Earth science and climate


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Photo by Catalina Martin-Chico/Panos Pictures

Essay/
Archaeology
The deep Anthropocene

A revolution in archaeology has exposed the extraordinary extent of human influence over our planet’s past and its future

Lucas Stephens, Erle Ellis & Dorian Fuller

Deep into the unknown; a 3 foot diameter hydrothermal vent at the Von Damm vent site. Photo courtesy NOAA

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Biology
Earth’s aliens

Alien lifeforms might be living right under our noses, but how can we find them if we don’t know what we’re looking for?

Sarah Scoles

Camponotus ants alongside plant-eating bugs on a cocoa plant in Ghana. All photos by David Hughes

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Ecology and environmental sciences
Ant farm

History tells us that plant diseases cause famines, pestilence and war. Now one is coming for our chocolate

Ed Yong

A scanning electron microscope image shows a nematode in biofilm (blue), in its natural deep-subsurface habitat. The scale bar is 20 micrometres (μm) long. All images courtesy Gaetan Borgonie

Essay/
Earth science and climate
Life goes deeper

The Earth is not a solid mass of rock: its hot, dark, fractured subsurface is home to weird and wonderful life forms

Gaetan Borgonie & Maggie Lau

The Serengeti National Park. Photo by Medford Taylor/National Geographic

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Earth science and climate
Half-Earth

Half of the Earth’s surface and seas must be dedicated to the conservation of nature, or humanity will have no future

Edward O Wilson

A gas flare is seen at an oil well site on 26 July 2013 outside Williston, North Dakota. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty

Essay/
Earth science and climate
The fire age

We can melt ice sheets and cook landscapes. When humans made fire, they made themselves and their planet too

Stephen J Pyne

Photo courtesy NASA

Essay/
Earth science and climate
Middle Earth

The Equator once marked the edge of the civilised world. If we put it at the centre, we might see our place in the heavens

Kurt Hollander

Carpobrotus glaucescens, a halophyte. Photo courtesy Tony Rodd/Flickr

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Earth science and climate
Enter halophytes

We are running out of land for traditional agriculture. Time to figure out what saltwater plants can do for us

Mark Anderson

Photo by Ralph Lee Hopkins/National Geographic

Essay/
Deep time
Welcome to Terra Sapiens

Humans have been altering Earth for millennia, but only now are we wise to what we’re doing. How will we use that wisdom?

David Grinspoon

Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool, Shark Bay, Western Australia. Photo by Ben Cordia/Wikipedia

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Earth science and climate
The shape of life

The ancient Earth was profoundly alien. How do we distinguish between the living and non-living in the fossil record?

Sophia Roosth

Potential impacter? A single frame Rosetta navigation camera image of Comet 67P taken on 15 April 2015 from a distance of 162 km. The crescent phase has been rendered in false colours. Photo courtesy ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM.

Essay/
Deep time
Laws or comets?

Does history unfold randomly and by chance, or are there underlying patterns and deep connections between its parts?

Walter Alvarez

Mount Fox and Mount Dawson from Asulkan Pass, Selkirk mountain range, British Columbia (1902). Courtesy Library of Congress

Essay/
History of science
How to make mountains

In living memory, geologists believed that the Earth was slowly shrivelling, little guessing how vibrantly alive it truly is

Marcia Bjornerud

Banded iron rock, mineral layers compressed in vibrant colours found in the Hammersley Range, Western Australia. Photo by Mint Images/ Frans Lanting/Getty

Essay/
Biology
Mineral fodder

We may think we are the first organisms to remake the planet, but life has been transforming the earth for aeons

Robert Hazen

A lightning storm over the Taravo Valley on the French island of Corsica, 15 August 2018. Photo by Pascal Pochard Casabianca/Afp/Getty

Essay/
Earth science and climate
Flash!

It ignited life on Earth, propelled evolution, and now signals climate change. Yet what sparks lightning remains a mystery

Sidney Perkowitz