In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

brookhavenlab:

Where do our planet’s oceans come from? New research done in part at Brookhaven shows it may come from the rocks deep in the Earth’s mantle.
The water is trapped inside a blue rock called ringwoodite that sits between the Upper Mantle and Lower Mantle in a spot called the Transition Zone about 450 miles beneath the Earth’s surface.
Northwestern geophysicist Steve Jacobsen and University of New Mexico seismologist Brandon Schmandt have found deep pockets of magma in this zone, an indicator of water that is squeezed out of the rocks by enormous pressures and temperatures.
Jacobsen and his team used a diamond-anvil cell at one of the UV beamlines at our National Synchrotron Light Source to mimic those pressures on a sample of ringwoodite. Compressed between two tiny diamonds and laser-heated to almost 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, the sample sweated out its water. 
But it’s not in a form familiar to us — it’s not liquid, ice, or vapor. It’s water trapped in the molecular structure of the minerals in the mantle rock. If just one percent of the weight of mantle rock located in the Transition Zone is H2O, that would be equivalent to nearly three times the amount of water in our oceans!! 

brookhavenlab:

Where do our planet’s oceans come from? New research done in part at Brookhaven shows it may come from the rocks deep in the Earth’s mantle.

The water is trapped inside a blue rock called ringwoodite that sits between the Upper Mantle and Lower Mantle in a spot called the Transition Zone about 450 miles beneath the Earth’s surface.

Northwestern geophysicist Steve Jacobsen and University of New Mexico seismologist Brandon Schmandt have found deep pockets of magma in this zone, an indicator of water that is squeezed out of the rocks by enormous pressures and temperatures.

Jacobsen and his team used a diamond-anvil cell at one of the UV beamlines at our National Synchrotron Light Source to mimic those pressures on a sample of ringwoodite. Compressed between two tiny diamonds and laser-heated to almost 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, the sample sweated out its water. 

But it’s not in a form familiar to us — it’s not liquid, ice, or vapor. It’s water trapped in the molecular structure of the minerals in the mantle rock. If just one percent of the weight of mantle rock located in the Transition Zone is H2O, that would be equivalent to nearly three times the amount of water in our oceans!! 

skeptv:

1964 M9.2 Great Alaska Earthquake—Causes & Effects

The 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake occurred on Good Friday, March 27th. It and rocked the state with strong ground shaking for 4.5 minutes. At magnitude 9.2, it was the second largest quake ever recorded by seismometers. This animation shows the underlying causes of that earthquake, and tells how research done on the ground deformation contributed to confirmation of early theories of plate tectonics.

via IRIS EPO.


This Ancient Asteroid Strike Was More Insane Than We Realized

Around 3.26 billion years ago — long before the dinosaurs — a massive asteroid measuring nearly 36 miles (58 km) across smashed into the Earth. Geologists have now reconstructed this cataclysmic event, and it was far, far bigger than we thought. Here’s how things went down on that fateful day…

The collision instigated a planetary-wide earthquake measuring more than 10.8 on the Richter Scale. It propelled seismic waves hundreds of miles through the Earth, breaking rocks and setting off other large earthquakes. This earthquake shook the earth for a half hour — about six times longer than the one that struck Japan in 2011…

The event also rebooted parts of the Earth’s tectonic system….

It also triggered tsunamis thousands of meters deep — far bigger than anything that could be generated by conventional earthquakes. These tsunamis swept across the oceans that covered most of the Earth at the time…

The Earth’s surface was completely fried. The sky became red hot, the atmosphere was filled with dust and debris — and the tops of the oceans boiled. Vaporized rock was shot up into the atmosphere where it circled the globe and condensed into liquid droplets before solidifying and falling back to the surface…

Not this shit again: Shroud of Turin, Ancient earthquake could explain face of Jesus

From Examiner.com:

…The study claims that neutron emissions from the earthquake that shook Jerusalem centuries ago could have created the image. It is also believed that the quake messed up the radiocarbon levels. This could be a reason that many believe it to be fake…

…If the massive ancient earthquake did mess up radiocarbon levels, then those dates and thoughts could be totally inaccurate. The new theory believes the earthquake hit around the same time that Jesus Christ was said to have died and when the Shroud of Turin was created.

