Who are you looking at?
Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Therein lies the great value of Zalasiewicz's book: pretty much every statement he makes about the history of the pebble (and by extension, the Earth and the Universe) is backed up with a cogent description of how we know each fact. From a simple magnifying glass to the most technically advanced "atom-counting machines" as he calls them, the story of the Earth is told with data, not conjecture and preconceptions. If this sounds like dry reading, I assure you it is not. How I wish textbooks could flow the way Jan's prose does; I dream of the day that students want to pick up their texts and read about the wonders of earth processes.
I've noticed some blogposts recently remarked on the passing of Carl Sagan fourteen years ago. He was a translator of science, one who understood the wonders of the cosmos and could communicate them to the society at large. We need more people like him today, and authors like Jan Zalasiewicz are doing a great job, if this book is any measure.
The Planet in a Pebble: A Journey into Earth’s Deep History
By Jan Zalasiewicz
Oxford University Press, 234 pp.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Manson, M.W., C.W. Davenport, K.D. Brown, C.J. Wills, and C.J. Domrose, 2002, Landslides in the Highway 60 Corridor, San Timoteo Badlands, Riverside, California: Special Report 186, California Department of Transportation, New Technology and Research Program, Office of Infrastructure Research, Project F99TL34
Monday, December 27, 2010
January: The Other California: The Prairies of the Past
A colleague of mine in an earlier phase of my life at Santa Barbara City College was fond of saying to field trippers that "I wouldn't take you JUST anywhere!" And a great Peanuts cartoon talked about a field trip the kids went on, and how they went and saw...a field. And that's what we have today: not just anyplace, and it is ... a field. And not just a field, it's a real dump. Well, ok, more like a municipal solid waste landfill...
February: The Other California: Chaos! And Jumbles Aren't Always Word Puzzles
We are in Lassen Volcanic National Park, a place that is on all the postcards, but the park receives roughly a tenth the visitation of a place like Yosemite, somewhere around 350,000 people a year. In the last post, we visited the volcano that isn't there...
March: Words That Have Meaning: False Alarm and Warning (A Tsunami Wrap-up)
In the first, it's a school day, and some kid pulls the fire alarm. Bells ring and students have to evacuate even though there is no evidence of a fire and everyone knows it was a prank. This is a false alarm.
In the second, a teller pushes the alarm button. There's a man demanding money. No one knows if the man is armed or not. The police evacuate the neighborhood, surround the bank, and ultimately arrest the man. If the man turns out to be unarmed, it makes the whole thing a false alarm, right? No? I don't think so either. The police and the people of the neighborhood were warned of a possible dangerous situation. There could have been a deadly shootout. Will anyone fault the police for doing their job?
April: Happy April 1st!
Toads Predict Earthquakes!
Democratic President opens up vast areas for offshore drilling!
Senator criticizes federal government for taking over federal program!
Radio talk show host says of tanning salon tax: "...I feel the pain of racism"!
Decade of 2000-2009 hottest on record!
Sooo.....which of these is your April Fools headline????
May: Dispatches from the Road: Far Western Section Conference in Bishop, California
A few preliminary views from the road at the joint NAGT/CalESTA field conference at Bishop California. One of our stops: the Mono Lake Tufa Towers. The tufa is made of calcium carbonate, and forms near freshwater springs in the intensely salty and alkaline lake...
I hope you are having a nice Saturday! Here's a photo mystery along the lines of the Silver Fox "Where in the West?" series (and no, I don't know where her picture was shot). What is in the photo, where was the photographer, what are some of the meteorological and geological circumstances?
June: Secrets of the Trade: How Geologists Find Features in the Field
Ever wonder how geologists find those really cool features and faults that we are always discovering? Here, from a few cherished trips to the Hawaiian Islands, are the trade secrets....
July: Something Doesn't Feel Right About This: The Serpentine Issue in California
The more I read about this, the more disturbed I become. Andrew Alden gets right to the point about the very strange goings-on in the California legislature while they avoid working out the state budget. Senate Bill 624 would remove serpentine as the California State Rock, and declare in effect that serpentine is a dangerous mineral...
