Saturday, October 27, 2012

Accretionary Wedge #50 Field Camp Memories...Getting Yelled at...

From 35 years ago (Gasp!)...

He was a true character.  I have other stories to tell about Dr. Earl M. P. Lovejoy, but those will have to wait.

Rule Number 1 for Dr. Lovejoy's UTEP Field Camp - Everyone got yelled at along the way.  Just part of the deal.  Usually it was over our perceived lack of plane table and alidade skills or something else that didn't meet with his approval.  Usually the statement was; "This map is terrible.  Why are you in Geology?  Why aren't you in Sociology?"

[A little background, as an undergrad at Georgia Southern, in the second quarter there - Spring of 1973, due to a late registration time, Historical Geology was closed out and I was forced to get Sociology as a class.  To shorten the story, I partied too much and flunked the course.  Failing Freshman Sociology.  Oh well.]

When it came my time to be yelled at (with the standard line), I turned to Dr. Lovejoy and yelled back "Well, I flunked Sociology, what the hell was I supposed to do?"  Reportedly, almost no one ever rendered Dr. Lovejoy speechless, but I did (and became sort of a folk hero for doing so).  He shook his head and walked away, probably chuckling about it later.

Here are a couple of previous posts about UTEP Field Camp.   Photos and More Stories.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Accretionary Wedge #45 - the Geo-Pilgrimage

The Geologic Pilgrimage...and where we would go is the subject of the current Accretionary Wedge.

The Burgess Shale comes to mind, but I am in no way ready for any sort of tough Rocky Mountain hike and since they wouldn't let me collect anything - why bother?  Just one trilobite from that locality would satisfy me, but that ain't likely to happen.

I know that an extended road trip around the Western U.S. would not fit the strict definition of a pilgrimage, but it is what I would do. 

In the Summer of 1974, after my Sophomore year, my then-roommate (Dave) and I went on a cross-country trip.  Basically, I had a Sophomore's knowledge of Geology and a Kodak Instamatic camera.  Our version of the Conestoga wagon was a 1968 Pontiac Catalina wagon, with the rear seats removed and replaced with plywood, with storage spaces beneath.  It was a 4,000 lb. "lead sled".

I would love the opportunity to retake this trip with my present knowledge, a couple of digital cameras, a small camcorder, and a laptop to record my travels.  The thought of doing a 40th anniversary trip in 2014 with Dave comes to mind, but as he is a lawyer, he wouldn't enjoy my frequent geology stops.  Nor would my wife.  [Would have to find a way to bribe her.]

Briefly, stops would include:

1) Any outcrops of interest on I-70 in Kansas/Eastern Colorado;
2) Stuff around Denver/Boulder;
3) Roadside geology along I-25 to Cheyenne, I-80 to Rawlins, then on to Lander,...
4) Yellowstone...need I say more?  This time, I would make the short side trip to say that I had been to Montana, maybe I might extend that to a beer run to Bozeman;
5) On to Salt Lake City, need lots of photos of the Great Salt Lake and the surrounding area;
6) Back up to Twin Falls, ID for photos of the Snake River Plain/Columbia Plateau and the Snake River Gorge;
7) Find my way over to southeastern Oregon, the south on U.S. Hwy 395 into California - sidetrip to Chico for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - then south towards Reno, NV - to find some Nevada beer - then back into California;
8) This time, skip San Francisco downtown to spend more time in coastal and interior California - back to Redwood National Park, John Muir Woods, Yosemite, Sequoia, pan gold at Placerville/Coloma & new stops at Mammoth Lakes/Bishop area - lots of volcanic feature photos;
9) Through the Las Vegas area for more photos, then on to Flagstaff.  This time, I would skip the Grand Canyon (been there 4 times - last time in 2003) and spend more time at Sunset Crater/San Francisco Peaks area;
10) Skip Phoenix/Tucson area - branch off from the 1974 route - head for Monument Valley, then up to Canyonlands/Arches, then over to Durango/Silverton/Ouray, CO areas, then over to Clayton/Raton volcanic field, then south on I-25 through Santa Fe and Albuquerque - another side trip to Grants to photo basalt flows along I-40, then back to I-25;
11) Socorro, Las Cruces, El Paso geology, photos, brewpubs, old friends and surviving profs, and Mexican food - for several days.  Include Aden/Afton Basalt flows, Alamogordo, White Sands, Sacramento Mts., Carrizozo basalt flows.  Maybe take a short charter plane ride to photo Kilbournes Hole from the air, as well as other Potrillo Volcanic field features.  Back to El Paso - and to the 1974 route - and on to the Carlsbad, NM area;
12) On through Dallas, TX area - geology photos - not much geology left in the remaining 1974 route, so will branch off  for good - north to the Arbuckle Mts. in Oklahoma for structural photos and trilobite hunting;
13) Ozark Mts. - stops and photos - and going back to the Crater of Diamonds is on my "bucket list".  On my first trip there - in 1973 - I found a 37 point diamond (.37 carats), but after our last family move or during recent renovations, it is nowhere to be found.  When I was there in 1978, I provided a positive ID (the park office was closed) for a brown, 4 carat, classic octahedral diamond - found by a couple from Dallas.  A 4 carat diamond and I got to hold it and tell the folks "Yep, that's a diamond alright!.  Way cool.

