Sunday, April 27, 2008

In the Humorous Vein #1

I remember when those motivational posters (you know, the kind with "Challenge" or "Overcoming Obstacles" and an uplifting quote) were really popular, especially in schools. Maybe some people liked having those around; they always made me gag. I prefer the really sarcastic kind better. Like Mediocrity. Or Pressure. Or Tradition. (And, because I'm a Trek fan, I'm particularly partial to these. )

So naturally I figured the geoblogosphere could use some posters of their own. Maybe I'll make this a Sunday thing, since I can never remember to do a Friday Field Foto.

Here's Geo Insights poster #1!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stop whining!

So, driving to work this morning, I happened to hear one of the ubiquitous "Americans are facing financial hardships because of rising gas prices" reports. And this time, instead of growling at the radio and switching to the classic rock station, I laughed. Because no matter how many times I hear this, I'm still astonished at how self-centered and ignorant of the rest of the world that Americans can be sometimes.

News flash! We actually pay less for our gas than a good chunk of the world. (Yeah, I know, not a news flash to anyone who reads this blog, since you're all smart people, but maybe someone will come across it and be surprised.)

Here's the skinny: Average US gas prices at the beginning of this week, as reported by the United States Energy Information Administration, list regular unleaded at about $3.50 a gallon. (By the way, why does anyone refer to regular, non-premium gas as unleaded anymore? They're
all unleaded.)

Now, here's a table from

Nation City Price in USD Regular/Gallon
Netherlands Amsterdam $6.48
Norway Oslo $6.27
Italy Milan $5.96
Denmark Copenhagen $5.93
Belgium Brussels $5.91
Sweden Stockholm $5.80
United Kingdom London $5.79
Germany Frankfurt $5.57
France Paris $5.54
Portugal Lisbon $5.35
Hungary Budapest $4.94
Croatia Zagreb $4.81
Ireland Dublin $4.78
Switzerland Geneva $4.74
Spain Madrid $4.55
Japan Tokyo $4.24
Czech Republic Prague $4.19
Romania Bucharest $4.09
Estonia Tallinn $3.62
Bulgaria Sofia $3.52
Brazil Brasilia $3.12
Cuba Havana $3.03
Taiwan Taipei $2.84
Lebanon Beirut $2.63
South Africa Johannesburg $2.62
Nicaragua Managua $2.61
Panama Panama City $2.19
Russia Moscow $2.10
Puerto Rico San Juan $1.74
Saudi Arabia Riyadh $0.91
Kuwait Kuwait City $0.78
Egypt Cairo $0.65
Nigeria Lagos $0.38
Venezuela Caracas $0.12

(All prices updated March, 2005.)

Here's a quote for you from the article:
Many European nations tax gasoline heavily, with taxes making up as much as 75 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, said a spokesperson for AirInc.

In a few Latin America and Middle-East nations, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, oil is produced by a government-owned company and local gasoline prices are kept low as a benefit to the nation's citizens, he said.
And these prices are from three years ago.

I'm reminded of when I visited England about four years ago. I was working at an archaeological dig with students from Hull University in Yorkshire, and we were out shopping for groceries. I was rubbernecking at all the signs and stores, and I happened to notice the prices at a gas station. Figuring that I was getting about $2 to a British pound at that point, I did some calculations in my head and mentioned to my seatmate, "Wow, that's pretty cheap compared to gas back home!"

"You buy gas in gallons, right?" he asked.


"That's the price per liter."

And a gallon holds almost four liters. So even four years ago, when gas was occasionally under $2 a gallon, people in GB and Europe were still paying more than three times as much as the US. That was the last time I whined about high gas prices. And the rest of the country should, too. We don't need three cars or SUVs with names like "Sequoia" and "Escalade". People in other places make do with smaller and fewer vehicles, and, although many of those places do have better public transportation than we do, we can afford to start doing the same thing here.

This ends my unregularly scheduled ranting. :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here's one for Julian!

