prototype from sticky to not in seven seconds., Turning adhesion on and off is what makes a glue smart.   

    From Michigan Technical University: “MTU Engineers Zap and Unstick Underwater Smart Glue” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    From Michigan Technical University

    February 27, 2020
    Allison Mills

    1
    Bruce Lee.MTU.

    With a small zap of electricity, biomedical engineers at Michigan Technological University take an underwater smart glue prototype from sticky to not in seven seconds.

    Turning adhesion on and off is what makes a glue smart. It’s one thing to do this in the open air and quite another under water. Inspired by nature, catechols are synthetic compounds that mimic the wet-but-still-sticky proteins secreted by mussels and offer promise for smart adhesives that work in water. The technology could help with underwater glue, wound dressings, prosthetic attachments or even making car parts and in other manufacturing.

    3
    4
    Biomedical engineers Bruce Lee and Saleh Akram Bhuiyan test catechol-containing adhesives to make underwater smart glue. MTU.

    Bruce Lee, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech, is a part of the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Young Investigator Program (YIP) and showed how to use pH to make smart underwater adhesives. Along with doctoral researcher Saleh Akram Bhuiyan, Lee developed a new method using an electrical current to turn off the adhesion of a catechol-containing material.

    The team’s findings came out in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and detailed the stickiest part of the process — creating a repeatable contact mechanics test that can measure adhesion before and after a jolt of electricity.

    “A lot of people have been using catechol to mimic mussels and their adhesive proteins, but applying electricity to deactivate it is new,” Lee said. “It’s more convenient than using pH like what we were using before and it should be easier to integrate with electronic devices, which means detaching could be automated and could be as simple as pushing a button.”

    Catechols for Smart Glue

    One day catechol adhesives may help attach equipment to the hulls of submarines but testing prototypes in scuba gear isn’t how new tech gets created. Instead, Lee and Bhuiyan need to control a suite of variables in a small lab space. Simple as it sounds, running a current through a material and checking its stickiness is actually quite difficult to do over and over again.

    Bhuiyan developed a setup that uses a titanium sphere and a platinum wire electrode to apply electrical stimulation to the adhesive that is in contact with the sphere in the presence of salty water. This method makes it easy to control the voltage applied through the wire, glue and sphere as well as how salty the water is around them. The amount of time the current runs is also important. With more time, voltage and salt, the more the catechol adhesives gets oxidized and the less adhesive it becomes. With strong enough voltage, the glue detaches in only seven seconds.

    “The novelty is application of the electricity and the short amount of time it takes to detach,” Bhuiyan said. “What I find most unusual about the experiment is the color change. It starts white and when I apply the electricity and the material is deactivated, it oxidizes and turns a red color — and we really like to see that red color.”

    The next step in the research will be taking that red and trying to turn it back into white. The hallmark of a smart glue is not only deactivating adhesion, but turning it back on. Lee and doctoral graduate Ameya Narkar were able to accomplish this feat by playing with pH, which earned them the Bhakta Rath Research Award, and Bhuiyan hopes to apply the lessons from that research to using electrical current.

    From painless bandages to underwater glue, from automotive gear to prosthetic limbs, catechol-containing adhesives are versatile and promising materials.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus
    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:24 am on June 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cindy Fiser, Michigan Tech University,   

    From Michigan Tech: Women in Science – “”Michigan Tech Undergrad Wins EPA Research Fellowship” Cindy Fiser 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    Bees are dying, and Cindy Fiser wants to know why. Now the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is helping her look for answers.

    [NO IMAGE FOR CINDY FISER AVAILABLE]

    Fiser, a fourth-year applied ecology and environmental sciences major in Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, has been named a winner of the EPA’s Greater Research Opportunities Undergraduate Fellowship. The award provides financial support as well as a summer internship with the EPA at one of three locations.

    In Fiser’s case, Colorado will be her home for the next 12 weeks. There, she will get to lead her own research project, a study of bees, focusing on alternative treatments to pesticides and herbicides, such as native predators and grass buffers around areas of agriculture.

    “Pesticides and herbicides may harm the environment by potentially contaminating native pollinators or predators and their habitat on site, as well as the surrounding rivers and streams,” Fiser explains She is hoping alternative treatment approaches will help bring back the diminishing bee population.

