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  • richardmitnick 9:30 am on September 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Igneous provinces": giant fingerprints of volcanic igneous rock., , "What Killed Dinosaurs and Other Life on Earth?", A series of eruptions in what is now known as Siberia triggered the most destructive of the mass extinctions about 252 million years ago., , , , , , Dartmouth-led study fortifies link between mega volcanoes and mass extinctions., , , , Large igneous provinces releasa gigantic pulses of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nearly choking off all life., , , Paleogeology, The eruption rate of the Deccan Traps in India suggests that the stage was set for widespread extinction even without the asteroid., The total amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in modern climate change is still very much smaller than the amount emitted by a large igneous province., To count as “large” an igneous province must contain at least 100000 cubic kilometers of magma., Volcanic eruptions rocked the Indian subcontinent around the time of the great dinosaur die-off creating what is known today as the Deccan plateau.,   

    From Dartmouth College: “What Killed Dinosaurs and Other Life on Earth?” 

    From Dartmouth College

    Harini Barath

    Dartmouth-led study fortifies link between mega volcanoes and mass extinctions.

    The Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano, near Iceland’s capital of Reykjavík, erupted for six months in 2021, and also again in August. (Photo by Tanya Grypachevskaya/Unsplash Photo Community)

    The biological history of the Earth has been punctuated by mass extinctions that wiped out a vast majority of living species in a geological instant.

    Based on evidence in the fossil record, scientists have identified five such events that reshaped life on Earth, the most familiar of which brought about the demise of the mighty dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period 66 million years ago.

    What caused these catastrophes remains a matter of keen scientific debate. Some scientists argue that comets or asteroids that crashed into Earth were the most likely agents of mass destruction, while others point fingers at large volcanic eruptions.

    Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences Brenhin Keller belongs to the latter camp. In a new study published in PNAS [below], Keller and his co-authors make a strong case for volcanic activity being the key driver of mass extinctions. Their study provides the most compelling quantitative evidence so far that the link between major volcanic eruptions and wholesale species turnover is not simply a matter of chance.

    Four of the five mass extinctions are contemporaneous with a type of volcano called a flood basalt, the researchers say. These are a series of eruptions (or one giant one) that flood vast areas with lava in the blink of a geological eye, a mere million years. They leave behind giant fingerprints as evidence—extensive regions of step-like, igneous rock that geologists call large igneous provinces.

    To count as “large” an igneous province must contain at least 100,000 cubic kilometers of magma. For scale, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens involved less than one cubic kilometer of magma.

    In fact, a series of eruptions in what is now known as Siberia triggered the most destructive of the mass extinctions about 252 million years ago, releasing a gigantic pulse of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nearly choking off all life. Bearing witness are the Siberian Traps, a large region of volcanic rock roughly the size of Australia.

    Volcanic eruptions also rocked the Indian subcontinent around the time of the great dinosaur die-off creating what is known today as the Deccan plateau. This, much like an asteroid strike, would have had far-reaching global effects, blanketing the atmosphere in dust and toxic fumes, asphyxiating dinosaurs and other life.

    “It seems like these large igneous provinces line up in time with mass extinctions and other significant climactic and environmental events,” says Theodore Green ’21, lead author of the paper.

    On the other hand, the researchers say, the theories in favor of annihilation by asteroid impact hinge upon the Chicxulub impactor, a space rock that crash-landed into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula around the same time that the dinosaurs went extinct.

    “All other theories that attempted to explain what killed the dinosaurs got steamrolled when the crater the asteroid had gouged out was discovered,” says Keller. But there’s very little evidence of similar impact events that coincide with the other mass extinctions despite decades of exploration, he points out.

    For his Senior Fellowship thesis, Green set out to find a way to quantify the apparent link between eruptions and extinctions and test whether the coincidence was just chance or whether there was evidence of a causal relationship between the two. Working with Keller and co-author Paul Renne, professor of Earth and planetary science at the University of California-Berkeley, Green turned to the supercomputers at the Dartmouth Discovery Cluster to crunch the numbers.

    Discovery is a 3000+ core Linux cluster that is available to the Dartmouth research community.

    Discovery contains ‘C’ and FORTRAN compilers as well as third party applications. Requests to install additional application software are welcomed and should be directed to Research Computing.

    Job submissions on Discovery are submitted to a queue. A queuing system allows for more equitable allocation of resources and optimizes cpu usage. For more information see the Scheduling Jobs to Run page.

    Discovery is available for all Dartmouth faculty research including the Geisel School of Medicine, and professional schools.

    The researchers compared the best available estimates of flood basalt eruptions with periods of drastic species kill-off in the geological timescale, including but not limited to the five mass extinctions. To prove that the timing was more than a random chance, they examined whether the eruptions would line up just as well with a randomly generated pattern and repeated the exercise with 100 million such patterns. “Less than 1% of the simulated timelines agreed as well as the actual record of flood basalts and extinctions, suggesting the relationship is not just random chance,” says Green, who is now a graduate student at Princeton.

    But is this proof enough that volcanic flood basalts sparked extinctions? If there were a causal link, scientists expect that larger eruptions would entail more severe extinctions, but such a correlation has not been observed until now.

    By recasting how the severity of the eruptions is defined, the researchers make a convincing case to unequivocally incriminate volcanoes in their paper.

    Rather than considering the absolute magnitude of eruptions, they ordered the events by the rate at which they spewed lava and found that the ones with the highest eruptive rates did indeed cause the most destruction.

    “Our results make it hard to ignore the role of volcanism in extinction,” says Keller.

    Examples of flood basalt volcanism can be seen in what are known as Grande Ronde flows exposed in Joseph Canyon on the Oregon-Washington border. (Photo courtesy of Brenhin Keller)

    The researchers ran the numbers for asteroids too. The coincidence of impacts with periods of species turnover was significantly weaker, and only worsened when the Chicxulub impactor was not considered.

    The eruption rate of the Deccan Traps in India suggests that the stage was set for widespread extinction even without the asteroid, says Green. The impact was the double whammy that loudly sounded the death knell for the dinosaurs, he adds.

    Flood basalt eruptions aren’t common in the geologic record, says Green. The last one of comparable scale happened about 16 million years ago in the Pacific Northwest. But there are other sources of emissions that pose a threat in the present day, the researchers say.

    “While the total amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in modern climate change is still very much smaller than the amount emitted by a large igneous province, thankfully,” says Keller, “we’re emitting it very fast, which is reason to be concerned.”

    Green says that this rate of carbon dioxide emissions places climate change in the framework of historical periods of environmental catastrophe.

    Green describes Dartmouth’s Senior Fellowship program, which allows undergraduates to go beyond the curriculum in their senior year, as a unique opportunity to dive into a field of his choice and develop a taste for research.

    “This work is a great example of what Senior Fellows can achieve,” says Keller.

    Science paper:

    See the full article here .


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    Dartmouth College campus

    Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League research university in Hanover, New Hampshire. Established in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock, Dartmouth is one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution and among the most prestigious in the United States. Although founded to educate Native Americans in Christian theology and the English way of life, the university primarily trained Congregationalist ministers during its early history before it gradually secularized, emerging at the turn of the 20th century from relative obscurity into national prominence.

    Following a liberal arts curriculum, Dartmouth provides undergraduate instruction in 40 academic departments and interdisciplinary programs, including 60 majors in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering, and enables students to design specialized concentrations or engage in dual degree programs. In addition to the undergraduate faculty of arts and sciences, Dartmouth has four professional and graduate schools: the Geisel School of Medicine, the Thayer School of Engineering, the Tuck School of Business, and the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. The university also has affiliations with the Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center. Dartmouth is home to the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, the Hood Museum of Art, the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, and the Hopkins Center for the Arts. With a student enrollment of about 6,700, Dartmouth is the smallest university in the Ivy League. Undergraduate admissions are highly selective with an acceptance rate of 6.24% for the class of 2026, including a 4.7% rate for regular decision applicants.

    Situated on a terrace above the Connecticut River, Dartmouth’s 269-acre (109 ha) main campus is in the rural Upper Valley region of New England. The university functions on a quarter system, operating year-round on four ten-week academic terms. Dartmouth is known for its strong undergraduate focus, Greek culture, and wide array of enduring campus traditions. Its 34 varsity sports teams compete intercollegiately in the Ivy League conference of the NCAA Division I.

    Dartmouth is consistently cited as a leading university for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News & World Report. In 2021, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education listed Dartmouth as the only majority-undergraduate, arts-and-sciences focused, doctoral university in the country that has “some graduate coexistence” and “very high research activity”.

    The university has many prominent alumni, including 170 members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, 24 U.S. governors, 23 billionaires, 8 U.S. Cabinet secretaries, 3 Nobel Prize laureates, 2 U.S. Supreme Court justices, and a U.S. vice president. Other notable alumni include 79 Rhodes Scholars, 26 Marshall Scholarship recipients, and 14 Pulitzer Prize winners. Dartmouth alumni also include many CEOs and founders of Fortune 500 corporations, high-ranking U.S. diplomats, academic scholars, literary and media figures, professional athletes, and Olympic medalists.

    Comprising an undergraduate population of 4,307 and a total student enrollment of 6,350 (as of 2016), Dartmouth is the smallest university in the Ivy League. Its undergraduate program, which reported an acceptance rate around 10 percent for the class of 2020, is characterized by the Carnegie Foundation and U.S. News & World Report as “most selective”. Dartmouth offers a broad range of academic departments, an extensive research enterprise, numerous community outreach and public service programs, and the highest rate of study abroad participation in the Ivy League.

    Dartmouth, a liberal arts institution, offers a four-year Bachelor of Arts and ABET-accredited Bachelor of Engineering degree to undergraduate students. The college has 39 academic departments offering 56 major programs, while students are free to design special majors or engage in dual majors. For the graduating class of 2017, the most popular majors were economics, government, computer science, engineering sciences, and history. The Government Department, whose prominent professors include Stephen Brooks, Richard Ned Lebow, and William Wohlforth, was ranked the top solely undergraduate political science program in the world by researchers at The London School of Economics (UK) in 2003. The Economics Department, whose prominent professors include David Blanchflower and Andrew Samwick, also holds the distinction as the top-ranked bachelor’s-only economics program in the world.

    In order to graduate, a student must complete 35 total courses, eight to ten of which are typically part of a chosen major program. Other requirements for graduation include the completion of ten “distributive requirements” in a variety of academic fields, proficiency in a foreign language, and completion of a writing class and first-year seminar in writing. Many departments offer honors programs requiring students seeking that distinction to engage in “independent, sustained work”, culminating in the production of a thesis. In addition to the courses offered in Hanover, Dartmouth offers 57 different off-campus programs, including Foreign Study Programs, Language Study Abroad programs, and Exchange Programs.

    Through the Graduate Studies program, Dartmouth grants doctorate and master’s degrees in 19 Arts & Sciences graduate programs. Although the first graduate degree, a PhD in classics, was awarded in 1885, many of the current PhD programs have only existed since the 1960s. Furthermore, Dartmouth is home to three professional schools: the Geisel School of Medicine (established 1797), Thayer School of Engineering (1867)—which also serves as the undergraduate department of engineering sciences—and Tuck School of Business (1900). With these professional schools and graduate programs, conventional American usage would accord Dartmouth the label of “Dartmouth University”; however, because of historical and nostalgic reasons (such as Dartmouth College v. Woodward), the school uses the name “Dartmouth College” to refer to the entire institution.

    Dartmouth employs a total of 607 tenured or tenure-track faculty members, including the highest proportion of female tenured professors among the Ivy League universities, and the first black woman tenure-track faculty member in computer science at an Ivy League university. Faculty members have been at the forefront of such major academic developments as the Dartmouth Workshop, the Dartmouth Time Sharing System, Dartmouth BASIC, and Dartmouth ALGOL 30. In 2005, sponsored project awards to Dartmouth faculty research amounted to $169 million.

    Dartmouth serves as the host institution of the University Press of New England, a university press founded in 1970 that is supported by a consortium of schools that also includes Brandeis University, The University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University, Tufts University and The University of Vermont.


    Dartmouth was ranked tied for 13th among undergraduate programs at national universities by U.S. News & World Report in its 2021 rankings. U.S. News also ranked the school 2nd best for veterans, tied for 5th best in undergraduate teaching, and 9th for “best value” at national universities in 2020. Dartmouth’s undergraduate teaching was previously ranked 1st by U.S. News for five years in a row (2009–2013). Dartmouth College is accredited by The New England Commission of Higher Education.

    In Forbes’ 2019 rankings of 650 universities, liberal arts colleges and service academies, Dartmouth ranked 10th overall and 10th in research universities. In the Forbes 2018 “grateful graduate” rankings, Dartmouth came in first for the second year in a row.