The USGS has released updated versions of their National Seismic Hazard Maps.

(Image from the 2008 USGS Fact Sheet)

And look! A green spot over western New York! That's way better than being in the blue. (Not as exciting as sitting on a subduction zone capable of generating M9+ earthquakes, but I suppose I can't have everything.)

Update: While poking around the USGS Urban Hazard Maps, I found this one of Seattle. All I can say is, wow. What did they build UW on, a giant sandbox? That wouldn't stop me wanting to go there later, but if they have a big earthquake and Johnson Hall collapses on me, it would be pretty hard to finish a Ph.D.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Earth Day! Now cover your ears.

Here's a little bit of singable prose in honor of Earth Day, National Poetry Month, and Accretionary Wedge #8. (A disclaimer: I am definitely not a poet. Read or sing aloud at your own risk.)

To the tune of "The Major General's Song":

I am the very model of a young environmentalist,
I've signed enough petitions to wear out the tendons in my wrist,
I know the ways to turn my house into a green and clean abode,
And I covet all the hybrid cars that I see humming down the road;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters of the atmosphere,
I'm nervous that we're losing all the ozone in the stratosphere,
About the global warming trend I've listened to a lot o' news,
And worried that the rising seas will raise demand for rubber shoes.

I'm very good at turning out the lights when I leave home each day;
For reused glass and cans and plastic products I am apt to pay:
At work when I see paper in the trash I'm likely to get pissed,
I am the very model of a young environmentalist.

I compost scraps and strew my lawn with decomposed banana peels;
My feet are shod in bamboo cloth and soled with bits of semi wheels,
I quote from pamphlets mailed to me in droves by the Sierra Club,
And never think of using bleach or solvents when I clean my tub;
I scoff at people in the West whose water goes to golfing greens,
I always use the cold rinse cycle, not just when I'm washing jeans,
I give thumbs up to lights equipped with CFLs and LEDs,
And absolutely nothing makes me happier than hugging trees.

Then I write letters faithfully to senators and congressfolk,
And say that dire warnings on the state of Earth are not a joke:
In short, my future home's good health should be on top of every list,
I am the very model of a young environmentalist.

Now that song is going to be stuck in my head all day.

Britannica WebShare: Free access for bloggers!

Here's some exciting news: Subscriptions to the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica are being offered free to qualified "web publishers", which includes bloggers, webmasters and anyone who writes for the internet. The program is called Britannica WebShare, and the link is here; all you have to do to be considered for a subscription is fill in the application form and wait for them to get back to you. There's no telling who they'll consider qualified, but there's certainly no reason to turn down a chance at a free subscription to a valuable reference resource.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Piedmont geology along the Billy Goat Trail

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to go on a great geology hike with Callan Bentley in the C&O Canal National Historical Park, which follows the Potomac River where it becomes fast, deep and narrow and flows through Mather Gorge. The park is divided between Virginia (the Great Falls National Park portion) and Maryland, and the Billy Goat Trail (so named because it involves a tiny bit of scrambling) parallels the Potomac on the Maryland side. Having visited the Virginia side for an undergrad geology trip, I have to agree with Callan that Maryland side has much more to offer - including some very exciting exposures of a rock that Callan, who's traveled all around the world, has only seen in two places. (About the only thing Virginia has that Maryland doesn't is the high water level pole, and that just doesn't measure up. Har.)

Great Falls is a wonderful place for a field trip because its history spans more than 500 million years, including three orogenies, a few ice ages, and even historical alterations to the land. One of the latest geologic maps published by Southworth and Fingeret of the USGS (2000) can be found here, with more detailed descriptions of some of the units I'll be discussing. (If I get anything wrong, it's because of my own rusty memory, and not Callan - he gave a stellar tour!)

