Friday, February 28, 2014

A Magnitude 22.0 Earthquake?? A Star Wars Analogy

A couple of months ago (on Christmas actually, Merry Christmas Geologists!) the USGS, which releases customized Earthquake Notifications based on a users settings, released the news that a magnitude 22.0 earthquake just struck Montana (pictured below).

Now this was clearly a typo. It was meant to be 2.2, however, it does bring up an interesting conversation.(You can see the updated page HERE). What is a Magnitude 22 earthquake capable of?. Some of the comments on my Facebook post included (names abbreviated to protect their identities, if you want your name un-abbreviated, let me know):

Steve R: Looks like NBC now has the plot for the completion of it's earthquake trilogy. First it was "10.5"...then "10.5 Apocalypse"" Montana 22.0 the day the Earth went boom"...all staring Beau Bridges as Beau Bridges acting like an authority figure. 
Tyler S.: It wasn't flattened, there's a new 6 km high fault scarp. 
Thomas H.: Mag 22.0? Impressive! The Chicxulub Impact should have produced only a 10.8! 
Thomas H.: A 22.0 should have toppled every building on the planet, and probably caused mountains all over the world to collapse into piles of rubble. At least. 
Monica S.: Just as a reference, a Mw 10.0 would have a rupture length roughly equal to 1/4 of the planet's circumference. That is why a 10.0 could physically never happen. A 10.5 would rupture around the Earth 1.5 times. (If that movie 10.5 were real, Earth would have been obliterated). This is assuming a max rupture depth of 30 km. Mw 22 is 316,227,766,016 times more powerful than a 10.5.

To understand the audacity of a Magnitude 22.0 earthquake, lets give some earthquake basics. The measure of an earthquake's magnitude is essentially equivalent to the energy released during the initial rupture of the fault (I know they are not exactly the same, but it is close enough). Identification of earthquakes often start with a Magnitude 2.0 and go up to a Magnitude 10, with the largest recorded earthquake in history being a Magnitude 9.5.

The magnitude scale specifically measures the amplitude of the of the waves released from an earthquake (USGS). The Moment Magnitude scale, as it is called (replaced the Richter Scale), is a logarithmic scale. As it goes up one number the size of the amplitude increased by a factor of 10. To make it a little easier to understand you can compare this to the energy released. So, each whole number is 31.62232 times more powerful than the last one (i.e. a magnitude 3 is 31.622 times more powerful than a magnitude 2).

For energy comparisons, let us convert the amount of energy to Joules that is released from an earthquake. The largest earthquake ever recorded was the Chilean 9.5. That would have released 1.12 x 10^19 joules of energy. The Hiroshima nuclear bomb released 6.3 x 10^13 joules of energy by comparison (Wikipedia), quite a bit less than a 9.5 earthquake. Now a magnitude 22 earthquake is 12.5 degrees of magnitude larger than a 9.5. So calculating it would mean that it would be 31.662^12.5 more powerful than a 9.5 (5.7 x 10^18 times more powerful). This equates to 6.31 x 10^37 joules of energy (calculated here:

There is a limit to the size of an Earthquake based on the physical properties of rocks, but let us just ignore that for now.

The energy released in a Magnitude 22 earthquake is a lot of energy, but it is a little hard to grasp numbers that big. A magnitude 3.5 earthquake, which is on the limit of being felt by most people, releases 1.12 x 10^10 joules of energy. On the other hand it has been estimated that the power required by the Death Star in Star Wars (yes I'm going there) to destroy a Earth sized planet was 2.2 x 10^32 joules of energy (as mentioned HERE and elsewhere).

So the amount of energy required to destroy a planet (2.2 x 10^32 joules) is actually equal to an earthquake with a magnitude of 18.33, much smaller than the Magnitude 22 (6.31 x 10^37 joules) earthquake reported. Although the 2.2 x 10^32 joules is a bottom estimate, it is possible that the Death Star could create much more energy than that, just to make sure the planet was obliterated.

