Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Geology Through the Radio - Pompeii

Geology Through The Radio

Listening to the radio the other day this song caught my ear. Little did I realize what the title of the song was (Pompeii by Bastille). Then actually listening to the lyrics, I realized that that was what the song was actually about (not some fancy title that has nothing to do with the song what-so-ever).

Here are a set of the lyrics for instance:
"And the walls kept tumbling downIn the city that we loveGreat clouds roll over the hillsBringing darkness from above"

 Some questions that could be asked of this song:

1. What event is the song referring to?
2. What are the "great clouds" composed of?
3. What happened to the city that the song is referring to?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Geology of the National Parks in Pictures - Dinosaur National Monument

The next up on my tour of the National Parks in pictures:

Obligatory entrance sign.

"I hope that the Government for the benefit of science and the people, will uncover a large area, leave the bones and skeletons in relief and house them in. It would make one of the most astounding and instructive sights imaginable." - Earl Douglas, 1923

And here is the main attraction. The fossil wall in panorama form.

The northern end of the fossil wall.

 And the southern end.

View of the outside of the main exhibit building. The building is newly rebuilt (since the other one basically fell off the wall) and rests right on top of the fossil layer. The next picture is a shot in the opposite direction from the building.

Picture from the fossil wall in the northern direction (away from the building) where you can track the fossil layer across the parking lot.

Closer up shot of the fossil layer from the previous picture. You can make out the Fossil Discovery Trail running along the base of the fossil layer towards the lower center of the picture (fossil layer is the dark layer just left of center).

View of the fossil layer looking back up at the building. Most of the best fossils were all up within the building but most people found it exciting to discover fossils "out in the wild". 

Departing dino shot.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Geology Through Literature - The Way of All Flesh

The next story up in the Geology Though Literature thread is The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler.

Not much in the way of geology in this book, however I did find a couple of passages interesting. The book mainly is about Christianity taking place in the 1800's and a couple of passages mention some recent works that were released:
"It must be remembered that the year 1858 was the last of a term during which the peace of the Church of England was singularly unbroken...I need hardly say that the calm was only on the surface. Older men, who knew more than undergraduates are likely to do, must have seen that the wave of skepticism which had already broken over Germany was setting towards our own shores (England) - nor was it long, indeed, before it reached them. Ernest had hardly been ordained before three works in quick succession arrested the attention even of those who paid least heed to theological controversy - I mean Essays and Reviews, Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, and Bishop Colenso's Criticisms on the Pentateuch." 
As a little bit of a background, On the Origin of Species was originally published November 24th, 1859, while events during the first paragraph take place during 1858. Even though The Way of All Flesh was published in 1903, Butler began working on it in 1873. This shows that, the upheaval due to the publishing of several works like On the Origin of Species still would have been fresh in his mind. Although, the ideas of evolution were slowly gaining hold, even before Darwin's publication, the Church of England firmly held the beliefs as posed in the Bible. Mainly, that species were created by their Creator and have remained unchanged since creation. Darwin's (among others) theories flew in the face of that, hence the paragraph describing the breakdown of the Church of England's hold. Very fitting for a book that seems to be very anti-established church.
"This was the course things have taken in the Church of England during the last fourty years. The set has been steadily in one direction. A few men who knew what they wanted made catspaw of the Christinas and the Charlottes, and the Christinas and the Charlottes made catspaws of the Mrs. Goodhews and the old  Miss Wrights, and the Mrs. Goodhews and old Miss Wrights told the Mr. Goodhews and the young Miss Wrights what they should do, and when the Mr. Goodhews and the young Miss Wrights did it the little Goodhews and the rest of the spiritual flock did as they did, and the Theobalds went for nothing; step by step, day by day, year by year, parish by parish, diocese by diocese, this was how it was done. And yet the Church of England looks with no friendly eyes upon the theory of evolution, or decent with modification."