The units we encountered on the hike included metagraywacke, granite, lamprophyre, amphibolite, and various visitors from the Blue Ridge. Here we go:

Some sexy folding in Lower Cambrian metagraywacke. Graywacke is basically a "dirty" sandstone: instead of being purely quartz grains (as in quartz sandstone), or quartz and feldspar (arkosic sandstone), it contains clay. When it's metamorphosed, the clay becomes muscovite or biotite mica, which shows up in the darker stripes. This unit was deposited by turbidity currents in an ocean basin (you can see graded bedding sequences in some places), and during the Taconian orogeny was smashed between the North American continent and an incoming volcanic island arc. The compressional stresses created the prominent folding seen here.

Hydrothermally deposited quartz veins in the metagraywacke. Some of these can contain gold - there was even a gold mine in the park area from 1865 to 1940.

This photo shows the Virginia side of the river, where several Late Devonian lamprophyre dikes have intruded into the metagraywacke. The joints in the graywacke reached deep enough into the crust that they tapped into hot (but not molten) rock; the rock "took advantage" of the situation and, melting as it rose higher in the crust and decompressed, filled in the joints. What's fascinating about these dikes is that, although they are present on both sides of the river, they don't line up. So what gives? If one theory is to be believed, the bedrock in the riverbed, in the form of a right-lateral fault. Evidence in favor of this includes the Mather Gorge itself, which is straight enough to line up with a ruler (if the ruler were half a mile long). Unfortunately, it's impossible to see - the river is too fast to dive in, and the bottom is covered with mud and really big boulders - and it doesn't outcrop anywhere that Callan was able to find. Another possibility is that the dikes are not straight but kinked where the river crosses them - again, impossible to test without making all the water and mud and rocks disappear.

Even more sexy folding in metagraywacke.

Strath terraces marking the ancient riverbeds of the Potomac, and a good example of why you can't apply superposition to everything. These straths are evidence of downcutting by the river in periods of low sea level (ice ages). The very top ledge indicates the position of the oldest riverbed; the next one down represents the lowest level the Potomac incised to during one ice age, and where it stopped for some time. Then another ice age came along, and the river incised downward again to the level it is currently at. This photo shows other evidence of where the river once was: a dissected pothole. The river is actually currently capable of reaching this height during floods, but because potholes take long periods of abrasion to form, we know this one is a feature of the ancient riverbed and not modern flooding (which is relatively short-lived).

The aliens have landed! Well, not really, in the xenolith sense. But it is a visitor from far upstream - a chunk of the Catoctin Formation, a Blue Ridge unit of Neoproterozoic age. The Catoctin is composed of greenstone (metamorphosed basalt), and contains lots of chlorite and epidote (which give it the blue-green and pistachio mottling).

This particular boulder is really neat, because it contains quartz-filled amygdules (not vugs, thanks for reminding me, Callan! It's amazing what I can forget in a year...). The amygdules show that the basalt was originally vesicular; they managed to survive the metamorphism and get filled with quartz (and maybe some calcite?) later on. Original flow features, yay!

THE coolest rock on the hike. Callan's already talked extensively about these, so I won't elaborate much more on migmatites, but suffice to say that it's absolutely amazing to see granite "sweating" out of a metamorphosed sedimentary rock. This boulder also shows some really great little deformation features, in the form of folding and boudinage, or little pinched out "sausages" of quartz. That rock's been through a rough life: bulldozed, squeezed and roasted.

Another visitor from afar: a boulder of Blue Ridge granite containing blue quartz (pretty rare stuff!) This is likely Old Rag granite, formed during the Grenvillian orogeny more than a billion years ago.

Another favorite stop, this is an isolated outcrop of amphibolite, or metamorphosed gabbro. The pebbly texture is a result of large crystals of amphibole (of course). The working hypotheses for this location are A) the gabbro was injected as a sill into the metagraywacke/graywacke and then metamorphosed, or B) that the gabbro was already present on the subducting oceanic plate during the Taconian orogeny, and was scraped up as part of the accretionary wedge and metamorphosed with the sediments.

