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Dreadnoughtus

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 08:00
 Jennifer Hall

An artist’s vision of how Dreadnoughtus schrani would have appeared. Credit: Jennifer Hall

 

If you, like me, are something of a paleo-romantic,

Swooning over dinosaurs both fearsome and gigantic,

Come feast your eyes on new reports the bone-hunters have brought us:

“Fearing nothing” means its name – the mighty beast Dreadnoughtus!

Seven times as heavy as Tyrannosaurus rex,

This gentle vegan creature boasted tons of muscle flex.

Patagonian earth under its massive feet would quake,

What a silhouette at dawn a family would make!

Even ‘mongst Titanosaurids, this one breaks the ceiling,

A shoulder blade as tall as I am – God, it sets me reeling.

On top of that, when this one died, it wasn’t yet mature …

How much more would it have grown? We can not be quite sure.

3D-scanning, high-tech models try to help us see one,

But why were creatures bigger then? What was it like to be one?

Children are the best at this, working on all fours,

Today, I think I’ll try it too: fear nothing, shake the floors!

 

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Further reading:

Giant dinosaur unearthed in Argentina, Science SHOT

A Gigantic, Exceptionally Complete Titanosaurian Sauropod Dinosaur from Southern Patagonia, Argentina, Nature

New “Dreadnought” Dinosaur Most Complete Specimen of a Giant, Scientific American

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University.

Erosion, Then Explosion

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 10:00
 Peters & Gaines, Nature, 2012

Illustration: Peters & Gaines, Nature, 2012

When viewing The Great Unconformity,
The result of a vast denudation,
One feels a new sense of enormity …
And above it lie critters crustacean!
Life during this wild explosion,
For armor, developed affinity.
Whence the new ions? Erosion!
Gooey life — meet alkalinity!

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Further reading:

Formation of the “Great Unconformity” as a trigger for the Cambrian explosion, Shanan E. Peters & Robert R. Gaines, Nature, 2012

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University.

Faint Young Sun

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 10:31
  Science online, J.F. Kasting

Image: Science online, J.F. Kasting

 

Through an ancient looking-glass,
Perhaps you’d see more H2 gas,
And if with denser gas collided,
Greater greenhouse warmth provided.
With faint young sun, would this suffice
To maintain water and not ice?
And when methanogens arrive?
This old debate is much alive.

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Further reading:

Hydrogen-Nitrogen Greenhouse Warming in Earth’s Early Atmosphere, Wordsworth and Pierrehumbert, Science, 2013

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University

Bottom Feeders

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 10:28
 Yuki Morono

Microscopic images: Yuki Morono

Graduate students, microbe goo …
What is it that links the two?
It seems that both life forms are found
Where electron donors (food) abound!
Sed rates, organic stuff control
Cell distribution on the whole.
New techniques birth a new notion:
Sub-seafloor mass, the same as ocean.

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Further reading:

Downsizing the Deep Biosphere, Perspective, Science 2012

Global distribution of microbial abundance and biomass in subseafloor sediment, Kallmeyer et. al., PNAS 2012

Katherine Allen is a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Bird Brain

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 10:17
Science 2012

Science 2012

A pigeon’s got cells in its brain
That link up with its inner ear.
Despite any wind, fog, or rain,
These talented birds, they can steer!
The magnetic field is their guide
(At bygone reversals: a rumpus?)
A field vector’s measured inside
A bird-brain equipped with a compass!

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Further reading:

Neural Correlates of a Magnetic Sense, Wu & Dickman, Science, 2012

Katherine Allen is a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Deep Sea Plough

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 10:00
 2011room5mgk.wikispaces.com

Photo: 2011room5mgk.wikispaces.com

Giant fleets the oceans trawl,
Gasping fish they skywards haul.
Not just critters do they move,
But sediments they push and groove …
Ten times greater their extent
Than the land that farmers dent!
What will come of shelf slopes now,
Underneath the deep-sea plough?

