Friday, December 31, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays - Video Edition

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because it is the last day of the year. And because it is the last one of the year, I present a special Video version of GeoJeopardy!. Videos courtesy of

- Walking with Dinosaurs -

You might encounter a real Stegosaurus if you can go back to the late part of this geological period, a good one for dinosaurs


Until the recent discovery of the Gigantotasaurus fossil, 3 tons bigger, T. rex was thought to be the largest dinosaur of this dietary class... aaaagh!

The Stegosaurus' plates could have been used in mating, may have been for defensive purposes, or may have served as living solar panels and helped the dinosaur regulate this


Named for its cattle-like horns, this 9-tonner whose name means "bull lizard" had the largest head of any known land animal


If a bite that could puncture a car roof wasn't enough, T. rex's teeth have recesses where these live; if the bite didn't kill you, the infection would


All the answers as well as any other previous GeoJeopardy! questions can be found over at my website by clicking the link.  Videos used in the questions are the ones originally presented in the clue and have been obtained from the Jeopardy! archive site

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest Post - Naturally Harmful Metals and Minerals

Next up in the in the guest blog domain is Eric Stevenson who wanted to write about how natural "stuff" could be potentially hazardous to one's health. Check it out below:


Naturally Harmful: The Modern and Historical Use of Asbestos, Lead, and Mercury

When a substance is known as “naturally-occurring,” we have a tendency to think of it as something that is possibly beneficial, or at the very least benign – certainly not harmful. However, many metals and minerals that occur naturally in the Earth’s crust are toxic to humans. In some cases, their deadliness was known from the beginning; in others, their usefulness obscured or outweighed the symptoms that warned of their toxicity.

Asbestos was once considered a “miracle mineral.” Ancient Greek writers told stories of tablecloths that could simply be tossed in the fire after use, emerging not only unscathed, but cleaner and whiter than before. Medieval alchemists were so entranced with this material that they hypothesized it came from the hair of salamanders, which could walk through fire and survive. By the time of Marco Polo, however, people knew that asbestos was mined from the earth.

In 1820, an Italian scientist became the first to run a successful business based on asbestos products – fireproof clothing sold all over Europe. Soon after, many items began to incorporate asbestos into their design: stage curtains, gaskets and packing for steam engines, paint and tar paper, and cement. The inclusion of asbestos in construction materials would continue into the 1970s for the simple reason that asbestos was an incredibly effective flame retardant. No doubt countless lives were saved from fire.

However, this “miracle mineral” was not the safety boon it appeared to be. When asbestos-containing products sustain damage, tiny, needle-like fibers are released into the air. Once inhaled, these fibers can cause serious health problems, including lung scarring, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer. One reason this cancer is so dangerous is that mesothelioma symptoms can take anywhere from 20-50 years to surface after exposure, by which time the disease is often in its final stages. Because of these dangers, asbestos has largely been replaced with alternative fire-resistant substances in newly-manufactured construction materials.

A soft, malleable metal, lead is useful for its low melting point, high density, and resistance to corrosion. It was accessible and easily worked with, and therefore made the ideal medium for the famed plumbing system of the Roman Empire. Lead was not only used for pipes, but also as a component in coins, flatware, cosmetics, spermicide, and food seasonings.

However, even the ancient Romans understood that exposure to lead had serious health-related consequences. As we now know, even low levels of exposure can cause chronic lead poisoning. The dangers of acute lead poisoning were apparent in Renaissance Europe, where it may have been used in some royal assassinations. In modern times, lead was used as a fuel additive, despite early evidence that the vapors were toxic to the workers producing it.

Though lead was removed from gasoline – as well as other products like pipes and house paint – beginning in the mid-1970s, the metal continues to be used in products from car batteries to radiation shielding. Unlike asbestos, lead can still be found in many construction materials because it usually has to be ingested to be poisonous. Initial symptoms of lead poisoning – including headache, abdominal pain, memory loss, and kidney failure – may be confused with other conditions, though more severe neurological problems soon follow. Like asbestos, there is no amount of lead ingestion, however small, that is considered “safe.”

Mercury is notable for being one of the few metals that exists as a liquid at room temperature. Historically, mercury had a wide variety of applications, from the practical (preserving wood, developing daguerreotypes) to the recreational (handheld games, fishing lures). Amazingly, both the ancient Chinese and the ancient Greeks thought of mercury as a substance that promoted good health and long life, and doctors continued to use it into the 20th century to treat conditions ranging from depression to constipation to syphilis.

In modern times, most people know mercury as the liquid in thermometers, though it is also found in other measurement devices such as barometers (air pressure) and sphygmomanometers (blood pressure). Thimerosal, an organomercury compound, has been used as a component in dental amalgam and a preservative in vaccines. The latter use triggered a controversy over the possible role of thimerosal in the development of autism, though the most recent studies do not support a link between the two. Regardless, the FDA reports that thimerosal has been phased out of nearly all vaccinations required for young children.