    For the past three years Fiser has worked with Michigan Tech PhD student Colin Phifer as a research field assistant. She traveled with Phifer to Wisconsin and Brazil. Phifer also studies bees, more specifically how “land use change associated with bioenergy feedstocks impacts both birds and native bees.” This work prepared Fiser for her EPA research project.

    Graduate Student Mentor

    It was Phifer who suggested she apply for the EPA fellowship. “I’m very proud of her,” he says. “I brought the EPA fellowship to her attention and then mentored her in how to begin the application process. But Cindy did all the work: she worked very hard to draft, edit and revise a winning application.”

    “Cindy is bright and extremely focused,” Phifer continued. “She’s almost self-taught on insect identification, and she is well prepared for her own project. She has the skills to develop research questions and testable hypotheses, to design a project to test those ideas and to complete the research. I expect her to excel in her EPA position and beyond. I will soon be working for her.”

    Fiser spent a semester in Alberta Village near L’anse. The Integrated Field Practicum or “Fall Camp” brings students from various environmental disciplines together to work collecting data and writing a group final research paper. The experience allows students to learn from each other, providing an understanding of other fields of study.

    “Cindy is one of those rare undergraduates who possess a level of maturity, confidence and capacity for responsibility and leadership, that one sees only every few years in my position,” says David Flaspohler, professor of forest resources and environmental sciences and Fiser’s advisor. “She is a future leader in ecological and environmental science.”

    Environmental Problems, Research Solutions

    “I want to get out there and do something,” Fiser says. “This is the first time I get to go to the public with information on the environmental problems we face and find a potential solution. I am excited to head my own project, and hopefully the results will make a positive change.”

    Fiser hopes that other students interested in the environment to look into all the opportunities Michigan Tech has for them. “In the Forestry building we are like our own community,” she says. “Professors care about you and how you are doing. They make themselves available.”

    Fiser is especially grateful for the hands-on education she has received from Flaspohler and from Kathleen Halvorsen, professor of natural resource policy, and Christopher Webster, professor of forest resources and environmental science, as well as Phifer. She worked for the past two summers with Halvorsen, who is director of the Partnerships in International Research and Education (PIRE) program. She says this experience has provided her with a wealth of useful tools that she can now apply to her research project with the EPA.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus
    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on July 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Michigan Tech University,   

    From Michigan Tech: “Connecting People and Geology on Volcanoes” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    July 30, 2015
    Allison Mills

    1
    Eruptions are not the only danger on volcano slopes, landslides are a major geohazard as well. Credit: Jose Fredy Cruz

    In October 2011, heavy rainfall poured down the sides of El Salvador’s San Vicente Volcano, nearly four feet of water in 12 days. Coffee plantation employees, working high up on the volcano’s slope began noticing surface cracks forming on steep slopes and in coffee plantations. Cracks herald landslides—places where the wet, heavy upper layers, saturated with water, slide over the less-permeable rocky layers underneath. The workers radioed downslope, keeping close tabs on the rainfall gauge network.

    Luke Bowman was also there, helping direct radio calls and conducting fieldwork. Bowman, who recently defended his doctoral research in geology at Michigan Technological University, studies geohazards on San Vicente. The Journal of Applied Volcanology recently published some of his research, co-authored by Kari Henquinet, director of the Michigan Tech Peace Corps Master’s International Program and a senior lecturer in the Department of Social Sciences. Their work combines traditional hazard assessments with social science techniques to develop a more in-depth understanding of the risks present at San Vicente Volcano in El Salvador.

    San Vicente

    Fire, brimstone and destruction dominate the portrayal of volcanoes around the world. But in reality, a number of people live on their slopes. For these communities, eruptions are only one of the risks—other geohazards like landslides (lahars) and flooding pose more frequent threats.

    The 2011 rainstorms in El Salvador are a case in point as well as a testament to the importance of expanding geohazards studies to include the people they affect.

    “In 2009, as heavy rains fell on San Vicente volcano, most people were waiting for civil protection to issue a warning—and that warning never came,” Bowman says, adding that a landslide crashed down the volcano that year, and many communities within the five municipalities that encompass the northern flank of the volcano were affected, with homes and properties destroyed, infrastructure damaged and lives lost.

