Elements Covers

Posts by Friedhelm von Blanckenburg

About v13n3, Jon Blundy new PE, Elements at Goldschmidt2017, Propose a Topic

Rock and mineral coatings, the thin and fascinating varnishes portrayed in this issue of Elements, are found in deserts, soils, sediment, oceans, Mars and on buildings or other manmade structures. They record the legacy of millions of years of ocean circulation, thousands of years of climate change, and tens of years of anthropogenic contaminant dispersal. Rock coatings teach us how life can both dissolve and form minerals and how it can survive some of the most extreme environmental conditions. Our early ancestors used petroglyphs carved into these coatings to depict hunting scenes, religious and cultural context, and to communicate geographical, and even astronomical, information. On every continent (except Antarctica), we can view some of our cultural heritage, preserved over thousands of years. Rock coatings have even been spotted on Mars by the NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

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Sleeping Beauties and the Grind of Scientific Communication

An article on the “sleeping beauties” in science (Ke et al. 2015) recently appeared on my desk (or more accurately, on my desktop). “Sleeping beauties” in science have been defined by van Raan (2004) to be publications that go unnoticed for a long time and then suddenly attract a great deal of attention. The “sleeping beauty” concept prompted me to review whether their existence is a component of our current publication practices. Do we have the incentive to develop risky ideas or the time to put together significant, paradigm-shifting papers?

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About v13n2, Sulfur or Sulphur?, Call for Proposals, Social Media

Elements magazine tries hard to be an internationally oriented and inclusive scientific publication. As such, Elements accepts texts written in American English or British English and it has been Elements’ policy to allow authors to choose between the American or British writing style and spelling. Our purpose in this is to pay respect to international differences and, as a result, help preserve these differences.

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About v13n1, Thank You Gordon Brown, Welcome Nancy Ross!

Volcanoes are the powerhouses of nature that can, within minutes, transform a beautiful mountainscape into a desolate landscape devoid of life. Whether eruptions are mild or catastrophic, volcanoes fascinate and captivate us. As this issue goes to press (February 2017), there are 33 volcanoes erupting throughout the world, with another 1,500 active volcanoes slumbering until the conditions are right for an eruption. Some of those slumbering volcanoes have nasty histories, such as the supervolcano Campi Flegrei (near Naples, Italy) that is currently making headlines because it is seemingly approaching a “critical state”. The articles in this issue present our current understanding of how such volcanoes work and give us a glimpse into the world of magma – how it is formed and how it is transported to the surface. Much remains unknown the plumbing systems of volcanoes or what triggers an eruption. But, as you will read, scientists are making significant progress in uncovering the secrets of these powerhouses, which ultimately helps our world to be a safer place to live.

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About v12n6, 2017 Preview, Thank You!

How did life arise from inorganic molecules? Did it develop in an early Earth primordial soup or was there an extraterrestrial source? Although the answer to the origin of sentient life has yet to be discovered by scientists, the origins of the genetic blueprints for life (e.g. RNA), the workhorses of life (e.g. proteins), and the protective membranes for life (e.g. lipids) are rapidly being uncovered.

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About v12n5; Publishing in Elements – Call for Proposals

What do bears and geologic materials have in common? It is true that geologists can encounter both during summer field work. They were also both present during the recent 2016 Geological Society of America annual meeting held at the Colorado Convention Center (Denver, USA). But, bears and geologic materials have another thing in common. They can both be studied using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA–ICP–MS). Using this technique, bear fur can be analyzed for trace metals which provide an estimate of a bear’s diet. And, as authors in this issue attest, this technique can be successfully used to study an endless variety of Earth and related materials. Obviously, a single issue of Elements can’t cover every aspect of LA–ICP–MS nor its application in Earth sciences. But, the authors of this issue have provided us with a nice overview of this technique and the power it has given scientists to study the world around us. We also encourage you to read this issue’s Elements Toolkit article which overviews some recent and exciting new advances in the development of this useful technique.

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About v12n4 Global Nuclear Legacy; Elements Website, Facebook, Twitter; 2015 Impact Factor

For over 70 years, in the local community where the Elements editorial office is located, the residents have been living in the shadow of the Hanford nuclear production complex (eastern Washington, USA). During its heyday (1943–1987), this US government facility was responsible for producing 67.4 metric tons of plutonium for nuclear weapons from its 9 nuclear reactors and 5 processing plants. This was an inefficient process that generated ~53 million gallons of solid and liquid radioactive waste, which is stored in 177 large underground tanks, and ~450 billion gallons of liquids from the nuclear reactors which was discharged to soil disposal sites. This nuclear legacy remains today at the Hanford site. For the past 35 years, the US government has spent billions of dollars to monitor, characterize, contain, and clean up the waste at Hanford. Not only is this a complex and difficult process, but exactly where that waste will be permanently stored has yet to be decided as pointed out in this issue of Elements.

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Geochemical Samples: Beautiful Small or Better Big?

“What are the main challenges for geochemistry in the future?” was a question asked of Al Hofmann, the recent Urey medalist of the European Association of Geochemistry (Elements, February 2016, p 68). “The ability to analyze most or all atoms in a very small sample by micro-analytical methods,” was his answer. As an Earth surface geochemist interested in large-scale fluxes, my spontaneous response was surprise. Isn’t the grandest of all challenges rather to use large spatial scale geochemical signals to reveal processes and fluxes of global significance? Then I contemplated the vast amount of information that has been harvested from the smallest samples. And I began to question whether the “small is beautiful” or “bigger the better” avenues are actually opposing approaches. The editing of my first issue as an Elements principal editor, this cosmic dust volume, contributed enormously to a swing of my opinion.

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About v12n2, Nancy Ross is Next PE, and From the EC

Despite some 300 years of scientific investigation into the origin of granite, scientists still do not have an accepted and agreed explanation for this archetypal igneous rock of the Earth’s continental crust. Although one of the most common rock types on our planet, granite (and its volcanic equivalent, rhyolite) is exceptionally difficult to understand.

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