Talk #63, 3/30/11

New Uses of Stable Isotopes to Resolve the Origin of the Solar System and the Change of Climate on Earth: from Deep Past to Present

Dr. Mark Thiemens
Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Dean of the UCSD Division of Physical Sciences

Stable isotope measurements of molecules have been used to trace various processes in nature for more than a half century. Precise measurements coupled with a quantum level understanding of the factors that govern the change allow unique resolution.
With the discovery of a new type of isotope effect and development of its physical chemistry, new insight into the origin and evolution of the earth, its atmosphere and evolution of life have been developed. Observations of Mars and meteorites have added to these understanding. Sampling from rocket borne sampling system of the atmosphere and even the sun have been used. Climate studies done from sampling at the South Pole, Greenland summit and the Tibetan Himalayas coupled with the isotope measurements have opened new understandings into processes on earth. Analysis of billion year old rock samples have allowed for the first time a quantitative understanding of the origin and evolution of life.