(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘geology

“In a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder”*…

 

An ancient bear skull sits on the floor of Hoyo Negro, a flooded cave on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula

Some 13,000 years ago in what’s now the Yucatán Peninsula, a deep pit inside a cave became the final resting place for a menagerie of exotic animals.

Now, their exquisitely preserved bones, trapped for centuries under water, are offering some of the first solid clues to how large Ice Age beasts were mixing and migrating between North and South America after the Isthmus of Panama connected the two continents.

“We’re going to go from a place with no records to having the best records for a lot of megafauna from Mexico, Central America, and northern South America,” says East Tennessee State University’s Blaine Schubert, who presented the findings this week at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting in Calgary.

The animal bones are also painting a more detailed picture of the strange world inhabited by Naia, an Ice Age girl found in the cave who is the oldest, most complete human skeleton yet discovered in the Americas…

A remarkable discovery sheds new light on the exchange of life that occurred when the Isthmus of Panama rose from the ocean to connect two continents that had been ecologically separate for tens of millions of years: “Ice Age Predators Found Alongside Oldest Human in Americas.”

* “In other studies you go as far as other have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder.”   – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

###

As we re-trim our family trees, we might send illuminating birthday greetings to Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden; he was born on this date in 1829.  Trained as a physician (who served with the Union Army during the Civil War), Hayden was a practicing geologist and paleontologist noted for his work in the Badlands in the mid 19th century– it is believed he made the first North American discovery of dinosaur remains (1854)– and for his pioneering surveying expeditions of the Rocky Mountains later in that century, which helped lay the foundation of the U.S. Geological Survey.  Hayden is credited with having the Yellowstone geyser area declared the first national park (1872).

 source

 

Written by LW

September 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

“To see a world on a grain of sand”*…

 

Sand covers so much of the earth’s surface that shipping it across borders—even uncontested ones—seems extreme. But sand isn’t just sand, it turns out. In the industrial world, it’s “aggregate,” a category that includes gravel, crushed stone, and various recycled materials. Natural aggregate is the world’s second most heavily exploited natural resource, after water, and for many uses the right kind is scarce or inaccessible. In 2014, the United Nations Environment Programme published a report titled “Sand, Rarer Than One Thinks,” which concluded that the mining of sand and gravel “greatly exceeds natural renewal rates” and that “the amount being mined is increasing exponentially, mainly as a result of rapid economic growth in Asia.”…

It’s one of our most widely used natural resources, but it’s scarcer than you think: “The world is running out of sand.”

* William Blake

###

As we think anxiously about the beach, we might spare a thought for René Just Haüy; he died on this date in 1822.  An ordained priest (and honorary canon of Notre Dame), he began his scientific career as a botanist, but detoured into geology when a specimen of calcareous spar caught his fancy.  It inspired him to undertake a series of experiments which resulted in his outlining of the geometrical law of crystallization now associated with his name.  As a result, he’s considered the Father of Crystallography…  a field that concerns itself with quartz, a major component of sand.

 source

 

Written by LW

June 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Plato intended to write a long fable about legendary Atlantis; like Solon, he never did write it. Yet there existed beyond the Atlantic an unvisited land, after all”*…

 

The lost continent of Mauritia likely spanned a great swathe of the Indian Ocean before it was torn apart by indomitable geologic forces and plunged into the sea. Now, a good chunk of it may have been found.

In 2015, researchers visited the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar, to study volcanic rocks. While there, they unearthed something unexpected. Embedded in the rocks were ancient crystals, dated up to three billion years old—300 times older than the island’s young volcanic surface. Rocks this old come from Earth’s continents, but there aren’t any continents around Mauritius. It’s surrounded by boundless sea in all directions. There was just one place left for the researchers to look—down. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggest that the curious crystals came from a long-forgotten place buried well beneath the island…

Plumb the depths of Earth’s history at “Scientists may actually have found a lost continent.”  See also here (from whence, the illustration above)

* Russell Kirk

###

As we take tectonics into account, we might spare a thought for René Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician who thought and therefore was; he died on this date in 1650.

Many contemporaries (perhaps most notably, Pascal) rejected his famous conclusion, the dualist separation of mind and body; more (Voltaire, et al.), since.  But Descartes’ emphasis on method and analysis, his disciplined integration of philosophy and physical science, his insistence on the importance of consciousness in epistemology, and perhaps most fundamentally, his the questioning of tradition and authority had a transformative– and lasting– effect on Western thought, and has earned him the “title” of Father of Modern Philosophy.

