Taxonomy term

geologic column

Geologic Column: Data security: freezers, floppies and flash drives

In the olden days, many of us protected our field notes, lab records and draft manuscripts by making multiple photocopies, storing them in different places, and perhaps keeping one in the freezer in case of fire. Today, much of our data is collected and stored electronically. What strategies do we use now to protect against catastropic loss?

23 Mar 2014

Geologic Column: Beer's secret ingredient: geology

Geologists have a long history with beer. Earlier this year, I decided to raise my own beer appreciation to the next level and take a class on the subject. I attended the beer school at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis. A few minutes into the class, our instructor noted that the beer-brewing process uses clean water, which, he said, is basically the same no matter where you are. Unfortunately, that got us off on the wrong foot.

20 Dec 2013

Geologic Column: Assessing energy and mining workforce needs

In his 1971 book, “Encounters with the Archdruid,” John McPhee quoted Charles Park, an economic geologist who worked at the U.S. Geological Survey and then Stanford University, who said, “People seldom stop to think that all these things — planes in the air, cars on the road, Sierra Club cups — once, somewhere, were rock. Our whole economy — our way of doing things, most of what we have, even our culture — rests on these things.” Although McPhee’s emphasis was on the balance between environmental protection and our societal need for raw materials, the book highlighted the fundamental importance of energy exploration and mining, an idea that implies still another significant message: Our society needs scientists, engineers and skilled laborers who can locate and extract raw materials and energy sources from the rocks beneath our feet in order to power our economy and our way of life.

16 Aug 2013

Geologic Column: Sometimes, the sky really is falling

Airplane pilots have a long history of using euphemisms to minimize the sense of risk in their work. Pilot-speak for crashing an airplane, for example, is “ruining your entire day.” In the same parlance, encountering an asteroid could cause all of us to have a very, very bad day. But maybe our close calls — such as the fireball that flew over Russia in February — can serve as reminders to renew our focus on searching for and understanding objects that could, literally, impact our planet.

12 May 2013

Geologic Column: You gotta have a plan

Early in the 1990 film “Tremors,” the character Earl criticizes his colleague, played by Kevin Bacon, for not having a plan. “Valentine, you never plan ahead. You never take the long view. I mean, here it is Monday, and I’m already thinking of Wednesday,” Earl says. “It is Monday, right?”
 
Of course, “Tremors” has a lot going for it: funny dialog, great scenery, monster subterranean worms, a female seismologist, and, of course, Kevin Bacon. But the messages about planning ahead whenever possible and improvising when necessary are ones that every earth scientist will appreciate.
17 Mar 2013

Geologic Column: Lessons from the final frontier

Somewhere, out there, beyond the stars Arcturus and Pollux, the TV signals from the final season of the original “Star Trek” are radiating outward. The series has been a teaching tool for a generation, and the programs offer multiple lessons for earth scientists.

03 Feb 2012

Geologic Column: The double-edged sword of commercialization

Everyone has a mental image of a “commercialized” geologic site — Niagara Falls, anyone? My vision includes crowds, noise, clutter, distracting visual stimuli, neon signs, traffic, and a price on everything from scenic views to water. Souvenirs, including T-shirts, snow globes, shot glasses and fudge, are usually for sale.

07 Oct 2011

Geologic Column: Snow globes, light shows and t-shirts

It seemed like a simple question. “What do you think the most commercialized geologic site is?”

My curiosity had been piqued by a trip through Wisconsin Dells, a glacially carved river valley that has the world’s largest concentration of water parks (complete with the requisite fudge shops, tchotchke shops and miniature golf courses). Before that trip, my top nominee would have been Natural Bridge in Virginia, which has featured the seasonal sound-and-light show, “Drama of Creation,” since 1927. Today, the site can be rented for a conference or a wedding.

28 Jul 2011

Voices: Log off and get outside again

I began this column while meandering across the West just after Labor Day last year. We drove from Telluride, Colo., to Zion National Park in Utah, to Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border, and finally to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

06 Jan 2011

Geologic Column: Saving the World? Or Just Saving Money?

It all started with a reporter.

I had just signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which pledges that my university will try to decrease its carbon footprint and develop a plan to become carbon neutral, when a reporter from the local newspaper challenged my personal credentials, my knowledge of and commitment to the environment. Forget my background as an earth scientist, the many years I taught environmental geology, the summers I worked at a conservation-education camp. He wanted to know what kind of car I drove.

31 Oct 2008

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