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15 March 2008

What does Mars Taste Like?

Salt and vinegar potato chips. Ok, not really: there are no potatoes on Mars. On the other hand, there is mounting evidence that Mars is and was a salty and acidic place. The salts are not generally table salt, and the acid was likely sulfuric rather than acetic, but you get the idea. There were several talks today about experimenting with brines (salty solutions) to see if they could explain …

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7 March 2008

How old is the Grand Canyon? The speleologist knows…

I learned a new word in Science this week: Speleology: the study or exploration of caves. Think “spelunking.” The word was in an article by UNM geologists Polyak et al. on a new age estimate of the Grand Canyon. For many years now, geologists have estimated the formation time of the Canyon at around 6 million years. The new study puts the age at close to 20 million. This may …

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27 February 2008

Mapping Meridiani: Part 2

Last time, I gave some of the background information about my research. Now, armed with that knowledge, we can press forward and talk about what I do. I look for hydrated minerals. A hydrated mineral is a mineral with water trapped in its crystal structure. The crystal acts as a protective cage, keeping the water bound within it even when the atmospheric pressure is too low for liquid water to …

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