Saturday 19 December 2020

Origins of Life

Origins of Life 

THIS ARTICLE was brought to my attention by a mention in the Earthlogs blog. It is based on the paradox that life needs water but water destroys DNA and RNA.

The way round this is to be in an environment which is intermittently wet and dry - a puddle! And, on the early Earth, a puddle in a meteor impact crater! This would have all the components needed for this view of the origin of life.

You can recreate these conditions in a chemistry laboratory and the results are interesting. But you cannot do it outside on Earth. But how about Mars? Some water, meteorite impacts and great preservation!

So next year a NASA rover called Perseverance will land in the Jezero Crater to look for the building blocks of life.

This is an easily read introduction to current thinking on the origins of life - well worth reading!

Nasa's Perseverance rover will search for signs of life in Jezero Crater on Mars.

Strange Dinosaur

Strange Dinosaur 

I came across THIS ARTICLE in the Guardian. (Other newspapers are available). It tells of a very strange creature - Ubirajara jubatus - from (what is now) Brazil. If you have access you can see the original article HERE. There is more about it HERE.

On the inside it is fairly ordinary, but on the outside it is extraordinary. 

An artist’s rendering of Ubirajara jubatus. Photograph: Luxquine/Wikimedia Commons

The articles tell you all about the creature, but what intrigued me was that one of the authors is Dave Martill of Portsmouth University, who led a GA excursion to Morocco in 2018. I was on the excursion and Dave mentioned that he could no longer go to Brazil because he had been accused of illegally exporting a fossil. This he denied, fiercely! 

I suspect this is the fossil concerned. I am sure Dave would like to find another one.

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Neanderthals etc.

 Neanderthals etc.

HERE is a book review which tells you all you need to know about hominids in an easily approachable way. I might even be tempted to buy the book! Enjoy!

Saturday 12 December 2020

Are Mass Extinctions Cyclical?

Are Mass Extinctions Cyclical? 

THIS ARTICLE based on THIS ACADEMIC JOURNAL ARTICLE reports that mass extinctions follow a cycle of about 27 million years. And they are associated with major asteroid impacts and devastating volcanic eruptions. But what controls the cyclicity remains unknown. 

Explain that convincingly and your reputation is made!

Much of the groundwork for the academic paper is based on Mike Benton's work. But it goes into statistical analysis which flies a considerable distance above my head. But they come out of this convinced of the 27.5 My. periodicity.

An illustration - only glancingly relevant to the article but more interesting than the statistical graphs

Sunday 6 December 2020

Shropshire Geol Soc Zoom Lecture

Shropshire Geol Soc Zoom Lecture 

I have received an email from the Shropshire Geological Society which sounds rather interesting.


i All,

Please spread the word about our next lecture. Hope to see you there. All welcome.

Shropshire Geological Society is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.


Speaker:          Dr Neil Mitchell (University of Manchester)

Time:               Wednesday 09 December 2020 19:15-21:30

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 243 470 3481
Passcode: 8t8Yzt


Carrying out marine geology at sea, the role of technology in discovery


Whereas many aspects of Earth’s geology are visible at the surface, and thus open for speculation, in the oceans the seabed is obscured.  The history of the subject has therefore involved a series of incremental discoveries as new technology has been developed and then deployed by geologists.  This can be seen from the early methods used in mapping routes for telegraph cables across the oceans.  Sonar techniques were developed rapidly through World War II and during the Cold War, techniques that turned out to be extremely valuable for revealing the seabed’s morphology and geology.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Doggerland and Storegga Tsunamis

Doggerland and Storegga Tsunamis 

The Guardian, and I presume other newspapers (but not the FT), has AN ARTICLE linking the end of Doggerland with the Storegga underwater landslides and the resulting tsunamis. It is based on THIS PAPER.

There is much evidence for the Storeggs tsunamis in Scotland, Northern England and Norway, but until now, nothing in the southern North Sea.

But now, after mapping valleys and lakes in, what was, Doggerland, researchers have drilled and identified a tsunamiite. But they conclude that, although locally catastrophic, the demise of Doggerland was due more to sea level rise than to a single tsunami. 

The mystery is - where are the archaeological remains?

Stages in the disappearance of Doggerland.