How to Understand These Gorgeous Satellite Data Maps of the Earth

NASA's Earth Observatory has spent over fifteen years using satellites to collect hordes of real-time data across our planet's surface. They reveal everything from temperature and energy use, to how much radiation we beam into space. Here's how to understand satellite data maps to understand our planet's vital signs. » 2/26/15 11:39am Thursday 11:39am

A Guide to the Most Destructive Events in the History of Earth

If you want some epic disaster tales this evening, you can watch this How Stuff Works podcast about possible causes of the five mass extinctions that nearly extinguished all life on Earth. After that cheerful topic, I also talk about why scientists believe we're heading into a sixth mass extinction. » 2/19/15 6:34pm 2/19/15 6:34pm

Denmark Is The Latest Country To Claim The North Pole As Its Own

Although you might think that the North Pole is nothing but a barren wilderness populated only by polar bears and Santa, a surprisingly large number of countries are getting surprisingly bitchy about who owns it — mostly because of the oil underneath. Today, Denmark added its name to the list. » 12/15/14 10:32pm 12/15/14 10:32pm

Scientists Will Drill Directly Into a Fault Overdue For an Earthquake

The Alpine fault is the most dangerous fault in New Zealand—and one of the most dangerous in the world. It ruptures with an 8.0-magnitude earthquake roughly once every 300 years, and with the last one in 1717, it's ripe for another. So what are we going to do about it? Why, drill a hole nearly a mile deep into it. » 10/07/14 10:53am 10/07/14 10:53am

Be Prepared for the Next Big One With This DIY Earthquake Detector

A large-scale early warning system for California earthquakes should be rolling out soon—at least, as soon as the government funding kicks in. Until then, one of the scientists working on the prototype decided to turn his seismic knowledge into an at-home science project, designing this DIY earthquake alarm for… » 9/10/14 4:30pm 9/10/14 4:30pm

The Mystery of Death Valley's "Sailing Stones" Is Finally Solved

On a dried-up lake bed in Death Valley are dozens of rocks that have puzzled us for decades. The rocks have each left a dusty trail, evidence of some unknown force propelling them forward. Scientists have now finally observed the rocks moving and settled on an explanation: Thin ice and a gentle breeze. » 8/27/14 5:33pm 8/27/14 5:33pm

An Asteroid With Active Volcanoes Once Wandered the Early Universe

Back in 2008, astronomers detected an asteroid heading straight toward Earth. For the first time ever, they tracked the rock as it veered towards our planet and exploded over the Nubian desert. Now, pieces of the recovered meteorite are beginning to reveal its secrets—like how it once harbored an active volcano. » 8/20/14 2:18pm 8/20/14 2:18pm

Ancient Worms May Have Saved Life on Earth 530 Million Years Ago

About 2.5 billion years ago, microbes began making a poison that would cause one of the largest mass extinctions on Earth. The few organisms that could handle this poison flourished, going on to become our ancestors. The poison? It was oxygen. It's a wonder that oxygen levels didn't keep rising until Earth became… » 8/06/14 4:37pm 8/06/14 4:37pm

The Moon Might Be Littered With Fossils From Ancient Earth

Earth is an unforgiving place. Volcanoes erupt, rivers erode, continents break up—it's a small miracle every time a millions-of-years-old creature is found fossilized in rock. By comparison, the moon is dead and lifeless; astronaut footprints will be preserved forever in moon dust. So it's the moon that could hold the… » 7/29/14 4:18pm 7/29/14 4:18pm

Lightning can be heard halfway around the world via radio

Lightning, as we know, is an awesome burst of energy. When lightning strikes, some of that energy can be converted into radio waves that then zip through space along Earth's magnetic field, so that lightning in Alaska can be heard as "whistlers" on a radio receiver all the way in New Zealand. » 7/25/14 5:57pm 7/25/14 5:57pm

Scientists Are Dropping Explosives All Over Mount St. Helens On Purpose

What could go wrong with setting off explosives all around an active volcano? As scary as it might sound, this is a carefully planned experiment to peer inside Mount St. Helens' mysterious underground magma chamber. No, we aren't blasting the volcano open, but the induced seismicity will let geologists finally map… » 7/08/14 5:40pm 7/08/14 5:40pm