Monday, 15 May 2017

Key events during the energy expansions of evolution

(i) Life emerges; epoch of geochemistry begins. (ii) Anoxygenic photosynthesis: start of energy epoch 2, sunlight. (iii) Emergence of cyanobacteria. (iv) Great Oxidation Event: energy epoch 3, oxygen. (v) Probable eukaryotic fossils appear. (vi) Fossils of red algae appear. (vii) Start of energy epoch 4, flesh. (viii) Vascular plants colonize land; fire appears on Earth. Finally, the burning logs indicate the start of energy epoch 5, fire. The dates of (i)–(iii) are highly uncertain. For (i) I have taken the earliest date for which there is evidence consistent with life20. For (ii) I have taken the earliest date for which there is evidence consistent with photosynthesis18,19,21. For (iii), I have marked the date currently supported by fossil evidence for the presence of cyanobacteria (see main text, ‘Cyanobacteria and the oxygenation of the air’). Tick marks represent intervals of 25 million years. Figure drawn by F. Zsolnai.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Time-resolved 2-million-year-old supernova activity discovered in Earth’s microfossil record


Massive stars, which terminate their evolution in a cataclysmic explosion called a type-II supernova, are the nuclear engines of galactic nucleosynthesis. Among the elemental species known to be produced in these stars, the radioisotope 60Fe stands out: This radioisotope has no natural, terrestrial production mechanisms; thus, a detection of 60Fe atoms within terrestrial reservoirs is proof for the direct deposition of supernova material within our solar system. We report, in this work, the direct detection of live 60Fe atoms in biologically produced nanocrystals of magnetite, which we selectively extracted from two Pacific Ocean sediment cores. We find that the arrival of supernova material on Earth coincides with the lower Pleistocene boundary (2.7 Ma) and that it terminates around 1.7 Ma (details).

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Gravitational waves and The Theory of Relativity

AN IDIOT'S GUIDE TO...

The Theory of Relativity

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein explained that what we perceive as the force of gravity in fact arises from the curvature of space and time.
He found that space and time were actually interwoven into a single continuum known as space-time.
As he worked out the equations for this general theory of relativity, Einstein realised that massive objects caused a distortion within this continuum.
Imagine a large body in the centre of a trampoline. The body would press down into the fabric, causing it to dimple. If a marble was then rolled around the edge, it would spiral inward toward the body, pulled in much the same way that the gravity of a planet pulls at rocks in space. 
He proposed that objects such as the sun and the Earth work in a similar way. In the presence of matter and energy they can evolve, stretch and warp, forming ridges, mountains and valleys that cause things moving through to zigzag and curve. 
Einstein determined that massive objects (like the Earth) cause a distortion in space-time which is felt as gravity.

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