However, parents are right to be concerned about exposing their children to any form of mercury. The substance is extremely dangerous if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Like lead, mercury poisoning affects the central nervous system, resulting in symptoms as diverse as sensory impairment, lack of coordination, hallucinations, and social phobia. Despite the dangers, small amounts of mercury can still be found in certain cosmetics, fluorescent lamps, neon signs, and telescopes.

If you would like more information about any of these substances, please visit:

James E. Alleman and Brooke T. Mossman. “Asbestos Revisited.” Scientific American, 1997.

Jack Lewis. “Lead Poisoning: A Historical Perspective.” EPA Journal, 1985.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Thimerosal in Vaccines.”, 2010.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Geological Literature QotW

I finally have time to post some of the Quotes of the Week that I have been stockpiling. This one seems a rather odd quote in general. But to top it off, it was completely out of nowhere. This has absolutely nothing to do with the material preceding it in the paragraph. The last part of the article that this may have been in reference to was at least 10 to 11 pages previously. So it was rather out of nowhere, making it even more bizarre.

Again, what?
"A cyclops will always have the nostrils above the single eye."

Alberch, P., 1989, The logic of monsters: Evidence for internal constraint in development and evolution: Geobios, v. 22, p. 21-57.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Some woman to my wife: "Nobody wants coal in their stocking."

Me in reply: "Umm, I do"

Here is to the holiday of geologists. Where we all wish for coal in our stockings.

Friday, December 24, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because it's a holiday. At least for some of us.
- Rocks for Jocks -

Geologists dig up and study these organic remains, whose name is from the Latin for "dug up"


Slate is this type of rock, the result of alterations to existing rocks
A speleologist studies caves; this is another name for a caver who explores caves as a hobby


Until it's cooled, the object seen here was this substance


2-word term for the branch of geology that studies the phenomenon of continental drift


All the answers as well as any other previous GeoJeopardy! questions can be found over at my website by clicking the link.  Images used in the questions are not the ones originally presented in the clue but are my interpretation of what they might have been and still get across the intent of the clue. Images used are linked to their sources.

Friday, December 17, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

It is that time again for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because I am so busy I almost forgot it was Friday.

- Gems and Minerals -

Old masters could grind up hematite or cinnabar to make shades of this primary color


The ancients called jade lapis nephriticus, as they thought it a stone that could cure this organ's ailments


You can find caledonite in this country that lent its ancient name to the mineral


A beryl named for a New York financier isn't johnite or pierpontite, but this


Antimony is the usual base of this dark eye shadow used by Middle Eastern women


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Geology News of the Day

A follow up to my pevious news of th day, which states that the NASA scientists discovery of arsenic based lifeforms may not have been entirely accurate

Scientists poke holes in NASA’s arsenic-eating microbe discovery

Global warming (global climate change?) strikes again. And this time it may be fatal.

If an island state vanishes, is it still a nation?

Friday, December 10, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

It is that time again for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because those of us in school need a distraction from Finals Week.

- Official State Dinosaurs & Fossils -

The Triceratops found in this state's Black Hills won official fossil status


Montana's state fossil, the Maiasaura, had this type of mouth, like the platypus


Haddonfield, in this Eastern state, was the site of the first "nearly complete" dinosaur find - a Hadrosaurus

The teeth from Maryland's Astrodon were cut open in 1858 & revealed this pattern, hence its name


Saurophaganax was named this state's official fossil in 2000 & you can see one at the Sam Noble Museum in Norman


Monday, December 06, 2010

Geology News of the Day

Apparently the sealevel rise following the melting of the ice sheets was not as steady as originally though. Looks like it could have jumped up to 2.5 meters/century.

Global Sea-Level Rise at the End of the Last Ice Age Interrupted by Rapid 'Jumps'

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Geology News of the Day

Scientists find that not everything is as simple as we thought. Apparently life can form even in the absence of life forming minerals.

Arsenic-munching germ redefines "life as we know it"

Friday, December 03, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because why not.
- The Earth -

The modified Mercalli scale ranks these 1-12: 1 - not felt except by few, 12 - total destruction


We're in the holocene epoch of the quaternary period of the Cenozoic one of these


Basalt is an igneous rock & rock salt is this type


William Smith was the 1st to date rocks using these found within them


The stratosphere includes this layer of the atmosphere that absorbs ultraviolet light


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Geological Literature QotW

I have another Quote of the Week for ya from my readings. This one I think is self explanatory.


"Although we have referred to relatively few examples, and with differing degrees of confidence, our model for climate distribution of shallow marine trace fossils appears to be robust."

As a peer of mine put it, "What?"

Goldring, R., Cadee, G.C., D'Alessandro, A., de Gibert, J.M., Jenkins, R., & Pollard, J.E., 2004, Climatic control of trace fossil distribution in the marine realm: In McIlroy, D., Ed., The application of ichnology to palaeoenvironmental and stratigraphic analysis: Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 228:77-92.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Geological Literature Quote of the Week

After all of the geology articles I have been reading sometimes I find I come across a quote that is either laugh out loud funny or so ridiculous that I have to pass it on. Well, now this has morphed into my Geological Literature Quote of the Week. Check out previous quotes here:
Whale of a Theory

To give a little bit of a background, the reason this is the quote for the week is that when reading the abstract I came across the term "preadaptation", at which I shuddered and told my wife "I hate that word". Well then we came to the quote:
"I can often produce a wave of nausea in some evolutionary biologists when I use the word (preadaptation) unless I am quick to say what I mean by it."
Now for those that don't understand, preadaptation gives the connotation of Intelligent Design, in the regards that features were preexisting for a specific trait. Kind of like a bunch of feathers evolving for flight before birds could fly. They were preadapted to flight.

Gould, S. J. and Vrba, E. S. 1982. Exaptation - a missing term in the science of form. Paleobiology. 8:4-15.


Friday, November 26, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because you're still working off the tryptophan today.

- Rocks and Minerals -

Originally these were quartz pebbles found in the Rhine River


There are deposits of this type of coal under half of West Virginia


Some of these fine-grained laminated sedimentary rocks are a source of oil


Connemara, Ireland is famous for the green-streaked variety of this stone

Now under the Coronation Chair, this stone came to England from Scotland


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

News of the Day

Well since I am taking my PhD qualifying exams in a few months I have made it a point to check out recent scientific news articles and keep up to date. Well many of them I find really interesting and I figured I would pass them on to the blogging world. I can't guarantee this will be a daily thing but I will try to do it as often as possible.


Squidworm found in the ocean depths. A new organism (a polychaete named Teuthidodrilus samae) has been found floating around the deep sea. It is rather cool looking (like many of the deep sea life) and since I studying deep sea I figured I should check it out. Also check out another story here.

Discovered in 2007, the squidworm makes its way around by relying on frilly organs on its head for smell and what seem to be structures at the tips of its appendages specialized for touch.

Friday, November 19, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because you know you're not doing anything next week.

- Dinosaurs -

Many now think that unlike modern reptiles, dinosaurs were homeothermic, meaning this


Edmontosaurus, discovered in this Canadian province in 1917, was almost defenseless & was preyed upon by the T-rex


Despite its great size, this "plated lizard" had a brain the size of a walnut


This city's Carnegie Museum of Natural History has the first Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, found in 1902


This name of the ferocious predator seen in "Jurassic Park" means "one who seizes quickly"


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guest Post - The 5 Largest Earthquakes Ever Recorded

So I was contacted a little while ago by someone wanting to write a guest blog post that would fall in line with the essence that is the Geoscience Education angle that the blog goes for. So I agreed after I heard her idea and this is what we have today, our first guest post from a fellow blogger in her own right, Alvina Lopez.


The rigid crust of the Earth and the tectonic forces that stress them can cause some seriously powerful seismic waves, which in turn result in what we know as earthquakes. Though earthquakes may seem like a rare occurrence for those who do not live in earthquake-prone areas like Alaska and California, they are actually more common than you may think. In fact, more than one million earthquakes occur every year, though the majority of them are imperceptible beneath our feet, according to the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis (CERI). But while most earthquakes barely register at all on seismometers, once in a while, the planet will dole one out that crumbles buildings and splits the Earth as if it were torn at the seams. These are the 5 worst earthquakes ever recorded.

1. The Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960. On May 22, a regular mid-afternoon day was abruptly halted by a 9.5 magnitude earthquake that ripped across the country. More than 2,000 people were killed and 3,000 were injured. A second earthquake shook the area before help could even be mobilized for those affected by the first quake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. This particular quake also triggered landslides in the Andes, tsunamis off the coasts of Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, and the Aleutian Islands, as well as the volcanic eruption of Cordon Caulle in the Andes. In addition to this, seismographs recorded that the seismic waves from the quake continued to rattle the entire planet for days due to the free oscillation effect.

2. The Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake of 2004. The day after Christmas, an undersea quake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia was recorded on the seismograph, registering at a magnitude of somewhere around 9.1 and 9.3. Approximately 230,000 people lost their lives due to the quake and the devastating tsunamis it caused, which swamped Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and India. The resulting tsunamis from this quake were responsible for thousands of deaths as the waters flooded towns or wiped them away altogether. Like in the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960, seismometers also recorded that the planet shuddered for days after the initial earthquake struck.

