Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who said you could go on vacation... what the grad-student-guilt angel is whispering in my ear on one shoulder. On the other shoulder is the holy-crap-you-deserve-a-break devil saying.....well, saying what he always says.

I'm gonna actually listen to the devil for once. I will be away from the internets (and phones even!) until July 2nd. In the meantime, check out some of the blogtastic goodies out there:

  • Where on (Google)Earth? 2.0: Ron and the Lab Lemming are taking my WoGE series to new levels. Posts are now coming from and being solved by more people. It is getting a little more geological instead of pure trivia (which is great). And we have plans to make it even better as time goes on. Check out my geoblogosphere ticker on the sidebar for the latest....or check out their blogs directly (links above) for the latest. Click here to see all the old WoGE 1.0 posts.
  • I've been checking out some new blogs of late as well (new blogs to me, that is).
    • I'm not sure what The Anterior Commissure is, but it has something to do with neuroscience. This blog has some great writing about an area of science I have little knowledge about. The author, Kate, explains things with the right combination of technical details (to help further my knowledge) and the important why-should-we-care rationale.
    • At first this blog led to decreased productivity because I spent time reading it. But now, the topics on Academic Productivity are helping me think about how to manage the information that I collect and compile.
    • Tamino has teamed up with Maribo and Eli Rabbett for a new series of climate science posts. These are not new blogs individually, but the collaboration, or 'mob blogging' as they call it, is a new approach. The posts at Open Mind continue to impress me with the caliber of analysis and explanation of a complex system like climate. Check out one of the first posts of this series over at Rabbett Run dealing with the fundamentals of the carbon cycle.
    • I've also been enjoying the TED talks. Every year in Monterey, CA a gathering of very sharp people (scientists, technologists, economists, social activists, artists, etc.) present talks about their ideas. Now you can view or download these talks at the TED website. They have everything from talking about reverse engineering the brain to the promise and perils of nanotechnology to beat poetry. It is a very slick site in terms of choosing from the database of talks based on topic tags. And they've made it very easy to download right to your video iPod, if you happen to have one. Great stuff...check it out.

See you in a couple weeks!

image above from here

Monday, June 18, 2007

That wonderful time of year...

Some people hate it, some love it. Usually the ones that don't care for it move away at some point. It's summer time in San Francisco and that means .... fog.

I love it. It's a natural air conditioner. When I spend most of the day in other parts of the Bay that don't get the fog it can be well into the 90s F. And then I'll travel 20 or 30 miles into SF and it'll be in the 60s. In addition to the cooling aspect, I think it is beautiful to watch and seems to add drama to what would normally be a typical boring day in modern life. Plus, I have to admit, I do get a kick out of tourists who come to San Francisco in the summer expecting it to be like southern California. They are in shorts and short-sleeved shirts standing on top of Twin Peaks while its 55 degrees F and rather blustery. Tough break...shoulda brought a jacket.

Why fog in the summer?The graphic above is from a San Francisco Chronicle article a couple years ago (click on image to see the full story). Depending on how thick this marine layer gets, the fog will blanket more of the Bay Area. Since San Francisco is at the outlet to the ocean (Golden Gate), even a weak/thin marine layer will create some fog. On other occasions, the marine layer is thick and robust and can overtop the Santa Cruz Mountains to the south. And other times, the inland valley will be so dang hot, that it just sucks that fog right up the Sacramento delta and river.

Once in a while you'll get this very low, ground-hugging type of fog that has a very sharp upper boundary. It's usually when its rather windy too so it's moving along pretty fast. I'm writing this post because that's how it is this afternoon. I wish I had a nice video is quite spectacular. We live on the lee side of a major set of hills, so the fog is cascading over the side like a waterfall of fog...a fogfall I guess.

I guess I don't need a video camera....amazingly I found one on YouTube that shows this type of fog at the same general location.

That one is a little dark. The video below is from nearby (Sausalito) and shows the cascading fog much better.

photo above from here

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Why do bloggers eventually end up blogging about blogging at some point?

  • profound realizations through examination and reflection of self
  • running out of ideas
  • too lazy to think of ideas
  • something to do during bouts of writer's block while trying to write about about the controls on Holocene turbidite accumulation offshore of southern California

Regardless, metablogging can be an interesting exercise (am I meta-metablogging right now?).

Someone asked me the other day why I spend time with a blog. Good question. When I first started it (fall 2006), it was more of the public journal/diary type with some personal commentary. That was okay, but there's plenty of commentary out there...and some of it very well-written and engaging. I'm not one to share every thought in my head to the public at large so the diary type of blog wasn't really my thing either. As the geoblogosphere community grows, I find it more satisfying to post about earth science-related topics most of the time (although the beauty of the blog is to be able to throw in some random stuff from time to time....we all should take advantage of this wonderful self-publishing freedom). Besides, thinking and writing about geology is what I spend nearly all my time doing anyway.

Nowadays, I view this blog as the online equivalent of that person who, in the pre-internet days, would cut out and tack up various clippings from magazines or newspapers on their office door. I enjoy telling people about stuff I think is interesting but I really don't like bothering people. In that sense, the blog is perfect. Readers can check it out if they like...or they can move on. The majority of my posts are brief, contain a link or two, and include some imagery (photos or video) about a specific topic or current event.

I would love to create posts about the specific research i'm doing in a lot more detail. But, being relatively early in my research career, I don't have this stuff out in the literature yet. I'm focused on getting my work submitted and published in peer-reviewed journals first. When (not if) the papers start coming out, I will very much enjoy writing posts about my own research (i've got some stuff in the pipeline that will be featured on here soon). Others may disagree, but I think it's prudent to wait to put your science on a blog until it reaches a "cite-able" status. At least for work that one would want published. I think scientific blogs have the potential to be an appropriate venue for presenting original results someday too, especially review papers and others studies that look at previously published data with a new perspective or in light of other findings.

The media's anthropomorphization of Pluto

A quick survey of mainstream media reporting on Pluto this weekend reveals their continued (and incredibly annoying) obsession with turning Pluto into an conscious being with feelings.

Here a few examples. Note red circles (mine).

The San Francisco Chronicle mentions Pluto's pride. CNN claims the planetary body is suffering from indignity. I guess at least BBC said that Pluto's status suffered a blow, instead of the dwarf planet itself suffering.

What the hell is the problem? Big deal...we've reclassified Pluto. It's a damn label to help science better communicate. This is how it works. The general public (and apparently science reporters too) can't seem to grasp the concept of classification. This is a human-made abstraction to help us better understand natural phenomenon. There is no true least not in this simplified outline form. Classifications are supposed to be refined, changed, tweaked, tanked, overhauled, etc. over time. This is part of doing science!

Maybe you're saying - 'relax, they're just having fun'. I understand that...yeah, sure it's cute. But if this style of reporting misrepresents how science is done, then I don't find it so cute.

Besides, if people are really worried about the feelings of a planet (dwarf or otherwise), maybe they should ask Earth.

UPDATE: Add SEED magazine to the list too. Apparently Pluto " kicked out of the brotherhood of planets and demoted...". Sucks to be you Pluto! Oh wait, Pluto is an inanimate body of rock and ice.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Time lapse video of migrating ripples

The previous post showed the sedimentary structure climbing ripple cross-lamination as it appears in a preserved deposit. This post links you to a fantastic video showing plan-view ripple migration in time lapse.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get this movie embedded so when you click on the screenshot at right it will take you to the USGS website where its hosted.

The movie shows a 40x60 cm area looking down on an active ripple field in a flume experiment. It is created from photographs taken once every 40 seconds for six hours. The bedforms migrate from top to bottom.

Note that these are not the highly aggradational ripple bedforms shown in the last post, but your run-of-the-mill migrating ripples.

