Geek that I am, this Geo-Joint involves two of my favorite things: words and geography. The etymology of today's word/place name ties together location and a bit of history, and not surprisingly wanders off into rabbit holes of hard-to-verify factoids. What we know for sure is that the name "Guinea" pops up in a trio of West African country names, to wit: Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea, the last of which sits on the Gulf of Guinea.
Posted on December 23 2015
I’ve been keen on geology and biology for a long time, but despite what some say, I didn’t actually witness the initial development of single celled life. Nor was anybody there to start a stopwatch when the Earth was formed, but with clever methods, geo-chemists have pegged the age of the Earth at about 4.54 billion years...
Posted on December 16 2015
They're tiny, they're easy to miss, and they have very little physical strength. But they have the power to knock you flat and bring big changes to our way of life. Today, the story of these little invaders.
Posted on December 09 2015
The versatility of palm oil is impressive. It is used in countless foods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, biofuel, and industrial applications. It has become a mainstay in the economy of many tropical countries. The race to develop this crop is headlong, and the costs of its unchecked growth are sobering. Palm oil production occurs throughout the tropics on huge monoculture farms which are planted on land formerly occupied by rainforest...
Posted on December 02 2015
Early humans (and their predecessors) wandered all over the landscape for thousands of years, noting mountains, and rivers, and big trees, and rock formations to give them an idea of where they were and where they were going.
Posted on November 25 2015
Yellowstone National Park is justly famous for its geysers, steaming pools and mudpots. The hot geologic features of the park are the remnants of three enormous volcanic explosions that left three calderas covering nearly 1,000 square miles.
Posted on November 18 2015
Birds build nests. So do rats. Termite mounds are pretty impressive. But what other animal (nevermind us) builds anything so impressive as does the beaver?
Posted on October 27 2015
Some countries expand their size by taking over neighboring territory. But in the South China Sea, China is simply making new land.
Posted on October 15 2015
Geographic name changes for large expanses of the earth’s surface aren’t all that common. The breakup of the Soviet Union presented such a moment decades ago, and the one we’ll focus on today isn’t breaking news either. It cropped up 15 years ago and isn’t universally accepted yet. But its story is interesting and illustrates the tenacity of established geographic ... Read More
Posted on October 07 2015
As with almost every geographic "biggest" or "longest", there are seven different ways to tabulate the results. The longest border between two countries would seem to be that between the U.S. and Canada. In total, it's about 5,526 miles.
Posted on September 30 2015
This is the story of a big deal with a big footprint. During the end of the last Ice Age in North America, starting around 20,000 years ago, glaciers would advance and retreat with global temperature changes.
Posted on September 24 2015
It takes a special set of circumstances: rain, of course, with some clearing for the rays of a low-angled moon coming from a direction opposite the rain, a dark sky, plus the added requirement of a moon in full or nearly-full phase.
Posted on September 08 2015
Growing tall gives a tree the edge on capturing sunlight before some other tree shades it out. But the taller it gets, the harder it is for water to get drawn up all the way to the top.
Posted on September 01 2015
With the exception of the Inuit and other hardy souls of the Far North, the deep Arctic stood as a formidable outland for centuries and even the bravest non-natives only utilized its periphery for fish and furs from the resident four-legged or flippered animals.
Posted on August 25 2015
A hundred years ago those familiar drought conditions were plaguing San Diego. In 1915, San Diego was a small but growing city and its water needs were also growing. The rainfall records of that year don't indicate severe drought conditions, and in fact by year's end there was even more rain than average. But the city fathers were concerned about future needs and were looking for ways to increase the amount of stored water.
Posted on July 29 2015
The project was informally called The Third Straw. All it took was drilling a 24-foot diameter tunnel through three miles of rock underneath the bottom of Lake Mead. Piece of cake. It did, however, take three years to eat it. The hydraulics of this scheme are, of course, complex, but they went more or less as follows.
Posted on July 21 2015
There are residents of the exclusion zone who never left. Those would be the plants and animals whose ancestors had lived there for thousands of years and didn't get the memo that the place was now glowing with radiation.
Posted on July 07 2015
There really is a place no more than 28 miles off the coast of Great Britain where not only do palm trees grow, but actual white sandy beaches and azure waters do a pretty fair imitation of the Caribbean tableau.
Posted on March 16 2015
Lascaux cave was open to the public for 15 years before it became apparent that the body heat and mere breath of visitors was causing chemical reactions with the pigments of the drawings.
Posted on March 04 2015
A lot of people have contemplated that question and more than a few have whittled the number of key destinations down to their list of "100 places to see before you die."
Posted on February 24 2015
Mustard comes in a variety of species which hybridize, so there are a lot of different kinds of the plant out there. One of the most common along the coast is Brassica nigra, or black mustard, which grows quite tall and is the stuff you probably see the most of as you (locals) drive up the Gaviota Coast.
Posted on February 17 2015
The earth has been around for something like 4.5 billion years, and life has been dated back to around 3.8 billion years. In all that time, one thing has been constant—change.
Posted on January 28 2015
A wooden sled sheathed with a metal bottom is the vehicle of choice. At the back end on the bottom, a one-use sheet of plastic is attached, and by leaning back and pulling on the rope attached to the front of the sled, you can reduce your contact point to nothing but this slick surface, achieving speeds of 50 to 60 mph!
Posted on January 13 2015
In 1900, sponge divers off the Greek island of Antikythera found a strange clockwork-like mechanism made of bronze in the wreck of an ancient ship.
Posted on December 02 2014
Unlike the melting of the tundra in faraway Alaska, Glacier National Park is a highly visible and closer-to-home example that our world is changing rapidly.
Posted on November 19 2014
A long time ago, Timbuktu was pretty far from anything else. It still is. Timbuktu is in Mali, Africa, and while there are scattered towns at some distance to the south, to the north is the vast emptiness of the Sahara Desert.
Posted on November 11 2014
Deepsea drilling rigs poke holes in the sediment under the ocean to find oil and gas, but there is another trove of treasure that has long been known, and only recently targeted.
Posted on October 28 2014
Transylvanian nights are as dark as any others, and they do get a fair amount of rain and cool temperatures, but the reputation for scary evil is nothing more than the result of a novel written by an Irishman in the late 19th century.
Posted on September 30 2014
Here in sunny California we have a gem of a mountain range, the Sierra Nevada. And in the southern part of that range stands Mt.Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48.