August: Serpentine: An Update on the State Rock Debate in California
...The issue of raising awareness of asbestos and the role it has in causing lung cancer and mesothelioma was the stated reason for the bill. As I read editorials from across the state (see the excellent compilation by Silver Fox at Looking for Detachment, or check my incomplete list below), the only message in the media seems to be that many scientists and teachers object to the bill because of the inaccurate scientific language, and that there are more important problems faced by the state of California. The bill will not save anyone from getting mesothelioma...
September: Dispatches from the Road (the one I wish I was still on): The Nu'uanu Pali and a bit of Hawaiian History
It's been a few weeks since I was enjoying a visit to the Hawaiian Islands, and school has begun in earnest, but I had a few more dispatches that I hoped to complete before academic matters overwhelm me. We've visited Pillbox Hill, stepped over molten lava, searched for native bird species, found invasive species, and explored two kipukas on the Big Island. We explored one other trail, the Old Highway on the Nu'uanu Pali near Highway 61 where it passes through the Ko'olau Range between Honolulu and Kailua. It's a place of mysterious stories and tragic history...
November: "There is No Reason For Optimism"
December: A Lucious Churn....
My students who are new to geology often have a great deal of trouble with terminology and spelling, and so I get a lot of weird misspellings and interpretations of common geologic terms. Baslat, continental margarines, and mantle plums are common errors. I've had to navigate through seduction zones, excretionary wedges and abnormal faults, but I can usually figure out what a student was trying to say...
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Some of my family lives in the desert near Joshua Tree National Park. We hadn't been there in the past, and expected one of those California-style cookie cutter housing developments imposed on a desert landscape that doesn't really reflect the nature of the desert. Arriving late in the day, I was delighted to find that there was an unspoiled Joshua Tree forest adjacent to their lot. The sun was setting, so I took off across the desert to get a few pictures.
The tree got its name from the early Mormon colonizers in the region, who likened the branches to the arms of Joshua of the Bible raised in prayer. They are a unique part of the flora that defines the Mojave Desert.
Have a good Christmas night!
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
On Friday I posted a question about the Hogback in San Antonio Canyon in the Transverse Ranges of Southern California: what is it? It was an imposing barrier to my little VW Bug when I drove up the canyon decades ago, and it looks out of place, but it fits in very well with the dominant geological processes in the steepest of mountain ranges, the San Gabriel Mountains. That process is mass wasting, the failure of slopes and rock masses under the influence of gravity. Rock falls, debris avalanches, slumps, earthflows and soil creep are all common forms of mass wasting.
It will be interesting to see if any major changes took place in the canyon after the events of this week...
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I had occasion to tour a large swath of California yesterday, through the southern San Joaquin Valley, over the southernmost Sierra Nevada at Tehachapi, and across the Mojave Desert to the Colorado River near Needles. On the 500 mile journey, the rain did not stop. I did not see the most intense problems (apparently the entire town of McFarland was evacuated, for instance), but I saw plenty of water where I've never seen water before. I have been over Tehachapi Pass perhaps 80 times in the last 20 years, and I have never seen water in the channel of Caliente Creek where it flows into the Central Valley near Bakersfield. That's it above...
Thanks to Susan for the first and third pictures!
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
As usual, I did travel a lot, for a lot of reasons. Traveling dangerously? It felt that way a few times, but mostly it was just a lot of fun exploring.
Our holiday travels brought us to within a four-hour drive of the South Rim of Grand Canyon, so we headed to one of our favorite winter destinations...icy roads, shivering cold temperatures, and no crowds. And a beautiful covering of snow to offset the intense reds and yellows of the Permian formations (the Kaibab, Toroweap, and Hermit Formation and the Supai Group).
A few days later, we got caught in a scary dust storm outside of Tucson. Four or five people died in a massive chain reaction accident in the southbound lanes. Visibility was as bad as I have ever seen, worse even than our Tule Fogs in the Central Valley. Apparently the dust was caused by agricultural fields being plowed, but I have heard that dust storms in the Four Corners region have been getting worse lately with the intense drought (apparently the worst in 1,000 years according to Ken Salazar).