Friday Headlines, December 20, 2013
THE LATEST IN THE GEOSCIENCES
A 4.4 million year old horse
Rock fall in Rockville
Mystery object blocking Bertha
From the perspective of paleontology, 4.4 million years isn’t really all that long ago. But to the rest of the world – Geez! There were horses then?
Ethiopia is now a desert, but recently a new species of horse, dubbed Eurygnathohippus woldegabrieli, was discovered showing that it was once an area covered with grasslands and shrubby woods.
These fossils come from some of the same localities from which we have learned a great deal about our human ancestry. At 4.4 million years ago, this horse would have lived alongside one of our human ancestors called Ardipithecus ramidus, or ‘Ardi,’ for short.
Both limb bones and teeth have been found, showing that this horse was a fleet-footed runner that fed largely on grasses like modern zebras.
Imagine if you built your dream home at the base of a cliff? Then one day, the cliff collapsed.
This happened in Rockville Utah a coupe of weeks ago. A couple were killed when a massive boulder fell on their home.
These sorts of stories distress geologists like me. Read what the American Geophysical Union’s Landslide Blog had to say here.
It doesn’t take much in the way of observation skills to know that an accident such as this was possible. The home was nestled between two enormous boulders. Those boulders had to come from somewhere. Images from Google Earth show clearly that a boulder was about to fall from the cliff above.
My 101 students would have seen the danger. Why not the architects that planned the house? Why not the inspectors? Assessors? The homeowners? Anyone? One of my students? How can this happen?
It sounds like a science fiction thriller. And maybe this is how I should start my novel Park People, if I ever get back to it. I love how journalist sensationalize things.
The real story is that they’re drilling a new highway tunnel near Seattle, using the world’s largest tunneling machine, aptly named Bertha. Bertha is about 300 feet long and 5 stories tall, and is capable of drilling through anything… except for whatever is in front of it.
Right now, that ‘whatever’ is being called “The Object.” Some hypothesize that it’s an alien spaceship. Or maybe dragon eggs. Or perhaps ice age boulders. Some suggest it’s part of old Seattle, or maybe buried train cars.
Whatever it is, we have no idea. Engineers are working out how to get in front of Bertha to investigate what it might be. In the meantime, it makes for some great science fiction.