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Articles written by Dr E Kirsten Peters

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New lessons for an aging geologist

When I was a young geology student, I learned the basics of petroleum production as they were then understood. Deep layers of sedimentary rocks, including shale, were the “source rocks” for hydrocarbons. The source rocks were too difficult to...

 

New medications that may help people stay sober

Alcoholism runs in part of my family. I lost a grandfather to it, and a couple of others in the family have been affected by it to greater or lesser degrees. Perhaps something like that is true for you, or maybe you have a friend or coworker who wres...

 

Tree rings speak to ancient climate change

As every school child knows, counting the growth rings in a tree tells you how old the tree is. But some samples of wood can tell you even more than age. That’s because some trees live in difficult environments. They grow best only when there is a...

 

No matter how dirty the birdie, refrain from rinsing raw poultry

Cooking is part necessity, but it’s also partly cultural. The way we cook says a lot about the societies we live in and the traditions that influence our families. I know that a lot of what I do in the kitchen is an echo of what my mother taught...

 

Sun in the process of reversing its magnetic poles

This week all of the globe enjoys roughly 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of night. The “reason for the season” relates to the Earth’s orbit around the sun. During summertime, our planet’s north pole points mildly toward the sun and those...

 

Serious infections being spread by tick bites

When my dog and I walk along the Snake River during the warm seasons of the year, we can both come home with a tick or two. I’m used to feeling those little legs on my skin or scalp and picking off the critters. If I’m lucky, I get to them...

 

Ignorance and its role in the progression of science

“Knowledge is a big subject. Ignorance is bigger. And it is more interesting.” So begins Stuart Firestein’s book “Ignorance: How It Drives Science.” Part of the core message in the book about how science should work is wrapped up in a...

 

Scientists make progress in fighting wheat rust

Scientists have been hard at work in recent years combating a significant disease of wheat. Stem rust is caused by a group of nasty fungal organisms that can infect wheat plants and devastate yields. In some cases up to 100 percent of the crop can...

 

New technology for solar panels could change energy landscape

I recently pulled some weeds in my yard. Sometimes I’m glad to have a little simple work where I can see progress, even if the effects of my labor are only temporary. I can only do a little bit at a time, having to take it slow due to arthritic...

 

New dinosaur discovery is made in China

We live in a time in which most animals are relatively small. If you think back to your exposure to the Ice Age, perhaps in elementary school, you may remember big mammals like the mastodon and the saber tooth tiger. Less famous but equally big was...

 

Sailing through stunning landscapes in the name of science

Each year at this time thousands of tourists embark on cruises along Alaskas stunning coastal waters. If they are lucky, the tourists experience dry weather, relatively calm seas, and breathtaking vistas. In some places the ships can get up close...

 

Spring birthdays and multiple sclerosis correlation

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a nasty disease that attacks the central nervous system. Various people with MS experience different symptoms, and even for one person symptoms may vary over time. Some common complaints of people with MS are numbness,...

 

A new source of natural gas

The name “natural gas” might be a puzzle. After all, how could there be such a thing as unnatural gas? The reason we call natural gas what we do has to do with history. There was a day that people made burnable gas by heating coal. The gases...

 

The softer side of veterinary science

Modern veterinary science is a technically advanced field. Some animals receive not just X-rays, but sophisticated scans like MRIs. If you visit a large veterinary hospital you will find cats getting chemotherapy and dogs on the receiving end of...

 

The smoking gun pointing to large extinctions

As any child can tell you, the Mesozoic Era ends with the extinction of the dinosaurs. Most geologists think the cause of that extinction was the impact of an enormous meteorite that hit the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. As the theory goes, the...

 

Bringing a new apple to stores everywhere

Today there are lots of options in the grocery store when it comes to apples, from the traditional varieties like Jonathan and McIntosh to newer varieties like Honeycrisp and Jazz. Where do all these new varieties come from? The answer is that there...

 

Sinkholes claim Florida man and threaten another house

Sometimes “solid rock” turns out to be anything but sturdy stuff. Limestone and a couple other related sedimentary rocks are common in some parts of the country, including in Florida. The chemistry of limestone and groundwater can combine to...

 

Of bird songs and human speech

There are two features of this time of year that make my heart glad. One is the rapidly increasing length of the day. In September we lose daylight quickly, but in the spring we gain it all back just as rapidly. Although the same pattern is repeated...

 

Soils versus sea beds

There’s a new debate in paleontology, one that took me by surprise but that shows nicely how some science works. There’s a particular type of ancient fossil called the “Ediacara fauna” found in rocks about 550 million years old. The term Edia...

 

Bees are buzzing on caffeine

By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters Contributor A friend of mine recently returned to the U.S. from deployment with the National Guard in Afghanistan. One of the first things he did when he reached a military base in Texas was to buy a cup of espresso. He even...

 

The hardest wheat turned soft by science

Eighty years ago my mother was in grade school where schoolroom paste was made by mixing a little flour and water together. Memories of that simple glue came back to her when she and I recently stood in my kitchen, mixing two small batches of flour...

 

Filling a vital need: the unknown story of waste to energy

BA few weeks ago I lost the use of my toilet and learned firsthand just how much I missed it when it wasn’t there. My plumbing went out of order when the pipe between my house and the city’s sewer line in the street collapsed. Pipes like that bel...

 

Grapefruit + Medications = Potential Problem

We Americans are often told to eat more fruits and vegetables. Particularly this time of year, when New Year’s resolutions are still in strong force, a lot of us are trying to do better about what we eat. A breakfast of half a grapefruit and some p...

 

Natural gas: the domestic energy source?

By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters Contributor To a geologist like me, it was most notable by its absence in the political campaigns that lurched to their conclusions in November. I’m talking about an energy plan with real teeth, one that addresses everythin...

 

Too much exercise

Medical science increasingly has some evidence of a principal your mother warned you about: there really is too much of a good thing. A few folks throw themselves headlong into aerobic exercise. Most of these hard-core endurance athletes start...

 

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