What's interesting when watching the time lapse is how uneven the pace of the migration is. There seems to be spurts of faster-migrating ripple crests, usually in a relatively narrow strip, every so often. I don't know if the flow speed in the flume was kept doesn't say either way...but, I'm presuming it was.

Check out the index page for more movies and illustrations of bedforms in action.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Field Foto #21: Climbing ripples

Today we are gonna look at some ripple cross-laminated sandstone. More specifically these are called 'climbing ripples', or sometimes you may see this sedimentary structure referred to as 'ripple drift'. These show up particularly nice in this photo because of the light-dark contrast of the sandy vs. muddy laminae.

Climbing ripples record both migration (lateral) and aggradation (vertical) of the bedform. In this example note the very prominent ripple set in the middle section of the photo nicely showing the 'climb' from left to right. Different angles of climb represent different ratios of migration and aggradation. Climbing ripples are commonly interbedded with or grade upwards into wavy laminae.

This image at left is a classification of types of climbing ripple-laminated structures based on the angle of climb (click on image for larger view; click here for source of image).

Climbing ripples are most commonly seen in river and turbidity current deposits, typically in sub-environments of high rates of deposition from decelerating flows.

On a side note, Dr. Lemming has pointed out a new geology-related blog out there. It's called All of My Faults Are Stress Related and looks to be a nice addition to the geoblogosphere. I have a few more new links over there on the sidebar that i'll post about soon.

I also have an updated album of Patagonia photos you can check out here. The above image is from that collection.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

some funky jazz

I haven't had a music post in a is a video of Medeski, Martin, & Wood playing "The Lover" in 2005. They are a jazz trio from NYC and one of my all-time favorites. Billy Martin is the man on the drums...and makes some interesting art too.

Check 'em out if they come to your town.

Where on (Google)Earth #14?

This one might not take too long.

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mr. Wizard ... R.I.P.

If you are (1) in your late 20s to early 30s, (2) grew up in North America, (3) had the cable TV channel Nickelodeon, and (4) are a geek, then you probably remember watching Mr. Wizard's World. Don "Mr. Wizard" Herbert passed away today at the age of 89.

I have fond memories of watching that show in the afternoons after school. I won't lie...I related to the dorky kids he had on the show going "" as an experiment was performed.

I may just go ahead and get the DVDs for my little niece and nephew (perhaps i'll watch some episodes before I send to them).

Check out these great experiments!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Managing information

What is the best method for organizing scientific papers and other references in the digital realm? This question is becoming increasingly more important for me in just the last year. The vast majority of the references I need are now available digitally (but I still do physically go to the library from time to time...which is a nice break from the office sometimes).

I have gotten so used to downloading PDFs, renaming them quickly with date/author/keyword, and then putting them in a subject folder. But I am getting so many now that I can't find them easily and I end up re-downloading the dang paper. This is not efficient.

GoogleDesktop search does a decent job, but I wish I could filter the search to one master directory so I don't get a bunch of unwanted search results. The problem is that one paper can fit into many categories (obviously), so I would like a fast and easy way to "tag" the PDFs with my own keywords.

Branner Blog has a nice post summarizing a handful of the bibliographic and citation tools out there on the internets. Check it out. I downloaded Zotero a couple weeks ago after reading a rave review of it, but haven't really used it might simply be that i'm too lazy (busy?) to learn how to properly use it.

I would love to hear from people about how they digitally manage information. Please drop a comment.

image above from here

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Photographs from inside...

...the Kentucky hall of creationist irrationality. Check out this collection of photos on Flickr.

Arghh! This trend of anti-science nonsense really scares me. And that is the is anti-science. It is anti-the progress we have already made! I'm gonna nip this post in the bud before I really start ranting.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Field Foto #20: Volcanic hills

Last weekend our research group along with some others went on a short field trip that was a cross-section of the California convergent margin. We were principally looking at the Mesozoic system -- the continental arc plutons of the Sierra Nevada, the sedimentary rocks of the adjacent forearc basin (Great Valley Group), and then the deformed cherts, pillow lavas, and greenstones of the Franciscan subduction complex. Normally, the forearc and accretionary prism do not get well preserved, but thanks to the transition from a subduction margin to a strike-slip margin (San Andreas Fault system), these major elements of the Mesozoic system are preserved in their general relative positions for us to examine.

