Stone tools to skeletons: how to uncover an ancient object’s age

In his latest explainer, Jake Port explores a few of the techniques in an archaeologist’s and palaeontologist’s toolkit to date samples from thousands to billions of years old

When a piece of bone, spearhead or rock is dug from the ground, a long process begins to work out where it came from and how it got there. An important part of this investigation is determining the age of the specimen, for which there is a wide array of dating methods available. If you want to know the precise age of something, absolute dating techniques are the only option. They work by analysing the activity of elements and their decay over time. Read more.

Isotopes track carbon cycle in northern Wisconsin wilderness

Researchers collected carbon from 3 years’ worth of air samples and traced it back to its source

In the face of global climate change, scientists are always in search of better models to accurately measure carbon in an ecosystem. In particular, they look to determine how quickly carbon can cycle through plants and soil until it reaches the atmosphere again. This rate helps them to project global climates in both the near and distant future and the regional effects that these changes may have on temperature, sea levels, rainfall, and crop growth. The closer scientists get to accurately measuring carbon and its sources and sinks, the closer they get to forecasting the future. Read more.

Pacific NorthWest LNG assessment underestimated risks to salmon, study claims

Scientific study challenges whether risk to juvenile salmon was properly known but Ottawa stands by decision

Federal approval of a controversial liquefied natural gas export terminal on British Columbia’s North Coast underestimated impacts on juvenile wild salmon, according to a new scientific study. The study looked at how migrating salmon use the Skeena River estuary, including a sandy area with eelgrass beds called Flora Bank, near Lelu Island where Petronas-backed Pacific NorthWest LNG plans to build an $11-billion export terminal. Using chemical markers, the authors found juvenile salmon are eating and growing in the estuary for days to weeks, making it more of a nursery than just a migration route. Read more.

UMass Amherst researcher asks for Massachusetts water samples

University of Massachusetts Amherst hydrologist David Boutt and his research team are asking to receive water samples from citizens to help them establish a high-resolution map and database of natural chemical signatures, that is hydrogen and oxygen isotopes found in surface water, precipitation and groundwater.

The samples will help them to better understand the isotopic composition of state waters and how groundwater is changing as a result of human activities. Participants will receive a brief report on the isotopic composition of their water compared to regional waters. Read more.

Could TRITIUM hold the key to unlimited energy? Government to test radioactive material in radical fusion reactor

The Z Machine at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico is one of the most powerful radiation sources in the world – and soon, it will emit 500 times more energy than it’s capable of now. Researchers have revealed they are introducing tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, to the Z Machine’s fuel. With a 50/50 mix of tritium and deuterium, they say the machine will be able to fire 80 times more neutrons as the fuel fuses with its massive electromagnetic field. Read more.