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Geology

Asteroids thumb image
Summer 2016

Close Encounters from Outer Space

The errant asteroid hurtled through space at 40,000 miles per hour. Tumbling in a wild orbit, it glinted with sunlight as it neared the Earth. At 65-feet wide, the potato-shaped object should have been easily detected but no one saw it coming.

On the morning of February 15, 2013 the asteroid exploded with the force of 500 kilotons of TNT about 15 miles above the city of Chelyabinsk in the Russian Ural Mountains. The fireball was reportedly 30 times brighter than the sun. The shockwave blew out windows in hundreds of buildings and injured more than 1,500 people.

It was Earth’s most powerful meteor strike … » More …

Summer 2015

In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens

In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens

Richard Waitt
WSU Press, 2014

Like the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, the personal stories of campers, loggers, airline pilots, Forest Service workers, and geologists came pouring out before, during, and after the cataclysm. One of those geologists, Richard Waitt, gathered anecdotes and recollections of the volcanic eruption over the course of three decades, now compiled in this tome.

Waitt blends his own scientific expertise as a researcher who had been on the mountain since its early rumblings with hundreds of eyewitness … » More …

Mapmaker Mystery photoillustration
Winter 2014

Mapmaker Mystery

The Palouse, in its way, is a perfect place. A land of soft, rolling hills framed by rivers, mountains, forests, and desert, this agricultural hinterland feels all four seasons fully, and in all likelihood grows enough food to feed its inhabitants and visitors with ease. It’s home to scholars and farmers, and its story begins in the ice ages and continues today with an unrelenting flow of research from two major universities.

Despite such beauty and bounty, the Palouse has not received the artistic consideration that has Yosemite or Hudson Valley. I’ve never seen anything like that, at least until a day last winter when … » More …

Spring 2014

A True Story Fraught With Peril

As disaster-obsessed scientists go, geologists must be near the top of the list. They deal with time scales spanning billions of years, so a set of catastrophes occurring 10 million years ago is like yesterday. Something in the last century comes close to being, well, now. 

And they see catastrophe all over the place.

Take the roadcut near the Old Moscow Road. It’s a modest pile of crumbling rock, but John Wolff and Rick Conrey can see in its surrounding rock a thick blanket of hot lava inundating southeast Washington.

“It covers an area that goes from here to Spokane to The Dalles, buried at … » More …

Orrin Pilkey ’57
Spring 2012

Orrin Pilkey ’57—A climate change provocateur

In August 1969, Hurricane Camille slammed into Mississippi with winds of nearly 200 miles an hour. The storm blew many things far and wide, including the career track of coastal geologist Orrin Pilkey ’57. Up to that point, Pilkey had worked quietly studying deep-sea sediments, becoming an expert on abyssal plains (the flat underwater surfaces found along the edges of continents). But when he visited his parents on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Pilkey found he was a lot more interested in what was happening to coastlines than on ocean floors far from shore. Pilkey and his father co-wrote a book, How to Live With an … » More …

Spring 2012

The World’s Beaches: A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline

2012spring_beaches_cover

Orrin Pilkey ’57
University of California Press, 2011

It may appear to be a scholarly approach to beaches, but once you wade in to this book, you will find an entertaining and informative read. With a light touch, Pilkey and his co-authors manage to describe some heavy concepts like erosion, tsunamis, and human impact. Their goal, they say in the introduction, is to provide “a global perspective in regard to beaches, how they form, how … » More …

Gallery: Images of Antarctica

While rock hunting across Antarctica last winter, WSU geochemist Jeff Vervoort was captivated by how the landscape revealed dramatic stories of merging glaciers, tortured ice, wind-sculpted snow, and glacial debris. But where he saw a language of science, Kathleen Ryan, an assistant professor of Interior Design, saw a language of aesthetic elements and principles, of curved lines, shapes, rhythm, and movement. The result was their interdisciplinary, husband-wife exhibit in spring’s Academic Showcase: Visual Language of Ice and Rock on the Frozen Continent

Vervoort’s Antarctica research was funded by the National Science Foundation and featured in The New York Times‘ “Scientist at Work” blog.

» More …