3. The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964. On the evening of March 28, the ground began to rumble and buildings started to shudder, then collapse in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Registering at a magnitude of 9.2, this particular earthquake is in the record books as the largest recorded quake to hit the United States. That night, more than 115 died due to the earthquake and the tsunamis it generated off the coasts of Alaska, Oregon, and California. The earthquake itself was felt for an astonishing 7 minutes. The ground split and ruptured, causing some surfaces to be lowered as much as 17 meters, according to the CERI, and most of the damage fell on the city of Anchorage.

4. The Kamchatka Earthquake of 1952. The Kamchatka area, which is a peninsula in Russia, is no stranger to powerful earthquakes. In 1737, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake was recorded, and in 1923, a magnitude 8.5 earthquake was recorded. However, it was in 1952 when the most powerful earthquake struck the area, registering as a 9.0 magnitude quake. Tsunamis arose from the quakes, causing expensive property damage and causing several deaths, though no official death toll figures have been reported. The quake triggered tsunamis off the coast of Japan, Hawaii, Alaska, Chile, and New Zealand, though luckily with no reported deaths.

5. The Arica Earthquake of 1868. Arica, Peru (now Chile) experienced a terrifying 9.0 magnitude earthquake on August 13. Between the Nazca Plate and South American Plate, the quake sent buildings toppling and the subsequent tsunami ripped anchored ships from the docks. Coastal towns were completely decimated, or came close to it as huge tsunami waves crashed into and flooded the streets. Hundreds of aftershocks, with about 400 recorded, were felt until about August 25, a little under two weeks after the initial quake struck. Approximately 25,000 casualties were reported due to the quake itself and the tsunamis it triggered.

Resources cited:

This guest post is contributed by Alvina Lopez, who writes on the topics of accredited online schools.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: alvina.lopez

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


So, I have been reading some evolution papers for one of my classes and this is the second time this has popped up so I figured I would post it. The paper this is from is listed on the bottom of the post.

The classic objection to hopeful monsters - that a pig with wings has no chance of finding a similarly endowed mate - misses the point that if you have one pig with wings, there are more where that came from - in the developmental pathways of the relatives of Archaeoptopig.
when pigs fly

Rachootin, S. P., Thomson, K. S. 1981.Epigenetics, paleontology, and evolution. Proc. 2nd. Int. Congr. Syst. Evol. Biol. Evolution Today, ed. G. G. E. Scudder, J. L. Reveal, pp. 181-93. Pittsburgh: Carnegie-Mellon Univ. Press

Friday, November 12, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays - Presenting our 100th Question

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because work is overrated. So today presents our 100th question. Let us see how long we can keep this going.

- Geology -

It's a circular hollow often formed by volcanic action or by a meteor strike


It's a valley formed between 2 parallel faults; there's a "Great" one in the Eastern Hemisphere


Name of the type of formation seen here:


A moraine is the rocky material left behind by one of these


When discussing sedimentary rock, this term means formed of layers or beds


All the answers as well as any other previous GeoJeopardy! questions can be found over at my website by clicking the link.  Images used in the questions are not the ones originally presented in the clue but are my interpretation of what they might have been and still get across the intent of the clue. Images used are linked to their sources.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Geologists House - To the Extreme

So looking at one of my favorite blogs, Lovely Listings, I see this house pictured:

The house, with windows, an apparently rusty roof and a chimney, is sandwiched between two bulbous rocks

Now, I don't know about you but this looks awfully fake to me. But looking further into it and at the links on the website it appears that this is an actual house that is built between and perhaps within two boulders. Definitely a geologist's house.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Teaching Lab that puts the Alternative in P.A.G.E.

So Matt over at Research at a Snail's Pace recently put up this lab that I feel puts the Alternative in the "Presenting Alternatives in Geoscience Education (P.A.G.E.)". He is measuring the thickness of tombstones and determining the amount of weathering based on the difference in the thickness at the top and bottom of the tombstone and using the date on the tombstone as the starting point of weathering.

Fantastic lab and make sure you head on over to check it out. Now if it didn't creep me out so much maybe I could do this as well.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Accretionary Wedge #29 - Call For Posts

The next Accretionary Wedge (#29) Call for Posts is up at the newly formed Ann's Musing on Geology and Other Things. The topic for the month of November is:

"What Geological features about the area you call 'home' do you love? and what do you not like?"

Deadline is November 30th. Head on over.

Friday, November 05, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because the weekend is only a day away.