Therefore, I believe I have proof to indicate that the Earth was struck by a Death Star laser on Christmas, 2013. But somehow, we survived, and now they are trying to cover it up. Perhaps this was a test of the Death Star that the government supposedly wasn't building (The White House).

Some other numbers courtesy of Dinogami:
  1. Manicouagan impact = 1 x 10^21 joules
  2. K-T  (K-Pg) Chicxulub impact = 4.2 x 10^23 joules
  3. Sun puts out 3.8 x 10^26 joules (however that is all over, not concentrated)
  4. Impact of a Mars size body on the Earth = 4.5 x 10^31 joules 
It appears that our Magnitude 22 earthquake was one of the largest events to happen to the solar system since the last supernova.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Geological Podcasts - Listening to your Geology: Updated and Expanded

Updated 4-24-14: I have an updated version located on its own page. You can access that using the banner to the left under "Pages".

Previously I had made a post about all of the geological/paleontological podcasts that were available out in the interweb somewhere. Since that post (found here) several new podcasts have started up and I have been told about some other ones. Here is a complete list as I know it.

Several Paleo Podcasts have sprung up recently and are discussed at the Integrative Paleontologists.

----------------------Currently Active Podcasts*---------------------

Geology Related

In Our Time

Number of Episodes: unknown
Format: Weekly

Thoughts: This is a BBC podcast that discusses the history of ideas including varied topics such as philosphy, science, history, religion, and culture. They have a few geology specific podcasts, which you can find a list of in the comments on the previous podcast post (HERE). There is also a sub-podcast which focuses on just the scientific specific episodes. After listening to some of the episodes this feels like an NPR style podcast with the "talking heads" discussing various topics guided by the host. The episodes are only 45 minutes long, however they feel like they drag on a little long for me.

This Week in Science

Number of Episodes: 451
Format: Weekly

Thoughts: This podcast is about science in general but has a heavy dose of geology and paleontology related news. The show describes the latest news in science and then discusses them among it's hosts and what the possible implications could be. This is the type of podcast I feel should be made. It is entertaining by people who enjoy what they do. There are no monotonous voices droning on about this or that, AND it's informative.

The USGS CoreCast

Number of Episodes: 185
Format: I'm not really sure. They seem to come out randomly.

Thoughts: The CoreCast is a podcast/videocast where the episodes are short (4-10 minutes) but deal with a specific topic at the time. iTunes seems rather funny about it because when I look for older episodes they don't appear under my subscription feed but I can get some of them through the Store.

Paleontology Related

The PalaeoCast

Number of Episodes: 26
Format: Bimonthly

Thoughts: As time has gone on the hosts have switched around but the podcast has gotten progressively better. The set up is that the hosts interview different scientists each episode about various paleontological topics, with one show limited to one interview with a little bit of commentary. There does not seem to be a set pattern to the topics but I could be wrong about that. Not bad.

Past Time

Number of Episodes: 10 with some shorter episodes
Format: Monthly

Thoughts: This is a series of 20 minute podcasts with some 5 minute shorter episodes, released 1 to 2 per month. I had not listened to it before compiling this list but have added it to get a generalized feel for it. It is two guys often just discussing paleo topics, sometimes with interviews. It seems to be a bit heavily edited, which improves upon the flow of many "talk radio" style podcasts by adding music and sound effects into the mix. The shorter episodes make all of the production easy to bear since it ends before it gets old but the bits of humor make it highly enjoyable. Going through their old podcasts illustrates how much they have improved over the course of the year they have been on. So far, this seems likes something I could get into.

Palaeo After Dark

Number of Episodes: 25
Format: Bimonthly

Thoughts: This is a series of 1.5 to 2 hour long podcasts released every other week. As they state in the initial episode they are a more loosely structured discussion podcast with talking points across the field of paleontology, but perhaps focusing in on the PalaeoCast topics. I have only listened to a couple of podcasts but so far it seems interesting with a pretty lively bunch presenting the science. Try it out if you want a more laid back discussion of paleontological topics.

