Posts by Gordon E. Brown, Jr.
Improving Mitigation of the Long-Term Legacy of Mining Activities: Nano- and Molecular-Level Concepts and Methods
Mining activities over several millennia have resulted in a legacy of environmental contamination that must be mitigated to minimize ecosystem damage and human health impacts. Designing effective remediation strategies for mining and processing wastes requires knowledge of nano- and molecular-scale speciation of contaminants. Here, we discuss how modern nano- and molecular-level concepts and methods can be used to improve risk assessment and future management of contaminants that result from mining activities, and we illustrate this approach using relevant case studies.Read More
Tribute to Paul H. Ribbe 1935–2017
Paul Hubert Ribbe, a giant in the field of mineralogy, passed away 24 June 2017 at the age of 82. Just eight weeks earlier, he was preceded in death by Elna Ribbe, his wife of almost 59 years. Paul was born 2 April 1935 in Bristol, Connecticut (USA), to the Reverend Walter and Grace Ribbe. He obtained his BS from Wheaton College (Illinois, USA) and his MS from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (USA), both in geology. He was the first American Fulbright Scholar admitted to Magdalene College, University of Cambridge (UK), where he worked at the Cavendish Laboratory with the legendary crystallographer Helen Megaw. He was awarded a PhD in 1963 for his research on the crystal structure of plagioclase feldspars. Following a short post-doc (University of Chicago, USA) and an assistant professorship (University of California, Los Angeles, USA), in 1966, Paul and Elna moved to Blacksburg (Virginia, USA) where he joined the Department of Geology at Virginia Tech. Paul became part of a powerhouse of talent in mineralogy and petrology that included Donald Bloss, Gerald Gibbs, Charles Gilbert, and the late David Wones.Read More
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.Read More
Volcanic Eruptions and What Triggers Them
St. Helens erupted catastrophically at 8:32 a.m. on 18 May 1980 in southern Washington state, about 50 miles northeast of Portland (Oregon, USA). This eruption was preceded by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake and a subsequent landslide that are thought to have triggered the main eruption.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
Nuclear Waste Disposal, Climate Change, and Brexit: The Importance of an Educated Public
Modern society faces a variety of major challenges that will impact the quality of our lives. Of these, 15 have been singled out as “Global Challenges” by the Millennium Project (2014)(see figure). One of the greatest of these challenges is the availability of sufficient clean water. Another is sustainable development and climate change. Much of the US public now accepts that the rapidly increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are caused by human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels. However, there is little consensus among US scientists, engineers, politicians, and the public about how to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels, especially at a time when developing countries are seeking the same standard of living enjoyed by the world’s most industrialized countries. Yet another challenge, which is related both to the burning of fossil fuels and to climate change, is adequate energy to power our global society. As the World Nuclear Association (WNA) has shown, nuclear energy is an attractive option: for example, France derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear fission (WNA 2015). One of the major societal concerns limiting the widespread use of nuclear power, however, is safe disposal of nuclear waste, which is the topic of this issue of Elements.Read More
About v12n3, Proposing Topics, and Elements Online
Anyone who lives in an arid environment can attest to the seemingly endless task of cleaning dust off furniture. The Elements editorial office is located in sunny eastern Washington (USA) where tumbleweeds and sagebrush are in abundance. And so is the dust.Read More
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.Read More