“In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.”
– Rene Descartes

Frans Hals’ portrait of Descartes, c. 1649

source

Written by LW

February 11, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The metabolic rate of geology is too slow for us to perceive it”*…

 

email readers click here for video

Researchers modeled continental drift, going back 240 million years ago, on the scale of millimeters per year. It starts really slow and as if the supports give way to the separating pressure, there’s a relative burst of movement.

The full paper is in Nature, and the interactive version, which is a bit rough around the edges, can be found here. Select the time, rotate the planet around, and press play to watch the continents break apart.

From Flowing Data: “Continental drift, from 240 million years ago to present.”

(While the changes are slow, they are in fact detectable in the course of a human life; c.f., “Australia’s Entire GPS Navigation is Off By 5 Feet.”)

* Russell Banks, Continental Drift

###

As we slip and slide, we might spare a thought for William Buckland; he died on this date in 1856.  A English theologian who became Dean of Westminster, he was also a paleontologist (who wrote the first full account of a fossil dinosaur, which he named Megalosaurus) and a geologist (who was known for his effort to reconcile geological discoveries with the Bible and anti-evolutionary theories).  A gentleman of some eccentricity, Buckland undertook his field work wearing an academic gown.

 source

 

Written by LW

August 15, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”*…

 

Photographer Ryan Deboodt and his team hiked (for days)…

… then flew a drone even further into the belly of Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the world’s largest known cave.

email readers click here for video

See more extraordinary photos (and larger versions of those above) on Ryan’s site.

* Joesph Campbell

###

As we go spelunking, we might send crusty birthday greetings to Adam Sedgwick; he was born on this date in 1785.  One of the founders of modern geology, he proposed both the the Devonian and the Cambrian periods of the geological timescale.  Sedgwick was a fierce critic of the theory of evolution when it appeared, calling it “”utterly false… from first to last it is a dish of rank materialism cleverly cooked and served up”; nonetheless, he and Charles Darwin (one of Sedgwick’s students at Cambridge) were friends until Sedgwick’s death in 1873.

 source

 

Written by LW

March 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Beneath all the wealth of detail in a geological map lies an elegant, orderly simplicity”*…

 

This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of William Smith’s extraordinary map, “A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland“– the first geological map to identify the layers of rock based on the fossils they contained rather than on their composition.

Smith revolutionized the study of geological time and the order of the succession of life, and established the founding principles for geological surveys worldwide; accordingly, he is considered the “Father of Stratigraphy.”  And as he helped British geology become a science, he is also known as the “Father of English Geology.”

More at “Two centuries of map-making – from William Smith’s survey to satellites,” and at the British Natural History Museum’s page on William Smith.

* Tuzo Wilson (one of the fathers of the theory of plate tectonics)

###

As we think about the land in three (nay, four) dimensions, we might spare a thought for William Morris Davis; he died on this date in 1934.  A geographer, geologist, and meteorologist, his most substantial contribution was probably the development of geomorphology, the scientific study of landforms and their evolution.  Specifically, he described a “geographic cycle,” or “cycle of erosion,” explaining the way in which rivers create valleys and elevate land masses.  When Davis retired from Harvard in 1911, the study of landscape evolution was dominated by his theories. Since then, several facets of his theory have been superceded (in part by plate tectonics thinking, as advanced by Tuzo Wilson), though the evolutionary orientation of his theory still informs the field.

Davis was a founder of the Association of American Geographers in 1904, and heavily involved with the National Geographic Society in its early years.  He is considered the “father of American geography”; his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a National Landmark.

 source

 

Written by LW

February 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy”*…

 

Reddit turns its lens on itself and its users…

Randall Munroe sorted the sciences nicely by purity. Let’s see what sequence the application of other metrics, like usage amount of specific words in the respective subreddits, yields.

About 434k randomly chosen comments to about 34k submissions from 2013-08 to 2014-07 on /r/biology/r/chemistry, /r/compsci, /r/engineering, /r/geology, /r/math, /r/medicine,/r/physics, /r/psychology and /r/sociologywere collected and analysed for frequency of specific words and phrases…

By way of analytic example: given the chart above, one shouldn’t probably shouldn’t be surprised by these results…

More insight at “Science subreddits and their choice of words.”

* Ren and Stimpy

###

As we get our rocks on, we might send stony birthday greetings to Raphael Pumpelly; he was born on this date in 1837.  A geologist and explorer, Pumpelly is best remembered for his pioneering petrographic study of the Great Lakes region, as a result of which he sensed the increasing importance of steel, and advised investors to search for iron rather than gold– making those who heeded his advice great fortunes.

 source

 

Written by LW

September 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: