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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