Anticipating Another Sumatran Tsunami

Research by the California Institute of Technology, the University of Southern California, and Indonesian scientists indicates that within the next few decades another big tsunami could flood densely populated sections of western coastal Sumatra, south of those that suffered from the tsunami of December 2004.

Geobiologists Solve "Catch-22 Problem" Concerning the Rise of Atmospheric Oxygen

Two and a half billion years ago, when our evolutionary ancestors were little more than a twinkle in a bacterium's plasma membrane, the process known as photosynthesis suddenly gained the ability to release molecular oxygen into Earth's atmosphere, causing one of the largest environmental changes in the history of our planet. The organisms assumed responsible were the cyanobacteria, which are known to have evolved the ability to turn water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight into oxygen and sugar, and are still around today as the blue-green algae and the chloroplasts in all green plants.

Watson Lecture: Natural Disasters

The recent devastations caused by earthquakes in south and southwest Asia, by the Indian Ocean tsunami, and by hurricane Katrina offer dramatic proof that communities all over the world are both unaware of, and unprepared for, natural hazards. Unfortunately, while scientists understand much about these natural hazards, that knowledge commonly is not used to reduce the risks.

The Dwarf Planet Formerly Known as Xena Has Officially Been Named Eris, IAU Announces

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) today announced that the dwarf planet known as Xena since its 2005 discovery has been named Eris, after the Greek goddess of discord.

Xena Awarded "Dwarf Planet" Status, IAU Rules; Solar System Now Has Eight Planets

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) today downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a "dwarf planet," a designation that will also be applied to the spherical body discovered last year by California Institute of Technology planetary scientist Mike Brown and his colleagues. The decision means that only the rocky worlds of the inner solar system and the gas giants of the outer system will hereafter be designated as planets.

Study of 8.7-Magnitude Earthquake Lends New Insight into Post-Shaking Processes

Although the magnitude 8.7 Nias-Simeulue earthquake of March 28, 2005, was technically an aftershock, the temblor nevertheless killed more than 2,000 people in an area that had been devastated just three months earlier by the December 2004, magnitude 9.1 earthquake. Now, data returned from instruments in the field provide constraints on the behavior of dangerous faults in subduction zones, fueling a new understanding of basic mechanics controlling slip on faults, and in turn, improved estimates of regional seismic risk.

Hubble Space Telescope Obtains Best-Ever Size Measurement of Xena; Still Larger Than Pluto

To paraphrase a certain young lady from literature, the tenth planet Xena is getting curiouser and curiouser. Data released today by the Space Telescope Science Institute reveals that Xena is about 5 percent larger than Pluto, which means that it must be the most reflective planet in the solar system.

Watson Lecture: Bacterial Biofilms

Next time you're brushing your teeth in the morning, give a thought to biofilms, the complex communities of bacteria that form the slippery scum you're scouring off your teeth, along with the slime on river rocks, the gunk in clogged drains, and filmy coatings on just about any surface, anywhere, that's exposed to water.

Fault That Produced Largest Aftershock Ever Recorded Still Poses Threat to Sumatra

A mere three months after the giant Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and tsunami of December 2004, tragedy struck again when another great earthquake shook the area just to the south, killing over 2,000 Indonesians. Although technically an aftershock of the 2004 event, the 8.7-magnitude Nias-Simeulue earthquake just over a year ago was itself one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. Only six others have had greater magnitudes.

Study of 2004 Tsunami Disaster Forces Rethinking of Theory of Giant Earthquakes

The Sumatra-Andaman earthquake of December 26, 2004, was one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory, mostly on account of the devastating tsunami that followed it. A group of geologists and geophysicists, including scientists at the California Institute of Technology, has delineated the full dimensions of the fault rupture that caused the earthquake.

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