Rock

Energy future may be swamped in fracking wastewater, scientists warn

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 16, 2013   View Article

The current boom in U.S. natural gas production from glassy shale rock formations is poised to usher in an era of energy independence and could bridge the gap between today’s fossil-fuel age and a clean-energy future. But that future may be swamped in a legacy of wastewater, a new study suggests.

Natural gas production is soaring thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that shoots several million gallons of water laced with chemicals and sand deep underground to break apart chunks of the glassy rock, freeing trapped gas to escape through cracks and fissures into wells.

An average of 10 percent of this water flows back to the surface within a few weeks of the frack job. The rest is absorbed by the surrounding rock and mixes with briny groundwater, explained Radisav Vidic, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of Pittsburgh.

The science of sinkholes: Common, but rarely catastrophic

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 1, 2013   View Article

A Florida man is missing after an apparent sinkhole opened in his bedroom in the middle of the night, sucking him and his bed deep into the earth. As frightening as it sounds, sinkholes happen all the time, according to geologists. Usually, though, they are slow-motion processes that can take years.

Sinkholes of the sort that swallowed the Florida man form when slightly acidic groundwater dissolves limestone or similar rock that lies beneath the soil creating a large void or cavities. When the overlying ceiling can no longer support the weight of the soil and whatever is on top of it, the earth collapses into the cavity.

3-D printer and moon rocks join up to make repairs in space

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 28, 2012   View Article

When lunar colonists need a new tool or replacement part to fix a broken spacecraft leg, all they’ll need to do is scoop up some moon rocks and feed them into a 3-D printer, suggests a new proof-of-concept study.

The ability to use material already on the moon to build things and fix equipment could save earthlings a bundle of money in fuel costs since they won’t have to haul everything they need to their lunar outposts.

Skip a stone on a mountain lake from your desk

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 11, 2012   View Article

Stuck in a cubicle but wish you were in the mountains skipping stones? So do I. And now we can, sort of, thanks to a promotional robot sitting on the side of a lake in Sun Valley, Idaho, waiting for you to play with it.

To do so, surf over to www.stoneskippingrobot.com and tell Skippy how hard and what angle to fling the stone. Skippy will do the rest. Just sit back and watch your stone skip across an idyllic mountain lake.

Supervolcano plume sized up

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: April 11, 2011   View Article

The volcanic plume beneath Yellowstone is larger than previously thought, according to a new study that measured the electrical conductivity of the hot and partly molten rock.

The findings say nothing about the chances of another cataclysmic eruption at Yellowstone, but they give scientists another view of the vast and deep reservoir that feeds such eruptions.

Ancient rocks hold climate forecast

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 2, 2011   View Article

What will the planet’s climate be like by the end of this century? The answer may lie in really, really old rocks, according to a new report that urges a coordinated research effort to study them.

Scientists have already pieced together a comprehensive record of Earth’s changing climate from studies of rocks and ice that stretches back about 2 million years. The problem is that the amount of carbon dioxide already pumped into the atmosphere is 25 to 30 percent higher than at any point in that record.

Moon Not So Watery After All, Lunar-Rock Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 5, 2010   View Article

The inside of the moon isn’t as watery as previously reported, according to a new study that found a high variety of chlorine atoms in Apollo moon rocks.

For decades scientists had thought the moon is bone dry inside and out. But recent moon-impact missions found water ice on the lunar surface, and reanalysis of rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts found evidence for significant amounts of water inside the moon in the form of hydroxyl (-OH), a hydrogen compound formed by the breakdown of water (H2O).

In a new study of Apollo moon rocks, geochemist Zachary Sharp of the University of New Mexico and colleagues measured the moon rocks’ chlorine isotopes, or different forms of the chlorine atom.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach