Minerals and the search for life on Mars

James Lewis blogs about his latest paper combining geochemistry, blowing stuff up in the lab, and the Mars Rover missions!

Fourth rock from the Sun

Understanding if life could ever have existed on Mars is one of the most challenging scientific questions facing us in the 21st Century. We know that the Martian surface at present is an arid environment bombarded with ultraviolet radiation, so the chance of finding living organisms existing there today is extremely unlikely. However, Mars has not always been this way, its history is divided into three distinct geological periods; the Amazonian, Hesperian, and the Noachian. The oldest of these, the Noachian, is likely to have been a significantly more promising time for life to potentially evolve as liquid water persisted on or near the surface long enough to carve valleys into the Martian surface and leave behind distinctive rock units. For example, in Gale Crater Curiosity Rover discovered minerals that indicated the presence of a freshwater lake at the time of their formation billions of years ago, an environment…

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Last dinosaur of its kind found in the land that time forgot

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1241

In terms of iconic dinosaurs, the gargantuan sauropods are certainly up there. Along with the mostly meat eating-theropods, and herbivorous and often armoured ornithischians, they form one of the three major groups, or clades, of dinosaurs, and were the biggest animals to ever walk this Earth.

The end of the Jurassic period, some 145 million years ago, was a pretty important time for sauropods. Their diversity was already in decline through some of the latter part of the Jurassic, but it seems that they were hit pretty badly at the Jurassic/Cretaceous (J/K) boundary, in an extinction event that may have been quite severe among land and marine-dwelling animals.

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It’s beyond time we ditched the impact factor

This originally appeared at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1162

“I am sick of impact factors and so is science.”

Stephen Curry said it best back in 2012. The impact factor is just one of the many banes of academia, from it’s complete misuse to being falsely inflated by publishers.

I want to draw attention to a new article  that addresses the causes behind this ‘impact factor mania’ that academia has.

The article is quite right to place the blame firmly in the hands of academics. It’s our fault that the impact factor is still misused. No-one else. Almost every academic knows why the impact factor is flawed, but still we use it over and over to assess the quality of a person or an article. It’s irrationality in its most blatant form, and you’d think academics would be smart enough to stop using it. But for some reason, we, as a collective, aren’t.

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