I like this passage because it shows how "descent with modification" (i.e. evolution) works in the context of society. My personal point of view is that many people take the term "evolution" out of context, where it simply means "change over time". Also, Darwin never stated the term "evolution" within the Origin of Species. He just used "descent with modification", so I feel that the author's phrasing in the last sentence as a hat-tip to the original term.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dino's? in Pop Culture - SLCC 2014

Unlike last years Salt Lake Comic Con, there was not much in the way of dinosaurs (or geology really) that I could find. I did see one person dressed up as a female Dr. Grant from Jurassic Park but I never was able to get a picture of her. So, in lieu of that, we have Smaug from The Lord of The Rings. Dragons are based on dinosaurs, so essentially dragons are the descendants of dinosaurs, like birds. 

Therefore, dragons can be considered the cousins of birds. And in that case, here you have a dinosaur descendant. 

Side Note: I didn't realize this at first but one of the eyes opened and closed. You can see that through the 3 pictures below. Very nice!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Drunk on Geology - Riff Pinot Grigio

Our next bottle up on our Drunk on Geology series is Riff. Riff (German for reef) wines are Italian wines made by Cantina Riff Progetto Lageder. The ammonite shown on the bottle of the 2012 bottle (pictured below) has also been changed for the 2013 wines, so it is likely I may feature this wine again.  

The ammonite pictured on the bottle is a simple goniatitic ammonite, meaning that the sutures between each chamber (septa) have a gentle curved pattern.

A comparable fossil ammonite to the one on the bottle is the pyritized Quenstedticeras pictured below:

The back of the bottle reads:
"Riff pinot grigio originates from vineyards in the foothills of the dolomites, located in the eastern Alps, which influence the climate and bless the region with prized alluvial soils. The name riff (German for reef) refers to the dolomites geological origin. A deposit of fossils from an ancient sea that covered this region millions of years ago."

Image of the rocks from the wine maker's website,

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Geology of the National Parks in Pictures - Craters of the Moon

The next up on my tour of the National Parks in pictures:

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve

My standard park sign picture, but this time with the little one.

 Lava tube entrance.

 This one shows a pretty good view of the landscape that has many trees and shrubs but is still pretty barren.

A lot of dead trees hanging about.

 Climbing up the largest of the cinder cones, Inferno Cone.

 Panoramic view from the top of Inferno Cone.

 View from Inferno Cone of a couple of smaller cinder cones.

Some nice aa, splatter lava.

 View of a lava flow showing large chunks of volcanic rocks.

 Another view of the same lava flow, this time a little further up. You can see a nice transition from the pahoehoe to the aa style lava.

 Me entering one of the lava tubes.

 Some nice ribbon lava. I really love the fine cracks that run perpendicular to the ribbon folds.

View looking out of one of the smaller lava tubes, Dewdrop Cave.

Within the largest lava tube in the park, Indian Tunnel. Several places along the length of the tube, the ceiling has caved in giving visitors a nice walk even without the need of a headlamp.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Geological State Symbols Across the US - #5 California

The next state up is California. Here are the stats:

                                                                                        Year Established
State Rock: Serpentine                                                             1965
State Mineral: Gold                                                                 1965
State Gemstone: Benitoite                                                        1985
State Fossil: Smilodon fatalis (saber-toothed cat)                    1973

State Rock: Serpentine

    California was the first state to identify a state rock, serpentine. Serpentine is a green to black, fibrous and platy, metamorphic rock. It was metamorphosed from the ultramafic (dark green minerals like olivene) rock peridotite. It was named for the serpent skin-like pattern formed by the multitude of greens throughout the rock. The original parent rock, peridotite, was deposited in the ocean, below the basalt and other crustal rocks. The high heat, water, and high pressure converted the peridotite into serpentine. Serpentine itself is often composed of three main minerals, chrysotile (often found in the form asbestos), lizardite, and antigorite, among others.

   California was formed by the accretion of various islands and oceanic material as the North American plate moved westward and the subduction zone along the west coast of North America allowed material to be "scraped" off of the subducting plate. These accretionary provinces contained large pockets of serpentine within them, providing California with an abundance of valuable serpentine minerals including chromite, magnesite, cinnebar, and most importantly at the time, asbestos. For this reason, as well as its soft nature making it an easy stone to polish and usage as an ornamental rock, it was designated as California's state rock.

    However, due to the strong association of serpentine with asbestos, there has been recent urges to change or remove the state rock. Having the state rock associated with cancer is not something many lawmakers agree with. Scientists contend though, that asbestos within its natural state is harmless. Only when powdered, can asbestos become a carcinogen. Currently it is unsure whether the rock will be removed as the state rock.

