Magazine article Natural History

This Planet Earth

Magazine article Natural History

This Planet Earth

Article excerpt

Sitting by a waterfall as it runs over a rock ledge, standing in waves as they wash across a shore, watching rain create runnels in hard soil, one can gain an appreciation of geology. Stable as the earth beneath our feet may feel, it wasand is being-shaped by dynamic forces. When geologists consult the record of Earth's history, they see four and a half billion years of drifting continents, rising waters, shifting seas, crushing glaciers, and unrelenting rivers that gave rise to all the planet's landscapes, rugged and tame.

In the 1970s researchers found a living world thriving in and around the sulfurous hot springs that erupt at midocean rifts, where new planetary crust is formed. They hypothesized that in those sunless places, geology met biologythat forces within the earth may have created the conditions for life to emerge on its surface.

Last spring, scientists from the American Museum of Natural History participated in an expedition to wrench free and raise to the surface several of the black smoker chimneys that grow over hydrothermal vents on the seafloor. …

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