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CanonS2 / Wikipedia

At the end of this week, scientists will start looking into the heart of an island called Surtsey, which was created between 1963 and 1967 by a volcanic eruption, to better understand how islands form as part of a $1.4 million project, per Nature. The UNESCO World Heritage site off the coast of Iceland is one of the world's youngest islands.

Why it matters: Based on the results from the study regarding how hydrothermal minerals have strengthened Surtsey's rock, engineers might be able to create stronger concrete that could be used for nuclear-waste containers. Scientists also hope to understand how microbes munch on rock, which will reveal how microbial populations help shape our environment.

Many of the microorganisms on the island are suspected to be indigenous to the island and to have colonized from the seawater, according to Viggó Marteinsson, a microbiologist at the Matís food- and biotechnology-research institute in Reykjavik.

How they'll do it: Scientists will drill a hole parallel to a previous one drilled in 1979, which will allow them to see how the microbial populations change over time. They will lower incubation chambers into the hole and then after a year remove them to make these observations. A third hole, which will be made at an angle to see hot water trickling through cracks in the island, will allow the scientists to understand the structure of the volcano better.

Quick numbers: 60 tons of drilling equipment will be moved to Surtsey this Friday, using a whopping 100 helicopter flights. Only 12 people will be allowed on the island at any given time.

Go deeper

4 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

4 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.