Guest Video: Discoverers of Earth’s Deep Layering

At the end of June, researchers suggested adding some new details to the present scientific model of Earth’s outer central core; it’s rather arcane, but the news is a good reminder for us all to honor those who accurately imagined the Earth’s structure without the aid of supercomputers or other modern tools.

These thinkers were among those who first drew the correct images of our planet’s inner structure, using math, logic, basic seismological tools (in some cases), and physics:


Guest Videos: Friedrich Mohs

Although I love geoscience, I’m not a geologist, though I tried to become one. Mineralogy lab was tough – you had to identify rocks without using labels.

Sadly, YouTube and the Geology Kitchen weren’t around yet.

It’s even worse out in the field, of course. The Mohs hardness scale was a lifesaver. Where did it get that name? From its inventor, who expanded on earlier Classical work by Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder, per Dr. Wikipedia.

Here is Mohs in less than a minute:

Here is a slightly more in-depth biography. And this is his legacy to the world:

Featured image: Memorial plaque in Vienna, by Doris Antony, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia.

Guest Videos: Dinosaur Brains and Tilly Edinger

A “game-changing” early mammal fossil was reported in May 2018. To understand why paleontologists are excited about it, you first need to meet paleoneurologist Tilly Edinger.

Dino DNA and cloning are good movie topics, but real-world paleontologists are even more fascinated by how animal brains–particularly those of dinosaurs and mammals–have evolved. Unfortunately, soft tissue like that doesn’t fossilize very well.

Fortunately, evolution always molds bones to fit very closely around the brain and its blood and nerve vessels. It’s possible to make a 3D cast of a fossil brain, if you can find enough pieces of the braincase that fit together.

That’s a big “if,” but it works, thanks to the research of Johanna Gabrielle Ottilie “Tilly” Edinger, who pioneered the technique.

We now know, for instance, that Triceratops wasn’t the brightest dinosaur in the park.

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Guest Video: John Wesley Powell

When I studied surveying, in 1980, the field was transitioning from painstakingly perfect hand-drawn artwork and lettering to instrumentation. Now, it’s all automated, but some of my teachers remembered the old days, when everything was done by hand. They all revered the preciseness of John Wesley Powell’s surveys.

I didn’t realize at the time that this man had lost an arm in the Civil War battle of Shiloh before he went into surveying!

Of course, today Powell is best known for his journey through the Grand Canyon. Here he is, to tell you a little bit more about himself and his work.

Featured image: TradingCardsNPS, CC BY 2.0.

George F. Kunz, Gentleman Explorer

It’s a Golden Oldies weekend, with a Geoscientist of the Week I first described back in 2014.

The US Geological Survey has said almost everything that needs to be said about this man: “George F. Kunz (1856-1932) [was] a mineralogist and gemologist, gentleman explorer, and employee of the USGS and Tiffany & Co.”

That’s pretty awesome.

The great dramas of money, power, history, and beauty all figured in Dr. Kunz’s life.

And until reading this, unless you happen to be a specialist or know a certain kind of New Yorker, you have probably never heard of him.
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