Although we focused on the Mesozoic system, we looked at many of the younger features along this transect as well. This week's photo is of Sutter Buttes, or sometimes known as Marysville Buttes. This hills are sticking out of the middle of the fantastically flat Central Valley like a giant zit on a teenager's forehead.

Below is a very general geologic map of this part of California pointing out the location of Sutter Buttes.

So, what are these hills all about? They consist of rhyolites and andesites that were erupted about 1.5 million years ago. This young and small volcanic complex appears to be part of the Cascade system. Mt. Lassen, which is ~100 miles to the north of Sutter Buttes, is the southernmost volcano of the Cascade arc to have erupted in historical times. There is some debate about the position of Sutter Buttes with respect to the northward migrating triple junction and associated timing of cessation of volcanism. Some of these questions remain unanswered.

If you ever find yourself in the Great Valley and are feeling topographically-deficient, go check out the Buttes.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Mystery of the megaflood

Last night we watched a NOVA special about the unique geomorphic region known as the 'Channeled Scablands' of the northwest United States called Mystery of the Megaflood. During the latest Pleistocene as the continental ice sheets began to retreat, huge lakes (similar in scale to some of the Great Lakes) that were dammed by ice broke free and rushed across the state of Washington creating erosional and depositional features that perplexed geologists and geomorphologists for a long time.

If you don't know about this story, check out the NOVA website (click on image or link above). They have tons of information to help you learn more about it. The program was pretty entertaining. As a geoscientist it's always nice to see the science portrayed in these programs. Yes, they can be a little sensationalized with the scary music and overdramatized reenactments, but that's kind of fun in a way. I recommend it.

Check out this interactive on their website for a tour across the region highlighting the key features.
One of my favorite features are the giant bedforms (ripple marks, essentially) that were formed near where the flood started near Missoula, Montana. I went on GoogleEarth and started poking around the area and lo and behold you can see them fairly easy. They are on the order of 35 ft high and have wavelengths of hundreds of feet. The image below shows an area about 5 miles across (copy/paste these coordinates into GoogleEarth to go there: 47.48N, 114.59W).

And here's a closer shot (this area about a mile across). These suckers are huge!
Anyway...check out the website and rent the show. It also goes into the incredulity the early 20th century geologists had regarding this catastrophist point of view. That's another interesting topic for another time.

Another post forthcoming is -- what happened when these floods reached the ocean? People have done some work on this and it is really interesting...stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Looking for a job in geology?

Below is the text pasted directly from the Answers in Genesis (AiG) creationist museum website. They are looking for a geologist!

Speaker and Researcher of Geology

Reports to: Mark Looy (for the moment)

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Speak to layperson (and occasional science) groups across the country as requested through AiG Outreach Dept. Expected travel a minimum of 25%.
  • Literature and field research.
  • Write regular articles for web and other AiG publications.
  • Produce books, DVDs, curriculum materials, etc.

Education, Experience and Skill Requirements

  • Doctorate in geology preferred, or some other related scientific discipline (e.g., paleontology).
  • Minimum of 5 years’ field or teaching experience in study discipline.
  • Extremely strong knowledge of creation – understanding both the biblical and scientific arguments.
  • Articulate and engaging speaker is a must, along with the willingness to be mentored in order to become an even better speaker (i.e., to be “teachable”).
  • Ability to express concepts in writing

Items needed for possible employment

  • Resume
  • Salvation testimony
  • Creation belief statement
  • Confirmation of your agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith

Please send, with cover letter, to:
HR Department

My resume is in pretty good shape, but i'll have to work on my salvation testimony a little bit.

Link from Pharyngula.