Monthly Archives: August 2014

Yellowstone volcanism: the three big eruptions

The Yellowstone Supervolcano, fed by a continental hotspot, has erupted many times over its 70 million year history, but three eruptions blanked the continent. Today, the sponge-like upper magma chamber is 80 km by 20 km, or 4,000 km3 by volume, of which 8% is molten; another deeper and larger magma reservoir, 46,000 km3 by volume, of which 2% is molten, lays 65 km beneath the ground. Despite its deceptive beauty, Yellowstone is an active volcano (perhaps most obviously evidenced by its frequent earthquakes) that will violently erupt at some point in the future. Read more

Easy Science: how coal forms

Coal forms when vegetation partially decays in low-oxygen environments, such as swamps. Burial heats and compacts the plant matter, squeezing out water and gases (like methane) while leaving behind carbon. Thus, as the coal increases in rank, its carbon content--and the amount of energy it holds--goes up while its water content goes down.

The coal rank order is: Peat → Lignite (brown coal) → Bituminous coal → Anthracite Read more

Metamorphic rocks, minerals, grade, and facies

Metamorphic rocks form when a preexisting rock (protolith) is transformed into a different rock due to pressure, heat, or chemical alteration. Tectonics and burial can supply pressure and heat on a wide scale (regional metamorphism), while igneous intrusions can bake adjacent rocks (contact metamorphism). Hydrothermal fluids power chemical alteration. This page has useful diagrams of metamorphic processes, while this one has good notes, and this one has both! Read more

Objects in space: definitions and locations of planets, comets, asteroids, meteroids

It can be hard keeping up with the differences between planets, comets, asteroids, and meteroids--especially when many people use the terms interchangeably. This list quickly distinguishes between these objects while providing a map (not to scale!) of the relative locations of the planets and other noteworthy cosmic features. Read more

Fossilization basics: types, stages, influencing factors

Fossils, preserved remains or traces from ancient organisms, not only paint a picture of past life, they intrigue imaginations of all ages, make classic home decorations, and perhaps most notably, power society (petroleum is a chemical fossil). This post highlights the types of fossils, the stages of fossilization, the factors that increase the likelihood of an organism becoming a fossil, as well as the methods of preservation. Read more

Overview of the Ocarina: Instrument of the Ages

I wrote this article in 2009 for another website I was running at the time. In this article, I cover my experiences with the ocarina, the history of the ocarina, selecting (or making) an ocarina, and how to play an ocarina.

At a renaissance festival, a musician lured me with whimsical melodies using a strange whistle-like device. Enchanted, I hovered over to her stand, where I discovered that she and her sister made ocarinas for a living, to my great surprise, because, although I had played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I never knew such instruments actually existed. A diehard Zelda fan and a lover of music, I stood staring at the shiny ocarinas of all shapes and sizes on the counters. Read more

Creatures of the early Paleozoic

This list briefly describes the creatures appeared (and not necessarily when they disappeared, if they did). Keep in mind that all of the creatures listed are marine, and most are soft-bodied invertebrates. Of course, this list doesn't even come close to covering all the Paleozoic creatures, just the ones I found worth mentioning -- if you think I missed one, let me know in the comments! Click on the images to enlarge; hover to see photo credit in alt-text (many are from Nobu Tamura). Read more