Callan's pointing out another great example of deformation: parasitic folds and boudinage in a larger, almost isoclinal fold.

A view of the joint sets at Great Falls. There are at least 6 different sets in the area, although none of them actually line up with the river - another good argument for a fault running through Mather Gorge.

So why are the quartz veins so parallel here? While they could have been originally emplaced that way, the reality is actually much cooler: These veins are folded completely back on each other, and then folded again. The first deformation (F1) created isoclinal folds, and the second (F2) created the tight, or "squiggly" part of the folds.

I didn't realize just how much I missed going on geology field trips - or how easy it is to let your mind drop out of "geology mode". I'm glad for the refresher, and for the chance to get used to thinking on my toes again. (I am not so glad that I managed, somehow, to acquire a dozen itchy spider bites. I'm not dead, so I'm assuming they aren't poisonous, but about half of them are in places on my back that I can't reach, and they're driving me nuts. Guess I should start marinating myself in DEET again.)

By the way, Callan will be leading a few more of these hikes, so if anyone's in the DC area, check out the schedule and sign up!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Playing catch-up: In which Cookie finally talks about some Boston geology

Now that I've put my brain back together after all the grad school insanity, I really should finish up some of the posts I've left hanging. It seems like months since I was in Boston, even though it's only been...well, weeks. Two very long weeks. Anyway, this one's about the geology I came up with on the last day I was there, walking the "Freedom Trail". I probably walked about ten miles that day, mostly because I got out early and everything I wanted to see was closed, which meant a lot of backtracking.

I started out in the North End, where I had a lovely time looking at the outside of Christ Church (the Old North Church). Can't interrupt services, after all, especially when they're nice enough to open the place to visitors the rest of the day. (This isn't really geology, unless you talk about the clay that went into the bricks, but it was pretty.)

Just as you cross out of the North End (going over the I-93 tunnel), there's a nice little park between Cross Street and Surface Road. And in that park, they have lots of paving stone. It's really pretty, too, and worth the staring when you sit down in the middle of the sidewalk to get a better look at it. (This one's pretty big, about 3x4 feet.)

Whee, isoclinal folding! Not migmatites, although Callan's entry made me hope I was lucky enough to have found them in Boston - more likely just some really squished gneisses. I don't know much about geology in the northeast, but maybe someone can hazard a guess as to where the city got the stone. Here's a smaller sample with my foot for scale.

For the soft rock crowd, we have the plaza outside Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which claims to mark the original Boston Harbor shoreline. There are a lot of other strange little markings carved into the stones here - maybe someone from the crew of National Treasure got drunk and decided to add a few extra "clues" for the villains to follow.

Just across the street to the north is the New England Holocaust Memorial. It's really quite a clever use of an industrial setting: there are a series of six hollow glass towers built over a line of steam vents. The steam rises up into the towers (or chimneys?), which are engraved with six million numbers representing those killed in the Shoah. Each tower represents one of the principle death camps.

The memorial was very haunting, but what also interested me were the construction materials. Here's an example of the stone used throughout:

The memorial website says it's "black granite", which I suspect is more a building supply term than anything a geologist would recognize. Maybe some sort of diabase? I didn't think it would be respectful to be crouching next to it with a hand lens and a pocketknife, so I didn't look all that closely. If anyone can hazard a guess as to what "black granite" translates to, go for it.

There are two burial grounds on the Freedom Trail, and, unlike places that use lots of marble, Bostonians of the past seem to have favored more robust materials. There are many headstones dating from the 17th century, for instance, and despite Boston probably having a good share of chemical weathering processes to offer, the engravings are still readable. This one is in the King's Chapel Burying Ground, and it has alternating bands of silty and sandy material - perhaps even a turbidite deposit? There's a lot of folding (even to the point of being overturned) in the middle, but none at the bottom, which is puzzling.

The Granary Burying Ground has some witty commentary in granite.

