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This month's topic: Antarctica, our planet's southernmost continent, is no longer terra incognita ("unknown territory") as far as explorers and cartographers are concerned, but what do the rest of us really know about this mysterious land of extremes? Evidence suggests that the White Continent was once part of a much larger land mass, with a temperate climate, before it began drifting down to its current position back in the Triassic period. Nowadays, 98% of its surface is covered with an ice sheet averaging about 1 mile in thickness, and containing 70% of all the world's fresh water. Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, and driest of the continents — in fact it gets so little precipitation that its interior, despite all the frozen water underfoot, is technically the world's largest desert. If you've never given much thought to this bizarre, distant land — or if you think about it all the time, like I do — this is your chance to learn more. Glaciologist Kurt Cuffey will tell us what his Antarctic research suggests about the continent's icy mantle, and also about the rest of the planet.

About the series: Ask a Scientist is an informative, entertaining science lecture series, held at a San Francisco cafe. Each event features a speaker on a current topic, a short presentation, and the opportunity to ask all those burning questions that have been keeping you up at night. No tests, grades, or pressure…just food, drinks, socializing, and conversation about the universe’s most fascinating mysteries.

Official Website: http://www.askascientistSF.com

Added by fourquarts on May 6, 2007