- The Earth -

An ocean wave's speed largely depends on the speed of this phenomenon in the air above


The Mer de Glace is the 2nd longest of these in the Alps


The Greek & Latin words for this fuel were "anthrax" & "carbo"


You find one of these at the point where an aquifer intersects the slope of a hillside


Geologists named the material of the Earth's crust "sial'" because of these 2 main elements


Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Accretionary Wedge - #28: Deskcrop Trick-or-Treat

So, being rather busy lately I noticed the Accretionary Wedge this month a little late and went "OH OH, I have the perfect sample for that". So here is the premise of this months Accretionary Wedge over at Research at a Snail's Pace:
"October's theme is going to be "Desk-crops." This can be any rock or other geological* specimen that you have lying around your office/desk/lab that has a story to tell. The spookier the better. Photos and/or illustrations are very important (although not absolutely required)."
The main post is already up (linked above) but I hope to be added late.

So here is my sample for this Trick-or-Treat surprise. Most geologists would be able to identify this off the bat but let me go into it's story before I give away the surprise ending.

It all started when I moved down to Texas to go to Texas Tech for my Masters degree. My friend from undergrad, Steve, also was going to Texas Tech at the same time. We got moved into offices next door to each other in a very very old building (one of the oldest on campus I believe). My current office mate had another office in the seismo lab and Steve hated his office mate so I got Steve moved into my office with me. Well we were in there 2 years together before I moved on after my Masters. Steve decided to stay at TTU to do his PhD so I had to move all my stuff out and give him a little more free space. Well it turns out there was a bunch of stuff already in the office when we moved in, we just never paid it much attention. So we decided to split it up among ourselves (since it was basically free) and add some extra rocks and maps to our collection. Well in the back of this one cabinet I pull out this tray with the pictured above mineral on it just sitting in the open. And Steve and I both go "S*#T!!", we have been sitting in the office for 2 YEARS with an open specimen of chysotile basically open to our breathing air.

And now for those of you who don't know what chrysotile is, it usually goes by its more common name of Asbestos.

Well now we have this open thing of asbestos in front of us and we do what any good geologist would do. We both wanted it so we split it in half, stuck it in a tupperware container and added it to our respective collections.

So that is how I happened to have and keep this cancer inducing agent in my drawer at my desk.

Trick-or-Treat? You decide.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Darwin Awards - Geology Strikes Back 5

We took a little break but now back to the Darwin Awards.

Geology strikes back against this person as he continually digs for "treasure" even though the ground became wetter and wetter as he dug through the water table.

Article courtesy of Chase Sundquist

All other Darwin Awards - Geology Strikes back can be found at my website.

Friday, October 29, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because who is really doing anything today.
- Dinosaurs -

Anatosaurus was this type of dinosaur named for a feature it shared with the platypus


Guinness says the smallest one of these among the dinos was the walnut-sized one of the 30-foot stegosaurus


The BBC's "Truth About Killer Dinosaurs" staged a fight between T. rex & this 3-horned beast

Patagosaurus thrived on this continent 160 to 170 million years ago


Also a type of modern bird, this word follows "ovi" & "Utah" in dinosaur names


Friday, October 22, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Friday

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because who can't use a little trivia while you're not doing work. I didn't know one again this week, so how you compare.

- Geology -

This rock from Georgia was used to sculpt the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial

Crude oil can be extracted from this rock, the most abundant sedimentary rock in the Earth's crust


The Hawaiian islands consist mostly of this hard, dark volcanic rock


Due to its luster, German miners gave this "pleasant" rock its name, which means "spark"


The Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown is the tallest structure in the U.S. made entirely of this

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Star Wars meets Paleontology - Halloween edition

So coming across this the other day I felt I needed to repost this here. It is for the ILM Halloween party where they turned familiar Star Wars characters into skeletons. The point that I am making as a paleo post is if you look at a few of them, they look a lot like something out of our paleontology text books.

The two in particular that I feel I should point out are the AT-AT-Mammoth mix and the X-Wing-Pterodactyl mix (enlarged below).

Friday, October 15, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because who can't use a little trivia while you're not doing work. I didn't know one, see how you do.

- Dinosaurs -

Although its name suggests that it had 5 of these, the Pentaceratops had just 3; 2 were merely enlarged cheekbones


Scientists believe that dinosaurs lived through 3 geologic periods: Triassic, Jurassic, then this next one

The name Psittacosaurus means this type of lizard; it had a strong beak like that on this present-day bird

High levels of this metal, at. #77, in rocks near dinosaur fossils led to the asteroid theory of their demise

Similar to an Apatosaurus, this 52'-tall herbivore whose name means "arm lizard" had longer forelegs than hindlegs


Friday, October 08, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because who can't use a little trivia while you're not doing work.

