Micro Files


Earth and moon may be 60 million years older than thought

Geochemists from the University of Lorraine, located in Nancy, France, have discovered an isotopic signal that states that the previous age estimates for both the Earth and the moon are lower than previously thought, according to ScienceDaily.  The work was presented at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference June 10.

The research conducted by Guillaume Avice and Bernard Marty analyzed samples of xenon gas found in South African and Australian quartz, which had been dated to 3.4 and 2.7 billion years old respectively.

The gas sealed in this quartz is preserved like a time capsule, allowing Avice and Marty to compare the current isotopic ratios of xenon with those from billions of years ago.

Limited “classical geology” is one of the main issues when trying to calculate Earth’s formation, since there is no rock layer that reveals Earth’s exact age. Instead, geochemists use other standard methods such as measuring the changes in the proportions of different gases (isotopes) that survived from the early Earth.

Recalibrating dating techniques using the ancient gas has allowed the researchers to refine the estimate of when the Earth began to form. This allowed them to calculate that the Moon-forming impact happened around 60 million years earlier than thought.

In the past, the time of formation of the Earth’s atmosphere had been estimated at around 100 million years after the solar system’s formation. As the atmosphere would not have survived the moon-forming impact, this revision puts the age up to 40 million years after the solar system’s formation.

UW physics professor wins national award

According to the UW Daily Bulletin, University of Waterloo physics professor Melanie Campbell has been awarded the 2014 CAP-INO Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Applied Photonics for her contributions on optical imperfections in human and animal eyes.

Campbell’s research could lead to earlier detection methods and better treatments for a range of eye diseases. Her research on crystalline lens optics has not only helped researchers explain the loss of near vision (presbyopia), but has also led her to patent some of her methods, including one to image a protein marker in living eyes which could result in the creation of a non-invasive test for Alzheimer’s disease.

Prof. Campbell is also the head of Campbell Labs, which conducts research on themes such as live optical properties of the eye, optical systems, and eye-imaging systems for treatment and diagnosis.

As a part of her award, Campbell will receive her medal at the 2014 Canadian Association of Physicists Congress hosted by Laurentian University taking place June 19 where, she will also give a lecture on her research.

Bees fundamental in crop pollination

A new study conducted by the University of Freiburg states that a lack of bees or wild insects could reduce harvest yields more significantly than lack of fertilizer or lack of sufficient water, according to ScienceDaily

Prof. Alexandra-Maria Klein from Freiburg University has been awarded the 25,000 Euro CULTURA Prize for her research on the importance of insects, specifically bees, on the pollination of crops.

Klein, in collaboration with students and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, manipulated almond trees by preventing bees from pollinating blossoms with the use of cages or by pollinating them by hand. The almond trees that were pollinated by hand produced the most nuts, but were also very small. 

By contrast, the trees that were left unpollinated produced very few nuts, but those that it did produce were very large. The yield of the trees pollinated by bees was roughly 200 per cent higher than that of self-pollinated trees.

The fertilization and watering methods only had an effect on harvest yield when combined with other pollination manipulations. This led the scientists to the conclusion that an almond tree can compensate for a lack of nutrients and water in the short term by directing stored nutrients and water to the fruits, but cannot compensate for insufficient pollination.