It’s an honor doled out by about half of the American states: the naming of an official state rock. West Virginia has bituminous coal. Florida has agatized coral. California has the olive-green beauty serpentine–for the moment. State legislators are moving to cast off the rock, saying it contains the mineral chrysotile asbestos.
Exposure to chrysotile asbestos, according to the pending “serpentine bill,” increases the risk of cancer, and State Senator Gloria Romero wants nothing to do with the once-loved rock. She sponsored the bill, which has received support from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Consumer Attorneys of California.
Thousands of onlookers gathered on Sunday to watch and film the planned implosion of the Texas Stadium in Dallas. The 65,000-seat-stadium was home to the Dallas Cowboys for 38 years and was witness to some thrilling football moments–but all good things must come to an end. The stadium was demolished because the team moved to the new billion-dollar, state-of-the-art Cowboys Stadium last season.
An 11-year-old named Casey Rogers, the winner of a local essay-writing contest, pushed the button that triggered the implosion, and thus set off 1.5 tons of explosives that brought down the stadium in a systematic manner. In the end, just three pillars stood leaning, leading Herbert Gears, mayor of the Dallas suburb of Irving where the stadium was located, to joke to AFP: “Now we’ve got Stonehenge.”
Not only were curious onlookers on hand to observe the implosion, but so were a group of seismologists. In a project nicknamed “Demolicious,” a team led by Jay Pulliam of Baylor University in Waco, Texas used seismometers around the stadium to try and get a clearer picture of the region’s geological features.
The devastating earthquake in Chile that killed almost 700 people probably also shifted the Earth’s axis, say NASA scientists, permanently making days shorter by 1.26 microseconds. But since a microsecond is one-millionth of a second, you may not have noticed.
Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says he has done the calculations. Gross says the earthquake, which measured 8.8 on the Richter scale, moved large amounts of rock, altered the distribution of mass on the planet, and moved the Earth’s axis by about 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches). The change in axis directly impacts Earth’s rotation, and the rate of the planet’s rotation determines the length of a day.
To explain this phenomenon, scientists used an ice skating analogy: When a skater spins on ice, he draws his arms closer in to his body to spin faster, because the speed of his rotation is dependent on the way mass is distributed across his body.
In 2004, geologist Phil Christensen flew from Arizona to Ireland to collect volcanic rocks for research on how rocks formed on Mars. While there, he noticed a school nearby and thought it would be brilliant if kids could just collect the rocks and mail them to him.
After the trip, he briefly worked on NASA’s Mars missions and announced at one of their press conferences that he’d welcome packages of rocks from anywhere around the world.
News traveled fast (and this is even before the days of Twitter): The first rock arrived at his home base at Arizona State University in Tempe three days after the request. Two weeks later, 150 rocks came in the mail. Now, five years later, he has received more than ten thousand rocks from children in 80 countries. A full list of the rock types mailed in can be seen here.
ABC News reports:
Each rock has been catalogued, and most have been studied to determine their composition. Every person who sends in a rock gets a certificate, with the rock’s number, signed by Christensen. The Rock Around the World Web site has directions for people who want to send in their prized chunk of earth.
Rocks may be environmentalists’ newest best friends, if recent research is brought to real-world fruition. Working with the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists at Columbia University’s Earth Institute found large areas along the east and west coasts of the U.S. that are lined with rocks that may be able to absorb enough carbon dioxide to slow down climate change.
The new research builds on previous knowledge that rocks naturally absorb carbon dioxide by binding it with minerals to form solids such as calcium carbonate. The absorption takes place over thousands of years, during the recrystallization that occurs after the surfaces of rocks are dissolved by natural weathering. To speed up that process, scientists experimented in the lab by crushing a sample of rocks and adding a catalyst to dissolve them. They reformed in minutes and in doing so, absorbed carbon dioxide. Read More