    The 2021 Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked Dartmouth among the 90–110th best universities in the nation. However, this specific ranking has drawn criticism from scholars for not adequately adjusting for the size of an institution, which leads to larger institutions ranking above smaller ones like Dartmouth. Dartmouth’s small size and its undergraduate focus also disadvantage its ranking in other international rankings because ranking formulas favor institutions with a large number of graduate students.

    The 2006 Carnegie Foundation classification listed Dartmouth as the only “majority-undergraduate”, “arts-and-sciences focus[ed]”, “research university” in the country that also had “some graduate coexistence” and “very high research activity”.

    The Dartmouth Plan

    Dartmouth functions on a quarter system, operating year-round on four ten-week academic terms. The Dartmouth Plan (or simply “D-Plan”) is an academic scheduling system that permits the customization of each student’s academic year. All undergraduates are required to be in residence for the fall, winter, and spring terms of their freshman and senior years, as well as the summer term of their sophomore year. However, students may petition to alter this plan so that they may be off during their freshman, senior, or sophomore summer terms. During all terms, students are permitted to choose between studying on-campus, studying at an off-campus program, or taking a term off for vacation, outside internships, or research projects. The typical course load is three classes per term, and students will generally enroll in classes for 12 total terms over the course of their academic career.

    The D-Plan was instituted in the early 1970s at the same time that Dartmouth began accepting female undergraduates. It was initially devised as a plan to increase the enrollment without enlarging campus accommodations, and has been described as “a way to put 4,000 students into 3,000 beds”. Although new dormitories have been built since, the number of students has also increased and the D-Plan remains in effect. It was modified in the 1980s in an attempt to reduce the problems of lack of social and academic continuity.


  • richardmitnick 11:50 am on September 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , "Slowing of continental plate movement controlled timing of Earth’s largest volcanic events", , , Further assessment shows that a reduction in continental plate movement likely controlled the onset and duration of many of the major volcanic events throughout Earth’s history., , Major volcanic events that occurred millions of years ago and caused such climatic and biological upheaval that they drove some of the most devastating extinction events in Earth’s history., Paleogeology, The team’s plate reconstruction models helped them discover the key fundamental geological process that seemed to control the timing and onset of this volcanic event and others of great magnitude., , Two key events from around 183 million years ago (the Toarcian period),   

    From Trinity College Dublin [Coláiste na Tríonóide](IE): “Slowing of continental plate movement controlled timing of Earth’s largest volcanic events” 

    From Trinity College Dublin [Coláiste na Tríonóide](IE)

    Thomas Deane
    Media Relations
    +353 1 896 4685

    Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain.

    Scientists have shed new light on the timing and likely cause of major volcanic events that occurred millions of years ago and caused such climatic and biological upheaval that they drove some of the most devastating extinction events in Earth’s history.

    Surprisingly the new research, published today in leading international journal Science Advances [below], suggests a slowing of continental plate movement was the critical event that enabled magma to rise to the Earth’s surface and deliver the devastating knock-on impacts.

    Earth’s history has been marked by major volcanic events, called Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs) – the largest of which have caused major increases in atmospheric carbon emissions that warmed Earth’s climate, drove unprecedented changes to ecosystems, and resulted in mass extinctions on land and in the oceans.

    Using chemical data from ancient mudstone deposits obtained from a 1.5 km-deep borehole in Wales, an international team led by scientists from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Natural Sciences was able to link two key events from around 183 million years ago (the Toarcian period).

    The team discovered that this time period, which was characterized by some of the most severe climatic and environmental changes ever, directly coincided with the occurrence of major volcanic activity and associated greenhouse gas release on the southern hemisphere, in what is nowadays known as southern Africa, Antarctica and Australia.

    On further investigation – and more importantly – the team’s plate reconstruction models helped them discover the key fundamental geological process that seemed to control the timing and onset of this volcanic event and others of great magnitude.

    Micha Ruhl, Assistant Professor in Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, led the team. He said:

    “Scientists have long thought that the onset of upwelling of molten volcanic rock, or magma, from deep in Earth’s interior, as mantle plumes, was the instigator of such volcanic activity but the new evidence shows that the normal rate of continental plate movement of several centimetres per year effectively prevents magma from penetrating Earth’s continental crust.

    “It seems it is only when the speed of continental plate movement slows down to near zero that magmas from mantle plumes can effectively make their way to the surface, causing major large igneous province volcanic eruptions and their associated climatic perturbations and mass extinctions.

    “Crucially, further assessment shows that a reduction in continental plate movement likely controlled the onset and duration of many of the major volcanic events throughout Earth’s history, making it a fundamental process in controlling the evolution of climate and life at Earth’s surface throughout the history of this planet.”

    The study of past global change events, such as in the Toarcian, allows scientists to disentangle the different processes that control the causes and consequences of global carbon cycle change and constrain fundamental Earth system processes that control tipping points in Earth’s climate system.

    The research was conducted as part of the International Continental Drilling Programme (ICDP) Early Jurassic Earth System and Timescale (JET) project, and financially supported by the SFI Research Centre in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG), the Natural Environment Research Council UK (NERC), the National Science Foundation China, and the EU Horizon 2020 programme.

    Science paper:
    Science Advances
    See the full science paper for many illustrative graphs.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Trinity College [Coláiste na Tríonóide], officially the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, is the sole constituent college of the University of Dublin, a research university located in Dublin, Ireland. The college was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I as “the mother of a university” that was modeled after The University of Oxford (UK) and The University of Cambridge (UK) but unlike these affiliated institutions, only one college was ever established; as such, the designations “Trinity College” and “University of Dublin” are usually synonymous for practical purposes. The college is legally incorporated by “the Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars and other members of the Board,” as outlined by its founding charter. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, as well as Ireland’s oldest surviving university. Trinity College is widely considered the most prestigious university in Ireland, and one of the most elite academic institutions in Europe. The college is particularly acclaimed in the fields of Law, Literature and Humanities. In accordance with the formula of ad eundem gradum, a form of recognition that exists among the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the University of Dublin, a graduate of Oxford, Cambridge, or Dublin can be conferred with the equivalent degree at either of the other two universities without further examination. Trinity College, Dublin is a sister college to St John’s College, Cambridge and Oriel College, Oxford.

    Originally, Trinity was established outside the city walls of Dublin in the buildings of the outlawed Catholic Augustinian Priory of All Hallows. Trinity College was set up in part to consolidate the rule of the Tudor monarchy in Ireland, and as a result was the university of the Protestant Ascendancy for much of its history. While Catholics were admitted from 1793, certain restrictions on membership of the college remained, as professorships, fellowships and scholarships were reserved for Protestants. These restrictions were lifted by an Act of Parliament in 1873. However, from 1871 to 1970, the Catholic Church in Ireland, in turn, forbade its adherents from attending Trinity College without permission. Women were first admitted to the college as full members in January 1904.

    The university is a member of the League of European Research Universities, a list of 23 institutions that excel in academic research, and is the only Irish university in the group. Trinity College was ranked 43rd in the world by QS World University Rankingsin 2009 and is currently ranked 101st. The university has educated some of Ireland’s most famous poets, playwrights and authors, including Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, William Trevor, Oliver Goldsmith and William Congreve, Nobel Laureates Samuel Beckett, Ernest Walton and William Cecil Campbell, former Presidents of Ireland Mary McAleese, Douglas Hyde and Mary Robinson, philosophers including George Berkeley and Edmund Burke, politician David Norris and mathematician William Rowan Hamilton. Given its long history, the university also finds mention in many novels, fables and urban legends.

    Trinity College is now surrounded by central Dublin and is located on College Green, opposite the historic Irish Houses of Parliament. The college campus is often ranked among the most beautiful university campuses in the world, primarily due to its Georgian architecture buildings. The college proper occupies 190,000 m^2 (47 acres), with many of its buildings ranged around large quadrangles (known as ‘squares’) and two playing fields. Academically, it is divided into three faculties comprising 25 schools, offering degree and diploma courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The university is globally recognized as a leading international centre for research and also as a world leader in Nanotechnology, Information Technology, Immunology, Mathematics, Engineering, Psychology, Politics, English and Humanities. The admission procedure is highly competitive, and based exclusively on academic merit. The Library of Trinity College is a legal deposit library for Ireland and Great Britain, containing around 7 million printed volumes and significant quantities of manuscripts, including the renowned Book of Kells, which arrived at the college in 1661 for safekeeping after the Cromwellian raids on religious institutions. The enormous collection housed in the Long Room includes a rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and a 15th-century wooden harp which is the model for the current emblem of Ireland. The library itself receives over half a million visitors each year, making it the most important one in Ireland.

  • richardmitnick 8:46 pm on August 22, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Swinging Strength of Earth’s Magnetic Field Could Signal Inner Core Formation", , Earth’s atmosphere owes its persistence to the geomagnetic field which thwarts the Sun’s rays from dispelling this gaseous veneer., , , Paleogeology, , Rock transcribes where North was (direction) and how strong the field was (intensity) at the time of formation., The (failed) North American Midcontinent Rift—a region where 1.1 billion years ago there was voluminous volcanism., The combination of molten iron alloys and Earth’s rotation results in a self-sustaining magnetic field called the geodynamo., The magnetic record stored in rocks documents the liquid core’s behavior and possibly when the inner core formed., This protective geomagnetic field owes its existence to Earth’s core., Understanding how paleomagnetic intensity has changed helps scientists address when the core transitioned to a solid inner core wrapped in a liquid outer core., Unique aggregations of crystals-anorthosite xenoliths-that formed deep in Earth’s crust brought close to the surface with magma that fed lava eruptions into the rift.   

    From “Eos” : “Swinging Strength of Earth’s Magnetic Field Could Signal Inner Core Formation” 

    Eos news bloc

    From “Eos”



    Alka Tripathy-Lang

    The magnetic record stored in rocks documents the liquid core’s behavior and possibly when the inner core formed. Whether it formed half a billion or more than a billion years ago, however, is up for debate.

    Researchers (including coauthor Nick Swanson-Hysell) found surprisingly high paleointensity values in rocks collected from the (failed) North American Midcontinent Rift. Credit: Yiming Zhang

    Life as we know it requires an atmosphere. It is the air we breathe, our shield from harmful ultraviolet rays, and our defense against extreme temperature swings, like those on Mars. But Earth’s atmosphere owes its persistence to the geomagnetic field which thwarts the Sun’s rays from dispelling this gaseous veneer. And this protective geomagnetic field owes its existence to Earth’s core.

    As the liquid part of the core (the outer core) swirls, the combination of molten iron alloys and Earth’s rotation results in a self-sustaining magnetic field called the geodynamo. As they archive evidence of the geodynamo’s billions-of-years-long existence, rocks can transcribe where north was (direction) and how strong the field was (intensity) at the time of formation. That transcription is possible as long as the rocks remain relatively untouched by high temperatures, fluids, or other traumas of tectonics.

    Because the strength of Earth’s magnetic field relies on the vigor with which the liquid core churns, understanding how paleomagnetic intensity has changed at the surface can help scientists address when the core transitioned from a single ball of sloshing melt to a solid inner core wrapped in a liquid outer core. In other words, paleomagnetic intensity might tell scientists when the inner core began to form, with some suggesting that the answer is a little more than half a billion years ago (i.e., only in the last ~10% of Earth’s history).

    In a new study published in the PNAS [below], paleomagnetist and University of California- Berkeley doctoral student Yiming Zhang and his coauthors collected and studied rocks from the (failed) North American Midcontinent Rift—a region where 1.1 billion years ago there was voluminous volcanism. The rocks that Zhang targeted are unique aggregations of crystals known as anorthosite xenoliths that formed deep in Earth’s crust but were brought close to the surface with magma that fed lava eruptions into the rift. The team found surprisingly high paleointensity values that signal a turbulent core—more spirited than might be expected for a liquid core lacking a solid center and stronger than Earth’s magnetic field today.

    Plot of age versus paleointensity, with a dashed line showing a previously interpreted decreasing trend until about 500–600 million years ago, after which paleointensity values begin to climb, showing distinct lows but also higher highs than most data from the Precambrian, barring the data presented in the new study. A light blue band from 1,110 to 1,085 million years ago shows the age of the rocks in this study as well as their curiously high paleointensity values. Credit: Zhang et al., 2022.

    The Age of Earth’s Heart

    The energy that causes the liquid core to move, or convect, comes from two different mechanisms. Thermally convecting liquid is driven by heat that’s wanting to rise and escape, said Courtney Sprain, a paleomagnetist at the University of Florida who was not involved in this study. In the other mechanism, compositional convection stirs the cauldron because of light elements. As the mostly iron inner core solidifies, it excludes lighter, more buoyant elements that proceed to rise through the liquid outer core. “We believe [that] today, that’s one of our main sources of energy driving the geodynamo,” Sprain explained.