State Mineral: Gold    

     The chemical symbol for gold is Au, and gold is one of the unique minerals that, in its pure form, is composed entirely of one element. It has a hardness of 2.5 to 3 on the Mohs hardness scale meaning that it actually is very soft (your fingernail is 2.5). For this reason most gold jewelry is mixed with another metal to prevent scratching and bending easily. The karat rating of the gold represents it's purity, where 24 karat is 99.9% pure, 22 karat 91.7%, 18 karat 75%, and so on. Gold naturally does not corrode or tarnish, so even when it is mixed with other metals it usually has a resistance to tarnishing, enhancing its value for jewelry. When gold is found in place, the highest grade of gold is found in association with quartz veins, as the one shown to the left from Placerville, California.

     Along with the identification of a state rock, California also identified a state mineral at the same time, gold. It is not hard to understand why. Gold was initially discovered in California in 1848 at Sutter's Mill in Coloma. This discovery eventually brought on the Gold Rush of 49' (the name of the 49ers are based on this gold rush as well). The Gold Rush increased the number of people in California from pre-1849 to post-1849 100 times (going from less than 1,000 to over 100,000). The discovery of gold and sudden influx of people to California, caused it to have statehood decades before most of the other western states. Overall, two billion dollars worth of gold was extracted from the state during this time period. The current slogan for California, "The Golden State", is due to this foundation on gold.

     California's gold mines (current and historic) cover the entire state and can be found from the very southern border all the way to the northern border, with almost every county having at least one. Due to the high specific gravity of gold (high density) and its resistance to oxidizing (tarnishing) as it is eroded out of the mountains it concentrates in rivers in what are called placer deposits. It is from these deposits that people find gold while they perform the famous "wild west" practice of panning for gold.

State Gemstone: Benitoite
Benitoite from Benitoite Gem Mine, San Benito County, California (Type Locality for Benitoite)

     Benitoite is an extremely rare mineral where the only gem quality stones are found in California. It is often found as a blue to dark blue mineral but can be purple, pink, white, and colorless. The mineral also fluoresces blue under ultraviolet light. Bernitoite is a barium titanium silicate (BaTiSi3O9) that often forms pyramidal crystals, although the crystals are usually 5 cm or less in size. It was initially found near the headwaters of the San Benito River, in San Benito County and was named for its discovery location.

     When benitoite was originally discovered it was thought to be another variety of sapphire. However, further analysis by some jewelers ruled out the gem as a sapphire. In 1907, George D. Louderback, identified and named the  unique and very rare mineral. Primarily bentitoite is known as a collector's item with a small amount of samples being used to align and adjust electron microprobe beams. Benitoite is found within natrolite veins that are interlayered with serpentine. Benitoite forms from the hydrothermal altering of the serpentine, a primary mineral found within the state rock, serpentine.

     However rare and valuable the gem is, collectors and rockhounds have the unique chance to collect their own specimens of benitoite by going to the California State Gem Mine. Where, for a fee, you can try and find some of the gems yourself.

State Fossil: Smilodon fatalis (saber-toothed cat)
     Smilodon fatalis, more commonly known as the saber-toothed cat, is an animal that went extinct around 13,000 years ago, towards the end of the last ice age. The saber-toothed cat is known from North America and the Pacific regions of South America. The reason that this animal was chosen for the state fossil of California is that over 1,200 different specimens have been found in California, primarily within the Rancho La Brea asphalt deposits (the tar pits) and is the second most common animal found there.

     Although, often depicted as living in caves, Smilodon fatalis is more commonly found within plains or woodland deposits, and likely lived as am ambush predator. The skeleton of Smilodon supports this theory, since it is robust with a short tail, indicated it did not run down its prey. Originally it was though that the saber teeth were used to grapple and hold on to the prey, however they are not strong enough to do this and would result in a lot of broken teeth. It is now hypothesized that the saber teeth were used to deliver a mortal stab wound while the animal then waited for its prey to die.