Should this be true, it really could mean that the Shroud of Turin is the fabric that was used to cover the body of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion in A.D. 33.

From Doubtful News:

That explanation is way too incredible and convenient. Yes, it may be that an earthquake actually happened. But the relation to Jesus is tenuous, since Jesus’ history is tenuous. The study claims a big earthquake could have happened which could have released neutron emissions that could have been at play in the image and dating. Sorry, too many “coulds”, with no evidence. We’ve had plenty of big earthquakes. Where is the precedence for neutron emissions or imprints on cloth? There isn’t any. They are piling “miracles” upon “miracles”.

Even if it is theoretically possible for earthquake-generated neutrons to have caused this kind of reaction, the study doesn’t address why this effect hasn’t been seen elsewhere in the archaeological record, Gordon Cook, a professor of environmental geochemistry at the University of Glasgow, explained.

“It would have to be a really local effect not to be measurable elsewhere,” Cook told Live Science. “People have been measuring materials of that age for decades now and nobody has ever encountered this.”

Exactly. It smacks of people of faith making stuff up from wishful thinking. I’d go so far to say this is nonsense and should be discarded. This is speculation, not science. It’s a HUGE stretch. Also, doesn’t the earthquake neutron blast sort of make this less… miraculous?

skeptv:

The Moon Battered by Impacts

Where did the moon come from? What is it made of? And what events created the distinctive pattern of light and dark on its surface? To find out, we have sent satellites out to crash onto its surface, astronauts to comb its craters and hillsides and collect rocks, and high-tech spacecraft to map its nooks and crannies.

A half-century of study has brought us closer to the answers. Many scientists now believe that the moon was born in a monumental collision between Earth and a Mars-sized body early in the history of the solar system, some 4.5 billion years ago.

From the remains of the impact, a giant ball of magma coalesced in Earth orbit. Gravity sculpted this hot mass into a sphere. In time, its surface cooled, forming a hard crust with magma just underneath.

Around 4.3 billion years ago, a giant impact battered the moon’s south pole, sending debris as far as the opposite side of the moon. The impact formed the Aitken basin. At roughly 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 13 kilometers deep, it is one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System.

Its formation marked the beginning of a period of large-scale changes to the moon’s surface. Over several hundred million years, the lunar terrain was rocked by a succession of heavy impacts. Some formed large basins that would eventually fill in to become the dark colored patches of the moon known as maria.

These impacts punched enormous holes in the relatively thin lunar crust. Because the moon had not yet fully cooled on the inside, lava began to seep out through cracks opened up by the impacts.

Lava spread throughout the craters, gradually filling them in and cooling. Because of the high iron content of this lava, the mare regions reflect less light and therefore appear darker than the surrounding highlands. Around one billion years ago, volcanic activity ended on the near side of the moon as the last of the large impacts made their mark on the surface. The impacts did not cease, although they were much smaller than the ones that formed the largest basins.

Some of the largest and best-known impacts from this period formed the Tycho, Copernicus, and Aristarchus craters. They feature distinctive “rays” that stretch out from the crater sites, formed by material blasted out at the moment of impact.

Finally, after billions of years of relative quiet, we arrive at the moon we see today. Though its surface continues to be affected by impacts, the bombardment has slowed dramatically.

The features we now see on the Moon’s surface are a permanent record of its early history. Within them, too, we are finding clues to the evolution of Earth itself.

via Space Rip.


Just a few centuries ago, we could only explain volcanic and seismic activities as the acts of gods who were punishing their creations. For example, ancient Greeks believed that Poseidon was the “Earth-Shaker,” a being who would topple their cities if they didn’t worship and appease him. Unfortunately for them, Greece sits in one the most earthquake prone areas of the world, situated in a boundary region between 3 tectonic plates (their God must have often appeared to be displeased).