    Because Earth was much warmer billions of years ago and the inner core was not initially present, thermal convection may have been the primary driver generating the early magnetic field, said Richard Bono, a paleomagnetist at Florida State University who also was not involved in Zhang’s work. As Earth cooled, thermal convection—and the intensity of the magnetic field—should have tapered. But continued cooling eventually led to the beginnings of Earth’s solid metal heart, which should have boosted the waning magnetic field as compositional convection overtook its thermal counterpart.

    This transition might have begun less than 700 million years ago (much younger than canonical estimates), according to experiments designed to determine how fast iron conducts heat at extremely high pressures and temperatures, said Zhang. However, such experiments have led to different results through different approaches, enough so that various scenarios of the age of the inner core are possible.

    A 2019 paper [Nature Geoscience (below)] led by Bono, in which scientists collated high-quality paleointensity data, supported this young inner core formation timeline, with the paleomagnetic field interpreted to decrease in intensity until a 565-million-year-old low, followed by a rise toward much higher values, signifying more mixing. This timeline led to the intriguing hypothesis that the inner core began to form sometime after 565 million years ago—remarkably young.

    However, because older (1.14-billion-year-old) rocks have low paleointensity values, Zhang’s curiously high paleointensity data in 1.09-billion-year-old rocks could be interpreted as inner core nucleation similar to some previous estimates [Nature (below)]. “You need some really strong forces in the interior of the Earth to generate such strong [paleointensity] values,” said Zhang. If true, new explanations for later ebbs and flows of paleointensity are needed for around 565 million years ago, as well as at younger times [PNAS] of low to high field strength transitions. Nevertheless, these data don’t negate inner core nucleation 565 million years ago either, he said.

    “If anything, this is telling us we need to start trying to understand some of the other added complexities” like plate tectonics, said Sprain. Subducting plates move through the mantle, sometimes settling into cold piles at the core-mantle boundary. Elsewhere along this boundary, buoyant plumes of hot material rise upward. These sunken slabs and upwelling plumes affect how heat escapes from the core, a process that itself affects how quickly the outer core can convect. The core’s pattern of exhaling heat changes as this geometry shifts, which could affect how the magnetic field is generated, she explained.

    Snapshot or Long-Term Average?

    “Our magnetic field is really crazy,” said Sprain. “It can change on timescales of seconds to millions of years.”

    “When we’re trying to understand what the strength of the field is, we have to ask—how much time are we looking at, [and] how much time do we average?” said Bono. A rock that cools quickly, on the order of hundreds or thousands of years, will record a snapshot of the magnetic field. A rock that takes many tens or hundreds of thousands of years to cool smooths out the magnetic field’s short-term variation. “You really need to be looking at the time-averaged field strength” to understand what was happening in the core, he said.

    In the new study, said Sprain, Zhang has data from seven sites but only one date for these rocks. Because these are very old rocks, each date’s margin of error would be on the order of 100,000 years to greater than 1 million; collecting more dates wouldn’t necessarily help resolve the relative timing between sites. “Even if there was more than 10,000 years between [multiple samples’] cooling times, we wouldn’t be able to resolve it [because] the ages would overlap,” Sprain said.

    Nevertheless, the data are of high quality, and even averaging all the information together results in a higher-than-expected magnetic field for 1.1 billion years ago, confirming the findings of prior work [Geophysical Journal International (below)], said Bono. In this prior work, Sprain found that slightly older volcanic rocks from the Midcontinent Rift also record a strong magnetic field similar to that on Earth today.

    “What we need,” said Sprain, “is more high-quality data.” This is especially true for the Precambrian, whose rocks have had more time to endure upheavals that can erase their experiences.

    Science papers:
    PNAS 2022
    Nature Geoscience 2019
    Nature 2015
    PNAS 2021
    Geophysical Journal International 2018

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    “Eos” is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 10:45 am on August 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "More than one asteroid could have spelled doom for the dinosaurs", A newly discovered impact crater below the seafloor hints at the possibility that more than one asteroid hit Earth during the time when dinosaurs went extinct., , , , Paleogeology, The Nadir crater is buried up to 1300 feet below the seabed about 250 miles off the coast of Guinea in West Africa., The University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory   

    From The University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory: “More than one asteroid could have spelled doom for the dinosaurs” 

    From The University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory


    The University of Arizona


    Media contact
    Daniel Stolte
    Science Writer, University Communications

    Researcher contact
    Veronica Bray
    Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

    A newly discovered impact crater below the seafloor hints at the possibility that more than one asteroid hit Earth during the time when dinosaurs went extinct.

    A new study reporting the discovery of an asteroid impact crater buried under the seafloor off the coast of Africa lends support to the idea that more than one asteroid may have impacted Earth at the time the dinosaurs went extinct. Credit: Shutterstock.

    Scientists have found evidence of an asteroid impact crater beneath the North Atlantic Ocean that could force researchers to rethink how the dinosaurs reached the end of their reign.

    The team believes the crater was caused by an asteroid colliding with Earth around 66 million years ago – around the same time that the Chicxulub asteroid hit Earth off the coast of today’s Yucatan, Mexico, and wiped out the dinosaurs.

    Spanning more than 5 miles in diameter, the crater was discovered using seismic measurements, which allow scientists to probe what lies deep below Earth’s surface.

    Veronica Bray, a research scientist in the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, who specializes in craters found throughout the solar system, is a co-author of a study in Science Advances [below] detailing the discovery.

    Named after a nearby seamount, the Nadir crater is buried up to 1300 feet below the seabed about 250 miles off the coast of Guinea in West Africa. The team believes the asteroid that created the newly discovered Nadir crater could have formed by breakup of a parent asteroid or by a swarm of asteroids in that time period. If confirmed, the crater will be one of less than 20 confirmed marine impact craters found on Earth.

    What impact would the asteroid have had?

    Bray used computer simulations to determine what kind of collision took place and what the effects might have been. The simulations suggest the crater was caused by the collision of a 1,300 foot-wide asteroid in 1,600 to 2,600 feet of water.

    “This would have generated a tsunami over 3,000 feet high, as well as an earthquake of more than magnitude 6.5,” Bray said. “Although it is a lot smaller than the global cataclysm of the Chicxulub impact, Nadir will have contributed significantly to the local devastation.

    And if we have found one ‘sibling’ to Chicxulub, it opens the question: Are there others?”

    The estimated size of the asteroid would put it roughly on par with asteroid Bennu, the target of the UArizona-led NASA asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx.

    According to Bray’s calculations, the energy released from the impact that caused the Nadir crater would have been around 1,000 times greater than the tsunami caused by the underwater eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in the Polynesian country of Tonga on Jan. 15.

    “These are preliminary simulations and need to be refined when we get more data,” Bray said, “but they provide important new insights into the possible ocean depths in this area at the time of impact.”

    What does the crater look like?

    Scientists discover a 5-mile wide undersea crater created as the dinosaurs disappeared. Credit: CNN.

    Uisdean Nicholson, a geologist at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, discovered the crater somewhat by accident, while examining seismic reflection data from the seabed during a research project dedicated to seafloor spreading, the geologic process that caused the African and American continents to drift apart, thereby opening the Atlantic Ocean.

    “I’ve interpreted lots of seismic data in my time, but had never seen anything like this. Instead of the flat sedimentary sequences I was expecting on the plateau, I found an 8.5-kilometer depression under the seabed, with very unusual characteristics,” Nicholson said. “It has particular features that point to a meteor impact crater. It has a raised rim and a very prominent central uplift, which is consistent for large impact craters.

    “It also has what looks like ejecta outside the crater, with very chaotic sedimentary deposits extending for tens of kilometers outside of the crater,” he added. “The characteristics are just not consistent with other crater-forming processes like salt withdrawal or the collapse of a volcano.”

    The asteroid crashed around same time as the dinosaur killer.

    “The Nadir Crater is an incredibly exciting discovery of a second impact close in time to the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction,” said study co-author Sean Gulick, an impact expert at the University of Texas at Austin. “While much smaller than the extinction causing Chicxulub impactor, its very existence requires us to investigate the possibility of an impact cluster in the latest Cretaceous.”

    While the seismic data indicate that the sediments impacted by the asteroid correspond with the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary – a sedimentary layer demarcating the end of the Cretaceous period and last known occurrence of dinosaurs – there is some uncertainty about the precise time of impact, limited by the resolution of the data.

    “Despite 4 billion years of impactors hitting Earth, only 200 have been discovered,” Gulick said. “It is thus exciting news whenever a new potential impact is discovered, especially in the hard-to-explore marine environment.”

    Nicholson has applied for funding to drill into the seabed to confirm that it’s an asteroid impact crater and test its precise age.

    Science paper:
    Science Advances

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is a research center for planetary science located in Tucson, Arizona. It is also a graduate school, constituting the Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona. The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is one of the world’s largest programs dedicated exclusively to planetary science in a university setting. The Lunar and Planetary Lab collection is held at the University of Arizona Special Collections Library.

    The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory was founded in 1960 by astronomer Gerard Kuiper. Kuiper had long been a pioneer in observing the Solar System, especially the Moon, at a time when this was unfashionable among astronomers. Among his contributions are the discovery of Miranda and Nereid, the detection of carbon dioxide on Mars and of methane on Titan, and the prediction of the Kuiper Belt.

    Kuiper came to Tucson looking for greater independence than he had enjoyed at The University of Chicago, the chance to build a community dedicated to solar system studies, and also to be closer to southern Arizona’s many potential sites for world-class observatories, such as Kitt Peak National Observatory (founded in 1958){below]. LPL was established under the auspices of the University of Arizona, with Kuiper serving as director until his death.

    The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory’s endeavors are truly interdisciplinary. The accumulated knowledge and techniques of astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, geophysics, geochemistry, atmospheric science, and engineering are all brought to bear upon the single goal of studying planetary systems. Many students come to The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory having studied only one or two of these subjects in detail, so a broad-based curriculum is essential.

    In 1973, the university established a graduate Department of Planetary Sciences, operating continuously with The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. This provided an administrative framework for The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory to admit graduate students and take a greater role in teaching. The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory’s chief officer is simultaneously “head” of the department and “director” of the laboratory.

    As of 2019, The University of Arizona enrolled 45,918 students in 19 separate colleges/schools, including The University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix and the James E. Rogers College of Law, and is affiliated with two academic medical centers (Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix). The University of Arizona is one of three universities governed by the Arizona Board of Regents. The university is part of the Association of American Universities and is the only member from Arizona, and also part of the Universities Research Association . The university is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity”.

    Known as the Arizona Wildcats (often shortened to “Cats”), The University of Arizona’s intercollegiate athletic teams are members of the Pac-12 Conference of the NCAA. The University of Arizona athletes have won national titles in several sports, most notably men’s basketball, baseball, and softball. The official colors of the university and its athletic teams are cardinal red and navy blue.

    After the passage of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, the push for a university in Arizona grew. The Arizona Territory’s “Thieving Thirteenth” Legislature approved The University of Arizona in 1885 and selected the city of Tucson to receive the appropriation to build the university. Tucson hoped to receive the appropriation for the territory’s mental hospital, which carried a $100,000 allocation instead of the $25,000 allotted to the territory’s only university Arizona State University was also chartered in 1885, but it was created as Arizona’s normal school, and not a university). Flooding on the Salt River delayed Tucson’s legislators, and by the time they reached Prescott, back-room deals allocating the most desirable territorial institutions had been made. Tucson was largely disappointed with receiving what was viewed as an inferior prize.

    With no parties willing to provide land for the new institution, the citizens of Tucson prepared to return the money to the Territorial Legislature until two gamblers and a saloon keeper decided to donate the land to build the school. Construction of Old Main, the first building on campus, began on October 27, 1887, and classes met for the first time in 1891 with 32 students in Old Main, which is still in use today. Because there were no high schools in Arizona Territory, the university maintained separate preparatory classes for the first 23 years of operation.


    The University of Arizona is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. UArizona is the fourth most awarded public university by National Aeronautics and Space Administration for research. The University of Arizona was awarded over $325 million for its Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) to lead NASA’s 2007–08 mission to Mars to explore the Martian Arctic, and $800 million for its OSIRIS-REx mission, the first in U.S. history to sample an asteroid.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft.

    The LPL’s work in the Cassini spacecraft orbit around Saturn is larger than any other university globally.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration/European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea][Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/ASI Italian Space Agency [Agenzia Spaziale Italiana](IT) Cassini Spacecraft.

    The University of Arizona laboratory designed and operated the atmospheric radiation investigations and imaging on the probe. The University of Arizona operates the HiRISE camera, a part of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    U Arizona NASA Mars Reconnaisance HiRISE Camera.

    NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    While using the HiRISE camera in 2011, University of Arizona alumnus Lujendra Ojha and his team discovered proof of liquid water on the surface of Mars—a discovery confirmed by NASA in 2015. The University of Arizona receives more NASA grants annually than the next nine top NASA/JPL-Caltech-funded universities combined. As of March 2016, The University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is actively involved in ten spacecraft missions: Cassini VIMS; Grail; the HiRISE camera orbiting Mars; the Juno mission orbiting Jupiter; Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO); Maven, which will explore Mars’ upper atmosphere and interactions with the sun; Solar Probe Plus, a historic mission into the Sun’s atmosphere for the first time; Rosetta’s VIRTIS; WISE; and OSIRIS-REx, the first U.S. sample-return mission to a near-earth asteroid, which launched on September 8, 2016.

