Tell us about something that happened today in history, and make it relate to current science.
Courtesy Mark RyanToday marks the birthday of Arthur Lakes (1844-1917), a geologist, artist, and teacher who discovered some of the first dinosaur remains in the western United States. During the spring of 1877, Lakes was out measuring rock formations above Morrison, Colorado when he and companion John Beckwith stumbled upon the huge fossilized bones of dinosaurs. When Lakes sent samples to Yale paleontologist Othniel Marsh, it started the great western bone rush that would soon escalate into the infamous Bone Wars between Marsh and his arch-rival Edward Drinker Cope. While in Marsh's employ, Lakes created several iconic watercolor paintings of the diggings that occurred in Morrison, and later at Como Bluff in Wyoming. You can read more about Lakes in a post I made last year on his birthday.
Courtesy Public domainSir Richard Owen, Victorian-era anatomist and paleontologist best remembered for first coining the term "Dinosauria" in 1842. The word, which translates to "terrible lizard" (or the punchier, I think, "fearfully-great lizard") placed the prehistoric reptiles into their own taxon.
Courtesy Mark RyanOwen later headed the natural history collections at the British Museum, and, in the early 1850s, along with sculpture Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, created the first public (and now outmoded) models of dinosaurs. The life-size sculptures that can still be seen today at Crystal Palace Park in Sydenham, London. Owen died December 18, 1892.
According to the Aurora Alert mailing list, a solar event on Dec 14th may produce auroral displays (northern lights) starting around midnight tonight, Wednesday 12/15, and continuing Thursday 12/16 and possibly Friday 12/17. Your best bet for seeing the lights -- if they occur -- is to get away from the city, find a dark place with a clear view to the north, and look low on the horizon. Clouds will block your view, so if it's overcast, don't bother.
Courtesy Bjorn Christian TorrissenOn Nov. 26, 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter made a small hole in a sealed doorway and, holding up a candle, shed light onto King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Luxor, Egypt, for the first time in more than 3,000 years.
Read more about this fascinating discovery at findingDulcinea.
In 1859, the first edition of Charles Darwin revolutionary book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published this day to much acclaim and (for some) considerable consternation. It remains today one of science's truly great books.
The Associated Press reports that Mt. Merapi on the island of Java is pouring tons of hot ash, dust and smoke into the air in a massive eruption today. The volcano, one of world's most active, is located in the Ring of Fire, an area high in volcanic and seismic activity due to the extreme forces of plate tectonics that occur around the Pacific Ocean basin.
Merapi began erupting last week and has forced tens of thousands of villagers to evacuate the area. So far, the eruptions have killed nearly 40 people and burned several others, causing authorities to expand the danger zone from a 6-mile to 9-mile radius. Several flights in and out of local airports have been canceled due to the ash cloud. The recent eruption is the largest so far, and scientists think things could get worse.
To give you an idea of what's involved, here's a video showing a pyroclastic flow from an eruption last year on Mt. Merapi. From the looks of it, it's not something you want to try to outrun.
Courtesy Archive of Alfred Wegener Institute via WikipediaWhere would modern geology be without Alfred Wegener? This remarkable scientist's theory of continental drift (which he first proposed in 1912) is the very basis for the current groundbreaking (pun intended) theory of plate tectonics. Wegener was born November 1, 1880 in Berlin, and although he earned a doctorate in astronomy, his main interests were meteorology and climate.
When he noticed how Earth's large land masses seemed to fit together like puzzle pieces (e.g. South America fits with Africa), and how some fossils and rock types on different continents also seemed to match up with each other, it occurred to Wegener that continental drift could be the only reasonable explanation. His new theory also better explained earthquakes, volcanism, and mountain-building. But because he wasn't a trained geologist, Wegener's hypothesis was not at all well-received by the geologists of his day. It wasn't until the 1950s, after ocean floor mapping (by the naval military during World War II) and data from paleomagnetism and paleoclimate studies became available that Wegener's theory finally began to be embraced. Unfortunately, Wegener wasn't able to enjoy his vindication, since he had died decades before during a meteorological expedition to Greenland.
SOURCES and FURTHER INFO
The Science Museum's mummy will be taking a little trip to Children's Hospital tomorrow afternoon to undergo a CT scan. We hope to come away from the scan with a 3D model of the mummy’s inner workings and new clues that reveal more details about his life, a more precise age and cause of death. The results will be developed into new interpretative tools that will make their debut in the months leading up to the opening of the King Tut exhibition.
Thanks to the cooperation of Ed Fleming, our collections services staff and the staff at Children's, we've been granted permission to invite media to photograph the mummy as he's prepped for scanning tomorrow. He's become quite a sensation already, with more to come:
WCCO-AM will also be airing an interview with Ed Fleming about the project during news breaks today and tomorrow.
Courtesy USGSA fairly strong earthquake measuring 6.9 magnitude (6.7 according to the USGS Earthquake site) caused some panic but so far no reported injuries or major damage to population centers along the Gulf of California. The quake, which struck just before noon local time, was centered about 65 miles south of the coastal city of Los Mochis, and about 6 miles beneath the surface.
Courtesy NASA, ESA, and H. Weaver (The Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Lab) Periodic comet 103P/Hartley 2is currently visible high in the evening sky. Learn more here.