There were numerous "in between" stops, when Dave would agree.  Somewhere in southeast Oregon, I found a small, white clay roadcut (probably volcanic ash) with an isolated lens of rounded gravels, then overlain by more ash.  I found a small slab of gray shale in northern Utah with some nice graptolites.  Would like to find those places again, if ever I get the chance.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Accretionary Wedge #45 - On the Way

The called for subject relates to where you would go on a "Geologic Pilgrimage", if time and money permitted.

Much to ponder with final exams looming.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Let It Always Be Remembered as the "Backyard Massacre of 2012"

April 4th & 5th, 2012.  When the slaughter of most of my backyard "yard rocks" took place.  The wounded of the first day - recovered from the battlefield - are the only survivors.  Currently, they are too traumatized to tell their stories.  As I tend to their wounds, they will reveal more of the story.

I regret that I was not there to protect them.  I thought I had moved them to a safe locality, but the backhoe constructing the new septic tank drainage line found them and the geologic carnage ensued.

And I won't even be able to talk about the encircling rock wall and the wildflower garden, for a while.

Gone, but not forgotten.

[To be continued...]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Random Acts of Scientific Thought...

or Stream of Conciousness or Stream of Delirium,...

In regards to things that affect nature, Influence and Control are two different things.  And within a complex natural system, there may be more than one Controlling Factor (or Input) and several smaller Factors (Inputs) that influence the system but are not significant enough to control it.

Laboratories are examples of Closed Systems, where all inputs can (or should) be controlled and accounted for.  Nature is an Open System, where inputs can be cyclical or random and where some inputs enhance each other (Synergy), while others negate each other (Antagonism). [Negate is not quite the proper word, but a better word escapes me at the moment.]  The variability of inputs in an Open System make them not only difficult to enumerate, but to evaluate.

Field scientists (such as myself) observe Causes and Effects in the Open System of Nature, i.e., we see the results and wonder about the "How and Why", with the knowledge that we may never know the entire story, as we may never know all of the inputs of the present and past.  Mother Nature is messy.  Thus we have our own biases.
More to come...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Importance of Multiple Working Hypotheses

"An hypothesis is always more believable than the truth, for it has been tailored to resemble our ideas of truth, whereas the truth is just its clumsy old self." - Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 1530

The above quote illustrates the importance of the the concept of "Multiple Working Hypotheses".  To simplify, our first hypothesis - in reference to a scientific concern or curiosity - is highly influenced by our bias or biases.  We all have biases of different sorts.  Their validity is based upon how thoroughly you have "noodled them out", i.e., how much time have you spent verifying the reason for your opinion/bias on a particular subject.

Of primary relevance to me, is my bias as a field scientist vs. a "lab scientist" and/or computer modeller.  Of course lab experiments and computer models play an important part in our continual search for a better answer to the "How and Why" of a particular issue.  But laboratories and computer models are "nice, neat places", while nature is messy.  Labs are "closed systems" where the number of inputs into a system can be controlled and accounted for.  Nature is a wide-open system, with an unknown number of inputs.  It is a good idea to list all of the known and possible inputs.  That is where the concept of Multiple Working Hypotheses is important.

I was taught this concept in Dr. Earl M.P. Lovejoy's Geomorphology class at UTEP, in the Spring of 1977.  He was quite a character. 

Anyway, back to the issue of trying to lessen the effects of our own biases, through Multiple Working Hypotheses. 

To learn this properly, we need to; 1) Engage in conversations with other scientists to get their input; and 2) Re-engage our imaginations.

One example I use with my students - to develop Multiple Working Hypotheses - is to imagine that you have a hardwood forest in your backyard and a hickory tree dies suddenly.  Think of the myriad of reasons that can cause an established tree to die.

To be continued:

Apologies for the Disconformity...

Life adventures (a kind word) have kept me from my blogging duties.  Will attempt to resume, soon.

Scanning through the other blog links, I see that others have experienced similar Disconformities, of varying lengths. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy 374th Birthday to Nicolas Steno!

The "layer cake" stratigraphy of the Colorado Plateau is a great place to see the three pioneering Geological Concepts of Nicolas Steno on display.


Original Horizontality.

And Lateral Continuity.

Hat tip to Polly, Geofriend on Facebook.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

National Geographic Video - Electronic Magnetic Pulse

Electronic Armageddon - whether by nature or by man - would be a nightmare for the advanced parts of the North American Continent.

Instead of wasting our time arguing over things we can't change, we need to have some sort of strategy in place to cope with such drastic events.