- Geology -

The mineral Andalusite was discovered in & named for a region in this country


Fluvial is a term that refers to these geographic features


Granite is composed mainly of feldspar & this transparent crystalline material


A 79 A.D. letter about the death of this "Elder" scientist had the first accurate description of a volcanic eruption


In 1812 this German scientist devised a scale to measure the hardness of minerals


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Friday (Kinda)

Well since my website was down for a week and a half things got kind of spastic and I wasn't able to do GeoJeopardy until now. So here is your GeoJeopardy! Fridays entry for last week. Also since the website is now fix you can check your answers for this weeks and last weeks questions.

- Sham Rocks -

Some colorless forms of this element with the chemical symbol Zr are known as matura diamonds


Gary Dahl used 3 tons of stone from Rosarito Beach to create these 1970s fads that couldn't even fetch


Many experts have doubted the authenticity of a kouros statue at this oilman's L.A. museum

In 2000 NASA helped bust a man who pled guilty to trying to sell these fake items from Apollo 11

To stop graffiti on the real thing, visitors can now sign a fake replica of this in the Juyongguan section


Friday, September 24, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because who can't use a little trivia while you're not doing work.

- The Good Earth -

Of 10%, 50% or 80%, the portion of an iceberg that floats above the water


Ruffles chips have these & so do ocean floors, but they're underwater mountain ranges


The eruption of this Indonesian volcano in 1883 was heard more than 2,000 miles away

Because it passes through a London borough, the Prime Meridian at 0 degrees longitude has this other name

From the Greek for "middle life", it's the era on Earth that ended with the demise of the dinosaurs


All the answers as well as any other previous GeoJeopardy! questions can be found over at my website by clicking the link. I am currently having problems loading up to the website so the new answers are not available but hopefully should be shortly.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Red Queen Hypothesis

I finished reading Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll for the first time a couple of weeks ago and while reading it I came across the infamous passage where the Red Queen Hypothesis (RQH) sprang from.

For anyone who does not know what the RQH is, it is a theory in evolution theory where both the predator and prey evolve simultaneously. As the predator gets faster the prey gets faster to get away and then the predator gets faster an so on. So the RQH basically states that you have to run as fast as you can to stay in one place.

So as a tribute to that hypothesis here is the portion of the book that that quote came from:

"It' a great huge game of chess that's being played - all over the world - if this is the world at all, you know. Oh, what fun it is! How I wish I was one of them! I wouldn't mind being a Pawn, if only I might join - though of course I should like to be a Queen, best"

She (Alice) glanced rather shyly at the real Queen as she said this, but her companion only smiled pleasantly, and said, "That's easily managed. You can be the White Queen's Pawn, if you like, as Lily's too young to play: and you're in the Second Square to begin with: when you get to the Eighth Square you'll be a Queen -" Just at this moment, somehow or other, they began to run.

Alice never could quite make out, in thinking it over afterwards, how it was that they began: all she remembers is, that they were running hand in hand, and the Queen went so fast that it was all she could do to keep up with her: and still the Queen kept crying "Faster! Faster!" but Alice felt she could not go faster, though she had no breath left to say so.

The most curious part of the thing was, that the trees and other things round them never changed their places at all: however fast they went, they never seemed to pass anything. "I wonder if all the things move along with us?" thought poor puzzled Alice. And the Queen seemed to guess her thoughts, for she cried. "Faster! Don't try to talk!"

Not that Alice had any idea of doing that. She felt as if she would never be able to talk again, she was getting so much out of breath: and still the Queen cried "Faster! Faster!" and dragged her along. "Are we nearly there?" Alice managed to pant out at last.

"Nearly there!" the Queen repeated. "Why, we passed it ten minutes ago! Faster!" And they ran on for a time in silence, with the wind whistling in Alice's ears, and almost blowing her hair off her head, she fancied.

"Now! Now!" cried the Queen. "Faster! Faster!" And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy.

The Queen propped her up against a tree, and said kindly "You may rest a little now."

Alice looked round her in great surprise. "Why, I do believe we've been under this tree the whole time! Everything's just as it was!"

"Of course it is," said the Queen: "what would you have it?"

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else - if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."

"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run a least twice as fast as that!"

And a picture from my copy of the book that went along with the scene

Friday, September 17, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because who can't use a little trivia while you're not doing work. Sorry for the lack of other posts but school has been rather hectic lately.
- Geology -

This precious stone is crystalline carbon


This aluminum ore was discovered at Le Bau, France


You'll find stalactites and stalagmites in caverns made of various types of this sedimentary rock


Since it doesn't transmit an earthquake's S-waves, scientists believe this must be partly liquid


The process of coalification runs from peat to this type of coal


Friday, September 10, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Fridays

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because who can't use a little trivia while you're not doing work. And I am taking a breather for the week.

