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19 September 2018

The Tangled Tree, by David Quammen

The talented science writer David Quammen has a new book out, and it’s excellent. The Tangled Tree explores endosymbiosis and horizontal gene transfer, two aspects of evolution that undercut the traditional ever-more-branching “tree of life” vision for the relatedness of living things. The lineage of organisms is not only divergent, but convergent too: populations diverge and sometimes merge, in whole or in part, complicating the traditional “ramose” structure of phylogenetic …

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28 December 2017

I Contain Multitudes, by Ed Yong

Ed Yong’s “Not Exactly Rocket Science” was one of the first science blogs that came onto my radar ten years ago when I was wading into geology blogging for the first time. He has an impressive record of excellent science journalism and really evocative writing. I was delighted to bump into him and introduce myself at the March for Science last winter. I hadn’t realized that he lived in DC …

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8 February 2017

Parasite Rex, by Carl Zimmer

I’ve always been fascinated by parasitism. Parasites are organisms that live on or in another organism (or organisms) in a way that detracts from the vitality of the host. Nothing in nature is redder in tooth and claw than the parasite. They represent a stark repudiation of the naive way many people think of evolution, with humans at the pinnacle, with a historical sense of purpose or progress, and with …

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5 October 2016

Hverir, Mývatn, Iceland

Today, I offer up a few photos and some video from the Hverir geothermal area on the east side of Mývatn National Park in Iceland – a rift zone astride the central Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and thus an area where you would expect to see a high heat flow through the crust. Heat interacting with meteoric water produces geothermal features: hot springs, geysers, fumaroles, and mud pots (where the groundwater is …

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1 September 2016

Archean microbial mats in the news and in GigaPan

The news yesterday of 3.7 Ga stromatolites in Greenland prompts a closer look at 3.22 Ga microbially-induced sedimentary structures in the Barberton Greenstone Belt’s Moodies group sandstones.

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2 August 2016

Oldest fossils in the UK: M.I.S.S. in Stoer Group, Scotland

This is the Split Rock at Clachtoll, on the shore of the North-West Highlands of Scotland. You’re looking out to sea, over the Minch. It’s the site that graces the cover of the excellent book A Geological Excursion Guide to the North-West Highlands of Scotland, by Kathryn Goodenough and Marten Krabbendam. “Clach toll” apparently means “Split rock” — Go figure. The Split Rock is an easy landmark to steer toward …

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8 April 2016

The Hidden Half of Nature, by David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé

David Montgomery is a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington, in Seattle. I’m a fan of his work in soil conservation and countering creationism, so I was very pleased to find myself sharing the “honoree” table with him in Vancouver the year before last, at the annual awards luncheon for the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and the Geological Society of America’s Geoscience Education Division. I was there …

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24 January 2012

Paleoproterozoic stromatolites from the Malmani Dolomite (Transvaal Supergroup)

After our safari, Lily and I were taken up onto the Great Escarpment in northern South Africa. The escarpment is supported by sedimentary strata of the Transvaal Supergroup that overlie the Archean basement rock of the Kaapvaal Craton. The Transvaal strata are Paleoproterozoic in age, somewhere between 2.5 and 2.0 billion years old. They are a mix of siliciclastic sediment and carbonates. Here’s the view from an overlook dubbed “God’s …

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26 May 2011

Fault in Massanutten Sandstone

Here’s a gigapan I shot last yesterday, looking west from “Blue Hole” towards a cliff of Massanutten Formation sandstone, south of Waterlick, Virginia. A prominent fault zone can be seen in the center of the image. Unfortunately, the auto-stitch deformed my face. I look like Quasimodo. Oh well. As usual, you can see it full screen, by clicking on the word “Gigapan” in the lower right. There, you can find …

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