Rich deposits of metals cover vast areas of deep ocean floors. Mining companies have focused on polymetallic nodules, and large-scale seafloor mining could begin by 2024. Given the potential for irreversible consequences to ocean environments and our climate, many are calling for a moratorium or a delay in this mining.
Opportunities from mining metals like manganese and cobalt to developing new drugs are being found by researchers who are examining our oceans more carefully. Polymetallic nodules, sometimes referred to as “a battery in a rock”, have attracted particular attention. By volume, the oceans provide an astonishing 99 percent of the planet’s living space. We have a lot to learn about these complex and fragile environments.
How did the ancient Andeans and Egyptians move the massive stone blocks used to build their monumental architecture? With an abundance of human muscle power but only simple hand tools, they needed to be creative. Floating blocks on boats across lakes and along river channels was a possible transport method—but did they have the water and the engineering technology for this?
Earthquakes and volcanoes can provide us with surprising and unexpected new data. Just within this century, several dramatic events have increased our understanding of these natural hazards, including the catastrophic 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan. Now, examination of the events leading up to a 2021 volcanic eruption has brought new – and sobering - information.
Safeguarding ancient Egyptian cultural treasures in the 1960s laid the groundwork for the UNESCO World Heritage Site program. These designations provide protections for places having outstanding cultural and natural heritage. Both Egypt and Peru have fabulous archaeological sites with World Heritage designations, and I’ve had the good fortune to see many. I hope to visit World Heritage Sites in many other countries.
Ancient Moche artists created an exceptional level of ceramic art over 1,500 years ago when this culture prospered along the arid north coast of Peru. They produced realistic three-dimensional ceramic forms of people and animals, and they decorated vessels with exquisite fine-line drawings. Several aspects of Moche ceramics recently caught my interest, especially the realistic ceramic animals and the drawings of supernatural creatures.
Many researchers are working on new and intriguing renewable energy storage sources. Interesting approaches for gravity, compressed air, and thermal storage are under development. A few of these, each based on relatively simple mechanical engineering fundamentals, have captured my interest and I describe them in this post.
Renewable energy from sunlight, water, and wind plays an important role worldwide—and renewable storage is essential to reduce imbalances between energy demand and energy production. We need to develop much more storage capacity; fortunately, there are efficient storage technologies already in use, as well as innovative alternative approaches under development.
Ancient people with hunting and gathering lifestyles were making fired clay pottery as far back as at least 20,000 years ago. This is surprising! Until recently, scholars believed that pottery appeared only when people adopted sedentary, farming lifestyles. Except that isn’t what actually happened.
When most of us think about the impressive geology of the Grand Canyon, our focus is on the ancient rocks. Within the past 1 million years, however, volcanoes have created striking displays in the canyon. Hot lava often flowed down the Colorado River channel for tens of miles; other times, it dammed the river, impounding water behind dams that eventually breached, sometimes releasing catastrophic floods.