- Fun Wth Dinosaurs -

In 1902 in Montana, paleontologist Barnum Brown unearthed the first specimen of this dinosaur "king"


Hadrosaurus & Corythosaurus are among dinosaurs that had this type of bill, like a platypus


The oviraptor's name means that it stole these from other dinosaurs but new evidence suggests that it was misnamed


This 3-horned plant-eater's 10-foot-long head is said to be the largest ever possessed by a land animal


This dinosaur known for the bony plates along its back had multiple spikes at the end of its tail for protection


Friday, September 03, 2010

GeoJeopardy! Friday

Time for GeoJeopardy! Fridays, because who can't use a little trivia while you're not doing work.

- The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 -

Estimates are that it would have measured 8.25 on the scale named for this man


Most of the destruction came from these that followed the quake


The quake was this fault's fault


This Italian tenor was in town to perform when the earthquake struck


This author from nearby Oakland surveyed the damage & declared, "San Francisco is gone"


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Intro to Science - Day 1 question

So a new semester begins again and I have a new question to get my students to start thinking logically and in a scientific frame of mind. (my previous Intro question)

Which one of these boxes is not like the others? Explain your answer.

So far, out of the people I have asked (before my lab actually started):
      Undergrad - 1 answer which was wrong (did not answer the question)
      Brand New Grad Student - 2 answers both of which were wrong (did not answer the question)
      Finishing Masters Student - 3 answers all correct
      Finishing PhD Student - ~6 answers although needed to be coaxed to actually answer the question

My conclusions are that the more education you have the more you over think the question.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Geological Movie Review of Armageddon - Overview

Since I have completed the Geological Movie Review of Armageddon, I am using this post as a compilation of all the previous posts as well as a link to the compiled collection

Geological Movie Review of Armageddon - Questions

Geological Movie Review of Armageddon - Overview

Here are some questions I designed to be asked in a class while reviewing Armageddon. You can also find a PDF of this information at my website (linked through the overview page).

Armageddon (1998)
Geological review questions based on the movie

This is a list of geological questions based on the movie Armageddon. Some of the questions can be answered while watching the movie, while others will need extra research on the internet. Some will be both. This is to help broaden your understanding of the geological world and how Hollywood can distort basic scientific principles to make a hit movie.

1. When was the impact that killed the dinosaurs?

2. When describing the impact that killed the dinosaurs it is mentioned in the movie as having the force of 10,000 nuclear weapons. Why is this a poor measure of energy?

3. How high up are geosynchronous satellites usually orbiting?

4. Being that high up, would you expect the meteors that hit the shuttle and the satellite to have a fire trail?

5. How should meteors fly in relation to one another in a meteor shower? Why?

6. Compare the movement of the meteors/meteorites in the movie. Do they differ from how they should fly? If they do, how?

7. What are the largest and second largest asteroids in the asteroid belt? How do they compare to the asteroid size in the movie? (Assume the diameter of Texas is 780 miles)

8. What are some of the methods they come up with to destroy or move the asteroid? Will they work or not? Why?

9. What caused the asteroid to hit the Earth? Is this possible? Is it possible with a far smaller asteroid?

10. The Russian Space Station that they fly to is better known as what? Why would it not be possible to dock at the station if the movies took place today?

11. Does the Russian Space Station have “artificial gravity” in real life?

12. Has the “gravitational slingshot” ever been done in real life or is this a product of science fiction. If it has, when?

13. What would the surface of the asteroid actually look like and why? Like the one in the movie? Like the Earth? Like the moon?

14. Would drilling an 800 ft hole in a 780 mile wide asteroid actually do anything in your own opinion?

15. What would you do faced in a similar situation?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Geological Movie Review of Armageddon - Part 11

