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Geological Google Earth

May 4th, 2007

Mount St. Helens in Google Earth

The ability to add your own data to Google Earth has meant a proliferation of geologically related sites and applications. Here are a couple of sites that will give you a sense of what’s possible. I’ll note more on this blog in subsequent weeks.

San Diego State University’s Department of Geological Sciences has a whole web page devoted to Google Earth and geology. They’ve layered 30′x60′ geologic quad maps, the geologic map of California, a map from a local field trip guide, and worldwide imagery showing the age of the sea floor, and volcanoes of the earth.

The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College has created a spiffy Website based upon an impromptu talk given by Peter Selkin at the University of Washington, Tacoma. It’s choc-a-block full of useful geologic datasets, guides to navigation, and case studies of how it’s used in geologic education. Beware broken links - useful nonetheless.

branner blog poster

April 27th, 2007

brannerblog.jpg

a preview of the new blog poster, a take off on the old library “READ” posters.
borrow it, adapt it, or hang it on your wall. enjoy.

Yesterday we displayed a selection of Branner Library’s treasures for some visitors to the School of Earth Sciences. I spent a bit of time browsing our locked stacks area in search of the perfect gems, and that act has inspired this first edition of Famous Geologist Friday.

roderick_murchison.jpg

Today, I’d like you to meet Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871). Like many of the people you’ll likely find in this feature, Murchison was a Scottish geologist, and one of his great accomplishments came when he devised a master organizational scheme for the Silurian System (see The Silurian System, 1839). He figured most of that one out without ever leaving the British Isles. However, the Devonian sent him further afield.

Endorsed by the Czar, Murchison set out to perform a geological survey of Russia in 1840-41. The interesting thing about all of this is that Murchison had his goal–to correlate Russian stratigraphy with other parts of the world–and the Czar had his goal–to identify and quantify Russia’s mineral resources. The Czar wanted to know how to speed up industrial development in Russia; Murchison wanted to know what was going on with the Silurian rocks in Russia and to settle the “Great Devonian Controversy.” In the end, the Czar’s directives largely determined his route, but Murchison was free to perform his own research. It’s the crux of geology–some rocks are economically desirable and some are just pretty.

As for Murchison, the editors of the excellent, excellent volume, Murchison’s Wanderings in Russia..., say it well: “The overall purpose was to acquire new knowledge and to make recommendations as to its applications. Perhaps it could be said, given both Murchison’s previous and future activities, that in this combination of theory and practice Murchison had found his true metier.”

To finding one’s true metier.
Enjoy the weekend.

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References:
Collie and Diemer, eds. (2004) Murchison’s Wanderings in Russia: His Geological Exploration of Russian in Europe and the Ural Mountains, 1840 and 1841.
Morton. (2004) King of Siluria: How Roderick Murchison changed the face of geology.
Murchison. (1839) The Silurian System.
Murchison. (1845) The Geology of Russia.
Murchison. (1854) Siluria.

This is a tough question, but a list I’ve been meaning to compile for a while.

This particular patron walked away with Assembling California by John McPhee and Roadside geology of northern California by David Alt. Other recommendations follow (the books themselves will be on display in Branner for browsing and borrowing). This list is intended as a starting point, by no means exhaustive.

Other lists from the blogogeosphere (or is it the geoblogosphere?):
Apparent Dip’s Great Science Book Challenge
Geology Home Companion’s Geology Reading List
California Council of Geoscience Organization’s Armchair Geologist Reading List

Stay tuned for future lists, and updates to the aforementioned. Anticipated themes include: environmental classics, geobiographies, geology of California, fuel for thought. Please send suggested titles or potential themes our way.

the tallest observation deck

March 23rd, 2007

grand canyon skywalk
Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images from the Guardian.

Spring break awaits. Looking for something to do? The Grand Canyon Skywalk has its grand opening on March 28th. The cantilevered walkway rises 4,000 feet above the canyon’s floor and is sure to offer a commanding view of the famous strata.

I suspect the structure won’t add much to our understanding of the canyon’s geology, but it does seem to be a boon for welders (the only mention of it I could find in the literature: “Welding the world’s highest walkway: Tandem submerged arc welding technology helps contractor win Grand Canyon Skywalk contract” WELDING JOURNAL 85 (10): 40-41 OCT 2006).

Other offerings, and insight into the project’s controversy:

    wikipedia’s synopsis of the controversy.
    photos from the Guardian.
    “an engineering marvel or a colassal eyesore” from the LA Times.

John McPhee does it again. For your weekend reading, check out his latest New Yorker article, “Season on the Chalk: From Ditchling Beacon to Epernay,” a really nice discussion of Europe’s chalk deposits. I don’t know who else could mingle geology and terroir, geography and genealogy, the personal and the historic, all the while namedropping geologic time periods and stages like they’re a-list celebrities arriving at the Oscars. Enjoy.

Only a snippet is posted online. Consult: John McPhee, “Season on the Chalk,” The New Yorker, March 12, 2007, p. 58-71 for the rest.