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Earth’s Hidden Continent Zealandia Finally Recognized
After decades of research and analysis of geoscience data, the seventh largest geological continent officially exists.
After decades of research and analysis of geoscience data, a paper published in February this year (2017) made “official" in the scientific community the classification of the seventh largest geological continent - Zealandia.
Zealandia is the youngest, thinnest and most submerged of all continents, with 94% of its surface currently under water. The name Zealandia was first used in 1995 by geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk to describe a large region of continental crust encompassing New Zealand, the Chatham Rise, Campbell Plateau, and Lord Howe Rise.
The newly published paper, Zealandia: Earth's Hidden Continent, provides for the first time systemized evidence to show that this continental crust is large and separate enough to be considered a continent in the southwest Pacific Ocean.
Spatial limits of Zealandia / Credit: GSA Today
Zealandia, which is approximately the area of greater India, once made up about 5% of the area of the Gondwana supercontinent which began to fragment in the Mesozoic period (about 252 to 66 million years ago). Gondwana break-up resulted in continents with wide, thinned shelves, such as Zealandia and West Antarctica.
When it comes to the significance of the classification of Zealandia as a new continent, the scientists who worked on the paper say:
Names and labels are very powerful things in science and society.
The aim of publishing the science paper was to formally describe and define Zealandia. That alone is worth doing: a world map showing Zealandia is better than one that doesn't.
For people who study how and why continents break apart, deform and collide, Zealandia is potentially as useful as the Himalayas. It is the thinnest, most submerged and smallest continent, but is not completely shredded or broken into small pieces.
Inevitably, Zealandia will be of use to other natural sciences. For the biological world, Zealandia provides a new and useful context of flora and fauna evolving on a continent whose landmass shrank, and sank beneath the waves. Geologists, geophysicists, zoologists, botanists, paleoclimate modellers and conservationists should all care about Zealandia.
So, why is Zealandia a continent? Firstly, here is a quick refresher of basic geology.
The rigid, uttermost layer of the planet is broken into tectonic plates. Tectonic plates comprise of an oceanic portion covered with oceanic crust and continental portion covered with thicker continental crust. The continental crust comprises of continents and continental shelves - the submerged landmass which extends from the continent and shapes the areas of shallow seabed close to their shores.
There are four key attributes that define a continent, and the scientists make the case that Zealandia has all of them.
Credit: GNC Science
Continents and their continental shelves are always elevated above the oceanic crust and so is Zealandia. Unlike other continents, however, it has much wider and deeper continental shelves and is 94% submerged below current sea level. The highest point of Zealandia is Aoraki–Mount Cook at 3724 m.
Continents are comprised of many diverse types of rocks, such as granite, limestone, quartzite, and schist. Geological data collected in the past 20 years provides enough evidence that Zealandia has the necessary structure to qualify as a continent.
3. Crustal Structure
Continental crust varies in thickness with an average of 30-46 km, in contrast to oceanic crust, which is typically 7 km thick. Zealandia is the continent with the thinnest crust ranging from 10 to 30 km but analysis shows that it is everywhere thicker than 7 km.
4. Limits and area
The six commonly recognized geological continents (Africa, Eurasia, North America, South America, Antarctica, and Australia) are spatially isolated by geologic features. Zealandia's continental crust is spatially separated from Australia by the Cato Trough - 3600 m deep and floored by oceanic crust.
The authors of the paper hope that the evidence presented in it legitimizes the existence of this 4.9 Mkm2 continent and, after 20 years of research and data collection, finally gives scientists around the world a proper name and label to use in their studies.
As they conclude: “Zealandia illustrates that the large and the obvious in natural science can be overlooked."
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.