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After more than two decades of drilling in Antarctica, Russian scientists have confirmed that they reached the surface of a gigantic freshwater lake hidden under miles of ice for some 20 million years. The scientists returned 40 litres of water to the surface - water isolated from earthly life forms since before Man existed. The scientists will later remove the frozen sample for analysis in December when the next Antarctic summer comes. They have now left the site.
Researchers recently uncovered a startling phenomenon — a set of teardrop-shaped lakes in Antarctica that mysteriously move, jogging along at a pace as fast as 5 feet (1.5 meters) per day.
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Within this chunk of mineral unearthed in Russia’s Koryak mountains are crystalline structures that likely originated in space and were delivered to Earth via meteorite, a new study claims.
Flawed Diamonds Deliver Precious Details about Early Earth’s Tectonics
Volcanoes have coughed up ancient diamonds from hundreds of kilometers beneath Earth’s surface. Their trace impurities provide some priceless information about the first shifts in plate tectonics
Diamonds can be a geologist’s best friend too — especially if that geologist has a mass spectrometer and is looking for clues about what Earth looked like billions of years ago.
These precious rocks occasionally contain impurities trapped inside during formation billions of years ago. And with the right tools, scientists can mine these traces for date details and chemical composition to get a rare snapshot of early Earth. From such miniscule grains—sulfides and silicate in a new analysis—a pair of researchers is now proposing a date for the beginning of the modern plate tectonic cycle: 3 billion years ago.
Formed under ancient intense pressure deep in the mantle, these diamonds were occasionally spouted to the surface via volcanic eruptions. The cargo carried inside these marred diamonds started to look different starting around 3 billion years ago, containing traces of a rock, eclogite, that would have been more common with shallow melting of basalt. And that scenario is likely during the emergence of thick, moving continents like the ones we have today, assert the researchers in a paper published July 22 in Science.
With the tiny fragments of rock gleaned from these rare minerals, “we are seeing the beginning of a major period of slab subduction that is fundamentally different,” says Steven Shirey, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and co-author of the new study.
Diamonds are for…Billions of years
In the dynamic history of Earth, precise dates can be hard to come by—especially when they might extend back for billions of years.
To gather rough dates, “we’ve always had the rock record” from the surface, Shirey says. But continents and seafloors are in a constant state of recycling via weathering and plate tectonics, leaving very few masses safe from the forces of time.
Some extremely old chunks of continent do exist, however. Known as cratons, these masses have deep mantle roots that can reach down some 200 kilometers below the surface. And they contain diamonds that were formed by subsurface high pressures billions of years ago but have been protected by the relatively low temperatures there.
For the first half of its existence, Earth’s surface was more of a fluid place, with bits of crust being formed here and there from rising hot mantle. But at some point, as the planet cooled, larger masses started to form and the cycle of supercontinents and plate tectonics as we know it today got underway.
Journal Reference: Science
Scientists have developed a new way to manipulate atoms inside diamond crystals so that they store information long enough to function as quantum memory, which encodes information not as the 0s and 1s crunched by conventional computers but in states that are both 0 and 1 at the same time. Physicists use such quantum data to send information securely, and hope to eventually build quantum computers capable of solving problems beyond the reach of today’s technology.
For those developing this quantum memory, the perfect diamonds don’t come from Tiffany & Co. — or Harry Winston, for that matter. Impurities are the key to the technology.
“Oddly enough, perfection may not be the way to go,” said David Awschalom of the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We want to build in defects.”
One of the most common defects in diamond is nitrogen, which turns the stone yellow. When a nitrogen atom sits next to a vacant spot in the carbon crystal, the intruding element provides an extra electron that moves into the hole. Several years ago, scientists learned how to change the spin of such electrons using microwave energy and put them to work as quantum bits, or qubits.
In search of a more stable way to store quantum information, Awschalom has now figured out how to link the spin of a electron to the spin of the nearby nitrogen’s nucleus. This transfer, triggered by magnetic fields, is fast — about 100 nanoseconds, comparable to how long it takes to store information on a stick of RAM.