Sunday, December 17, 2006

Angel Island

A couple weeks ago we went to Angel Island, which is the biggest island in the San Francisco Bay. It's a great day take a ferry over from Fisherman's Wharf in the morning, hike around for a few hours, and then take a ferry back in the late afternoon.

The photo above is from the southern flank of the island with downtown San Francisco in the background and Alcatraz in the middle ground.

Check out Angel Island State Park website for more info.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Friday Field Foto #7: Stack of deep-water deposits

(a day late)

Here's another shot of my field area in southern Chile. The more resistant cliff-forming rocks are mostly sandstone and the gray-brown slopes are shale. These sedimentary rocks were deposited on the sea floor about 65-70 million years ago (kind of around the time the dinosaurs became extinct). Good stuff.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Under the sea

I've spent the better part of the last 6 years studying deep-marine sedimentation (how dirt from the land gets to the bottom of the ocean). One of the coolest things about this are images like the above. It is a perspective view looking north of onshore and offshore southern California. I'm constantly fascinated by the landscape on the sea floor....mountains, valleys, canyons, channels, plains. Some of those mountains are sticking up out of the water as islands. We have the surface of Mars mapped better than our own ocean floor. It's like looking at another planet...I love it! Currently I'm studying Santa Monica Basin, which is towards the top of the image...the yellowish-greenish patch to the left of Los Angeles.

If you want to explore the world's sea-floor topography, you can download this Java program that accesses online databases (kind of like GoogleEarth but for underwater). It's called GeoMapApp, it's a little clumsy and sluggish sometimes, but still pretty fun.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Augusto Pinochet and the other 9/11

Because I've been traveling to Chile for research for the last few years, I've naturally taken an interest in their history, culture, and politics.

Yesterday Augusto Pinochet, 91, died. Pinochet led a military coup that ousted democratically-elected president Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973. The U.S. secretly backed this coup as part of their 'anti-communism' program of that era.

Pinochet ruled Chile as a right-wing military dictator until 1990. Thousands of people (there's debate about how many) were rounded up, tortured, and killed for their known or inferred dissent of his politics (if you weren't with him, you were against him). There were detention and torture centers, concentration camps essentially...all that good stuff military dictatorships are made of.

He has a long list of human rights violations against him and has evaded justice over the last decade with the excuse of failing health.

Many Chileans view him as a brutal fascist dictator that ended democracy, while others view him as someone who brought economic growth to Chile with fierce free market policies (which is why the U.S. gov't backed him).

You can learn more about this subject here, here, or here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Field Foto #6: Sand-rich turbidite deposits

This is in the desert of west the Delaware Mountains. I spent many weeks here when I was working on my master's (2000-2003). Because of the school calendar, we had to go in the summer mostly. It was frickin' hot! But a beautiful place, a lot of rock. The cool thing about this place is that each of those cliff-faces has the same layers of, we were able to map out how they changed in some detail.

Check out more photos of the Delawares here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why does it have to be water?

Okay, I know...another Mars post.
But, earlier today the news agencies picked up on a story about features seen on Mars that may have been formed by liquid water. The image at right is zoomed in on one of these deposits. The lighter-colored material is being interpreted as possibly the result of flowing water.

Why does water need to be involved at all? In fact, why does liquid need to be involved? Depending on the material that makes up this steep slope, it could simply be a gravity failure of loose, granular material that flowed and created this deposit. Sand dunes do this all the time. What is the gravity like on Mars compared to Earth might loose, granular material behave?

My point is that water is not necessarily required to produce this feature.

What's worse is that once the words 'water' and 'Mars' are spoken in the same sentence, reporters and newspapers make giant leaps of inference and start talking about 'life on Mars'.

Granted, I haven't actually read the scientific report that is coming guess is that the news is overstating what the authors may be implying in their work.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Field Foto #5: Pygmy owl

Although we are usually looking at rocks, it's impossible to not have encounters with wildlife while in the field. One morning while we were having breakfast at our campsite in southern Chile, this pygmy owl hung out on a tree branch near us for about 20 minutes. This little guy is about the size of your fist.

See more photos of mine from Patagonia here.