    2

    “Now, after significant changes in monitoring and reporting hazards, local residents are the ones who gather the rainfall rate data, who measure the cracks and who report it around the community to each other,” Bowman says. “I think it gives people some say in the decisions being made.”

    Empowering communities is part of what Bowman hopes to do with his research, but he says it goes beyond just including local citizens in data gathering.

    “No matter how good the science is, or how well we can predict where a hazard could occur, there’s still a human component we shouldn’t ignore,” Bowman says, adding that local communities often have a stronger working knowledge of a place than outside researchers. He says researchers can be of greater help when they have a clearer understanding of the broader social and cultural context of geohazards.
    Social Geology

    Merging geoscience and social science research is called “social geology”—a term coined by Bill Rose, professor-emeritus in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech. The interdisciplinary work is a key part of the research conducted by both Rose and John Gierke, the chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences.

    “Most people think of geologists as just going out and identifying rocks,” Gierke says, explaining that geoscience is much broader and that researchers try to understand how the earth works. “And there’s a growing interest in having a stronger connection between physical science work and the impacts on communities.”

    Gierke, who was Bowman’s PhD co-advisor with Rose, says bridging the social and physical worlds is a focus of the studies in Michigan Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International Program. Bowman, who served in the Peace Corps in Honduras before his graduate studies, is a model for other geoscience and Peace Corps students looking to broaden their physical science research.

    Ethnography

    Incorporating social science techniques—like ethnographic interviews and participatory observations of community meetings—is no easy feat for physical scientists, who have not been trained to think that way. Collaboration is important, and Henquinet worked with Bowman on his volcanology research to round out his social science data gathering methodology.

    “The ethnographic approach is immersion,” Henquinet says, explaining researchers have to learn in the field and adjust their work accordingly. “It’s an approach that’s exploratory, grounded in reality and the context that people live in, so you’re not isolating or manipulating an experiment in a lab.”

    For the San Vicente studies, Bowman analyzed quantitative physical data—everything from rainfall to slope stability calculations—along with qualitative social data from one-on-one interviews, community gatherings and key documents. As a result, he and Henquinet were able to delve deeper into the socio-economic limits that forced people to live in active landslide zones. That also enabled them to suggest more realistic evacuation plans and emergency protocols because the local communities were invested participants in the work, plus social vulnerability was accounted for in addition to geophysical vulnerability.

    “At the end of the day, there are a lot of political issues that have to be considered in understanding vulnerability and inequalities,” Henquinet says, explaining that the San Vicente research is a small step across a big gap in socio-economic conditions. “Countries like El Salvador are rich with people with ideas—if we want to give these ideas a chance in combating poverty, then give people who live there more voice to work in partnerships.”

    Although small in the world’s grand scheme of politics and volcanoes, San Vicente is an example of how people can make a difference. Henquinet and Bowman both say they hope their research has contributed to those changes and that more physical scientists are inspired to collaborate with social scientists too.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus
    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:20 am on June 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Michigan Tech University   

    From Michigan Tech: “Clues to the Earth’s Ancient Core” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    June 4, 2015
    Allison Mills

    1
    Aleksey Smirnov drills into an outcrop in Australia’s Widgiemooltha dike swarm.

    Old rocks hold on to their secrets. Now, a geophysicist at Michigan Technological University has unlocked clues trapped in the magnetic signatures of mineral grains in those rocks.. These clues will help clear up the murky history of the Earth’s early core.

    The journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters published a paper on the subject earlier this year. Aleksey Smirnov, an associate professor of geophysics and adjunct associate professor of physics at Michigan Tech, led the study. The work is a part of a large research program led by Smirnov and supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), including his CAREER Award, a prestigious NSF grant. Through this work, he has traveled the world seeking rocks that provide insight into the ancient earth’s core.

    Earth’s Ancient Geodynamo

    The magnetic field comes from the earth’s core: The solid inner core, made of iron, spins and powers convective currents in the liquid outer core. Those currents create the magnetic field, and the system is called the geodynamo.

    “At any point, the field can be described by its direction and strength,” Smirnov says, adding that the modern magnetic field is weaker than that of a refrigerator magnet and that intensity has changed throughout geologic time. “What we call paleointensity in our paper refers to the field’s strength,” he explains.

    Smirnov and his co-author, David Evans of Yale University, examined the paleointensity measurements of rocks more than two billion years old. Rocks that old record a magnetic field from a rather mysterious geodynamo.

