Archive for the 'Geology' Category

Why Ducks are better than Dinosaurs

Most people prefer a good Tyrannosaur to a lowly duck. It’s a matter of choice of course, but when thinking about dinosaurs you probably have visions of ruthless predators with teeth the size of meat cleavers, or titanic herbivores bigger than small buildings, whereas ducks tend to float around in ponds inquiring after handfuls of bread.

However palaeontologists and biologists have revealed evidence that the humble duck may have triumphed over the mighty dinosaurs.

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How the Earth was born

In a previous post I wrote about how we discovered the age of the Earth, and I mentioned that our planet formed at the same time as the other rocky bodies in our Solar System.

I didn’t say HOW this happened though. So now I will.

Happy now?

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How old is the Earth? And how do we know?

In 1650 the Archbishop James Ussher announced that the Earth was thousands of years old.

Almost six thousand years old in fact. He had discovered that the world had been created on the 23rd of October 4004 BC. At lunchtime.

This was a pretty momentous conclusion. Not only had Ussher calculated the age of our world to a superhuman degree of precision, he was also lending credence to the idea that the Earth had a beginning (many cultures believed the Earth has always existed, and always will) and that it was pretty damn old, 6,000 years-worth of old.

Today, most people are comfortable with the idea that the Earth hasn’t existed in perpetuity, and most people are OK with the fact that the Earth is billions of years old. But this is a pretty recent mindset. Up until about one hundred years ago, no one really had any idea how old the Earth was.

Here’s what happened…

Continue reading ‘How old is the Earth? And how do we know?’

Life in our Solar System – Mars

In this series of posts I’ve looked at planetary bodies in our Solar System that could support life, from the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, to the cloud layers of Jupiter itself, to the ephemeral-once-jungles of Venus, I’ve even looked at Earth itself.

Now one of my favourites, Mars, the Red Planet.

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Life in our Solar System – Venus

In previous posts I’ve looked at the possibility that alien life could be found in our solar system, on three of Jupiter’s moons, in Jupiter itself, and on two of Saturn’s moons.

This time we’re moving nearer to home, to the planet closest to our own, Venus, the second rock from the Sun.

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The Invention of Sex

This is an article I’ve written and just submitted for a science writing prize in the UK, the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize. If you’re interested in entering, unfortunately the deadline was today, but there’s always next year, details are found through the link just above. The article is about why, and roughly when, sex was invented. At least on Earth…

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Life in our Solar System – Titan and Enceladus

In a couple of previous posts I looked at the possibility of life existing on some of Jupiter’s moons, including Europa, and then the possibility of life existing on Jupiter itself.

In this post we’ll head further out into the solar system and look at two of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus and Titan.

Continue reading ‘Life in our Solar System – Titan and Enceladus’


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