The Dino Crater

One of the best tales of all time from geologic history is the story of the meteor impact that killed the dinosaurs. As it turns out, though, there are still many unanswered questions about what exactly happened the moment the meteor connected with our planet. In fact, until recently, scientists had yet to collect sediment cores from the center of the impact crater. On today’s show, producer Michael Osborne talks with Sean Gulick, co-chief scientist of an expedition that recently drilled the Chicxulub crater off the coast of Mexico. Sean revisits the moment when the asteroid hit, and he discusses what the scientists hope to find from their drilled samples. Also, we have a short segment featuring a conversation with Science Magazine reporter Paul Voosen about a news update from the Anthropocene Working Group.

Paleoclimatologist Page Chamberlain

We tend to think of the world in terms of our relationship with it: as individuals, communities, civilizations. It’s harder to think about the earth before a textual record, before human history. This week, we dive into deep time with paleoclimatologist Page Chamberlain. What did the Western United States look like in the Cenozoic Era? How do the Rocky Mountains affect Europe’s climate? How can the climate 3 million years ago tell us about the climate today? In this conversation, Page and producer Mike Osborne banter about these and other questions surrounding Earth systems of the past.

THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.

Peak Phosphorous

Five things you may not know about phosphorus (but probably should): 1) It’s an essential element to all life on Earth – so it’s a critical ingredient for industrial fertilizers. 2) The vast majority of our phosphorus supply comes from phosphate rock, mined from geologic deposits. 3) Those geologic deposits are concentrated in just 5 countries, and Morocco alone controls 75% of known reserves. 4) The rate at which we’re consuming phosphorus is flat out unsustainable, to say the least. Experts warn that at current rates we may run out of it this century. 5) If all that weren’t enough, many commercial farms over-apply phosphorus-rich fertilizers, which has catastrophic consequences for freshwater and coastal ecosystems around the world. So, wow, right?! Who knew phosphorus was so important? And given that pretty much no one is talking about the issue of peak phosphorus, what are we going to do? Will we be able to better manage the world’s phosphorus supply before we run out and cause widespread environmental damage, all while continuing to feed the billions of people on the planet?

Image credit: Alexandra Pugachevsky

THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.

Rare Earth Elements

“Oil is the blood; steel is the body; but rare earth elements are the vitamins of a modern society.” While many of us can’t even pronounce elements such as praseodymium, yttrium, or gadolinium, these minerals drive our technology and our modern lifestyles. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill “common” Earth elements, these are the “rare” earth elements. But… they aren’t actually that rare. And their importance to modern life goes well beyond their unusual geology. On this episode, professor Julie Klinger speaks with producer Miles Traer about the geo-politics of rare earth elements, why they are considered rare, and the extreme lengths to which some people are planning to go in search of them.
 

Image by Materialscientist
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic

Additional music in this episode provided by Kevin MacLeod
Inspired by Kevin MacLeod
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.