Friday, November 16, 2018

Geology Through The Radio: Your Substrata Makes My Lava Flow

Although, likely played as a joke, here is Brad Paisley's country song named Geology from the never released album - Your Substrata Makes My Lava Flow.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Elemental Abundances

Geology Fun Fact

Topic: Elemental Abundance

The abundance of the elements in the solar system generally decreases with increasing atomic number. Looking at the Periodic Table, Hydrogen (1) has the highest abundance and Helium (2) has the second. However, the third highest abundance is Oxygen down at number 8. The reason for this jump is that there is a stability problem with elements 3-5 (Lithium, Beryllium, and Boron), which causes these elements to have extremely low abundances. Odd atomic numbers also, generally, have lower abundances than neighboring even numbered elements. The result is that Carbon (6) and Oxygen (8) both are pretty close in atomic abundance and are both greater than Nitrogen (7) in the middle of them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Fossil Fuels

Geology Fun Fact

Question: Are fossil fuels actually made of dinosaurs? 

No! Despite the common misconception, most fossil fuels do not actually come from dinosaurs or fossils for that matter. Oil and natural gas formed mostly from bacteria that died and blanketed the bottom of the sea before being buried and “cooked” into the fossil fuels we all know and love. Coal on the other hand, does sort of come from fossils. Coal was formed in prehistoric swamps from plant matter that never biodegraded due to low oxygen content of swamps and preserved the organic matter to be “cooked” into coal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Most Common Mineral

Geology Fun Fact

Question: What is the Earth’s most common mineral? 

Looking at the bulk composition of the Earth, the most common mineral is a silicate mineral with a perovskite structure that dominates the lower mantle. This mineral has recently been named “bridgmanite”.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Water, Water Everywhere

Geology Fun Fact

Myth: there’s plenty of water to go around. 

Out of all the water on the Earth, 97.5% is salt water. This means it is not able to be consumed directly by humans. Of the remaining 2.5%, 70% of that is frozen in the icecaps, and most of the remaining 30% is in the soil and in deep groundwater deposits. So out of all of the water on Earth, less than 1% is available for human consumption (i.e. in rivers, streams, and shallow aquifers).

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Deadly Volcanoes

Geology Fun Fact

Topic: Deadly Volcanoes

Even though you can potentially outrun most of the eruptive materials from a volcano (if you need to) there are some that move extremely fast. The fastest volcanic eruptive materials are pyroclastic flows, which can move at speeds greater than 100 mph and reach temperatures greater than 800°F.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Fast Continents

Geology Fun Fact

Question: Do the continents move at the same rate that fingernails grow? 

The continents have been clocked at pretty accurate speeds using GPS. It is known that the plates move at speeds between 2 and 10 cm/yr. Fingernail growth on the other hand grows on average up to 4 cm per year. So, most plates do move at the speed of fingernail growth but some, like the Pacific Plate can move over twice as fast.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Comet Tails

Geology Fun Fact

Myth: A comet's tail points towards the sun. 

A comet tail is only produced near a star (such as our sun). When the comet gets close enough to the sun, the solar winds push debris off of the comet, producing the tail. However, instead of following behind the comet, the tail always points away from the sun. So, if the comet is going towards the sun, the tail is behind it (as you would expect), but if the comet is going away from the sun, the tail is in front.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Asteroid Belt

Geology Fun Fact

Myth: The Asteroid Belt was a planet that was ripped apart.

Currently scientists believe that the Asteroid Belt, located between Jupiter and Mars, never actually formed into a planet. There is evidence though that a proto-planet did initially form but it never fully consolidated. The competing gravity wells from Jupiter and the sun were too great for one to finish forming.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Magnetic North

Geology Fun Fact

Myth: My compass points to the North Pole

The Magnetic North Pole is not in the same location as the Geographic North Pole. In actuality, it is located near Ellesmere Island in Canada. But on top of that, it has moved throughout history and is currently moving at about 40 miles per year. It even flips with the South Pole on average every ~0.8 million years.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Dwarf Planets

Geology Fun Fact

Topic: Dwarf Planets

When Pluto was demoted from a planet, there was a new category created called “Dwarf Planet”. Unlike a planet, a dwarf planet does not need to clear its orbital neighborhood. In addition to Pluto there were four other dwarf planets identified within about two years. One is Ceres, the largest asteroid in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. The others are in the Kuiper Belt or beyond, which is out beyond the orbit of Pluto. These are Eris, which is larger than Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Compressed Graphite

Geology Fun Fact

Topic: Compressed Graphite

When you think of it, there doesn’t seem to be any greater divide than between diamonds and graphite (the lead in your pencils) but in actuality they are both made of the same “stuff”. They are both are made up of carbon atoms, just in different configurations. If you were to place graphite under an extremely high pressure and heat it up to a high enough temperature, you could actually make your own diamonds!

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Glacial Speed

Geology Fun Fact

Question: How Slow is “Slow as a Glacier”? 

Even though glaciers are typically thought to move very slowly (think inches at most a year), in actuality they can move amazingly fast. Some glaciers in Greenland have been clocked at going 12,600 meters per year. That is about 1.4 m/hr or 4.7 ft/hr!

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Supercontinents

Geology Fun Fact

Topic: Supercontinents

It is relatively well known that there was at least one supercontinent in our planet’s past - Pangaea. But in actuality there have been numerous instances of supercontinents during different time periods.

Pangea: ~300-~180 Ma (million years ago)
Rodinia: ~1000-~700 Ma
Columbia: ~1.65-~1.5 Ga (billion years ago)
Kenorland: ~2.5-~2.2 Ga

There are possibly even more supercontinents in our planet’s history, but those are not as well understood

Friday, November 02, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Dinosaurs to Birds

Geology Fun Fact

Myth: Dinosaurs are Extinct. 

While all non-avian dinosaurs are extinct, there is overwhelming evidence that birds are descendants of dinosaurs, making them dinosaurs themselves. So, the next time you eat a turkey or a chicken, you are eating a dinosaur.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Geology Fun Fact - Fast Growing Volcanoes

Geology Fun Fact

Myth: Volcanoes grow slowly. 

While often true in terms of human perception (not in geological terms) there are some notable exceptions. One of the fastest growing volcanoes in recorded history is a cinder cone that came up in a farmer’s field in Mexico. The volcano, ParĂ­cutin, grew over 336 meters in 1943 when it first appeared.