    NASA – GRAIL Flying in Formation (Artist’s Concept). Credit: NASA.
    National Aeronautics Space Agency Juno at Jupiter.

    NASA/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.


    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration Wise/NEOWISE Telescope.

    The University of Arizona students have been selected as Truman, Rhodes, Goldwater, and Fulbright Scholars. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, UArizona is among the top 25 producers of Fulbright awards in the U.S.

    The University of Arizona is a member of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy , a consortium of institutions pursuing research in astronomy. The association operates observatories and telescopes, notably Kitt Peak National Observatory just outside Tucson.

    National Science Foundation NOIRLab National Optical Astronomy Observatory Kitt Peak National Observatory on Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers (55 mi) west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft). annotated.

    Led by Roger Angel, researchers in the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab at The University of Arizona are working in concert to build the world’s most advanced telescope. Known as the Giant Magellan Telescope (CL), it will produce images 10 times sharper than those from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Telescope.

    GMT Giant Magellan Telescope(CL) 21 meters, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s NOIRLab NOAO Las Campanas Observatory(CL), some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high.

    The telescope is set to be completed in 2021. GMT will ultimately cost $1 billion. Researchers from at least nine institutions are working to secure the funding for the project. The telescope will include seven 18-ton mirrors capable of providing clear images of volcanoes and riverbeds on Mars and mountains on the moon at a rate 40 times faster than the world’s current large telescopes. The mirrors of the Giant Magellan Telescope will be built at The University of Arizona and transported to a permanent mountaintop site in the Chilean Andes where the telescope will be constructed.

    Reaching Mars in March 2006, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter contained the HiRISE camera, with Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen as the lead on the project. This National Aeronautics and Space Agency mission to Mars carrying the UArizona-designed camera is capturing the highest-resolution images of the planet ever seen. The journey of the orbiter was 300 million miles. In August 2007, The University of Arizona, under the charge of Scientist Peter Smith, led the Phoenix Mars Mission, the first mission completely controlled by a university. Reaching the planet’s surface in May 2008, the mission’s purpose was to improve knowledge of the Martian Arctic. The Arizona Radio Observatory , a part of The University of Arizona Department of Astronomy Steward Observatory , operates the Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham.

    University of Arizona Radio Observatory at NOAO Kitt Peak National Observatory, AZ USA, U Arizona Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory at altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft).

    Kitt Peak National Observatory in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert 88 kilometers 55 mi west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona in the Quinlan Mountains of the Tohono O’odham Nation, altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

    The National Science Foundation funded the iPlant Collaborative in 2008 with a $50 million grant. In 2013, iPlant Collaborative received a $50 million renewal grant. Rebranded in late 2015 as “CyVerse”, the collaborative cloud-based data management platform is moving beyond life sciences to provide cloud-computing access across all scientific disciplines.

    In June 2011, the university announced it would assume full ownership of the Biosphere 2 scientific research facility in Oracle, Arizona, north of Tucson, effective July 1. Biosphere 2 was constructed by private developers (funded mainly by Texas businessman and philanthropist Ed Bass) with its first closed system experiment commencing in 1991. The university had been the official management partner of the facility for research purposes since 2007.

    U Arizona mirror lab-Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium?

    University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, located in the Sonoran desert. An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why The University of Arizona is a university unlike any other.

    University of Arizona Landscape Evolution Observatory at Biosphere 2.

  • richardmitnick 12:48 pm on August 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Findings indicate that much of the seawater initially bound within the ancient primitive lavas would have been released at temperatures greater than 700 degrees Celsius., , How water is stored and transported through Earth’s crust influences everything from where volcanoes and mineral deposits form to where earthquakes occur., , New Curtin research has provided evidence that Earth's continents were formed by giant meteorite impacts prevalent during the first billion years of our planet's four-and-a-half-billion year history., Paleogeology, Such high temperature waters' release would have caused surrounding rocks to melt ultimately to form the continents.   

    From Curtin University (AU): Conflicting stores from one university:: “Study shows Earth’s ancient water cycle was key to making continents” vs “Evidence that giant meteorite impacts created the continents” 

    From Curtin University (AU)

    The first story:

    Greta Carlshausen
    Media Officer
    Tel: +61 8 9266 3549
    Mob: +61 422 993 535

    Vanessa Beasley
    Deputy Director
    Tel: +61 8 9266 1811
    Mob: +61 466 853 121

    A new Curtin University study has found that water was transported much deeper in the early Earth than previously thought, shedding new light on how the continents were originally formed.


    The study, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters [below], answers long-standing questions about the early Earth water cycle.

    Lead researcher Dr Michael Hartnady, from the Curtin School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said how water is stored and transported through Earth’s crust influences everything, from where volcanoes and mineral deposits form to where earthquakes occur.

    “Although we understand the modern deep-water cycle, we know very little about how it worked when Earth was still a very young planet,” Dr Hartnady said.

    “Multiple lines of geological evidence show that water was transported to great depths within Earth all the way back to 3.5 billion years ago, although it is not well understood how exactly it got there.”

    Researchers used sophisticated modelling to show that primitive high-magnesium volcanic rocks – that erupted onto the ocean floor in the early Earth – would have soaked up much more seawater than more modern lavas.

    “This water, which is locked into particular crystals within the rock, would have been released as the rocks were buried and began to ‘sweat’. In modern lavas, this sweating happens at a temperature of about 500 degrees Celsius,” Dr Hartnady said.

    “Our findings indicate that much of the seawater initially bound within the ancient primitive lavas would have been released at much higher temperatures, greater than 700 degrees Celsius.

    “Importantly, this means that the water was transported much deeper into the early Earth than previously thought. Its release would have caused surrounding rocks to melt ultimately to form the continents.”

    Dr Hartnady said this research helped to explain the inner workings of the planet from more than 2.5 billion years ago.

    “Interestingly, the oldest parts of the continents, the cratons, also contain some of the largest gold deposits on Earth including the Golden Mile near Kalgoorlie,” Dr Hartnady said.

    “These gold deposits required huge volumes of water to form, and we still don’t have a good explanation for where it came from. Our new research may help solve these and other questions, perhaps even those related to the origins of life.”

    This research was funded by the Australian Research Council, Geological Survey of Western Australia and Northern Star Resources Ltd.

    The second story:

    Evidence that giant meteorite impacts created the continents

    New Curtin research has provided the strongest evidence yet that Earth’s continents were formed by giant meteorite impacts that were particularly prevalent during the first billion years or so of our planet’s four-and-a-half-billion year history.

    Dr Tim Johnson from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences said the idea that the continents originally formed at sites of giant meteorite impacts had been around for decades, but until now there was little solid evidence to support the theory.

    “By examining tiny crystals of the mineral zircon in rocks from the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia, which represents Earth’s best-preserved remnant of ancient crust, we found evidence of these giant meteorite impacts,” Dr Johnson said.

    A gorge at Karijini National Park shows off the rocks of the Pilbara craton. Credit: iStock

    “Studying the composition of oxygen isotopes in these zircon crystals revealed a ‘top-down’ process starting with the melting of rocks near the surface and progressing deeper, consistent with the geological effect of giant meteorite impacts.

    “Our research provides the first solid evidence that the processes that ultimately formed the continents began with giant meteorite impacts, similar to those responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, but which occurred billions of years earlier.”

    Dr Johnson said understanding the formation and ongoing evolution of the Earth’s continents was crucial given that these landmasses host the majority of Earth’s biomass, all humans and almost all of the planet’s important mineral deposits.

    “Not least, the continents host critical metals such as lithium, tin and nickel, commodities that are essential to the emerging green technologies needed to fulfill our obligation to mitigate climate change,” Dr Johnson said.

    “These mineral deposits are the end result of a process known as crustal differentiation, which began with the formation of the earliest landmasses, of which the Pilbara Craton is just one of many.

    “Data related to other areas of ancient continental crust on Earth appears to show patterns similar to those recognised in Western Australia. We would like to test our findings on these ancient rocks to see if, as we suspect, our model is more widely applicable.”

    Dr Johnson is affiliated with The Institute for Geoscience Research (TIGeR), Curtin’s flagship earth sciences research institute.

    Take your pick.

    Science papers:
    First story
    Earth and Planetary Science Letters

    Second story

    See the First story full article here .

    See the Second story full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Curtin University (AU) is an Australian public research university based in Bentley and Perth, Western Australia. The university is named after the 14th Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, and is the largest university in Western Australia, with over 58,000 students (as of 2016).

    Curtin would like to pay respect to the indigenous members of our community by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which the Perth campus is located, the Wadjuk people of the Nyungar Nation; and on our Kalgoorlie campus, the Wongutha people of the North-Eastern Goldfields.

    Curtin was conferred university status after legislation was passed by the Parliament of Western Australia in 1986. Since then, the university has been expanding its presence and has campuses in Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and Mauritius. It has ties with 90 exchange universities in 20 countries. The University comprises five main faculties with over 95 specialists centres. The University formerly had a Sydney campus between 2005 & 2016. On 17 September 2015, Curtin University Council made a decision to close its Sydney campus by early 2017.

    Curtin University is a member of Australian Technology Network (ATN), and is active in research in a range of academic and practical fields, including Resources and Energy (e.g., petroleum gas), Information and Communication, Health, Ageing and Well-being (Public Health), Communities and Changing Environments, Growth and Prosperity and Creative Writing.

    It is the only Western Australian university to produce a PhD recipient of the AINSE gold medal, which is the highest recognition for PhD-level research excellence in Australia and New Zealand.

    Curtin has become active in research and partnerships overseas, particularly in mainland China. It is involved in a number of business, management, and research projects, particularly in supercomputing, where the university participates in a tri-continental array with nodes in Perth, Beijing, and Edinburgh. Western Australia has become an important exporter of minerals, petroleum and natural gas. The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Woodside-funded hydrocarbon research facility during his visit to Australia in 2005.

  • richardmitnick 7:29 pm on August 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Spike in Wildfires Contributed to the End-Permian Extinction", An upward trend in fossilized charcoal indicates that wildfires may have contributed to extinctions during the "Great Dying"., , , , , , , Paleogeology,   

    From “Eos” : “A Spike in Wildfires Contributed to the End-Permian Extinction” 

    Eos news bloc

    From “Eos”



    Jackie Rocheleau

    An upward trend in fossilized charcoal indicates that wildfires may have contributed to extinctions during the “Great Dying”.

    During the end-Permian extinction event, vast wetlands across what is now Australia suffered increased numbers of wildfires and saw the extinction of small therapsids, such as Lystrosaurus (right). Credit: Victor O. Leshyk, CC0.

    Around 252 million years ago, volcanic eruptions set off a geologic domino effect culminating in the largest extinction event in Earth’s history. The end-Permian extinction (EPE), also known as the Permian-Triassic extinction or the Great Dying, wiped out 96% of ocean life and around 70% of terrestrial species.

    According to a new study published in the journal Palaios [below], the eruptions may have led to a spike in wildfires that might have been an EPE driver in eastern Gondwanan forest mires, in what are now Australia and Antarctica.
    By studying charcoal remains from the EPE, the scientists found evidence that wildfires turned the wetlands into a scorched, sparse landscape.

    A Change in Charcoal

    Scientists believe volcanic eruptions [Science Advances 2021 (below)] in the Siberian Traps ultimately caused the end-Permian mass extinction by creating or enhancing extinction drivers like polluted soil and acidic rain. Wildfires have been suggested as drivers too, but no work has analyzed fires before and during the EPE.

    To quantify this prehistoric fire activity, Chris Mays, a paleontology lecturer at University College Cork, and coauthor Stephen McLoughlin at the Swedish Museum of Natural History looked at charcoal content preserved in samples from three mid- to late Permian peat deposits in the southern Sydney Basin, the northern Bowen Basin, and eastern Antarctica. Using microscopy techniques to count the remains of burned, charcoalified plants, they found evidence that wildfires were a regular feature of the region before the EPE. “Then, what we discovered is leading up to the mass extinction, there was a great increase in the amount of charcoal being preserved,” said Mays.

    A rise in charcoal levels around the EPE suggested that fire activity spiked during the peak of the Siberian Traps eruptions. But looking at rock from the beginning of the Triassic (after the extinction event), researchers were hard pressed to find charcoal, signaling that by that time, wildfire activity may have declined significantly.

    Mays said one possible explanation for these results could be that warming from the greenhouse gases released by the Siberian Traps eruptions led to extreme seasonal temperature and precipitation changes. These shifts could have created dry seasons in the wetlands, which, combined with high atmospheric oxygen levels, would have helped wildfires flourish. “Then, after the fact, because [the wildfires] burned off those high-vegetated areas, the fires couldn’t get a good hold in the postextinction realm,” said Mays.

    But that hypothesis still needs confirmation. “All we can really say is that on average, the amount of charcoal being produced [during the EPE] was much higher, probably 2 to 3 times higher than preextinction levels,” Mays said. The samples don’t allow researchers to see whether there were seasonal changes in fires from year to year, nor do they show whether the charcoal spike represents an increase in fire frequency or intensity.

    David Bond, a professor of paleoenvironments at the University of Hull, said this work represents an important advance in the field. “This is a good study that takes a long-term view, looks at the background conditions,” said Bond. “It’s based on a relatively small number of samples, but that’s the nature of this kind of study.”

    Wildfires Then and Now

    Today’s wildfire threats are different, and so are the flora and fauna. Although intense fires in fire-adapted areas are common to both the EPE and today, one notable difference between then and now is that modern fires are also tearing through non-fire-adapted areas. “It’s quite difficult to tell how modern ecosystems will react and whether [their response is] going to be similar to what happened back in the day,” said Mays.

    Another major difference is the rate of climate change. Today, temperatures and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are climbing at a faster clip compared to the Permian, on the scale of hundreds of years rather than tens of thousands. But, Mays said, it’s not too late. “We’re still in the early, early stages of that increase in CO2. So we can definitely turn the ship around.”

    Science papers:
    Palaios 2022

    Science Advances 2021

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    “Eos” is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 3:43 pm on July 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Researchers say Earth's crust has been 'dripping' beneath the Andes Mountains for millions of years", , As the fragments sink into the lower mantle it first forms a basin at the surface which later springs up when the weight below breaks off and sinks further into the deeper depths of the mantle., , , , , Lithospheric dripping occurs when portions of the lowest layer of Earth’s outer shell thicken and begin to drip into the mantle below., Paleogeology, The Central Andean Plateau is defined by the Puna and Altiplano high plateaus and formed when the Nazca plate slid beneath the South American plate during the plate tectonics process of subduction., The dynamical processes of lithospheric dripping and their role in driving local surface tectonics in these purported geological cases are uncertain., The results help define a new class of plate tectonics and may have implications for other terrestrial planets., The subsequent rise of Central Andean topography was built through sporadic pulses of uplift throughout the Cenozoic Era that began approximately 66 million years ago.,   

    From The University of Toronto (CA): “Researchers say Earth’s crust has been ‘dripping’ beneath the Andes Mountains for millions of years” 

    From The University of Toronto (CA)

    July 19, 2022
    Sean Bettam

    Salar de Arizaro in the Atacama Desert (photo by Nicolas de Camaret, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

    Just like honey slowly dripping from a spoon, parts of the rocky outermost layer of Earth’s shell are continuously sinking into the more fluid layer of the planet’s mantle over the course of millions of years. Known as lithospheric dripping – named for the fragmenting of rocky material that makes up Earth’s crust and upper mantle – the process results in significant deformations at the surface such as basins, folding of the crust and irregular elevations.

    Though the process is a relatively new concept in the decades-old field of plate tectonics, several examples of lithospheric drip around the world have been identified – the Central Anatolian Plateau in Turkey and the Great Basin in the western U.S., for two. Now, a team of researchers led by Earth scientists at the University of Toronto has confirmed that several regions in the central Andes Mountains in South America were formed the same way.

    And they’ve done so using materials available at any hardware store and art supplies outlet.

    “We have confirmed that a deformation on the surface of an area of the Andes Mountains has a large portion of the lithosphere below avalanched away,” says Julia Andersen, a PhD candidate in the department of Earth sciences at U of T.

    “Owing to its high density, it dripped like cold syrup or honey deeper into the planetary interior and is likely responsible for two major tectonic events in the Central Andes – shifting the surface topography of the region by hundreds of kilometres and both crunching and stretching the surface crust itself.

    “Overall, the results help define a new class of plate tectonics and may have implications for other terrestrial planets that do not have Earth-like plate tectonics such as Mars and Venus.”

    A geological map of the Arizaro Basin, demonstrating folding and thrust faults within the basin, as compared with surface view of the experimental simulation of lithospheric dripping. Folding and direction of shortening is depicted with red arrows (left photo courtesy of DeCelles, et al.; right courtesy of Julia Andersen et al.)

    Lithospheric dripping occurs when portions of the lowest layer of Earth’s outer shell thicken and begin to drip into the mantle below when warmed to a certain temperature.

    As the fragments sink into the lower mantle it first forms a basin at the surface which later springs up when the weight below breaks off and sinks further into the deeper depths of the mantle. This results in an upward bobbing of the land mass across hundreds of kilometres.

    The Central Andean Plateau is defined by the Puna and Altiplano high plateaus and was first formed when the Nazca plate slid beneath the South American plate during the well-documented plate tectonics process of subduction, during which a portion of the heavier of two tectonic plates sinks into the mantle when they converge.

    Past studies have suggested, however, that the subsequent rise of Central Andean topography has not been uniform in time but rather was built through sporadic pulses of uplift throughout the Cenozoic Era that began approximately 66 million years ago.

    Geological estimates indicate that the relative timing and mechanism of uplift in the region and the styles of tectonic deformation are different between the Puna and Altiplano plateaus. The Puna Plateau is characterized by higher average elevation and includes several isolated inland basins, such as the Arizaro Basin and the Atacama Basin, and distinct volcanic centres.

    “Various studies invoke removal of the lithosphere to account for the widespread, non-subduction related surface deformation and evolution of the plateaus,” says Earth sciences Professor Russell Pysklywec, co-author of the study and Andersen’s PhD supervisor. “Further, crustal shortening in the Arizaro Basin interior is well documented by folding and local thrust faults but the basin is not bounded by known tectonic plate boundaries, indicating there is a more localized geodynamic process occurring.”

    Geoscientists have used the sedimentary rock record to track changes in surface elevation of the Central Andes since the Miocene epoch approximately 18 million years ago. Seismic imaging provides a remote image of Earth’s interior much like an ultrasound for a human body, illuminating a new view of the lithospheric drip structures.

    A simulation of the rocky outermost layer of Earth’s shell using silicone polymer fluid, modelling clay, and a sand-like layer made from ceramic and silica spheres demonstrates the process of lithospheric dripping. (Photo by Julia Andersen/Tectonophysics Lab/University of Toronto)

    Andersen and her colleagues say past geological studies advance evidence for lithospheric drips in the region, but the dynamical processes of lithospheric dripping and their role in driving local surface tectonics in these purported geological cases are uncertain. For the most part, geodynamic model predictions have not been tested in the context of direct regional geological or geophysical observations.

    So, the team set about developing analogue laboratory models with geological and geophysical constraints to recreate what happened over thousands of centuries and test their hypothesis that the topographic and tectonic evolution of hinterland basins of the Central Andes was caused by lithospheric drip processes.

    “Recognizing the massive time and length scales involved in these processes – millions of years and hundreds of kilometres – we devised innovative three-dimensional laboratory experiments using materials such as sand, clay and silicone to create scaled analogue models of the drip processes,” Andersen says. “It was like creating and destroying tectonic mountain belts in a sandbox, floating on a simulated pool of magma – all under incredibly precise sub-millimetre measured conditions.”

    The models were constructed inside a Plexiglass tank with a set of cameras positioned above and beside the tank to capture any changes. The tank was first filled with polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) – a silicone polymer fluid approximately 1,000 times thicker than table syrup – to serve as Earth’s lower mantle. Next, the upper-most solid section of the mantle was replicated using a mixture of PDMS and modelling clay and put into the tank on top of the mantle. Finally, a sand-like layer made from a mixture of precision ceramic spheres and silica spheres was laid on top to serve as Earth’s crust.

    The researchers activated the model by inserting a high-density seed into the PDMS and modelling clay layer, to initiate a drip that was subsequently pulled downward by gravity. The cameras outside the tank ran continuously, capturing a high-resolution image roughly every minute.

    “The dripping occurs over hours so you wouldn’t see much happening from one minute to the next,” Andersen says. “But if you checked every few hours, you would clearly see the change – it just requires patience.” The study presents snapshots from every 10 hours to illustrate the progress of the drip.

    The researchers then cross-referenced the size of the drip and the damage to the replica crust at select time intervals to see how their scaled processes matched up against the sedimentary records of the areas in question over millions of years.

    Artist impressions of two types of lithospheric drip, supported by surface views of the experimental simulation of the processes. One produces thickening and uplift of Earth’s crust, while the other results in the formation of a basin at the surface (photo by Julia Andersen/Tectonophysics Lab/University of Toronto)

    “We compared our model results to geophysical and geological studies conducted in the Central Andes, particularly in the Arizaro Basin, and found that the changes in elevation of the crust caused by the drip in our models track very well with changes in elevation of the Arizaro Basin,” Andersen says. “We also observed crustal shortening with folds in the model as well as basin-like depressions on the surface so we’re confident that a drip is very likely the cause of the observed deformations in the Andes.”

    The researchers suggest the findings aim to clarify the link between mantle processes and crustal tectonics, and how such geodynamic processes may be interpreted with observed or inferred episodes of lithospheric removal. “The discoveries show that the lithosphere can be more volatile or fluid-like than we believed,” says Pysklywec.

    Additional contributors to the study include Tasca Santimano, of U of T’s department of Earth sciences, and Oguz Göğüş at Istanbul Technical University and Ebru Şengül Uluocak at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University in Turkey.

    The research was made possible thanks to support from a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the International Fellowship for Outstanding Researchers Program of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, a TUBITAK Fellowship for Visiting Scientists, as well as Compute Ontario and the Digital Research Alliance of Canada.

    Science paper:
    Communications Earth & Environment

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The The University of Toronto (CA) is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, located on the grounds that surround Queen’s Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King’s College, the oldest university in the province of Ontario.

    Originally controlled by the Church of England, the university assumed its present name in 1850 upon becoming a secular institution.

    As a collegiate university, it comprises eleven colleges each with substantial autonomy on financial and institutional affairs and significant differences in character and history. The university also operates two satellite campuses located in Scarborough and Mississauga.

    University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

    Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with preeminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.

    The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

    Academically, the University of Toronto is noted for movements and curricula in literary criticism and communication theory, known collectively as the Toronto School.

    The university was the birthplace of insulin and stem cell research, and was the site of the first electron microscope in North America; the identification of the first black hole Cygnus X-1; multi-touch technology, and the development of the theory of NP-completeness.

    The university was one of several universities involved in early research of deep learning. It receives the most annual scientific research funding of any Canadian university and is one of two members of the Association of American Universities outside the United States, the other being McGill(CA).

    The Varsity Blues are the athletic teams that represent the university in intercollegiate league matches, with ties to gridiron football, rowing and ice hockey. The earliest recorded instance of gridiron football occurred at University of Toronto’s University College in November 1861.

    The university’s Hart House is an early example of the North American student centre, simultaneously serving cultural, intellectual, and recreational interests within its large Gothic-revival complex.

    The University of Toronto has educated three Governors General of Canada, four Prime Ministers of Canada, three foreign leaders, and fourteen Justices of the Supreme Court. As of March 2019, ten Nobel laureates, five Turing Award winners, 94 Rhodes Scholars, and one Fields Medalist have been affiliated with the university.

    Early history

    The founding of a colonial college had long been the desire of John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and founder of York, the colonial capital. As an University of Oxford (UK)-educated military commander who had fought in the American Revolutionary War, Simcoe believed a college was needed to counter the spread of republicanism from the United States. The Upper Canada Executive Committee recommended in 1798 that a college be established in York.

    On March 15, 1827, a royal charter was formally issued by King George IV, proclaiming “from this time one College, with the style and privileges of a University … for the education of youth in the principles of the Christian Religion, and for their instruction in the various branches of Science and Literature … to continue for ever, to be called King’s College.” The granting of the charter was largely the result of intense lobbying by John Strachan, the influential Anglican Bishop of Toronto who took office as the college’s first president. The original three-storey Greek Revival school building was built on the present site of Queen’s Park.

    Under Strachan’s stewardship, King’s College was a religious institution closely aligned with the Church of England and the British colonial elite, known as the Family Compact. Reformist politicians opposed the clergy’s control over colonial institutions and fought to have the college secularized. In 1849, after a lengthy and heated debate, the newly elected responsible government of the Province of Canada voted to rename King’s College as the University of Toronto and severed the school’s ties with the church. Having anticipated this decision, the enraged Strachan had resigned a year earlier to open Trinity College as a private Anglican seminary. University College was created as the nondenominational teaching branch of the University of Toronto. During the American Civil War the threat of Union blockade on British North America prompted the creation of the University Rifle Corps which saw battle in resisting the Fenian raids on the Niagara border in 1866. The Corps was part of the Reserve Militia lead by Professor Henry Croft.

    Established in 1878, the School of Practical Science was the precursor to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering which has been nicknamed Skule since its earliest days. While the Faculty of Medicine opened in 1843 medical teaching was conducted by proprietary schools from 1853 until 1887 when the faculty absorbed the Toronto School of Medicine. Meanwhile the university continued to set examinations and confer medical degrees. The university opened the Faculty of Law in 1887, followed by the Faculty of Dentistry in 1888 when the Royal College of Dental Surgeons became an affiliate. Women were first admitted to the university in 1884.

    A devastating fire in 1890 gutted the interior of University College and destroyed 33,000 volumes from the library but the university restored the building and replenished its library within two years. Over the next two decades a collegiate system took shape as the university arranged federation with several ecclesiastical colleges including Strachan’s Trinity College in 1904. The university operated the Royal Conservatory of Music from 1896 to 1991 and the Royal Ontario Museum from 1912 to 1968; both still retain close ties with the university as independent institutions. The University of Toronto Press was founded in 1901 as Canada’s first academic publishing house. The Faculty of Forestry founded in 1907 with Bernhard Fernow as dean was Canada’s first university faculty devoted to forest science. In 1910, the Faculty of Education opened its laboratory school, the University of Toronto Schools.

    World wars and post-war years

    The First and Second World Wars curtailed some university activities as undergraduate and graduate men eagerly enlisted. Intercollegiate athletic competitions and the Hart House Debates were suspended although exhibition and interfaculty games were still held. The David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill opened in 1935 followed by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies in 1949. The university opened satellite campuses in Scarborough in 1964 and in Mississauga in 1967. The university’s former affiliated schools at the Ontario Agricultural College and Glendon Hall became fully independent of the University of Toronto and became part of University of Guelph (CA) in 1964 and York University (CA) in 1965 respectively. Beginning in the 1980s reductions in government funding prompted more rigorous fundraising efforts.

    Since 2000

    In 2000 Kin-Yip Chun was reinstated as a professor of the university after he launched an unsuccessful lawsuit against the university alleging racial discrimination. In 2017 a human rights application was filed against the University by one of its students for allegedly delaying the investigation of sexual assault and being dismissive of their concerns. In 2018 the university cleared one of its professors of allegations of discrimination and antisemitism in an internal investigation after a complaint was filed by one of its students.

    The University of Toronto was the first Canadian university to amass a financial endowment greater than c. $1 billion in 2007. On September 24, 2020 the university announced a $250 million gift to the Faculty of Medicine from businessman and philanthropist James C. Temerty- the largest single philanthropic donation in Canadian history. This broke the previous record for the school set in 2019 when Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman jointly donated $100 million for the creation of a 750,000-square foot innovation and artificial intelligence centre.


    Since 1926 the University of Toronto has been a member of the Association of American Universities a consortium of the leading North American research universities. The university manages by far the largest annual research budget of any university in Canada with sponsored direct-cost expenditures of $878 million in 2010. In 2018 the University of Toronto was named the top research university in Canada by Research Infosource with a sponsored research income (external sources of funding) of $1,147.584 million in 2017. In the same year the university’s faculty averaged a sponsored research income of $428,200 while graduate students averaged a sponsored research income of $63,700. The federal government was the largest source of funding with grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council amounting to about one-third of the research budget. About eight percent of research funding came from corporations- mostly in the healthcare industry.

    The first practical electron microscope was built by the physics department in 1938. During World War II the university developed the G-suit- a life-saving garment worn by Allied fighter plane pilots later adopted for use by astronauts.Development of the infrared chemiluminescence technique improved analyses of energy behaviours in chemical reactions. In 1963 the asteroid 2104 Toronto was discovered in the David Dunlap Observatory (CA) in Richmond Hill and is named after the university. In 1972 studies on Cygnus X-1 led to the publication of the first observational evidence proving the existence of black holes. Toronto astronomers have also discovered the Uranian moons of Caliban and Sycorax; the dwarf galaxies of Andromeda I, II and III; and the supernova SN 1987A. A pioneer in computing technology the university designed and built UTEC- one of the world’s first operational computers- and later purchased Ferut- the second commercial computer after UNIVAC I. Multi-touch technology was developed at Toronto with applications ranging from handheld devices to collaboration walls. The AeroVelo Atlas which won the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition in 2013 was developed by the university’s team of students and graduates and was tested in Vaughan.

    The discovery of insulin at the University of Toronto in 1921 is considered among the most significant events in the history of medicine. The stem cell was discovered at the university in 1963 forming the basis for bone marrow transplantation and all subsequent research on adult and embryonic stem cells. This was the first of many findings at Toronto relating to stem cells including the identification of pancreatic and retinal stem cells. The cancer stem cell was first identified in 1997 by Toronto researchers who have since found stem cell associations in leukemia; brain tumors; and colorectal cancer. Medical inventions developed at Toronto include the glycaemic index; the infant cereal Pablum; the use of protective hypothermia in open heart surgery; and the first artificial cardiac pacemaker. The first successful single-lung transplant was performed at Toronto in 1981 followed by the first nerve transplant in 1988; and the first double-lung transplant in 1989. Researchers identified the maturation promoting factor that regulates cell division and discovered the T-cell receptor which triggers responses of the immune system. The university is credited with isolating the genes that cause Fanconi anemia; cystic fibrosis; and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease among numerous other diseases. Between 1914 and 1972 the university operated the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories- now part of the pharmaceutical corporation Sanofi-Aventis. Among the research conducted at the laboratory was the development of gel electrophoresis.

    The University of Toronto is the primary research presence that supports one of the world’s largest concentrations of biotechnology firms. More than 5,000 principal investigators reside within 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the university grounds in Toronto’s Discovery District conducting $1 billion of medical research annually. MaRS Discovery District is a research park that serves commercial enterprises and the university’s technology transfer ventures. In 2008, the university disclosed 159 inventions and had 114 active start-up companies. Its SciNet Consortium operates the most powerful supercomputer in Canada.

  • richardmitnick 4:19 pm on July 11, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Glacial Maximum", "Milankovitch cycles", "Precession Helped Drive Glacial Cycles in the Pleistocene", By studying bits of rock scooped up by ancient glaciers researchers have pinned down that recent glacial variability was driven in part by changes in the direction of Earth’s axis of rotation., , , , Energy received from the Sun at any one point on Earth varies according to two long-term cycles: precession and obliquity., , , Gradual changes in the direction of Earth’s axis of rotation—has played an important role in the breakup of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets over the past 1.7 million years., Here and Gone Again and Again, , Paleogeology, Solar radiation is critically important researchers have agreed.   

    From “Eos” : “Precession Helped Drive Glacial Cycles in the Pleistocene” 

    Eos news bloc

    From “Eos”



    11 July 2022
    Katherine Kornei

    By studying bits of rock scooped up by ancient glaciers researchers have pinned down that recent glacial variability was driven in part by changes in the direction of Earth’s axis of rotation.

    Ice sheets wax and wane according to changes in Earth’s orbit. Credit: iStock.com/MagicDreamer.

    Ice sheets have ebbed and flowed over Earth’s surface for eons. Now scientists have analyzed tiny bits of rock transported by glaciers and gained a better understanding of recent glacial cycles. The team found that precession—gradual changes in the direction of Earth’s axis of rotation—has played an important role in the breakup of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets over the past 1.7 million years. And during the late Pleistocene, that precession-driven collapse coincided with deglaciation.

    Here and Gone Again and Again

    Just 30,000 years ago—a blink in geologic time—significant swaths of Earth’s landmasses were covered in glacial ice. That time period was the so-called Last “Glacial Maximum”, and large ice sheets reigned supreme, said Stephen Barker, a paleoclimatologist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom. “Where I am here in South Wales, there would be an ice sheet right next door to me.”

    But the majority of those ice sheets have since retreated, and the planet is now in an interglacial period. That shift, from a largely ice covered world to one in which ice is sparser, represents a cycle that has repeated many times, said Barker. “Over the last million years, there have been seven or eight glacial cycles.”

    Eyes on the Sun

    The question of what has driven the planet’s glacial cycles over the past few million years has long preoccupied scientists. Solar radiation is critically important researchers have agreed. But the energy received from the Sun at any one point on Earth varies according to two long-term cycles: precession and obliquity. Precession refers to changes in the direction of Earth’s axis of rotation, and obliquity is the tilt of Earth’s rotational axis as the planet orbits the Sun.

    Orbital Forcing

    These two so-called “Milankovitch cycles” modulate the amount of solar energy received by Earth’s surface over periods of roughly 23,000 and 41,000 years, respectively. But it’s challenging to determine which of those rhythms correlates most strongly with the planet’s glacial cycles, said Barker. “People have been trying to pick one or the other.”

    To help answer that question, Barker and his colleagues analyzed more than 9,000 bits of rock larger than 0.15 millimeter in diameter. The researchers painstakingly picked that material out of a sediment core drilled several hundred kilometers off the southwestern coast of Iceland. These grains of rock reveal the timing of when ancient ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere grew and ultimately broke up, Barker and his colleagues suggested. That’s because ice moving over Earth’s surface entrains debris, and such material sinks to the seafloor after it’s carried offshore by icebergs.

    Barker and his collaborators calculated the rate at which this so-called ice-rafted debris was deposited on the seafloor. “We literally count it,” he said. “We work out how much has been delivered per unit time.” Spikes in the concentration of ice-rafted debris correspond to the breakup of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets, the researchers concluded.

    A Hidden Role

    The ice-rafted debris the team studied was deposited over the past roughly 1.7 million years. That time span encompasses two important periods, said Barker. There’s the period prior to the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, when glacial cycles were roughly 41,000 years long. And there’s the more recent period, during which glacial cycles have consistently lasted about 100,000 years.

    Barker and his colleagues found that glacial cycles before and after the Mid-Pleistocene Transition were correlated with both precession and changes in obliquity. The team showed that minima in precession—meaning that summer in the Northern Hemisphere occurs when the planet is closest to the Sun—were tied to ice sheet breakup. And times of decreasing obliquity were associated with ice sheet growth.

    It was particularly surprising to uncover the role of precession prior to the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, said Barker. That’s because the shorter glacial cycles long have been assumed to have been driven solely by changes in obliquity occurring at the same cadence, without any influence from precession, he said. “I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that.”

    Furthermore, before the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, ice sheet breakup didn’t always spell the end of an ice age, Barker and his colleagues found. That’s perhaps because ice sheets at that time were limited to higher latitudes, exactly where the effects of obliquity are felt more acutely than those of precession, the researchers suggested. Conversely, after the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, such breakup was often linked to the end of an ice age. One explanation for that difference is that Northern Hemisphere ice sheets might have been larger after the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, and therefore the effects of both obliquity and precession would have been necessary to catapult the planet into a new state. “We need both to help get rid of these larger ice sheets when their time is up,” said Barker.

    These results shed light on long-term cycles that affect our planet’s climate, said Tim Naish, a paleoclimatologist at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand who was not involved in the research. “Earth’s climate system dances to the beat of these Milankovitch cycles.”

    The researchers reported in May in Science.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    “Eos” is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 1:44 pm on July 11, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The First Mass Extinction Event Explained: End-Ordovician", , , , , , How long did the Ordovician period last and what caused the Ordovician mass extinction to wipe out 85 percent of life on earth 445 million years ago?, , , , Paleogeology   

    From “Discover Magazine” : “The First Mass Extinction Event Explained: End-Ordovician” 


    From “Discover Magazine”

    Jul 11, 2022
    Gabe Allen

    How long did the Ordovician period last and what caused the Ordovician mass extinction to wipe out 85 percent of life on earth 445 million years ago?

    (Credit: Cagla Acikgoz/Shutterstock)

    Long before the dawn of humans, dinosaurs, insects or even trees, a cascade of unfortunate events threatened to end life on earth.

    During the Ordovician Period, around 485 to 444 million years ago, the diversity of marine life exploded. Trilobites and mollusks crawled on the ocean floor, plankton-like filter-feeders floated at all depths and coral and algae bloomed. Jawless fish, perhaps our oldest ancestors, drifted in shallow lagoons and deltas. Life may have also taken its first steps onto land during this period. Some researchers have speculated [JSTOR] that Ordovician green algae may have migrated onto the shore with assistance from mycorrhizal fungi.

    However, sometime around 445 million years ago, 85 percent of species went extinct [Geology] over the relatively short interval of 1.4 million years. This unprecedented die-off is now known as the earth’s first mass extinction, the Late Ordovician mass extinction or simply LOME. Many researchers have devoted time, or even careers, to uncovering the underlying forces of extinction. But pieces of the puzzle are still missing.

    “As you might imagine, trying to infer what exactly happened in the environment 445 million years ago is a fairly inexact process,” paleobiologist Charles Mitchell says. “But we can discern some things quite clearly.”

    What Caused the Ordovician Extinction

    Around the time of the extinction, the earth’s climate underwent a series of significant changes [Nature Communications]. A period of warming and sea level rise was followed by an ice age. Glaciers encapsulated much of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, a landmass that gave rise to parts of every major modern continent. Eventually the ice age gave way to warming once again.

    These climatic changes disrupted the ways in which nutrients like oxygen, carbon and nitrogen, cycled through the ocean at the time.

    “When you shift from greenhouse conditions to ice house conditions, there are going to be major changes in ocean circulation patterns,” Mitchell says.

    One prominent theory [GSA Bulletin] posits that an initial wave of extinction occurred when the ice age began. The organisms at the bottom of the food chain, algae and cyanobacteria, may have been slow to adjust to a colder climate. The same theory aligns the second wave of extinction with the end of the ice age. Warming temperatures may have caused a global “algal bloom,” much like the blooms caused by nutrient-rich wastewater in lakes and rivers today.

    This rapid proliferation of cyanobacteria could have caused the de-oxygenation of the ocean, which scientists have observed in the geologic record.

    A second theory that has gained some traction, ties both waves of extinction to the warm periods [Nature Communications above] that bookend the ice age. In a 2020 paper [Geology above], two geologists assert that a large volcanic eruption may have been a leading factor as well.

    “Rather than being the odd-one-out of the ‘Big Five’ extinctions with origins in cooling, the LOME is similar to the others in being caused by volcanism, warming and anoxia,” they write.

    Ordovician Species

    While scientists will hotly debate the causes for decades to come, the outcomes of the extinction are clearer. All major groups of Ordovician organisms were affected — trilobites, brachiopods and bryozoans died off in large proportions. But, while subsequent mass extinctions selected broad categories of winners or losers, some species, from nearly every major group or organisms, survived the LOME. During the Silurian period, which succeeded the Ordovician, these survivors repopulated the oceans.

    Mitchell has focused much of his work on a group of filter feeders that the extinction hit especially hard: graptolites. These tube-like organisms were plentiful in the Ordovician oceans.

    “They were planktonic, so they were directly harvesting algae, which is at the bottom of the food chain,” Mitchell says. “For that reason, they’re a bit of a canary in a coal mine.”

    By looking through thousands of graptolite fossils, Mitchell and his colleagues noticed something curious. The creatures were dying off, slowly, for long before the sharp decline associated with the mass extinction event.

    “Graptolites started going extinct considerably before the big pulse,” Mitchell says. “That means that whatever caused the turnover had to have been a longer-term event.”

    In other words, slow and incremental change eventually gave way to rapid decline. Here, Mitchell sees a parallel to current human-caused shifts in global biodiversity. Over the past century, vertebrate species have gone extinct at a rate 100 times that of the pre-industrial average [Science Advances]. This rate is projected to increase [IPCC]as global temperatures rise.

    “It looks like things are occurring predictably, and then you fall off a cliff,” Mitchell says. “Right now, we are still in the phase of incremental change. We can’t be fooled into thinking that this is manageable.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 8:33 am on June 30, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Four questions for Liz Hadly", , , , , Paleogeology, ,   

    From Stanford University: “Four questions for Liz Hadly” 

    Stanford University Name

    From Stanford University

    June 29, 2022
    Tom Johnson

    Elizabeth Hadly (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

    Earlier this month, heavy rains fell on melting snowpack in and around Yellowstone National Park, resulting in widespread flooding, mudslides, and damage to infrastructure. The storm, described by the U.S. Geological Survey as a 1 in 500-year event, forced the evacuation of visitors and closed parts of the park indefinitely. We checked in with Stanford Biologist and longtime Yellowstone resident Liz Hadly to better understand the event and its connection to global climate change.

    “We used to say that our best guess for tomorrow’s weather is what happened yesterday. We can’t say that anymore,” said Hadly, reflecting on the flooding event and how it fits into the context of global climate change. “The magnitude and rate of change right now are way beyond anything we humans have seen. We’re pushing the envelope of human knowledge.”

    How has the flooding changed Yellowstone?

    On the geologic time scale, Yellowstone will prevail. Yes, there will be more erosion, and because of global climate change, there will continue to be more fires and floods. But the park itself will prevail.

    Let’s talk about change from the human perspective. Forty years ago, when I first lived and worked in Yellowstone, we had two million visitors per year. There are now four million visitors per year. We’re going to need to rethink not just this park, but how to support a massive influx of tourism in all of our parks. How do we decide which of these four million people make it into Yellowstone when suddenly half the roads are closed for as much as a year? How do we feed them when the small towns that serve tourists are cut off from stores in larger cities nearby? How do we process sewage when infrastructure is badly damaged? I think managing visitation numbers in the face of increasing environmental disturbance has got to be in the cards.

    Was the recent flooding in Yellowstone connected to global climate change?

    Yes, it was. As the planet warms, our atmosphere tries to equalize gradients of temperature and distribute that extra heat around the globe. As it does so, we have air masses that transition rapidly between extremes – hot and cold, higher and lower moisture. These intense concentrations and adjustments can cause violent swings in weather. Because warmer air can hold more moisture, it also can release a lot more water in the form of precipitation.

    In the case of the Yellowstone flooding, warmer temperatures and earlier snowmelt are causing peak runoff on the Yellowstone River to occur earlier in the year. On top of that, the park had an unusually late heavy snowfall. The weather then quickly warmed and accelerated snowmelt. When we saw an atmospheric river bring massive amounts of rain to the area, snowmelt intensified. The combined result was the massive flooding we witnessed.

    Some scientists say that the flooding in Yellowstone represents a 500-year or even a 1000-year event. Are we seeing more of these events?

    I’m a big fan of using the paleo record to contextualize the kinds of changes we’re seeing ­– not just the magnitude of changes, but also the rate of those changes. The amount of warming we’re likely to see on the planet by the year 2100 is equivalent to the warming of 14 to 15 million years ago. One or two degrees of warming might not seem like a lot, but when you average that around the globe, and you think about the last time average temperatures were that high ­­– that gives you a perspective that’s beyond the evolutionary age of most mammalian species. A new “normal” isn’t the right word because it suggests some sort of a dynamic equilibrium. We are headed toward an unknown future that will be characterized by unexpected, dramatic change over centuries, not one of stability. Humans just aren’t used to dealing with that.

    What is the significance of the Yellowstone flooding?

    For anybody who’s traveled to the park – and a lot of people in the U.S. have been there – all they have to do is look at the Mammoth to Gardiner Road. It’s one of the main entrances into the park, and Mammoth is where the park’s headquarters are. People seeing those images are going to realize that the road connecting the park’s headquarters to the neighboring community that houses and feeds park managers is gone. They’ll also wonder, how will I get into and out of the park?

    It’s also important for future visitors. Yellowstone is booked out years in advance. To suddenly cut visitation in half due to infrastructure damage – people will be impacted. Ironically, this year marks the 150-year anniversary of Yellowstone, the world’s first national park. We all own this place – it is the ‘backyard’ of all Americans. That kind of symbolism may bring more awareness to the seriousness of global climate change, and how even the most protected places on Earth are not safe from our impact on the planet.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Stanford University campus

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded Stanford University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members.

    Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a private research university located in Stanford, California. Stanford was founded in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford in memory of their only child, Leland Stanford Jr., who had died of typhoid fever at age 15 the previous year. Stanford is consistently ranked as among the most prestigious and top universities in the world by major education publications. It is also one of the top fundraising institutions in the country, becoming the first school to raise more than a billion dollars in a year.

    Leland Stanford was a U.S. senator and former governor of California who made his fortune as a railroad tycoon. The school admitted its first students on October 1, 1891, as a coeducational and non-denominational institution. Stanford University struggled financially after the death of Leland Stanford in 1893 and again after much of the campus was damaged by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Following World War II, provost Frederick Terman supported faculty and graduates’ entrepreneurialism to build self-sufficient local industry in what would later be known as Silicon Valley.

    The university is organized around seven schools: three schools consisting of 40 academic departments at the undergraduate level as well as four professional schools that focus on graduate programs in law, medicine, education, and business. All schools are on the same campus. Students compete in 36 varsity sports, and the university is one of two private institutions in the Division I FBS Pac-12 Conference. It has gained 126 NCAA team championships, and Stanford has won the NACDA Directors’ Cup for 24 consecutive years, beginning in 1994–1995. In addition, Stanford students and alumni have won 270 Olympic medals including 139 gold medals.

    As of October 2020, 84 Nobel laureates, 28 Turing Award laureates, and eight Fields Medalists have been affiliated with Stanford as students, alumni, faculty, or staff. In addition, Stanford is particularly noted for its entrepreneurship and is one of the most successful universities in attracting funding for start-ups. Stanford alumni have founded numerous companies, which combined produce more than $2.7 trillion in annual revenue, roughly equivalent to the 7th largest economy in the world (as of 2020). Stanford is the alma mater of one president of the United States (Herbert Hoover), 74 living billionaires, and 17 astronauts. It is also one of the leading producers of Fulbright Scholars, Marshall Scholars, Rhodes Scholars, and members of the United States Congress.

    Stanford University was founded in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford, dedicated to Leland Stanford Jr, their only child. The institution opened in 1891 on Stanford’s previous Palo Alto farm.

    Jane and Leland Stanford modeled their university after the great eastern universities, most specifically Cornell University. Stanford opened being called the “Cornell of the West” in 1891 due to faculty being former Cornell affiliates (either professors, alumni, or both) including its first president, David Starr Jordan, and second president, John Casper Branner. Both Cornell and Stanford were among the first to have higher education be accessible, nonsectarian, and open to women as well as to men. Cornell is credited as one of the first American universities to adopt this radical departure from traditional education, and Stanford became an early adopter as well.

    Despite being impacted by earthquakes in both 1906 and 1989, the campus was rebuilt each time. In 1919, The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace was started by Herbert Hoover to preserve artifacts related to World War I. The Stanford Medical Center, completed in 1959, is a teaching hospital with over 800 beds. The DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (originally named the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center), established in 1962, performs research in particle physics.


    Most of Stanford is on an 8,180-acre (12.8 sq mi; 33.1 km^2) campus, one of the largest in the United States. It is located on the San Francisco Peninsula, in the northwest part of the Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley) approximately 37 miles (60 km) southeast of San Francisco and approximately 20 miles (30 km) northwest of San Jose. In 2008, 60% of this land remained undeveloped.

    Stanford’s main campus includes a census-designated place within unincorporated Santa Clara County, although some of the university land (such as the Stanford Shopping Center and the Stanford Research Park) is within the city limits of Palo Alto. The campus also includes much land in unincorporated San Mateo County (including the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve), as well as in the city limits of Menlo Park (Stanford Hills neighborhood), Woodside, and Portola Valley.

    Non-central campus

    Stanford currently operates in various locations outside of its central campus.

    On the founding grant:

    Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve is a 1,200-acre (490 ha) natural reserve south of the central campus owned by the university and used by wildlife biologists for research.
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is a facility west of the central campus operated by the university for the Department of Energy. It contains the longest linear particle accelerator in the world, 2 miles (3.2 km) on 426 acres (172 ha) of land.
    Golf course and a seasonal lake: The university also has its own golf course and a seasonal lake (Lake Lagunita, actually an irrigation reservoir), both home to the vulnerable California tiger salamander. As of 2012 Lake Lagunita was often dry and the university had no plans to artificially fill it.

    Off the founding grant:

    Hopkins Marine Station, in Pacific Grove, California, is a marine biology research center owned by the university since 1892.
    Study abroad locations: unlike typical study abroad programs, Stanford itself operates in several locations around the world; thus, each location has Stanford faculty-in-residence and staff in addition to students, creating a “mini-Stanford”.

    Redwood City campus for many of the university’s administrative offices located in Redwood City, California, a few miles north of the main campus. In 2005, the university purchased a small, 35-acre (14 ha) campus in Midpoint Technology Park intended for staff offices; development was delayed by The Great Recession. In 2015 the university announced a development plan and the Redwood City campus opened in March 2019.

    The Bass Center in Washington, DC provides a base, including housing, for the Stanford in Washington program for undergraduates. It includes a small art gallery open to the public.

    China: Stanford Center at Peking University, housed in the Lee Jung Sen Building, is a small center for researchers and students in collaboration with Beijing University [北京大学](CN) (Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University(CN) (KIAA-PKU).

    Administration and organization

    Stanford is a private, non-profit university that is administered as a corporate trust governed by a privately appointed board of trustees with a maximum membership of 38. Trustees serve five-year terms (not more than two consecutive terms) and meet five times annually.[83] A new trustee is chosen by the current trustees by ballot. The Stanford trustees also oversee the Stanford Research Park, the Stanford Shopping Center, the Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University Medical Center, and many associated medical facilities (including the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital).

    The board appoints a president to serve as the chief executive officer of the university, to prescribe the duties of professors and course of study, to manage financial and business affairs, and to appoint nine vice presidents. The provost is the chief academic and budget officer, to whom the deans of each of the seven schools report. Persis Drell became the 13th provost in February 2017.

    As of 2018, the university was organized into seven academic schools. The schools of Humanities and Sciences (27 departments), Engineering (nine departments), and Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (four departments) have both graduate and undergraduate programs while the Schools of Law, Medicine, Education and Business have graduate programs only. The powers and authority of the faculty are vested in the Academic Council, which is made up of tenure and non-tenure line faculty, research faculty, senior fellows in some policy centers and institutes, the president of the university, and some other academic administrators, but most matters are handled by the Faculty Senate, made up of 55 elected representatives of the faculty.

    The Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) is the student government for Stanford and all registered students are members. Its elected leadership consists of the Undergraduate Senate elected by the undergraduate students, the Graduate Student Council elected by the graduate students, and the President and Vice President elected as a ticket by the entire student body.

    Stanford is the beneficiary of a special clause in the California Constitution, which explicitly exempts Stanford property from taxation so long as the property is used for educational purposes.

    Endowment and donations

    The university’s endowment, managed by the Stanford Management Company, was valued at $27.7 billion as of August 31, 2019. Payouts from the Stanford endowment covered approximately 21.8% of university expenses in the 2019 fiscal year. In the 2018 NACUBO-TIAA survey of colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, only Harvard University, the University of Texas System, and Yale University had larger endowments than Stanford.

    In 2006, President John L. Hennessy launched a five-year campaign called the Stanford Challenge, which reached its $4.3 billion fundraising goal in 2009, two years ahead of time, but continued fundraising for the duration of the campaign. It concluded on December 31, 2011, having raised a total of $6.23 billion and breaking the previous campaign fundraising record of $3.88 billion held by Yale. Specifically, the campaign raised $253.7 million for undergraduate financial aid, as well as $2.33 billion for its initiative in “Seeking Solutions” to global problems, $1.61 billion for “Educating Leaders” by improving K-12 education, and $2.11 billion for “Foundation of Excellence” aimed at providing academic support for Stanford students and faculty. Funds supported 366 new fellowships for graduate students, 139 new endowed chairs for faculty, and 38 new or renovated buildings. The new funding also enabled the construction of a facility for stem cell research; a new campus for the business school; an expansion of the law school; a new Engineering Quad; a new art and art history building; an on-campus concert hall; a new art museum; and a planned expansion of the medical school, among other things. In 2012, the university raised $1.035 billion, becoming the first school to raise more than a billion dollars in a year.

    Research centers and institutes

    DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    Stanford Research Institute, a center of innovation to support economic development in the region.
    Hoover Institution, a conservative American public policy institution and research institution that promotes personal and economic liberty, free enterprise, and limited government.
    Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, a multidisciplinary design school in cooperation with the Hasso Plattner Institute of University of Potsdam [Universität Potsdam](DE) that integrates product design, engineering, and business management education).
    Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, which grew out of and still contains the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project.
    John S. Knight Fellowship for Professional Journalists
    Center for Ocean Solutions
    Together with UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, Stanford is part of the Biohub, a new medical science research center founded in 2016 by a $600 million commitment from Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and pediatrician Priscilla Chan.

    Discoveries and innovation

    Natural sciences

    Biological synthesis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) – Arthur Kornberg synthesized DNA material and won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1959 for his work at Stanford.
    First Transgenic organism – Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer were the first scientists to transplant genes from one living organism to another, a fundamental discovery for genetic engineering. Thousands of products have been developed on the basis of their work, including human growth hormone and hepatitis B vaccine.
    Laser – Arthur Leonard Schawlow shared the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics with Nicolaas Bloembergen and Kai Siegbahn for his work on lasers.
    Nuclear magnetic resonance – Felix Bloch developed new methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements, which are the underlying principles of the MRI.

    Computer and applied sciences

    ARPANETStanford Research Institute, formerly part of Stanford but on a separate campus, was the site of one of the four original ARPANET nodes.

    Internet—Stanford was the site where the original design of the Internet was undertaken. Vint Cerf led a research group to elaborate the design of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP/IP) that he originally co-created with Robert E. Kahn (Bob Kahn) in 1973 and which formed the basis for the architecture of the Internet.

    Frequency modulation synthesis – John Chowning of the Music department invented the FM music synthesis algorithm in 1967, and Stanford later licensed it to Yamaha Corporation.

    Google – Google began in January 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were both PhD students at Stanford. They were working on the Stanford Digital Library Project (SDLP). The SDLP’s goal was “to develop the enabling technologies for a single, integrated and universal digital library” and it was funded through the National Science Foundation, among other federal agencies.

    Klystron tube – invented by the brothers Russell and Sigurd Varian at Stanford. Their prototype was completed and demonstrated successfully on August 30, 1937. Upon publication in 1939, news of the klystron immediately influenced the work of U.S. and UK researchers working on radar equipment.

    RISCARPA funded VLSI project of microprocessor design. Stanford and University of California- Berkeley are most associated with the popularization of this concept. The Stanford MIPS would go on to be commercialized as the successful MIPS architecture, while Berkeley RISC gave its name to the entire concept, commercialized as the SPARC. Another success from this era were IBM’s efforts that eventually led to the IBM POWER instruction set architecture, PowerPC, and Power ISA. As these projects matured, a wide variety of similar designs flourished in the late 1980s and especially the early 1990s, representing a major force in the Unix workstation market as well as embedded processors in laser printers, routers and similar products.
    SUN workstation – Andy Bechtolsheim designed the SUN workstation for the Stanford University Network communications project as a personal CAD workstation, which led to Sun Microsystems.

    Businesses and entrepreneurship

    Stanford is one of the most successful universities in creating companies and licensing its inventions to existing companies; it is often held up as a model for technology transfer. Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing is responsible for commercializing university research, intellectual property, and university-developed projects.

    The university is described as having a strong venture culture in which students are encouraged, and often funded, to launch their own companies.

    Companies founded by Stanford alumni generate more than $2.7 trillion in annual revenue, equivalent to the 10th-largest economy in the world.

    Some companies closely associated with Stanford and their connections include:

    Hewlett-Packard, 1939, co-founders William R. Hewlett (B.S, PhD) and David Packard (M.S).
    Silicon Graphics, 1981, co-founders James H. Clark (Associate Professor) and several of his grad students.
    Sun Microsystems, 1982, co-founders Vinod Khosla (M.B.A), Andy Bechtolsheim (PhD) and Scott McNealy (M.B.A).
    Cisco, 1984, founders Leonard Bosack (M.S) and Sandy Lerner (M.S) who were in charge of Stanford Computer Science and Graduate School of Business computer operations groups respectively when the hardware was developed.[163]
    Yahoo!, 1994, co-founders Jerry Yang (B.S, M.S) and David Filo (M.S).
    Google, 1998, co-founders Larry Page (M.S) and Sergey Brin (M.S).
    LinkedIn, 2002, co-founders Reid Hoffman (B.S), Konstantin Guericke (B.S, M.S), Eric Lee (B.S), and Alan Liu (B.S).
    Instagram, 2010, co-founders Kevin Systrom (B.S) and Mike Krieger (B.S).
    Snapchat, 2011, co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy (B.S).
    Coursera, 2012, co-founders Andrew Ng (Associate Professor) and Daphne Koller (Professor, PhD).

    Student body

    Stanford enrolled 6,996 undergraduate and 10,253 graduate students as of the 2019–2020 school year. Women comprised 50.4% of undergraduates and 41.5% of graduate students. In the same academic year, the freshman retention rate was 99%.

    Stanford awarded 1,819 undergraduate degrees, 2,393 master’s degrees, 770 doctoral degrees, and 3270 professional degrees in the 2018–2019 school year. The four-year graduation rate for the class of 2017 cohort was 72.9%, and the six-year rate was 94.4%. The relatively low four-year graduation rate is a function of the university’s coterminal degree (or “coterm”) program, which allows students to earn a master’s degree as a 1-to-2-year extension of their undergraduate program.

    As of 2010, fifteen percent of undergraduates were first-generation students.


    As of 2016 Stanford had 16 male varsity sports and 20 female varsity sports, 19 club sports and about 27 intramural sports. In 1930, following a unanimous vote by the Executive Committee for the Associated Students, the athletic department adopted the mascot “Indian.” The Indian symbol and name were dropped by President Richard Lyman in 1972, after objections from Native American students and a vote by the student senate. The sports teams are now officially referred to as the “Stanford Cardinal,” referring to the deep red color, not the cardinal bird. Stanford is a member of the Pac-12 Conference in most sports, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in several other sports, and the America East Conference in field hockey with the participation in the inter-collegiate NCAA’s Division I FBS.

    Its traditional sports rival is the University of California, Berkeley, the neighbor to the north in the East Bay. The winner of the annual “Big Game” between the Cal and Cardinal football teams gains custody of the Stanford Axe.

    Stanford has had at least one NCAA team champion every year since the 1976–77 school year and has earned 126 NCAA national team titles since its establishment, the most among universities, and Stanford has won 522 individual national championships, the most by any university. Stanford has won the award for the top-ranked Division 1 athletic program—the NACDA Directors’ Cup, formerly known as the Sears Cup—annually for the past twenty-four straight years. Stanford athletes have won medals in every Olympic Games since 1912, winning 270 Olympic medals total, 139 of them gold. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, and 2016 Summer Olympics, Stanford won more Olympic medals than any other university in the United States. Stanford athletes won 16 medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics (12 gold, two silver and two bronze), and 27 medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics.


    The unofficial motto of Stanford, selected by President Jordan, is Die Luft der Freiheit weht. Translated from the German language, this quotation from Ulrich von Hutten means, “The wind of freedom blows.” The motto was controversial during World War I, when anything in German was suspect; at that time the university disavowed that this motto was official.
    Hail, Stanford, Hail! is the Stanford Hymn sometimes sung at ceremonies or adapted by the various University singing groups. It was written in 1892 by mechanical engineering professor Albert W. Smith and his wife, Mary Roberts Smith (in 1896 she earned the first Stanford doctorate in Economics and later became associate professor of Sociology), but was not officially adopted until after a performance on campus in March 1902 by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
    “Uncommon Man/Uncommon Woman”: Stanford does not award honorary degrees, but in 1953 the degree of “Uncommon Man/Uncommon Woman” was created to recognize individuals who give rare and extraordinary service to the University. Technically, this degree is awarded by the Stanford Associates, a voluntary group that is part of the university’s alumni association. As Stanford’s highest honor, it is not conferred at prescribed intervals, but only when appropriate to recognize extraordinary service. Recipients include Herbert Hoover, Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard, Lucile Packard, and John Gardner.
    Big Game events: The events in the week leading up to the Big Game vs. UC Berkeley, including Gaieties (a musical written, composed, produced, and performed by the students of Ram’s Head Theatrical Society).
    “Viennese Ball”: a formal ball with waltzes that was initially started in the 1970s by students returning from the now-closed Stanford in Vienna overseas program. It is now open to all students.
    “Full Moon on the Quad”: An annual event at Main Quad, where students gather to kiss one another starting at midnight. Typically organized by the Junior class cabinet, the festivities include live entertainment, such as music and dance performances.
    “Band Run”: An annual festivity at the beginning of the school year, where the band picks up freshmen from dorms across campus while stopping to perform at each location, culminating in a finale performance at Main Quad.
    “Mausoleum Party”: An annual Halloween Party at the Stanford Mausoleum, the final resting place of Leland Stanford Jr. and his parents. A 20-year tradition, the “Mausoleum Party” was on hiatus from 2002 to 2005 due to a lack of funding, but was revived in 2006. In 2008, it was hosted in Old Union rather than at the actual Mausoleum, because rain prohibited generators from being rented. In 2009, after fundraising efforts by the Junior Class Presidents and the ASSU Executive, the event was able to return to the Mausoleum despite facing budget cuts earlier in the year.
    Former campus traditions include the “Big Game bonfire” on Lake Lagunita (a seasonal lake usually dry in the fall), which was formally ended in 1997 because of the presence of endangered salamanders in the lake bed.

    Award laureates and scholars

    Stanford’s current community of scholars includes:

    19 Nobel Prize laureates (as of October 2020, 85 affiliates in total)
    171 members of the National Academy of Sciences
    109 members of National Academy of Engineering
    76 members of National Academy of Medicine
    288 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    19 recipients of the National Medal of Science
    1 recipient of the National Medal of Technology
    4 recipients of the National Humanities Medal
    49 members of American Philosophical Society
    56 fellows of the American Physics Society (since 1995)
    4 Pulitzer Prize winners
    31 MacArthur Fellows
    4 Wolf Foundation Prize winners
    2 ACL Lifetime Achievement Award winners
    14 AAAI fellows
    2 Presidential Medal of Freedom winners

    Stanford University Seal

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