New York's Triassic Buildings Are a Window on Deep Time

I've always thought New Yorkers lead a hermit-crab existence, with our dance clubs that used to be banks and our townhouses that used to be stables and our living rooms that used to be factory floors. In the 21st century, many urban lives are lived in shells made by others, for other purposes. But it never occurred to me that this is sometimes literally true, until I came upon the "geologic city" project. Rockefeller Center, I learned there, is made of 340-million-year-old seashells.


Over millions of years, those shells (OK, there were also bits of other sea creatures, like sponges and corals) accumulated at the bottom of a shallow sea, and their calcite eventually formed into limestone. Which substance a highly social mammal then quarried out of the Earth in the now-dry region it called Indiana, and sent to New York City. Where it was turned into a place where said mammal could enjoy the Rockettes around the time of the winter solstice.

Geologic City, a project of the charmingly-named Friends of the Pleistocene, is a field guide to the traces of Deep Time that are visible in New York City's architecture. That red sandstone apartment building that houses your dentist, for instance, is also an artifact of the Triassic. "Materials, colors, and textures that fill our streets are not from the world we inhabit," the GC site explains. "They are from former worlds that existed millions of years ago."

Thanks to Oskar Stein for the link.

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face."

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less