Bruce Churchill Murray, Caltech Professor of Planetary Science, Emeritus, and former head of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), succumbed to complications of Alzheimer's disease on August 29, 2013. He was 81.
About 450 million years ago, Earth suffered the second-largest mass extinction in its history—the Late Ordovician mass extinction, during which more than 75 percent of marine species died. Exactly what caused this tremendous loss in biodiversity remains a mystery, but now a team led by researchers at Caltech has discovered new details supporting the idea that the mass extinction was linked to a cooling climate.
What do scientific studies and national boundary lines have in common? According to Caltech geobiologist and graduate student Jeff Marlow, both reflect something unique and profound about humanity: our need to explore. Marlow sees parallels between what we've been discovering about our world and the way we've spread across it. At next month's TEDxCaltech conference, he'll present an analysis of what drives us to explore—including what it suggests about the essence of being human.
Last Wednesday morning, Caltech received a rather large delivery. About 50 feet long and 5 feet wide, a big black chunk of metal was unloaded from a truck and slowly pushed into the Central Engineering Services Building.
Caltech has established the Terrestrial Hazard Observation and Reporting Center (THOR), funded by $6.7 million from Foster and Coco Stanback, and $3.35 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore matching program.
Using a diamond-anvil cell to recreate the high pressures deep within the earth, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have found unusual properties in an iron-rich magnesium- and iron-oxide mineral that may explain the existence of several ultra-low velocity zones (ULVZs) at the core-mantle boundary. A paper about their findings was published in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters (GRL).
Computational scientists and geophysicists at the University of Texas at Austin and Caltech have developed new computer algorithms that for the first time allow for the simultaneous modeling of the earth's mantle flow, large-scale tectonic plate motions, and the behavior of individual fault zones, to produce an unprecedented view of plate tectonics and the forces that drive it.
In the summer of 2002, a week of heavy rains in Central Texas caused Canyon Lake—the reservoir of the Canyon Dam—to flood over its spillway and down the Guadalupe River Valley in a planned diversion to save the dam from catastrophic failure. The flood excavated a 2.2-kilometer-long, 7-meter-deep canyon in the bedrock. According to a new analysis by Caltech assistant professor of geology Michael Lamb, the canyon formed in just three days.
East Africa's Turkana Basin has been a hot savanna region for at least the past 4 million years—including the period of time during which early hominids evolved in this area—says a team of researchers led by scientists at Caltech. These findings may shed light on the evolutionary pressures that led humans to walk upright, lose most of our body hair, develop a more slender physique, and sweat more copiously than other animals.
Questions about when, why, and how vertebrates stopped relying on external factors to regulate their body temperatures and began heating themselves internally have long intrigued scientists. Now, a team led by researchers at Caltech has taken a critical step toward providing some answers. They describe the first method for the direct measurement of the body temperatures of large extinct vertebrates—through the analysis of rare isotopes in the animals' bones, teeth, and eggshells.
A research team made up of scientists from Caltech and their partners in Peru and France report on their analysis of GPS data from the 2007 Pisco quake in Peru. They found, in part, that 50 percent of the postseismic slippage is aseismic—movement along a fault that occurs without any accompanying seismic waves.