How do mountains form? What forces are needed to carve out a basin? Why does the Earth tremble and quake?

Earth scientists pursue these fundamental questions to gain a better understanding of our planet’s deep past and present workings. Their discoveries also help us plan for the future by preparing us for earthquakes, determining where to drill for oil and gas, and more. Now, in a new, expanded map of the tectonic stresses acting on North America, Stanford researchers present the most comprehensive view yet of the forces at play beneath the Earth’s surface.

The findings, published in Nature Communications


Galaxies grow large by eating their smaller neighbours, new research reveals.

Exactly how massive galaxies attain their size is poorly understood, not least because they swell over billions of years. But now a combination of observation and modelling from researchers led by Dr. Anshu Gupta from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3-D) has provided a vital clue.

In a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal, the scientists combine data from an Australian project called the Multi-Object Spectroscopic Emission Line (MOSEL) survey with a cosmological modelling program running on some of the world’s…


A team at the University of Bristol has developed a new method of dating pottery which is allowing archaeologists to date prehistoric finds from across the world with remarkable accuracy.

The exciting new method, reported in detail today in the journal Nature, is now being used to date pottery from a range of key sites up to 8,000 years old in Britain, Europe and Africa.

Pottery and the dating game

Archaeological pottery has been used to date archaeological sites for more than a century, and from the Roman period onwards can offer quite precise dating. But further back in time…


Edith Smith bred a bluer and shinier Common Buckeye at her butterfly farm in Florida, but it took University of California, Berkeley, graduate student Rachel Thayer to explain the physical and genetic changes underlying the butterfly’s newly acquired iridescence.

In the process, Thayer discovered how relatively easy it is for butterflies to change their wing colors over just a few generations and found the first gene proven to influence the so-called “structural color” that underlies the iridescent purple, blue, green and golden hues of many butterflies.

Her findings are a starting point for new genetic approaches to investigate how butterflies…


Recent wildfires in Australia torched more than 48,000 square miles of land (for context, Pennsylvania is about 46,000 square miles). The fires impacted ecologically sensitive regions, including an area called the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Site. This region contains a vast concentration of living plants with fossil records from tens of millions of years ago, according to Peter Wilf.

In a letter in the March issue of Science, Wilf, an Institutes of Energy and the Environment co-funded faculty member, and two colleagues explain the importance of these regions and make an appeal to readers to conserve the land…


From a massive disk of gas and dust rotating around the sun, the earth and the other seven planets of our solar system once developed alongside their moons. And the same must have happened, scientists believe, for the thousands of extrasolar planets discovered in recent decades. To gain more insight, astrophysicists use computer simulations to investigate the processes at work as planets form from such protoplanetary disks, such as the growth of a planet’s mass as well as the formation of its magnetic field. Up until very recently, these two processes — planet development and magnetic field formation — have…


What’s your favorite color? If you answered blue, you’re in good company. Blue outranks all other color preferences worldwide by a large margin.

No matter how much people enjoy looking at it, blue is a difficult color to harness from nature. As a chemist who studies the modification of natural products to solve technological problems, I realized there was a need for a safe, nontoxic, cost-effective blue dye. So my Ph.D. student, Barbara Freitas-Dörr, and I devised a method to convert the pigments of red beets into a blue compound that can be used in a wide range of applications…


A recent discovery by University of Arkansas physicists could help researchers establish the existence of quantum spin liquids, a new state of matter. They’ve been a mystery since they were first proposed in the 1970s. If proven to exist, quantum spin liquids would be a step toward much faster, next-generation quantum computing.

Scientists have focused attention and research on the so-called Kitaev-type of spin liquid, named in honor of the Russian scientist, Alexei Kitaev, who first proposed it. In particular, they have looked extensively at two materials — RuCl3 and Na2IrO — as candidates for this type. …


Astronomers have assumed for decades that the Universe is expanding at the same rate in all directions. A new study based on data from ESA’s XMM-Newton, NASA’s Chandra and the German-led ROSAT X-ray observatories suggests this key premise of cosmology might be wrong.

Konstantinos Migkas, a Ph.D. researcher in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Bonn, Germany, and his supervisor Thomas Reiprich originally set out to verify a new method that would enable astronomers to test the so-called isotropy hypothesis. …


As agriculture emerged in early civilizations, crops were domesticated in four locations around the world — rice in China; grains and pulses in the Middle East; maize, beans and squash in Mesoamerica; and potatoes and quinoa in the Andes. Now, an international team of researchers have confirmed a fifth domestication area in southwestern Amazonia where manioc, squash and other edibles became garden plants during the early Holocene, starting over 10,000 years ago.

“Our results confirm the Llanos de Moxos as a hotspot for early plant cultivation, and demonstrate that ever since their arrival, humans have caused a profound alteration of…

Steffen Eberle

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