    That’s because the core didn’t always have a solid center — it used to be all liquid. And being liquid would make for a weak, chaotic magnetic field.

    “What happened at some point, because the earth is constantly cooling, the center formed a small, solid inner core,” Smirnov says. “But this event is uncertain in terms of timing.”

    A number of models analyze what this timing could have been, but they estimate any time between half a billion years ago and three billion years ago — which is like saying an adolescent will hit puberty sometime between ages 8 to 30. To better pinpoint the timing of the inner core’s formation, Smirnov scours the world for old Precambrian rocks.

    Magnetic Records in Rocks

    Smirnov focuses on rocks that are not just old, but magnetic, and he tests the samples in the Earth Magnetism Lab at Michigan Tech. Within the lab is a room, built above the concrete floor and boxed in with a special steel alloy — it’s a metal-free zone. Inside the room, Smirnov uses a magnetometer: a device that measures magnetic properties in rocks and, more specifically, their iron-rich minerals.

    2

    Magnetite is an iron oxide with magnetic properties, and when it crystallizes in a rock, it records the strength and orientation of the earth’s magnetic field. Some rocks record this better than others; an ideal rock cools fast and is well-preserved.

    “Because of the rarity of well-preserved extrusive Precambrian rocks,” Smirnov writes in his paper, “relatively quickly cooled shallow intrusions such as mafic dikes and sills represent an attractive alternative target for paleointensity studies.”

    The rocks Smirnov and his team sampled in Australia’s Widgiemooltha dike swarm are the best available, considering the cluster of intrusive rock formations has been eroded, buried and baked over the past two billion years. The dike swarm is important because the Widgiemooltha rocks, collected from 24 different field sites, contain key magnetite grains. After some time in the lab’s magnetometer, the minerals begin to reveal their long-held magnetic secrets.

    Basal Mantle Ocean and Beyond

    Given the rocks’ age and the chaotic nature of the early magnetic field, Smirnov predicted the paleointensity recorded in the magnetite grains would be weak. However, he and his team found the paleointensity readings were relatively strong.

    “This contradicts the models that show a young solid inner core — and right now, that’s a mystery,” Smirnov says. Although, he adds, there is a new theory that is consistent with this data.

    In the basal mantle ocean theory, the boundary between the solid mantle — the bulk of earth’s interior — and the early earth’s core could have been swaddled in a dense layer of partially melted rock. The difference in composition and density could have been enough to jumpstart a stronger magnetic field.

    Delving deeper into the core’s evolution has significance beyond the earth’s interior, too. The magnetic field helps protect life on earth from cosmic radiation. Understanding the ancient geodynamo could also expand our knowledge of earth’s earliest life. Smirnov plans to study that connection — and more exceptionally old rocks — in the next leg of his research.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus
    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:33 am on January 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Michigan Tech University,   

    From Michigan Tech: “Flashes from Faster-than-Light Spots May Help Illuminate Astronomical Secrets” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    January 12, 2015
    Jennifer Donovan

    If you sweep a laser pointer across the Moon fast enough, you can create spots that actually move faster than light. Anyone can do it.

    At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Wash., today, Robert Nemiroff, a physics professor at Michigan Technological University, reported that this theoretical curiosity may turn out to be practically useful out in the cosmos. When a superluminal sweep occurs, it typically starts with a flash that may reveal previously unknown three-dimensional information about the scattering object.

    Flashes, dubbed “photonic booms” because they are directly analogous to sonic booms, may be detectable on the Moon, on passing asteroids, on fast moving shadows cast on reflecting dust clouds near variable stars, and on objects illuminated by the rapidly rotating beam of a pulsar, said Nemiroff, author of a study accepted for publication by the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, with a preliminary version available online. “And if detected, we could learn more about all of these objects,” said Nemiroff.

    “The concept, although not proven in practice, is quite intriguing,” said Rosanne Di Stefano, a leading researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    To reveal the size and surface features of asteroids passing near the Earth, a laser beam might be swept across the rock’s surface thousands of times a second, with each sweep forcing a harmless but telling photonic boom. The flashes could be recorded with high-speed cameras attached to large telescopes, potentially mapping out major features on the asteroid.

