Based on their distinguished achievements in original research, three Caltech professors—Mike Brown, Ken Farley, and John Seinfeld—are among the 84 members and 21 foreign associates newly elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
In 1969, an exploding fireball tore through the sky over Mexico, scattering thousands of pieces of meteorite across the state of Chihuahua. More than 40 years later, the Allende meteorite is still serving the scientific community as a rich source of information about the early stages of our solar system's evolution. Recently, scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) discovered a new mineral embedded in the space rock—one they believe to be among the oldest minerals formed in the solar system.
For those who study earthquakes, one major challenge has been trying to understand all the physics of a fault—both during an earthquake and at times of "rest"—in order to know more about how a particular region may behave in the future. Now, researchers at Caltech have developed the first computer model of an earthquake-producing fault segment that reproduces, in a single physical framework, the available observations of both the fault's seismic (fast) and aseismic (slow) behavior.
Hiroo Kanamori, the John E. and Hazel S. Smits Professor of Geophysics, Emeritus, at Caltech, has been elected one of 21 new foreign associates of the National Academy of Sciences. Eighty-four new members were also announced during the 149th annual meeting of the academy in Washington, D.C.
By analyzing stalagmites, a team of Caltech researchers has determined that the climate signature in the tropics through four glacial cycles looks different in some ways and similar in others when compared to the climate signature at high latitudes. The results suggest that Earth's climate system might have two modes of responding to significant changes.
The second-largest mass extinction in Earth's history coincided with a short but intense ice age. Although it has long been agreed that the so-called Late Ordovician mass extinction was related to climate change, exactly how the change produced the extinction has not been known. Now, a team led by Caltech scientists has determined that the majority of extinctions were caused by habitat loss due to falling sea levels and cooling of the tropical oceans.
One of Caltech's oldest buildings, the Linde + Robinson Laboratory for Global Environmental Science, is the recipient of a 2012 Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award. The building, an astronomy lab built in 1932 that has undergone extensive renovations over the past two years, is the nation's first lab constructed in an existing historic building to earn LEED Platinum rating.
The field of study of Andrew Thompson, assistant professor of environmental science and engineering at Caltech, presents not only theoretical challenges but logistical ones as well. That's because he is interested in the circulation and ecology of the Southern Ocean and the role it plays in global climate. The hostile environment of this area makes long-term research difficult, so he's part of a team that is seeking to monitor the region with autonomous underwater vehicles called gliders.