Finally, a contribution to the Airliner Chronicles. This is shortly after takeoff, looking down on some mosquito ditches in a salt marsh. Mosquito ditches were dug into marshes in the Colonial period to drain standing water and sometimes to mark property lines. In later times, particularly after the Civil War, when soldiers were bringing home malaria, they were dug to control the mosquito populations. One of my undergrad classmates did her senior thesis on the effects of these ditches on tidal flux, and apparently many areas are removing them entirely, because they eliminate wetlands and affect the volume of fresh water that reaches the salt marshes.

I probably won't bother with the MT photos, since I won't be going there (and even the UPers admitted that the place wasn't very pretty at this time of year). I will be hiking the Billy Goat Trail this weekend with Callan, though, and I'll definitely have some good photos from that. If he doesn't beat me to it, that is. :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Technically they're bison

Final decision is in, papers are signed in triplicate, faxed, emailed and overnighted, and it looks like I'll be going to SUNY Buffalo in the fall.

I want to thank everyone who offered me their advice over the past few days. I can be a remarkably insecure, nervous person when I have to make big decisions, and it was immensely reassuring to have people reinforce my gut feeling about the choice I had to make. While I loved Seattle and the University of Washington, I felt like I really couldn't pass up the chance to work with the group at SUNY Buffalo, especially since I would have the opportunity to do work at a volcano observatory and on active mountains.

And, as everyone has said, it's only for two years. I may think that the campus (the North one, anyway) looks like a prison complex and that Buffalo is a dreary former industrial city (which it is at this time of year), but I will also have a wonderful advisor, a great project and, since the cost of living is so much lower in Buffalo, I will not be extremely poor. Everything else is just details.

What really sucks is writing/calling everyone else to let them know I won't be working with them. I'm trying to be as polite as possible, but I still feel like a horrible person. And how the heck do I approach them later on, if I want to work on a PhD at one of those places? "Sorry I didn't choose you the first time around, but hopefully you can ignore that whole rejection thing?"

Oh well. Even if two years go fast, it's still two years. And I suppose they deal with this often anyway...but it doesn't make me any less uncomfortable. At least I can't dither anymore, since today's the deadline and everything is signed, sealed and sent.

Friday, April 11, 2008



And here I was thinking my final choice of grad school was going to be easy. I have to choose between the city I loved with a good program (though I would be working on more petrology and geochem than volcanology), and the city that doesn't thrill me, but with a great program (I would work on pyroclastic flows and volcanic hazards, which is exactly what I want to do).

Compensation for both is comparable, the people are all nice, but I really don't know what I'm going to do. It's only two years, after all... And it just seems incredibly awkward if you turn down a program that you might still want to go to later on.

I feel a headache coming on. I know the final decision has to be mine, but can anyone throw me some sage advice?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More news from Hawaii: Volcanoes National Park evacuated

(Image from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory)

Looks like shifting wind + gas plumes = not fun out at Kilauea. Enough that the park closed completely yesterday, and several of the surrounding communities were put under voluntary evacuation notice. Shifting winds are blowing the gas plume emanating from Halema'uma'u crater out over the inhabited parts of the park and into local communities, which usually don't have to deal with vog, or volcanic fog. Here's part of the story from the Honolulu Advertiser:
"That evacuation included the Volcano House hotel within the park, with guests at the hotel moved to the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort in Hilo, [Big Island Mayor Harry] Kim said. He said staffing at the park would be limited to required personnel only.

Civil defense officials at 9 p.m. last night announced voluntary evacuations for five communities northeast of Halema'uma'u crater as sulfur dioxide fumes in the area are expected to intensify today.

