Archive for June, 2003

Hundreds Prep for “Bioblitz” of New York’s Central Park

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 26, 2003   View Article

On July 21, 1853 city officials drafted plans to give New Yorkers respite from the din that incessantly rang forth from their city’s teeming streets—a park in the center of town on 843 acres (340 hectares) of treeless, rocky terrain and stagnant swampland.

A century and a half later, Central Park is one of the world’s most recognized public spaces. It constantly hosts concerts, rallies, and weddings. It offers peace of mind to thousands each day. More than 25 million people visit it each year.

Hotbed of Volcanic Activity Found Beneath Arctic Ocean

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 25, 2003   View Article

Findings reported from the first ever detailed exploration of the Gakkel Ridge—the northernmost segment of the worldwide mid-ocean ridge system that snakes for 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) beneath the Arctic Ocean—underscore the waiting discoveries on the frontiers of Earth science.

For decades scientists longingly eyed the Gakkel Ridge. But since it lies beneath a cover of sea ice, access to it has been limited. Apart from a single submarine study, much of what was known about the undersea region’s geology was extrapolated from studies of other, more accessible, ocean ridges.

Was Papua New Guinea an Early Agricultural Pioneer?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 23, 2003   View Article

Once considered a “Neolithic backwater” by archaeologists, Papua New Guinea is emerging as one of the handful of places on Earth where agricultural practices developed independently from other cultures.

The evidence reported June 19 on the Science Express website by Tim Denham, an archaeologist at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and colleagues, may put an end to a long-standing debate on the origin of agriculture in the swampy highlands on the island nation.

“Dark Side” of Universe Is Coming to Light

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 19, 2003   View Article

For centuries astronomers have trained their gaze on the matter that brightens the universe: the moon, the planets, the stars, and the galaxies. But these bright spots only comprise four percent of the cosmos.

The rest is seemingly a void, nothing but darkness. But the darkness is not empty: It is filled with dark matter and dark energy that has, over the course of the 14 billion years since the big bang, molded the universe into the dynamic structure and shape it holds today. The big bang is the name given to the theory that the universe started with a single cosmic explosion.

Killer Asteroids: A Real But Remote Risk?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 19, 2003   View Article

It is almost certain that Earth will be hit by an asteroid large enough to exterminate a large percentage of our planet’s life, including possibly over a billion people, according to researchers. But as such cataclysmic collisions occur on average only once in a million years or so, are they really worth worrying about?

At some point in the geological future a large chunk of rock and ice will smack into Earth and destroy life as we know it. This is a cold, sober, scientific fact, according to Andrea Milani, a researcher at the University of Pisa in Italy.

For Thrush, Flight Less Taxing Than “Rest,” Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 11, 2003   View Article

Over the course of their migration from Panama to Canada, New World Catharus thrushes spend twice as much energy slurping worms, munching snails, and heating their bodies than they do actually flapping their wings in flight, according to new research.

Henk Visser, a zoologist at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, said that although this seems counterintuitive, it makes sense.

Oldest Homo Sapiens Fossils Found, Experts Say

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 11, 2003   View Article

Three fossil skulls recovered from the windswept scrabble of Ethiopia’s dry and barren Afar rift valley lend archaeological credence to the theory that modern humans evolved in Africa before spreading around the world.

The fossils include two adult males and one child and are estimated to be 160,000 years old. They were found among stone tools and butchered hippopotamus bones. Cut marks on the skulls suggest an early form of mortuary practice.

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