Archive for the ‘geology’ Category


Stop the Attack on the Appalachian Orogeny!

11 February, 2010

We just got our first major winter storm (well, first one down in the valley (which is actually the Wyoming Valley and the Lackawanna Valley (but people are lazy here (for instance, Luzerne County Community College is known throughout the valley as LCC)))) for about three years.  Almost ten inches here in Wilkes-Barre.  So what did I do?

Well, I disabled a snowblower (the little old lady two houses down lets us use her snowblower if we also dig her out).  I shoveled snow.  I made pizza (don’t worry, this is not a Thursday Gourmet post).  And I designed a truly geo-geeky anti-mountain top removal mining poster.  I don’t think it’ll be all that popular.  After all, without looking it up, how many of you know what an orogeny is? Read the rest of this entry ?


They Just Can’t Help Themselves, Can They?

14 January, 2010

The earthquake in Haiti is tragic and horrific.  And the response from America was quick — U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard units were underway within, literally, hours.  And the the response from one of the most prolific mouthpieces of the religious right was adding insult within, literally, hours. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Poverty of a Young Earth Viewpoint

10 July, 2009

When I was 12 years old, my father took me out of school for two days and we hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  As we passed the Temple Butte Limestone and the  Tonto formation (Muav Limestone, Bright Angel Shale and Tapeats Sandstone) we began taking samples of each layer, placing them in my almost empty backpack, and carrying them down to Phantom Ranch.  We sampled the Temple Butte (a nice exposure along the Kaibab Trail), the Tonto, the accessible Grand Canyon Group, the Vishnu Schist and the Zoroaster Granite.  We also sampled the dikes and sills within the metamorphosed pre-Cambrian formations.  By the time we got to the bottom, my pack weighed around 60 pounds.  Those rocks came out of the canyon by mule.  We repeated the process on the way up, sampling the Redwall Limestone, the Supai Group, the Hermit Shale, Coconino Sandstone, Toroweap Limestone and Kaibab Limestone.

Ordinarily, this would be illegal as all get-out, but my dad was a Park Ranger and we were collecting the rocks for the museum at Yavapai Point.  Years later, when I visited the canyon again, I was rather put-out.  The large rocks we had hauled up and down the canyon trails had been cut down to samples twice the size of my fist.  I carried rocks three times the size, and they cut them down to little bitty pieces.  We could have chopped them down to size before lugging them around.

 According to more than half of Americans, the Grand Canyon is a monument to Noah’s Flood.   The shales, limestones, sandstones, lava flows, block faulting of the Grand Canyon Supergroup, the metamorphic Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite (metamorphosed from sandstone, limestone, shale and lava flows) were deposited during and directly after the Noatic flood.  Read the rest of this entry ?


Noah’s Ark Was Found. Two Years Ago. Really.

13 February, 2009

Those morons turkeys I wrote about a few days ago are looking in the wrong place.  Hell, they’re looking in the wrong country.  At least according to an expedition a little over two years ago.  At least, according to B.A.S.E. (The Biblical Archeology Search and Exploration Institute).  Here is an article from Good Morning America (2006) (My snark has been added):


Has Noah’s Ark Been Found?  (I’m Guessing No) Read the rest of this entry ?


When Nursery Rhymes Go Bad

1 December, 2008

I have been accused of having a weird sense of humour.  Sometimes it is weird in a good way, other times, well . . . .  I think I get much of my odd sense of humour from my father.  After all, he’s the one who told me that a good geologist never takes limestone for granite.  He also, occasionally, got us in trouble with his sense of humour.

When my older sister was in kindergarten (Montgomery County, Maryland (back in the old days (so long ago that her birthday party was the first integrated birthday party anyone in Poolesville knew about))), her class studied nursery rhymes.  Unfortunately, she had learned them from Dad first: Read the rest of this entry ?


The 6 Things Meme

25 November, 2008

Greg Laden (the guy who runs a blog called Greg Laden’s  Blog (and I really wonder just how long it took him to come up with that title?)) has tagged me with a meme.  He was tagged by Mike at Tangled Up in Blue Guy, and he, in turn was tagged by PZ Myers, who was tagged by The Science Pundit, who was tagged by The Darwin Report, who was tagged by Informal Skepticism, who was tagged by Scepticon, who was tagged by PodBlack Cat, tagged by Wandering in the Wilderness, then the trail goes cold.

Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you (I did).
2. Post the rules on your blog (I did).
3. Write six random arbitrary things about yourself (I did (see below)).
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them (I did (see below)).
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog (I did).
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up. (Greg:  Done.  I stole the idea of using parenthesis from you). Read the rest of this entry ?


And They Shall Fail to See Reality

11 August, 2008

I had an odd upbringing.  I grew up in the National Park Service.  My father has a BS in geology, and spent his career as a Park Ranger.  Any car trip, anywhere throughout the southwest United States, became, for at least part of the journey, a geologic travelogue.

His moving lectures covered erosion processes, faults and earthquakes, volcanism, deposition, and even the evidence of life throught the colours of the rocks.  I learned quickly that, despite the seeming permanence of geologic features, when one looked beyond a human life span, the rocks, mountains, canyons, and arches are impermanent.  And his explanations about uniformitarianism — the idea that the same processes at work today have been at work since the planet was formed — set my imagination free.  I pictured dinosaurs walking through the mudstones.  I saw crocodylians roaming the land.  I saw the past.

Growing up in desert areas, I was fascinated by water (still am (my favourite roads are ones which parallel rivers and creeks)).  I looked forward to the monsoon season of Northern Arizona.  I watched the skies for the thunderheads and tried to calculate the chances of a cloud providing rain and, more important, doing it over me.  I loved the gully-washers and flash floods.  I would imagine a miniature me in a kayak or raft, riding the muddy waves.

I could also watch, on a small scale, how much one storm could change the landscape.  Small rocks moved.  Oxbows formed, or were cut off.  Steep areas moved upstream.  Slow areas became wider as sediment accumulated.

Through my father’s teaching (which never seemed like teaching to me), I was able to make the cognitive adjustment from microgeology to macrogeology.  I could look at the Grand Canyon, or Walnut Canyon, or Titus Canyon, or Canyon de Chelly and see exactly the same processes, just in a larger scale.  And the idea that what I was seeing was billions of years in the making awoke a love for nature which my study of human history never extinguished.

Of course, to a creationist (young-earth variety), those previous paragraphs just prove how deluded and secular I am.  After all, god(s) created the earth and all the heavens in six days, 6,000 years ago.  The earth is designed for us, his greatest creation.  The agricultural belts of China, Europe, and North and South America were created to feed us.  The mountains to give us adventure and wonder.  The seas to feed us.  The arches, buttes, and canyons of the American Southwest to provide beauty.  The Earth exists today as it has always been, as it always will be (of course, there was the great flood, which BLs and YECs use to explain ALL geology (not to mention palaeontology)).

To a YEC, the very idea of Uniformitarianism is anathema.  The idea that the soils in which we grow wheat are a product of the glaciations of the last 10,000 to 100,000 years is heresy.  The thought that mountains are still growing (and the continents are moving) denies the permanence of the deity’s creation.  The idea that god(s) handiwork is impermanent would call into question the Biblical story of creation.

The Biblical literalists, the Young Earth Creationists, fail to see what is happening every day, in every corner of our world.  They deny reality.  Reality does not agree with their faith, so they deny reality.  At Arches National Park in Utah, reality happened on the night of August 4th, 2008.

Arches National Park consists of mesas, buttes and canyons carved into late Triassic (early Jurassic?) sandstones.  The dry, high desert means that erosion happens slower and faster — slower because there is so little rain, faster because, when it does rain, it creates flash floods.  Little vegetation grows, there is little soil, so the rocks are visible.  The action of freezing and thawing, the flash floods, and the wind has created over 2,000 arches (which explains the name of the park, neh?). 

Arches is now one arch short.  Wall Arch, along one of the more popular trails, collapsed (gravity sucks, right?).  To a comitted theist, a Biblical Literalist who believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old, this must be an example of man’s destructiveness, man’s imperfection, as a result of Eve’s decision to listen to a snake and eat an apple.  To a naturalist, one who is willing to comprehend what the evidence shows, is willing to open the mind to reality, the collapse of the arch is a striking example of the reality of geologic processes.

The reality of Uniformitarianism stares us in the face daily.  Every landform that we see will disappear.  Just because it does not happen in our lifetime, does not mean it won’t happen.  The Old Man of the Mountain has already collapsed.  The Grand Canyon will disappear.  Yosemite Valley will fill in as the mountains around it erode.  The geysers of Yellowstone will have a short life. The Great Lakes are filling in as you read this. 

Every landform (other than the continents), including mountains, plains, seas, oceans, lakes, hills, canyons, and waterfalls, will destroyed by the same processes which created them.  And new landforms, just as wonderful, just as original, will be created.  Not through the capricious idiocy of a bronze-age deity, but through the wonders of reality.

Biblical literalists and Young Earth Creationists, may reason find you and may you accept the reality of the world.  Meanwhile, I will continue to watch the world change before my very eyes.  Naturally.