The voluntary evacuation advisory covered the Mauna Loa Estates, Ohia Estates and Volcano Golf Course subdivisions as well as the Volcano Village and Keauhou Ranch areas."
Here's another comment from Kim in the AP:
"As far as we know the number was light because the sulfur dioxide levels really did not materialize to the degree that was much anticipated," Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said. "What did happen during the day is that we did have some ... brief periods of high levels of sulfur dioxide in the affected areas, mainly in the national park areas."
Vog is nasty stuff. Usually it's Kona that has the most problems with it, enough so that they put out daily advisories of vog levels, much like air quality notices or pollen counts on the mainland. On my trips, it was barely noticeable, which was quite lucky - although that's not to say that I didn't have encounters with volcanic gases.

One part of my field course the second time around was to learn how to sample volcanic gases; to do this, we first had to familiarize ourselves with the hazards involved. The instructor filled up some balloons with samples of CO2, SO2, and H2S. The CO2 was, naturally, undetectable; the SO2 was a little stinky, but no more than, say, exhaust from a car engine. The H2S, though, was like a kick to the face. It's extremely acidic, smells horribly like rotton eggs and made pretty much everyone screw up their eyes and cough for the next five minutes. Going out to the sampling sites, we all wore gas masks, and after an hour or so even the hardiest of us was dealing with the coughing and stinging eyes. At one point, I couldn't see or stop coughing long enough to breathe - and that was with a heavy-duty gas mask with fresh filters. (I suspect this was mostly because of very high concentrations of SO2, since enough H2S will kill you, but high levels of pretty much any acidic sulfur gas are not fun.)

Hopefully the hazardous conditions won't last long, and the wind will shift, because it would be a shame for people to miss out on seeing the changes happening on Kilauea right now. Not to mention that living in a vog haze is pretty miserable, especially if you have respiratory problems (like me).

Very punny

Here's an offering from lolscience:

(Courtesy of ancientscripts)

Monday, April 7, 2008

They may have 9 months of snow a year, but Broomball is teh coolness!

Just back from visiting Houghton and the campus of Michigan Tech, which means I only have one more grad school visit before the big choice. It might be hard; I've met some really great people in the past two and heard about interesting prospects for MS projects.

Turns out MT isn't cold all the time - we just had three beautiful, sunny and fairly warm days, which I was once again assured is not the norm. The interviews were tiring, as always, but I felt I got a good handle on the feel of the department, and luckily on Friday the students scheduled for my last meeting took us out to play frisbee instead of talk. There are only so many times you can give a "what I want to be when I grow up" spiel before your brain turns into mush.

Possibilities for Tech research are falling into the remote sensing and volcano seismology category, which could be cool even though I haven't had much experience with either and would be playing catch-up with physics and math classes. I briefly considered the Masters International Peace Corps program they run, which sends you out to a volcano as part of the Peace Corps for two years, but I don't have any experience in Spanish (most of the students go to Central or South America), and I wasn't quite ready to commit to three or four years to get a Masters. (Because of the way the Peace Corps schedules their training and deployment, some students will end up spending a year taking their masters classes, an extra semester waiting around, and possibly another semester afterward writing their thesis. That's a bit too long for me, not to mention that I'm too chicken to move to another country for several years. Maybe later, but not right now - I'll stick with moving to a different state for the moment.)

I'll post some photos of the campus and Houghton once I get home and locate the camera in the rapidly-accumulating pile of travel detritus that my desk has become. (And, I suppose I should explain what Broomball is for people who haven't heard of it.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

In which Boston geology is ignored in favor of funny sign photos

And, of course, the Lamborghini. Mostly because I'm blogging from fabulous sunny Houghton MI, and I don't want to spend the entire evening on the computer. Not to mention I'm a little teensy bit tired, having almost missed my connecting flight and sprinted the entire length of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. So instead of geology, you get amusing signage. Enjoy.

I spent a lot of time up in the North End, the "Little Italy" area, where everyone has that wonderful Italian sense of humor.

I'm pretty sure I was in Boston.

Any Tolkein fans out there? This tavern on Union Street is for you.

They were probably right.

Everybody really does know your name there, especially if you're wearing a conference badge.