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Further reading:

Ploughing the deep sea floor, Puig et al., Nature 2012

Katherine Allen is a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

When North Itself Wanders

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 09:00

 

 NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Earth’s magnetic field lines are almost vertical near the poles. The dancing lights of the aurora borealis are the result of interactions between Earth’s magnetic field, atmosphere, and energetic particles from the sun. Image: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

 

I love thinking about why my compass points north.

The deep, molten-metal motions, rising

And falling … gargantuan currents of iron

Conceiving vast magnetic fields, revealed

In my hand, by a tiny, quivering red needle.

Even more deliciously disturbing:

The field has been changing; the north pole is wan-der-ing

Towards Siberia, of all places – like a fading,

Frost-bitten explorer, staggering wide curves through the snow.

 

 

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Further reading:

Satellites show magnetic field in decline, Nature

Earth’s magnetic field is fading, National Geographic

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University

Tale of a Carbon Atom

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 10:00

carbon fossil history

I am a wild carbon atom,
To others I’ve sometimes been bound,
Not locked in some hard, rocky stratum,
I’m telling you: I get around!

As carbon dioxide I spewed
Forth during floods of basalt
The P-T, some folks have been rude:
They say that it’s partly my fault!

About 50 million years passed;
The air got too crowded for me.
My buddies and I then in-gassed
Down into the salty sea.

There, we broke up some water
Stole an H and an O.
The leftover H found C fodder,
It was hot, reefs struggled to grow.

Oh baby, the early Cretaceous,
Now that was a happenin’ time.
Plankton were rife and bodacious;
I left the party with lime.

On the seafloor I rested, just chillin’,
Then my neighbors and I were dissolved!
They’re still on the hunt for the villain;
Some say methane was involved.

I’ll tell you, if you want to learn
Of acidifications now past:
For sea bugs to feel that harsh burn,
The pH change has to be fast.

If acid’s more rapid than base
(if it beats out the weathering flux)
Then carbonate shells lose the race …
For some critters, that really sucks.

So what? pH’s varied since life began;
Many things drop it or spike it.
I’ve seen crazy things, but this modern world, Man …
I’ve never seen anything like it!

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Further reading:

The Geological Record of Ocean Acidification, Science, 2012

Katherine Allen is a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Iron Fingerprints

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 01:20
Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC (reposted from Nature.com)

Saharan dust in the wind. Photo: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC (reposted from Nature.com)

 

Metals galore in deep Earth,

But at the sea surface, a dearth.

Iron is key

For greening the sea …

To planktic cells, gold has less worth.

 

Whence this precious resource?

Isotopes hint at the source.

Dust takes the lead,

While vents slowly bleed,

Could inputs affect climate’s course?

 

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Further reading:

Ocean chemistry: Fingerprints of a trace nutrient, Resing and Barrett, Nature 2014

Quantification of dissolved iron sources to the North Atlantic Ocean, Conway and John, Nature 2014

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Australopithecene Dental Calculus

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 10:36
 AG Henry, Nature, 2012.

Phytoliths — mineral particles formed by plants — found in the teeth of one of our ancient ancestors. Photo: AG Henry, Nature, 2012.

Across a mixed landscape, Au. sediba plods
Sometimes on two feet, and sometimes on four,
Munching on fruits and leguminous pods,
Nuts and some seeds … C3 foods galore!
They did have a choice (so coprolites hint);
Lush grasses, fat grazers were also around,
But in these old ancestors (destined for flint?)
New clues, new stories have just now been found.
With lasers and microscopes, old dental plaque —
Tiny, stuck phytoliths show a rich diet!
Scratched-up enamel, it all brings us back
To lives of these creatures that have long been quiet.
What wonders are learned from plaque and from feces,
History bound in compounds beneath!
So, we should say to that wonderful species:
Thanks for not brushing your teeth!

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Further reading:

Palaeoanthropology: The ancestral dinner table, Nature, 2012

The diet of Australopithecus sediba, Amanda G. Henry et al., Nature, 2012

This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

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