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Posts by Friedhelm von Blanckenburg

Does Earth Still Offer Discoveries?

Imagine a geoscientist who begins his career as a mine surveyor but who quickly realizes that this was too small a field for him. So, he decides to take field trips, which last many years, to remote parts of the Earth. What our geoscientist discovers includes nothing less than the interactions between topography and climate, the alignment of volcanoes along zones of earthquake activity and at great depth, and three-quarters of all known plant species. Returning home, our geoscientist does not rest. Instead, he lets the world know of his spectacular discoveries. He becomes a prolific writer who publishes an immense number of articles and books, all the while discussing the implications of his findings in a dozen or more detailed letters a day with colleagues around the world.

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The Irony of Iron — Life’s Major Trace Element

All organisms, from lowly microbes to higher forms of life (including humans), need iron. Yet there is irony to iron. Despite being the second most abundant element in the Earth, it is not readily available for consumption. Earth owes this irony to the combined effects of geodynamics and biology. The early segregation of iron into the Earth’s core relegated iron to “only” the fourth most abundant element in the crust. About 2.3 billion years ago, a complex interplay between photosynthesis and redox changes in Earth’s mantle allowed the buildup of free atmospheric oxygen. Today, there is a sufficient supply of photosynthetic oxygen to convert all iron at the Earth’s surface and in its surface waters, including seawater, into its ferric [Fe(III)] form. This ferric form is barely soluble, making it hard to access by organisms. Ironically, life itself made iron a ‘trace element’.

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v14n4 From the Editors

This issue of Elements is the first of its kind. It is the first of the field-based thematic issues that features a specific geographic region of particular geological interest. It is not an easy task to encapsulate a massive geographic region in 6 mini-review articles for a readership that represents a broad spectrum of scientific interests. Obviously, one can’t cover everything in a single issue of Elements, so what topics should be featured? This is a new avenue to explore and we welcome your feedback. We also share the Elements 2017 Impact Factor in this report.

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v14n3 From the Editors

Geologists love their beer and wine. There is abundant proof of this statement if you have ever attended an international geoscience conference. Typically, included with an attendee’s registration packet received upon arrival at the conference are beer/wine tickets. Scientists may disperse through the day to attend talks, workshops, and poster sessions, but, late in the afternoons, kegs of beer and bottles of wine are rolled out and the scientists will quickly converge on the beer/wine stations. As the topic of this thematic issue of Elements is on wine, the question begs to be asked, where does all that wine originate?

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v14n2 From the Editors

We are excited to announce that John M. Eiler, Robert P. Sharp Professor of Geology and Geochemistry at the California Institute of Technology (USA) has agreed to join the Elements editorial team as our next geochemistry editor. His official term begins January 2019. He will replace Friedhelm von Blanckenburg whose term of office ends December 2018. We will introduce John more formally at a later date.

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The Excitement of Science Discoveries in the Blue Sky

The articles in this “Comets” issue of Elements provide a fascinating account of comets and the making of our planetary system. We learn why comets are visible to the naked eye and about their complex organic geochemistry, the surprising find of free O2, and the likelihood of a comet impact on Earth. Perhaps most impressively, we learn about the tremendous effort that goes into the exploration of comets. These missions require decades of design, planning, and instrument miniaturization and their culmination captures our imagination in a way little else can. Who could not be enthralled by the evocatively named Stardust mission returning a few thousand grains of dust from comet Wild 2 to Earth? We collectively shared the despair when communication was lost from Rosetta’s Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and the excitement about the unparalleled wealth of information sent back during its 70 hours of life on the comet’s surface.

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v13n6 About this Issue, Thanks!, 2018 Preview and Future Issues

In our final issue of 2017, we like to take a moment to extend our appreciation to the guest editors and authors who contributed to the six issues of volume 13. These men and women volunteered their valuable time for writing interesting and accessible articles for Elements’ scientifically diverse audience. We also thank our feature editors (Ian Parsons, Michael Wiedenbeck, Cari Corrigan, and Andrea Koziol) who produce the Parting Shots, The Elements Toolkit, CosmoElements, and the Meetings Calendar. We also acknowledge the reviewers, our copyeditor Patrick Roycroft, and our graphic artist Michel Guay, who diligently work in the background to bring Elements to life.

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