    The La Brea Tar Pits, where the fossils are primarily found in California, formed from the crude oil that seeps to the surface and partially evaporates, leaving only the heavy tar behind. Animals would get stuck  and eventually enveloped by the tar after they died from lack of food or water. The tar pits where known to the Native Americans in the region and were used as glue and waterproofing their boats and houses. In the early 1875 though, the fossil of a saber-toothed cat was found and described.


Previous States


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Drunk on Geology - Field Assistant Ale

Along with the previous Drunk on Geology post (Lava Cap), another special bottle was produced by the Geological Society of America (GSA) for their 125th anniversary meeting. This one is the Field Assistant Ale by the Left Hand Brewing Company.

The beer is normally the Left Hand Brewing Company's Sawtooth Ale, with a special bottle designed by design agency Moxie Sozo and artist Andrea Oropeza. You can find Andrea's work on her website: http://andoropeza.prosite.com/. Here is what she had to say about the process of creating the bottle:
Project done during my time in Moxie Sozo. I created a label design for the special edition of the Left Hand Brewing Co.'s Sawtooth Ale to celebrate the Geological Society of America's 125th anniversary. It was a quick turn around but in the end everything came out really good. They created coasters, t-shirts and beer labels for the party and for all guests to get one of this special beer with this design.
Thanks to Left Hand and to GSA to make me a part of this experience.
This specific project is outlined here: http://andoropeza.prosite.com/312848/4011082/design/beer-label-design and you can see an image of the label sans bottle bellow (also illustrated in the available sticker).

GSA was giving these out, one per day, do everyone (of legal drinking age) at the conference so I was more than able to get my fair share of it (Thanks GSA!). This specialty bottle was a great addition to the 125th anniversary celebrations. 

If you look at the fourth picture down below, you will notice that they also produced some stickers with the bottle. Well, I have some extra of these stickers. Stickers will be given out to the first 4 people who tweet at me (@Jazinator) "I want to be your field assistant". I will contact those people for their mailing addresses. 

Sticker's available!!! Read directions above on how to obtain one.

Original label design by Andrea Oropeza.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dino's in Pop Culture - Salt Lake Comic Con

Here are some more dinosaurs in pop culture (I call this catching up on things):

During the previous Salt Lake Comic Con (September, 2013) there were these really cool dinosaur "costumes" roaming around the exhibit floor. Turns out they were for an exhibitor called "Dino Media" that had a website at www.dinoevent.com. However, that website appears to now be defunct and the Facebook page has not been updated in a while. Not sure if the company is defunct along with them. It is a shame because those are some really cool costumes. 

The dinosaurs are operated by a person inside (you can see his spandexed legs in the picture below alongside the dinosaur legs). But if you are not looking for it, these dinos are shockingly realistic. Perhaps they could use a bit of feathers though :-).

A couple of videos shot from SLCC that I found as well.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thoughts on the Ham - Nye Creation Debate

This is going to be my first in a bunch of Creationist-Evolutionist topics that I have in mind. More to come in the future (at some point).

Back in February there was a much politicized debate between Bill Nye (the science guy) and Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis CEO). Previously I had not had the time to sit and watch the 2.5 hour debate but recently I had and I have marked down my comments below. Pretty much they follow the course of the "debate" but I have not marked out clearly for the most case where each comment is in reference to, but they should make sense while watching it.