- Overview (or important thoughts to take home) -
  • This movie is based on the concept that eventually an asteroid is going to strike Earth with the power to cause the extinction of the human race
  • Fire trails can only be made by meteors in an atmosphere, so the meteors hitting the shuttle would not produce this effect
  • Meteors that originate from a single source, like the asteroid, would only travel in parallel lines, so all meteors will travel at the same angle across the sky, unlike that seen in the movie
  • For the meteor shower to hit the Earth the way described, the Earth would have to have traveled through a stream of meteors, not head on into it which is implied
  • There are no asteroids in the asteroid belt "the size of Texas" and there is only one that is relatively close to that size
  • For NASA not to know about the asteroid in advance it would have to have been struck by something to alter its trajectory dramatically, which is what happened
  • There are theoretical comets that could hit and move the asteroid into our path but the chances are slim to none in a billion
  • None of the plans to destroy or move the asteroid are feasible given their time frame, especially the one they choose
  • Most asteroid destruction plans mentioned in the movie were taken from the NASA website as possible path altering options for asteroids, but only for ones that will not hit the Earth for several years
  • An 800 foot hole is 0.02% deep into the 780 mile asteroid so a bomb will do no more damage then if it blew up on the surface
  • Also the asteroid would be layered on the inside so no fault is going to run the length of the entire asteroid
  • The equipment used at NASA is all possible equipment they could have now or invent in a short time. The NASA advisors must actually have known something
  • Also the liftoff sequence and events all seem pretty close to real-life
  • The fuel used on the shuttle is not compatible to the fuel available on Mir, and they would not have used any fuel in the main shuttle getting there anyway, so the trip to Mir was pointless
  • Mir also could not produce gravity by spinning, nor would it be possible due to the shape of the station
  • The "slingshot" around the moon was possible as shown in the movie
  • The surface of the asteroid would resemble the moon more than anything else, no random growths, little to few valleys, and lots and lots of craters
  • Should the destruction plan have actually succeeded there is no way a bomb would be powerful enough to break apart the two pieces of the asteroid and disintegrate all the smaller pieces while still keeping the two main pieces intact.
- Non-Geological Notes -
  • Not much non-geology/NASA gripes I have with the movie
  • I like this quote though:
    • Lev - "Components, American components, Russian Components. All made in Taiwan!"

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Geological Movie Review of Armageddon - Part 10

Geological Movie Review of Armageddon - Overview

- Aftermath -
2:17:43 - All through the movie they are commenting on the "zero barrier". The point after which if they do not explode the bomb the asteroid will end up crashing into the Earth. Figuring out where exactly the zero barrier is in relation to Earth is fairly simple (See Figure to the right). Assuming they are moving at 22,000 mph and they start the 8 hours of drilling while they are next to the moon. The moon is approximately 238,857 miles away from the Earth, so the zero barrier is approximately 62,000 miles away from Earth ( This would take the asteroid about two and a half hours to reach us, assuming the asteroid does not speed up due to Earth's gravity pulling it in, which is likely, especially considering it is on a direct path to Earth. So even though the plan is not possible, I figured it would be interesting to find out how close they are letting the asteroid get to Earth before the all impressive bomb tore it in two parts.
The interesting thing about the explosion is they did the Star Wars Special Edition shock wave off of the asteroid. This caused the shuttle to shake, rock and roll like nobodies business. Shockwaves are produced by ripples in the atmosphere. There is NO ATMOSPHERE in space, so again NO SHOCKWAVES. During the movie they should also get pummeled by rock debris as it pulverizes the shuttle. This happened in a small degree but certainly nothing as should have been seen in the movie. Also the all impressive explosion not only kept the 2 halves of the asteroid relatively intact, it also vaporized all the smaller fragments that would have come raining down. This whole, keep the asteroid from destroying Earth thing, keeps getting more and more impressive. So, all in all, if there was an bomb large enough to be capable of splitting an asteroid the size of Texas, I do not believe that it would split it in half without damaging either side and still vaporize anything else not attached to the asteroid.

2:19:11 - Back to my trusty globe to see if people could really see the explosion all across the Earth. The first view of the explosion shows the Taj Mahal  in India while some other views give the impression that Americans can also witness the explosion. The view of the explosion would be similar to a view of the moon, only parts of the planet would be able to witness it at any one time. India and the US are not even on the same side of the globe, so it would be impossible for India to see the explosion while those of us in the US witnessed it, based on planetary prospective.

- Advisory Input -
2:26:26 - So even though they did not have a "scientific advisor" on the movie they did have several advisors for other roles. Ivan Bekey was the asteroid consultant on the movie, which is as close to a scientific advisor as I think they got. He has written several books on the subject of asteroid and comet collisions and he is also a former NASA advanced planner and technologist (USA Today). Which likely means that the systems we have in place to defend against this ever happening has his signature somewhere on it. Joseph P Allen is the NASA Consultant who I feel did an excellent job. Overall there were very little problems with the NASA aspect of the movie. Allen was not only a physicist with NASA but was also an astronaut (NASA). Jerry Bostick was the movie's advisor on all of the Mission Control situations and I think he also did an excellent job. He had worked in Mission Control on both the Gemini and Apollo Programs as well as being the Director for the Energy Technology Applications Division of NASA (NASA). Harry Humphries was mainly their tactical advisor on all military matters. He was a Navy Seal and started his own company giving military consultation on over 17 movies (
Overall they seem to have a very good team of advisors. There is an interview with a couple of them on the bonus DVD that I do not have at the moment, so I have not seen what they might have thought of the movie. But it seems that a lot of their opinions were listened to in respects to NASA and any government stuff but when regular science comes into play things get a bit iffy. My guess is that they are going to keep their opinions of the movie rather neutral so that they have more possible advisory roles in the future. No point in burning bridges.