Watch a volcano birth an entire new island of the coast of Japan

Off the coast of Japan, an exploding volcano has formed a new island about 650 meters in diameter. You can see it spewing and spouting black volcanic ash all around as it fills itself out. Pretty cool.

Fuji News Network says the island is forming near the Nishinoshima Volcano. The footage was captured by the Japanese Coast Guard. Volcano Discovery reports that the eruption was spotted in the morning when surtseyan activity—”explosive interaction of sea-water and lava, generating violent jets of steam and ash”—was documented at the site.

scienceisbeauty:

What nature can do in a few minutes. On September 24, 2013, a major strike-slip earthquake rattled western Pakistan, killing at least 350 people and leaving more than 100,000 homeless. The 7.7 magnitude quake struck the Baluchistan province of northwestern Pakistan. Amidst the destruction, a new island was created offshore in the Paddi Zirr (West Bay) near Gwadar, Pakistan.

Credit: Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data from the NASA EO-1 team.

Source: Earthquake Births New Island off Pakistan (NASA Earth Observatory)

“Hidden Flux” of Material May Help Explain Earth’s Origins

Scientists at MIT have discovered a “hidden flux” of material deep in the Earth’s mantle that would make the planet’s overall composition more similar to that of meteorites, supporting the theory that Earth arose from the collision of asteroids.

It’s widely thought that the Earth arose from violent origins: Some 4.5 billion years ago, a maelstrom of gas and dust circled in a massive disc around the sun, gathering in rocky clumps to form asteroids. These asteroids, gaining momentum, whirled around a fledgling solar system, repeatedly smashing into each other to create larger bodies of rubble — the largest of which eventually cooled to form the planets.

Countless theories, simulations and geologic observations support such a scenario. But there remains one lingering mystery: If the Earth arose from the collision of asteroids, its composition should resemble that of meteoroids, the small particles that break off from asteroids.

But to date, scientists have found that, quite literally, something doesn’t add up: Namely, the Earth’s mantle — the layer between the planet’s crust and core — is missing an amount of lead found in meteorites whose composition has been analyzed following impact with the Earth.

Much of the Earth is composed of rocks with a high ratio of uranium to lead (uranium naturally decays to lead over time). However, according to standard theories of planetary evolution, the Earth should harbor a reservoir of mantle somewhere in its interior that has a low ratio of uranium to lead, to match the composition of meteorites. But such a reservoir has yet to be discovered — a detail that leaves Earth’s origins hazy.

Now researchers in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences have identified a “hidden flux” of material in the Earth’s mantle that would make the planet’s overall composition much more similar to that of meteorites. This reservoir likely takes the form of extremely dense, lead-laden rocks that crystallize beneath island arcs, strings of volcanoes that rise up at the boundary of tectonic plates….

Continue

Earth’s 6-Year Twitch Changes Day Length

Periodic wobbles in Earth’s core change the length of a day every 5.9 years, according to a study published today (July 10) in the journal Nature.

Teasing out this subtle cycle, which subtracts and adds mere milliseconds to each day, also revealed a match between abrupt changes in the length of day and Earth’s magnetic field. During these short-lived lurches in the magnetic field intensity, events called geomagnetic jerks, Earth’s day also shifts by 0.1 millisecond, the researchers report. Since 1969, scientists have detected 10 geomagnetic jerks lasting less than a year.

More

Earth’s 6-Year Twitch Changes Day Length

Periodic wobbles in Earth’s core change the length of a day every 5.9 years, according to a study published today (July 10) in the journal Nature.

Teasing out this subtle cycle, which subtracts and adds mere milliseconds to each day, also revealed a match between abrupt changes in the length of day and Earth’s magnetic field. During these short-lived lurches in the magnetic field intensity, events called geomagnetic jerks, Earth’s day also shifts by 0.1 millisecond, the researchers report. Since 1969, scientists have detected 10 geomagnetic jerks lasting less than a year.

