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Thu, Mar 24
The world’s most urgent science project
On a spring morning in New Hampshire, 2,000 years ago, sunlight struck a black cherry tree, opening its white-and-yellow blossoms. As the tree swayed gently in breeze, spiky, spherical pollen grains spilled out of its flowers, and floated up through the limbs and leaves of the canopy, before drifting down to the still surface of a nearby lake. Cool water stalled the pollen’s descent, but still, it kept falling, riding the currents all the way to the lake’s bottom, where it mixed with silt and slowly hardened into sediment.
Time piled new layers of mud and soil atop the pollen, pushing it deeper into the Earth. For two millennia, it continued to sink at that geologic pace, until suddenly, and with some violence, it was slurped up to the surface, through an aluminum tube.