Dragon Tongues

Number of Episodes: 2
Format: Monthly

Thoughts: Currently the youngest running podcast listed with only 2 episodes, both about 13 minutes long. Not having heard of it before I started this compiling, I added it. The host is a student who wanted to give a different perspective on the Paleo Podcast scene. He wanted to give the stories behind the fossils. An interesting approach that seems to be working for him so far. The first two episodes may have been short but they were entertaining and educational.

---------------Defunct (Archived) Podcasts-------------------

KY GeoCast

Number of Episodes: 6
Last episode: 7/19/2012

Thoughts:  This is a podcast describing the geology of various sites across Kentucky. The episodes are short (3-10 minutes) are are very informative. The only problem is the older podcasts seem a bit dull, although the 2012 ones seem to have upped their game a bit and present something more entertaining to listen to.

The podClast

Number of Episodes: 17
Last episode: 2/27/2011

Thoughts: The podClast was a geological news podcast that discussed recent geological events discussing ramifications and how they could have happened. Only episodes 7, and 9-17 appear to be currently on iTunes.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Podcast

Number of Episodes: ~34
Last episode: 5/13/2010

Thoughts: Although listed as a podcast this is primarily available as a video podcast. Some of the earlier episodes though were released in both video and audio format. This is a highly produced podcast (at least the later episodes were) that is informative and rather entertaining. It focuses on marine biology and geology and is interesting for anyone interested in a short (3-10 minute) little science snippet.

------------------Misleading Podcasts**------------------

The Geologic Podcast

Number of Episodes: 292
Format: Weekly

Thoughts: Although it contains a title of "The Geologic Podcast" the latest episode I listened to (#292) had no geology in it and about 3-4 minutes of scientific content in general. It is more set up as a comedy show. As pointed out by Callan in the comments, the name comes from the shows host (George) who is into logic, hence Geo-Logic. I'm sure I am not the only one who has found this podcast by mistake.


*Currently active indicates a new podcast within the last calender year.
**Podcasts that at first glance one must assume they have to do with geology but upon further investigation are woefully mistaken.
- The number of podcasts are as of 2-21-2014.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is Google Making us Stupid?

I recently read an article entitled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", which emphasized a problem I recently have been having. I have noticed that my ability to focus on any one task for extended periods of time has waned and I find myself jumping between many different things during periods of supposed productivity. It is not that I am tired of what I am working on, it is just that I suddenly become jittery and unable to sit still. I find I MUST do something else, even if I have not gotten much done in the interim since this previous feeling had come over me. The article actually calls out that this affliction has happened to the author and several scholars that he knows. The article states that the reason for this is the way social media and the internet are set to deliver us information. The internet has reprogrammed our brains into thinking more in short bursts of information rather than being able to wade in depth into any particular subject.

This drives me nuts. It is also the reason I have been writing shorter and shorter blog posts. 1. because I don't like to read long blog posts so I figure others don't, but 2. because I don't have the time/concentration able to complete such tasks.

Is this a geology related post? Probably not, but I feel it is an academically related post. Academics all around are likely finding similar problems. They either don't have time to focus on one project for long periods of time or they do have time but they don't have the ability to concentrate continually on them. What once was a joy to sit and read a novel for an hour or two has become impossible without doing an internet break a few times. Usually when I get truly into what I am working on, am I able to concentrate for long periods of time, but as soon as that task is completed I feel the urge to check and see if I have any new emails or perhaps someone posted something interesting on Facebook (rarely this is the case, but I like to make sure).

Perhaps by calling out my problem I can figure out a way to fix it. I might be able to retrain my brain to relax and just let things be. Or maybe it is better this way. Maybe by doing multiple things at once, I am really getting more done in the long run.

This is the end of my productivity rant.