More

lambandserpent:

The gaping flame-filled crater has been this way since 1971, when Soviet geologists tapped into a cavern of natural gas and decided to burn it off so it wouldn’t poison anyone. They thought it would take a few days. Four decades later, locals refer to this pit as the Door to Hell.

lambandserpent:

The gaping flame-filled crater has been this way since 1971, when Soviet geologists tapped into a cavern of natural gas and decided to burn it off so it wouldn’t poison anyone. They thought it would take a few days. Four decades later, locals refer to this pit as the Door to Hell.

science-junkie:

Atlantic Ocean to Disappear in 200 Million Years?
A newly discovered crack in the Earth’s crust could pull North America and Europe together and cause the Atlantic Ocean to vanish in about 220 million years, scientists say.A new map of the seafloor off the coast of Iberia—the region of Europe that includes Portugal and Spain—has revealed what could be the birth of a new subduction zone.Subduction zones happen when tectonic plates—the large rock slabs that make up the Earth’s crust—crash into one another. The edge of the heavier plate slides, or subducts, below the lighter plate. It then melts back into the Earth’s mantle—the layer just below the crust.The discovery of this new subduction zone, published on June 6 in the journal Geology, could signal the start of an extended cycle that fuses continents together into a single landmass—or “supercontinent”—and closes our oceans.Read more

science-junkie:

Atlantic Ocean to Disappear in 200 Million Years?

A newly discovered crack in the Earth’s crust could pull North America and Europe together and cause the Atlantic Ocean to vanish in about 220 million years, scientists say.

A new map of the seafloor off the coast of Iberia—the region of Europe that includes Portugal and Spain—has revealed what could be the birth of a new subduction zone.

Subduction zones happen when tectonic plates—the large rock slabs that make up the Earth’s crust—crash into one another. The edge of the heavier plate slides, or subducts, below the lighter plate. It then melts back into the Earth’s mantle—the layer just below the crust.

The discovery of this new subduction zone, published on June 6 in the journal Geology, could signal the start of an extended cycle that fuses continents together into a single landmass—or “supercontinent”—and closes our oceans.

Read more

spaceplasma:

Meteorites on Mars

The sky falls on Mars, too, just as it does sometimes on Earth. In its long crosscountry drive over the pool table expanse of Meridiani Planum, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has encountered more than a dozen meteorites, all of them iron or stony-iron in composition.

Meteorites found on Mars are curiosities, but they can be something more than that, as a  paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research points out. A team of scientists led by James Ashley (Arizona State University) notes that because we have samples on Earth of the same kinds of meteorites found there, scientists can use the weathering seen on the Martian examples to probe bygone Martian climates.

The paper details three of Opportunity’s Mars meteorites, dubbed Block Island, Shelter Island, and Mackinac Island. Block Island was found by Opportunity on sol (Mars day) 1961 (July 31, 2009), Shelter Island on sol 2022 (October 1, 2009), and Mackinac Island on sol 2034 (October 14, 2009).Scientists are naming rocks of scientific interest after islands on earth.

 What’s most distinctive about these meteorites is that they show evidence for repeated episodes of weathering. For example, Block Island (an iron meteorite) shows two dramatically different faces: one smoothed, probably by sandblasting, and the other deeply pitted, probably by acidic corrosion. The corrosion likely occurred as thin films of water encountered iron sulfide minerals commonly found in iron meteorites.

Both Block Island and Shelter Island show evidence for multi-stage weathering. Close examination of their surfaces show that both have lost through weathering the fusion crusts that meteorites commonly develop as they speed through the atmosphere. Then exposure to water (or probably ice) created an oxydized (rusted) outer layer. This in turn has been largely scoured away by wind erosion.