  • Clearly, this debate already seems weighted in Ken Ham's favor being at the Creationist Museum, his home turf.
The first part is where the debaters were each given 2 blocks of talks involving a 5 minuted introduction and a 30 minute presentation.
  • Ken Ham - Makes some great points (i.e., it shouldn't be Creationists vs scientists but evolutionists vs Creationists; both evolutionists and Creationists have the same source data that they are trying to interpret) but then he wanders off of the science point when questions of why are brought up (because God deemed it so, "there is a book"). He makes many good points but also leaves out large chunks of available contradictory information in order to prove his points.
  • Ken Ham - also states that one does not NEED to be an evolutionist in order to contribute to the technological impact of society and there are no technological advances that required that particular discoverer to be an evolutionist. To this point I tentatively agree. You don't really need to believe in evolution to create an iPhone. However, a counter point to this is that many scientists, primarily geologists, use what is known about the age of the Earth and past processes to find oil and gas. To find this oil and gas they need to understand how plates move and the age of rocks in comparison to one another. Find me a "young Earther" who who can find oil based on their interpretations of the Earth.
  • Bill Nye - His initial statement/comments really seemed to come out of left field (I'm sitting here going "what the hell?") and I felt he didn't fit the tone of the "debate" (as defined by Ham's performance). I feel this may have set the audience up on the wrong foot. During much of his introduction he often tried to throw too much data at the audience, many times without an explanation. Within his 35 minutes, he tries to explain everything in science related to the age of the Earth, the Big Bang Theory, and evolution. In the process his point often just gets muddled.
The next section is a 5 minute rebuttal by each person, followed by a 5 minute re-rebuttal (?).
  • Ken Ham - One of the biggest problems I have with Creationist arguments is that they never seem to understand how radiocarbon dating works. He outright states they tried to date 45 million year old wood with radiocarbon dating. Any geologist who knows anything about carbon-14 will tell you the results will be crap.
  • Ken Ham - Oh wait, all animals were vegetarians before the flood???? Sharp teeth does not mean carnivore apparently. I would love to see a lion even try to eat plants with its teeth.
  • Ken Ham - Ham had posted several videos of Creationists, who were also scientists, stating there were no conflicting evidence that the Earth was not 6,000 years old based on the science. The problem I see is that he did not have any geologists or paleontologists on contributing to this (even though I am well aware that they do exist). 
  • Bill Nye - And to the previous point, Bill Nye himself is not a geologist or a paleontologist, or a biologist, getting up there and debating topics that are outside his realm of expertise. Not exactly the person I would want debating my side. You don't get an accountant to be your lawyer.
  • Bill Nye - I feel Bill Nye also harped on some non-essential problems. Does it really matter if Noah was able to build a boat of that size, which was able to to withstand ocean currents. Perhaps he was, perhaps he wasn't. I think it is a moot point for this debate and one that did not need to even be discussed.
  • Overall - I noticed that many of their "rebuttals" were talks with prepared slides. It's not much of a debate rebuttal is you already have prepared what you are going to say beforehand. 
The last section is a Question and Answer part where questions were asked by the audience to either participant. The person receiving the question had 2 minutes to respond and the other person had a 1 minute rebuttal.
  • Ken Ham - Ham's God seems awful vain. "he created the universe in order to show us how powerful he is."
  • Bill Nye - Nye calls out Ham's reliance on the Bible as the final word. Doesn't leave much room for actual science if all your answers are just "the Bible said so".
  • Ken Ham - Ham makes another good point - just because the majority believes something doesn't make it true (something, I myself have stated in the past). 
  • Ken Ham - Ham is also harping on the fact that evolutionists cannot prove what we say about the rock record because no one was there to witness it, except (of course) in the case of Creationism where we have the one "being" who was there (God) writing down his own eye witness account. He disregards the fact that the Bible was not actually written by God but by people many years after the supposed Creation.
  • Bill Nye - Nye also states that any scientist who disagrees with the common thought in science is embraced. I would have to disagree with this as can be shown by the theory of plate tectonics, which was initially proposed back before 1910 and didn't gain ground until the 1960's and 70's.
  • Bill Nye - One of the key things about scientists (of which I wholeheartedly agree with) Nye states is the simple phrase "I don't know". 
    • We don't know everything and we (usually) aren't afraid to state when we don't know. That is what drives science, to know the unknown.
  • Ken Ham - Yes, there is a book with the answers. We get it Ham.
  • Ken Ham - Now, here is the big one. Question to Ken Ham - "What, if anything, would ever change your mind?" 
    • The response "the Bible is the word of God...no one is ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true."
  • Ken Ham - Another true statement by Ham. He states that scientists did not date Earth rocks to get the 4.5 billion year old age of the Earth, which is 100% true, we dated meteorites as he states.
    • My questions is how does that change anything? Even in his Creationist view the Earth and the other planets/astronomical bodies should be the same age.
  • Ken Ham - Ham is very good at acknowledging much of the data that is describes current Earth conditions (i.e. the plates are moving, we can see this). However he then goes on to blame the flood for a catastrophic movement of the plates putting them in their position close to today.
    • His biggest point is that he dismisses the geological law of uniformitarianism (that things happening today happened in the past). He feels that things aren't constant and that rates of stuff can change astronomically (i.e. plate movement, bed depositional rates, etc.).
  • Bill Nye - Nye does a piss-poor job of explaining the second law of thermodynamics and how that relates to evolution.
  • Ken Ham - One thing I noticed a couple of times is that it seems that Ham equates Christian with Creationist. They are one in the same to him. I get the feeling that any non-Creationists are not Christians in his view.

