Jaszczak Leads Discovery of New Mineral

image144299-persA team led by a physicist from Michigan Tech has discovered a new mineral, named for the region in Tanzania where it comes from.

John Jaszczak knew that something was very unusual about the mineral specimen he was examining under the microscope of a Raman spectrometer in the basement of Fisher Hall.

On a hunch, Jaszczak decided to look into it further. The diagnostic studies with Raman spectrometry and scanning electron microscopy showed a layered structure rich in molybdenum, lead and sulfur that may be a new mineral. Now, Jaszczak and the team he pulled together can confirm that gut feeling. The tiny, silvery, cylindrical whiskers are indeed a new mineral—merelaniite. The journal Minerals published the team’s findings last week.

Detailed chemical and physical analyses of merelaniite—a member of the cylindrite group—revealed a neatly stacked layered structure with sheets rolled in scrolls like tobacco in a cigar. These tiny whiskers, which to the naked eye look like very fine hairs on other larger crystals, have probably been regularly cleaned off their host rocks containing other more recognizable minerals that occur at the famous gem mines near Merelani, Tanzania.

Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 8.39.44 AM“Minerals have a natural wow factor, and while we use many of them daily without thinking twice, some specimens are truly art,” Jaszczak says, adding that minerals like the gems tanzanite (a blue/purple variety of zoisite) and tsavorite (a green variety of grossular garnet), which come from the same mines as merelaniite, can be more eye-catching. But it doesn’t negate the value of less showy minerals.

Read the full story.

Cloud in a Box

Cloud Chamber20140324_0003When it comes to climate change, clouds are the wild card. Atmospheric physicists at Michigan Tech use a turbulence-generating cloud chamber to better understand the details and droplets.

There are few absolutes in life, but Will Cantrell says this is one: “Every cloud droplet in Earth’s atmosphere formed on a preexisting aerosol particle.”

And the way those droplets form — with scarce or plentiful aerosol particles — could have serious implications for weather and climate change.

It’s been known for decades that cleaner clouds tend to have bigger cloud droplets. But through research conducted in Michigan Tech’s cloud chamber, which was published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cantrell, graduate student Kamal Kant Chandrakar, Raymond Shaw and colleagues found that cleaner clouds also have a much wider variability in droplet size. So wide, in fact, that some are large enough to be considered drizzle drops.

Dirtier clouds, Shaw explains, not only have smaller droplets, but also much more uniformity in droplet size, with no observable drizzle drops.

“If clouds have more aerosols in them, the drops would be smaller and more similar in size,” Shaw says. “It would be harder for the cloud to rain, and the cloud would then last longer. If a cloud rains, or has less water in it, it won’t be there to reflect sunlight.”

By Stefanie Sidortsova, read the full story.

 


Great Lakes Climate Modeling in the News

image98360-persPengfei Xue (CEE) and his modeling work through the Great Lakes Research Center, which led to a more comprehensive climate and hydrodynamics model for the whole Great Lakes region, has been featured in several science media outlets including Science Daily, Phys.org, Terra Daily and Supercomputing Online News. The story was shared numerous times by collaborators and the science community on Twitter.

Weather the Storm: Improving Great Lakes Modeling

The collaborative work brought together researchers from Michigan Technological University, Loyola Marymount University, LimnoTech and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Pengfei Xue, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan Tech, led the study through his work at the Great Lakes Research Center on campus.

One of the important concepts in climate change, in addition to knowing the warming trend, is understanding that extreme events become more severe. That is both a challenge and an important focus in regional climate modeling. —Pengfei Xue

Read more at Michigan Tech News, by Allison Mills.


SURF Applications Open

Cloud Chamber 201510230011Applications for 2017 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships are now open. Fellowship recipients will spend the summer on an individual research project under the guidance of a Michigan Tech faculty mentor. SURFs are open to all Tech undergraduates who have at least one semester remaining after the summer term. Awards are up to $4,000. Applications are due by 4 p.m. Jan. 27.

A workshop on writing effective SURF proposals is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5 in Fisher 132.

For more information, access to the application materials and instructions, visit the webpage or contact the SURF coordinator, Will Cantrell.


Jaszcak discovery is spreading across the world

image144299-persDozens of news outlets and science blogs have covered research by John Jaszcak (Physics) and his team that led to the discovery of the new mineral merelaniite.

Several of the outlets include United Press International, Australian Mining, Phys.org, the German blog Scinexx, several geology blogs like Geology In and Science Explorer. Local coverage in Tanzania has also been extensive including stories by the BBC and The Guardian in Swahili.



Cosmic-Ray Showers Reveal Muon Mystery

The Pierre Auger Observatory has detected more muons from cosmic-ray showers than predicted by the most up-to-date particle-physics models. This finding suggests that the best models of hadronic interactions are missing something. Read more about Pierre Auger Observatory and proposed missing links here on the APS Physics website.


This Month in Astronomical History

Teresa Wilson’s monthly series “This Month in Astronomical History” has released its November publication “Launch of Sputnik 2”. Each month, as part of this new series from the Historical Astronomy Division of the AAS, an important discovery or memorable event in the history of astronomy will be highlighted. This month, we look as the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 2. You can read the compete article here or on aas.org.


Jaszczak On the Road

image144299-persJohn Jaszczak (Physics/A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum) recently gave two lectures while on sabbatical travel.

At Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) on Oct. 7, he spoke about “Mineralogical Miracles at Merelani, Tanzania.”

For the Cincinnati Mineral Society on Oct. 14 he spoke on “A Virtual Tour of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum.”