There’s no way at present to determine how long those meteorites rested on the surface before Opportunity rolled by. But the weathering is unlikely to have happened recently, given Mars’ current arid, cold climate. Yet scientists know that over the last half million years at least, the planet’s spin axis has changed its tilt with respect to the Martian orbit. This has produced periods when snow and ice have come down from the polar regions and accumulated near the equator, probably including Meridiani Planum.

Credit: NASA/JPL

spaceplasma:

Io

Looking like a giant pizza covered with melted cheese and splotches of tomato and ripe olives, Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system. Volcanic plumes rise 300 km (190 miles) above the surface, with material spewing out at nearly half the required escape velocity.

A bit larger than Earth’s Moon, Io is the third largest of Jupiter’s moons, and the fifth one in distance from the planet.

Although Io always points the same side toward Jupiter in its orbit around the giant planet, the large moons Europa and Ganymede perturb Io’s orbit into an irregularly elliptical one. Thus, in its widely varying distances from Jupiter, Io is subjected to tremendous tidal forces. These forces cause Io’s surface to bulge up and down (or in and out) by as much as 100 m (330 feet)! Compare these tides on Io’s solid surface to the tides on Earth’s oceans. On Earth, in the place where tides are highest, the difference between low and high tides is only 18 m (60 feet), and this is for water, not solid ground!

This tidal pumping generates a tremendous amount of heat within Io, keeping much of its subsurface crust in liquid form seeking any available escape route to the surface to relieve the pressure. Thus, the surface of Io is constantly renewing itself, filling in any impact craters with molten lava lakes and spreading smooth new floodplains of liquid rock. The composition of this material is not yet entirely clear, but theories suggest that it is largely molten sulfur and its compounds (which would account for the varigated coloring) or silicate rock (which would better account for the apparent temperatures, which may be too hot to be sulfur). Sulfur dioxide is the primary constituent of a thin atmosphere on Io. It has no water to speak of, unlike the other, colder Galilean moons. Data from the Galileo spacecraft indicates that an iron core may form Io’s center, thus giving Io its own magnetic field.

Io’s orbit, keeping it at more or less a cozy 422,000 km (262,000 miles) from Jupiter, cuts across the planet’s powerful magnetic lines of force, thus turning Io into a electric generator. Io can develop 400,000 volts across itself and create an electric current of 3 million amperes. This current takes the path of least resistance along Jupiter’s magnetic field lines to the planet’s surface, creating lightning in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere.

As Jupiter rotates, it takes its magnetic field around with it, sweeping past Io and stripping off about 1,000 kg (1 ton) of Io’s material every second! This material becomes ionized in the magnetic field and forms a doughnut-shaped cloud of intense radiation referred to as a plasma torus. Some of the ions are pulled into Jupiter’s atmosphere along the magnetic lines of force and create auroras in the planet’s upper atmosphere. It is the ions escaping from this torus that inflate Jupiter’s magnetosphere to over twice the size we would expect.

Discovery:
Io was discovered on 8 January 1610 by Galileo Galilei. The discovery, along with three other Jovian moons, was the first time a moon was discovered orbiting a planet other than Earth. The discovery of the four Galilean satellites eventually led to the understanding that planets in our solar system orbit the sun, instead of our solar system revolving around Earth. Galileo apparently had observed Io on 7 January 1610, but had been unable to differentiate between Io and Europa until the next night.

How Io Got its Name:
Galileo originally called Jupiter’s moons the Medicean planets, after the Medici family and referred to the individual moons numerically as I, II, III, and IV. Galileo’s naming system would be used for a couple of centuries.

It wouldn’t be until the mid-1800s that the names of the Galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, would be officially adopted, and only after it became apparent that naming moons by number would be very confusing as new additional moons were being discovered.

Io was originally designated Jupiter I by Galileo because it is the first satellite of Jupiter. Io is named for the daughter of Inachus, who was raped by Jupiter. Jupiter, in an effort to hide his crime from his wife, Juno, transformed Io into a heifer.

Credit: NASA/JPL