My Overall Thoughts.
  • What was the purpose of this debate? What was the overall goal? 
  • Although, this wasn't much of a debate either. I felt it was a back and forth presentation battle with the debaters not really responding to what the other person said. Even in the last round, they were more responding to the questions and not their opponent. 
  • Overall the respondents did a rather poor job of just answering the questions they are asked and not going off on preplanned diatribes.
  • Nye did a poor job of relating to the "common person". I'm not saying they "common person" is dumb, but that they aren't scientists and they don't know all the little parts of many scientific explanations. Nye glossed over many points that (I feel) would have left many people lost or confused. I myself was getting figurative whiplash with how fast he was jumping around topics and adding in stories. 
  • Ham presented himself as intelligent and knowledgeable about a great many subjects but I also got the feeling he did not know what he was talking about when referring to geological concepts. He also fell back on "the Bible" as his be all and end all of debates. 
  • In essence my thoughts can be summed up with: Why even debate someone who feels that the word of law is written in a book? He stated himself there was no way his mind would be changed. I feel this debate could have been better served by getting a Creation geologist out there who know the Creation science and is able to back up his claims with something other than "because the book said so."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cloud Covered Mountains

Here is some pretty cool cloud coverage of the Wasatch Mountains (UT) on my drive in to work the other day. Click on it to get the enlarged version.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Geology in Pop Culture - Candy (Part 3)

And we have another Geology in Pop Culture with Candy. This time we go to the more mainstream "geological candy" when people thing of geological candies (if/when they ever do). Rock Candy. This candy is from the FAO Schweetz line.

Rock Candy is one of the oldest and purest forms of candy. In the 1800s, it was used as a home remedy for all kinds of illnesses. Because it is a very difficult process, Rock Candy making has almost become a lost art. Rock Candy crystals grow in a concentrated solution of pure sugar. It takes an entire week for them to grow to full size.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Drunk on Geology - Lava Cap

Our next entry into Drunk on Geology is Lava Cap. Lava Cap is a Californian wine:
"Nestled in the lovely Sierra Nevada Foothills, Lava Cap Winery's handcrafted wines will awaken your senses. We are pleased to celebrate over 25 years of wine making with you."
One of the neat things about this particular geologically friendly wine is that the Chardonnay, El Dorado bottle was tagged especially for the GSA meeting last year in Denver, celebrating GSA's 125th birthday.

For a nice breakdown of the geology of the region in which the wine is grown, check out this article by Earth Magazine.

From Lava Cap's website:
Lava Cap Winery takes its name from volcanic rocks that cap the ridges on which their vineyards are developed. These rocks weather to produce a rich cobbled loam soil that is ideal for growing grapes of supreme quality. Geologist and founder of Lava Cap, David Jones and his (wife) Jeanne carefully selected this acreage based upon remarkable intensity of color, aromas and flavors. 

These special bottles were available for shipping to your house. Unfortunately I live in the most unfriendly wine shipping state ever (Utah) so I could not get my hands on one that way. Luckily, GSA hosts an auction every year and they had a couple of bottles on hand, one of which I grabbed for my blog (see, clearly for the blog).
"The Geological Society of America® is celebrating 125 years of geoscience innovation with this Lava Cap wine, nourished by the prime volcanic soil of the Sierra Nevada Foothills. As geologists themselves, the Jones winemaking family appreciates GSA’s interests in Earth’s history, processes, and resources.
Here’s to 125 years of ground-breaking geoscience, and our passion for the never-ending mysteries of the Earth!"

I don't even think I got my hands on this bottle to drink the wine, since my wife is an avid wine lover and greatly enjoyed it. So if you are rather inclined, perhaps pick up a regular bottle of the geology wine.