    Photonic booms could also be seen much farther out in the universe. An example occurs in Hubble’s Variable Nebula in the constellation of Monoceros. There, shadows cast by clouds moving between the bright star “R Mon” and reflecting dust move so fast that they might create photonics booms visible even for days or weeks.

    1
    Hubble’s Variable Nebula. Image: William Sparks (STScI), Sylvia Baggett (STScI) et al.,
    & the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/ STScI/ NASA)

    The physics that creates the photonic boom is tied to the faster-than-light sweep speeds of the illuminating spots and cast shadows. Specifically, a flash is seen by an observer when the speed of the scattered spot toward the observer drops from above the speed of light to below the speed of light. The phenomenon is possible only because the spots contain no mass and so cannot only move faster than light, but decelerate past the speed of light without violating Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

    Details of the effect hinge on the interplay between the time it takes for a sweeping light beam to cross an object, and the time it takes for the light beam to traverse the depth of the object. Therefore, measuring photonic booms gives information about the depth of the scatterer. Were the Moon just a flat disk on the sky, for example, no photonics boom would occur.

    “Photonic booms happen around us quite frequently — but they are always too brief to notice,” says Nemiroff. “Out in the cosmos they last long enough to notice — but nobody has thought to look for them!”

    The light flash from a photonic boom is quite different from well-known Cherenkov radiation, light emitted when a charged object breaks the speed of light inside transparent matter, he notes.

    2
    Cherenkov radiation glowing in the core of the Advanced Test Reactor.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus
    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:02 pm on January 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Michigan Tech University   

    From Michigan Tech: “Flashes from Faster-than-Light Spots May Help Illuminate Astronomical Secrets” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    January 8, 2015
    Jennifer Donovan

    h
    Hubble’s Variable Nebula. Image: William Sparks (STScI), Sylvia Baggett (STScI) et al.,
    & the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/ STScI/ NASA)

    If you sweep a laser pointer across the Moon fast enough, you can create spots that actually move faster than light. Anyone can do it.

    At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Wash., today, Robert Nemiroff, a physics professor at Michigan Technological University, reported that this theoretical curiosity may turn out to be practically useful out in the cosmos. When a superluminal sweep occurs, it typically starts with a flash that may reveal previously unknown three-dimensional information about the scattering object.

    Flashes, dubbed “photonic booms” because they are directly analogous to sonic booms, may be detectable on the Moon, on passing asteroids, on fast moving shadows cast on reflecting dust clouds near variable stars, and on objects illuminated by the rapidly rotating beam of a pulsar, said Nemiroff, author of a study accepted for publication by the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, with a preliminary version available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1412.7581. “And if detected, we could learn more about all of these objects,” said Nemiroff.

    “The concept, although not proven in practice, is quite intriguing,” said Rosanne Di Stefano, a leading researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    To reveal the size and surface features of asteroids passing near the Earth, a laser beam might be swept across the rock’s surface thousands of times a second, with each sweep forcing a harmless but telling photonic boom. The flashes could be recorded with high-speed cameras attached to large telescopes, potentially mapping out major features on the asteroid.

    Photonic booms could also be seen much farther out in the universe. An example occurs in Hubble’s Variable Nebula in the constellation of Monoceros. There, shadows cast by clouds moving between the bright star “R Mon” and reflecting dust move so fast that they might create photonics booms visible even for days or weeks.

    The physics that creates the photonic boom is tied to the faster-than-light sweep speeds of the illuminating spots and cast shadows. Specifically, a flash is seen by an observer when the speed of the scattered spot toward the observer drops from above the speed of light to below the speed of light. The phenomenon is possible only because the spots contain no mass and so cannot only move faster than light, but decelerate past the speed of light without violating [Albert] Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

    Details of the effect hinge on the interplay between the time it takes for a sweeping light beam to cross an object, and the time it takes for the light beam to traverse the depth of the object. Therefore, measuring photonic booms gives information about the depth of the scatterer. Were the Moon just a flat disk on the sky, for example, no photonics boom would occur.

    “Photonic booms happen around us quite frequently — but they are always too brief to notice,” says Nemiroff. “Out in the cosmos they last long enough to notice — but nobody has thought to look for them!”

    The light flash from a photonic boom is quite different from well-known Cherenkov radiation, light emitted when a charged object breaks the speed of light inside transparent matter, he notes.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus

    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.

    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
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