This one's not so much a sign as an ironic situation. Look familiar? No? Ever heard of the Boston Massacre? Well, that's the memorial. Yep, under the truck. See that circular stone thing in the median? That's the commemoration they agreed on for a major event in the course of the Revolutionary War.


This was another "sheesh" moment. Alexander Agassiz was a famous geologist, and this was the United States' first national honor society, so naturally I had to take this photo. Unfortunately, in order to do that I had to stand in the doorway of...a Banana Republic. Yes, an historic building given over to not-so-high-fashion retail. Yuck.

And finally, the photo you've all been waiting for - proof that someone, somewhere in the world, said, "I have $300,000 dollars to burn. I know! I'll buy a Lamborghini MurciƩlago and have it painted the color of Gak!"


Sometime in the next few days I'll talk about geology. For the moment, though, I've taken care of the important part, which was the car.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

In which Cookie discovers that the NSTA meeting is MUCH bigger than GSA

Part 1 of the Boston trip, starting with a few photos from the actual NSTA meeting. (Next up will be my walking tour of the city, including the green Lamborghini and what geology I ran across - and there was some!) All in all, it was an interesting experience. I got to talk to a few hundred science teachers, discovered that they will take anything marked "FREE" (and some things that weren't, which is how I learned not to leave anything personal on the table), and found out just how many times I can watch a preview video without sound before I start making up lewd dialog for the characters (approximately fifty).

Meeting the teachers was, for the most part, encouraging, although what we heard from the Texas and especially the Massachusetts attendees was really sad. Earth science is, in parts of Texas and all of Massachusetts, being entirely eliminated from the K12 curriculum. In MA, the political reasoning was pitiful; there was no standard exam for Earth science, so it couldn't be kept in the curriculum, and they wouldn't write an exam because they were taking it out. Not only that, in both TX and MA, teachers were fighting the misconception that Earth science isn't "hard science", like physics or chemistry. Which is, frankly, bullshit. There isn't a "hard science" out there that isn't used in Earth science at some point. Why else do geo majors have to take a year of physics and chemistry and some biology and computer sciences? What do the school boards think we do, fingerpaint?

Okay, end of rant, save for the plea that if you're aware of any attempts to eliminate K12 Earth sciences in your state or county, help the teachers save it. Go to meetings, testify, ask pointed questions, offer your expertise, do whatever you can. Because these teachers are desperate.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

This is half of the exhibition hall. The booth I was at was in the same row as the butterfly people and a deep-sea drilling program whose mascot was, I kid you not, named Bubba. And he was actually there, standing next to a life-size cartoon version of himself.

The Seaworld people brought an entire menagerie along - flamingos, possum, albino pythons, hawks, bald eagles, name it. The penguins were especially cute.

Bill Nye the Science Guy put in an appearance. He was very popular, although I think they eventually let him have some food after the third day or so.

There was also a Sputnik nearby, although as far as I know it wasn't signing autographs.

Volcanoes turn up in all sorts of interesting places... (Someone suggested that we should add the Mentos to the Diet Coke without the plastic tube, but unfortunately the conference security people nixed that.)

Weyerhaeuser brought a pretty little soil profile from Mount St. Helens.

And, naturally, there was a robot playing the trumpet. (I tried to get it to do the Haydn concerto, but it told me to talk to its agent. And then tried to sell me a car.)

Showing tomorrow sometime soon: My 10+ mile walk around Boston, which reminded me exactly how out of shape I am, and the lengths people will go to to show off how much money they have.

Back again

I managed to survive Boston, although I'm still recovering from the effects of free goodies on several thousand K12 science teachers. It was a freaking feeding frenzy in that exhibition hall.

I'm still too tired to come up with something clever for April Fools at the moment, but I'll share some photos once I find my camera cord (which, come to think of it, may have been snapped up by a teacher at some point during the last few days). Turns out Boston has a little bit of geology after all!

That, and lime green Lamborghinis.