Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Earth's oldest object on display

Filed under

The 4.4 billion-year-old zircon crystal, barely two human hairs wide, was brought out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Saturday.

The day's festivities also featured the Rock Concert, which was to include jazz from a band using rocks as percussion.

The zircon, found in Australia in 2001, led to a reappraisal of early Earth.

Analytical work by geophysicist Professor John Valley at the university in Madison, Wisconsin, showed the crystal could only have formed in a low-temperature environment.

That suggested the early Earth was much cooler than previously thought, meaning life-forming elements such as oceans were formed earlier too.

Computer beats

Saturday's accompanying music included jazz composed especially for the day to try to answer the question of what 4.4 billion years old sounds like.

Roy Nathanson, who composes for the performing New York-based Jazz Passengers, said his rock banging, jazz and computer beats would trace the crystal's origins.

"The whole thing is something that captures your imagination," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Professor Valley said: "This is our first glimpse into the earliest history of the Earth. The miraculous thing about the crystal is that we've been able to make such wide-ranging inferences about the early Earth."

The festivities also included a lecture from the man who decided the age of the crystal - Professor Simon Wilde of the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia.


More in Tux Machines

Today in Techrights

A few thoughts on OpenBSD 5.8

I've been using OpenBSD since way back at release 2.3 in 1998, so I've gone through upgrades that took a fair amount of work due to incompatible changes, like the switch from ipf to pf for host firewalling or the change to ELF binaries. The upgrade from 5.7 to 5.8 was a pretty smooth and easy one, for the most part. The two most painful changes for me were the replacement of sudo with doas and the dropping of support in the rc.conf for the pf_rules variable. While sudo is still available as a package, I like the idea of reducing attack surface with a simpler program, so I made the switch. The two things I miss most about sudo are the ability to authenticate for a period of time and the ability to have a single config file across a whole set of servers. The former I'm just living with, the latter I've adjusted to by having a single config file that has lines commented out depending on which server it's on. I did have one moment of concern about the quality of doas when it incorrectly reported the line number on which I had a syntax error in the config file--fortunately, this was just a failure to increment the line count on continuation lines (ending with a "\") which is fixed in the -current release. Read more

10 recently open-sourced products from big tech companies

Releasing internal products to the open-source community is the hip new thing for technology giants to do Read more