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Life Helps Make Almost Half of Earth’s Minerals
A new origins-based system for classifying minerals reveals the huge geochemical imprint that life has left on Earth. It could help us identify other worlds with life too.
Reshuffled Rivers Bolster the Amazon’s Hyper-Biodiversity
The lush biodiversity of the Amazon may be due in part to the dynamics of branching rivers, which serve as invisible fences that continuously barricade and merge bird populations.
Solving the Faint-Sun Paradox
We might have a past faint sun to owe for life’s existence. This has consequences for the possibility of life outside Earth.
The Year in Biology
The detailed understanding of brains and multicellular bodies reached new heights this year, while the genomes of the COVID-19 virus and various organisms yielded more surprises.
Detailed Footage Finally Reveals What Triggers Lightning
Scientists have never been able to adequately explain where lightning comes from. Now the first detailed observations of its emergence inside a cloud have exposed how electric fields grow strong enough to let bolts fly.
A Massive Subterranean ‘Tree’ Is Moving Magma to Earth’s Surface
Deep in the mantle, a branching plume of intensely hot material appears to be the engine powering vast volcanic activity.
A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change
A centuries-old concept in soil science has recently been thrown out. Yet it remains a key ingredient in everything from climate models to advanced carbon-capture projects.
A Burp or a Blast? Seismic Signals Reveal the Volcanic Eruption to Come
Scientists have begun to decipher the subtle signs that reveal how explosive a volcanic eruption is going to be.
The New Historian of the Smash That Made the Himalayas
About 60 million years ago, India plowed into Eurasia and pushed up the Himalayas. But when Lucía Pérez-Díaz reconstructed the event in detail, she found that its central mystery depended on a broken geological clock.