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Zircon: The Keeper Of Earth's Time

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A thin, polished slice of a rock collected from the Jack Hills of Western Australia, viewed through a special microscope equipped with a gypsum plate that shows the rainbow spectrum of quartz that makes up the rock. Whereas the rocks at the Jack Hills are greater than 99% quartz, the remaining 1% of material includes the precious zircons. Michael Ackerson/Smithsonian hide caption

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Michael Ackerson/Smithsonian

To peer into Earth's deep time, meet a hardy mineral known as the Time Lord

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Astronaut Charlie M. Duke Jr., lunar module pilot of the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, is photographed collecting lunar samples during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity at the Descartes landing site. John W. Young/NASA hide caption

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John W. Young/NASA

Marine archaeologist James Delgado, left, and beachcomber Craig Andes, right, examine one of the larger shipwreck timbers removed from sea caves off the northern Oregon coast. Andes discovered the timbers. Katie Frankowicz/KMUN hide caption

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Katie Frankowicz/KMUN

A portion of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The Flinders Reef area of the Great Barrier Reef is one of 11 sites around the world where scientists are looking for decisive geological evidence of a new epoch called the Anthropocene. Grant Faint/Getty Images hide caption

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Grant Faint/Getty Images

Debating When The 'Age Of Humans' Began

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A portion of Australia's Great Barrier Reef photographed from the International Space Station. The Flinders Reef area of the Great Barrier Reef is one of 11 sites around the world where scientists are looking for decisive geological evidence of a new epoch called the anthropocene. M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State U., Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC/NASA hide caption

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M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State U., Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC/NASA

Drawing A Line In The Mud: Scientists Debate When 'Age Of Humans' Began

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Studying active volcanoes can be dangerous, which is why a group of scientists from around the world came together to simulate volcanic blasts. What they're learning will help them at a real eruption. NPR hide caption

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NPR

A new analysis of what were initially thought to be microbial fossils in Greenland suggests they might instead just be mineral structures created when ancient tectonic forces squeezed stone. While most of the structures point in one direction, the red arrow shows that some point in the other direction. Courtesy of Abigail Allwood hide caption

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Courtesy of Abigail Allwood

Geologists Question 'Evidence Of Ancient Life' In 3.7 Billion-Year-Old Rocks

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Geologists studied these scraps of diamond leftover from the shaping of big jewels. Evan Smith/Gemological Institute of America hide caption

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Evan Smith/Gemological Institute of America

Big Diamonds Bring Scientists A Message From Superdeep Earth

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Mount Paektu, which sits on the border with China, is known in North Korea as the "sacred mountain of revolution" and considered the legendary birthplace of Kim Jong Il and Korean culture. David Guttenfelder/AP hide caption

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David Guttenfelder/AP

North Korean Volcano Provides Rare Chance For Scientific Collaboration

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Residents of Valdivia, Chile, look over wrecked buildings on May 31, 1960. AP hide caption

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AP

When The Biggest Earthquake Ever Recorded Hit Chile, It Rocked The World

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Geology enthusiasts gather at a (formerly) noteworthy curb in Hayward, Calif., in May 2012. The curb was once straight; the shifting Hayward fault pulled it apart. Courtesy of Andrew Alden hide caption

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Courtesy of Andrew Alden

In California, Fixing A Curb Destroyed The 'Holy Grail Of Seismology'

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Part of the main street in Hilo, Hawaii, was flattened by a tsunami in April 1946. That big wave was triggered by a quake near the Aleutian Islands, where the edges of two tectonic plates continue to collide. Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

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Bettmann/Corbis

Aleutian Quake Zone Could Shoot Big Tsunamis To Hawaii, California

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The granulated surface of the lake bed known as the Racetrack is a favorite destination for tourists — and for scientists who want to investigate trails left by the meandering stones. Momatiuk - Eastcott/Corbis hide caption

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Momatiuk - Eastcott/Corbis

An Icy Solution To The Mystery Of The Slithering Stones

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Scenes from the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Bayfield, Wis., where Lake Superior's ice is thick enough to walk to the area's sea caves for the first time in five years. Derek Montgomery for MPR News hide caption

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Derek Montgomery for MPR News

'Almost Otherworldly': The Sea Caves Of Lake Superior, On Ice

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The Cathedral Spires in the Black Hills of South Dakota are just one of innumerable formations across the planet that speak to the Earth's ancient history. K. Scott Jackson/Ohio Water Science Center/USGS hide caption

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K. Scott Jackson/Ohio Water Science Center/USGS