Be there and be square.
Snowballing out of control – the beginning and end of the ancient frozen Earth
What planet from the Star Wars Universe do you think Earth most resembles? Maybe Endor with its lush forests? Perhaps Coruscant with its sprawling cities or even Naboo with its wide plains and deep oceans? You probably didn’t guess the ice planet of Hoth. But Hoth, with its constant snow and frozen surface is exactly what scientists think the Earth looked like over 500 million years ago, during what are called the Snowball Earth events.
What was the Snowball Earth? What could happen to Earth to turn it into a frozen waste? How could Earth ever hope to escape from this frozen state? And how did life ever survive on this extremely hostile planet? As a graduate student in University of Washington’s Earth and Space Sciences Department, I’ve been studying these exact questions. We’ll explore the evidence for the Snowball Earth, the role that Snowball Earth events played in shaping the planet we live on today, and what we can learn about life on other planets from studying the Snowball.
Ice Physics Is the Coolest
It starts with a small, familiar molecule–two hydrogens and an oxygen–but the structures arising out of this simple material can boggle the mind with intricate beauty and planet-spanning scope. A tangent-filled and enthusiastic journey through the world of ice from the micro to the macro, with a few anecdotes from the ice-dominated lands near the poles.
Regina has spent several years studying glaciology and astrobiology at the University of Washington and getting frequently distracted from her dissertation by other interesting science facts. In her off hours she enjoys roasting coffee and singing sea shanties. Her sporadically-updated science and poetry blog can be found at squidonice.wordpress.com.