Saturday, January 29, 2011

Claymation, Bicycles, Velociraptors, and my Sister

This is the video I made for my sister’s cancer charity! The creation of this really was a family effort, involving both my parents, myself, and two of my uncles. Watching the claymation mitosis come together from 175 individual images was incredible. When I was younger, I attended a summer film camp for girls, and it was nice to see that I hadn’t lost all the skills I learned there. It took a looong time to get up to speed on the new editing software, sort through all the clips, and polish it into a finished product, but I’m really quite pleased with the final results.

Even if you can’t afford or don’t wish to donate to her cause, you should follow her twitter or tumblr, because she’s going to be posting exciting things as she travel across the country!

Plus, she’s probably going to cure cancer someday, so you might want to just learn her name now. When they finally name element 118, it’ll be “Rosemarium.”

AW #30: The Moon is Made of Toasted Coconut.

The Accretionary Wedge #30 was a Geologic Bake Sale! Baking is one of my favorite hobbies, and I wanted to do something new and exciting for this challenge.

When I saw this recipe, inspiration struck. The flakes of coconut lay so lightly atop one another, as though they were gently supporting each other without actually touching…


… which is exactly what happens on the moon!

Regolith is akin to soil on the Earth: it’s the layer of unconsolidated material over the bedrock. The moon’s regolith is composed of  bedrock pulverized by meteorites and “micrometeorites” – meteorites that are under a millimeter in size. Over the long life-span of the Moon, these micrometeorites have succeeded in completely altering its surface. (Just goes to show how concentrated effort over time can yield immense results!)

The top portion (3 – 5 m) of the regolith is composed of really fine-grained, loose particles. These sort of “float” on the surface: they are held together in layers by Van der Waal forces. (Van der Waal forces occur when charged molecules are very gently pulled toward oppositely charged molecules, and are very weak.) This is very similar to the uppermost, lightly held together layer of coconut.

The bottom portion of the regolith is more solid, and frequently referred to as the “megaregolith.” This is a layer of very fractured bedrock, 2 – 3 km thick on the highlands, and about 1 km thick on the maria. Here, it’s the more consolidated layer of coconut.

Much as Earth-soil has different varieties, the regolith has two different components: glass spherules and agglutinates. Glass spherules form when melted rock from a meteor impact solidifies in mid-flight, not having enough time to form a crystal structure. (Similar to how obsidian is formed very quickly from lava.) Agglutinates are glassy breccias composed of rock bits and vesicles containing gas from solar winds, all held together with rapidly melted rock.

Under all of that is the bedrock of the moon, anorthosite and basalt. I decided to have a simple basalt/brownie bedrock – this section of the moon is somewhere in a flood-basalt mare (or "sea”,) to account for it’s thin layer of megaregolith.



These are the ingredients needed to create an edible Moonscape. Some of these were doubled, as I needed to make some extra bedrock, which I flavored with two packets of that Starbucks Via instant coffee. Additionally, I used 10 oz of coconut, and an extra splash of milk, to increase the bulk of my regolith.


And this is the Moon, post-baking! Note how that regolith seems soft and fluffy.


This is a futuristic moon bubble, to protect this patch of regolith from any wandering spacemen…


… of which there were several, repeatedly! Colonizing in Moon lava tubes might be a better idea after all…



After everything had a chance to cool, I set about to make the crater. (We’ll discuss actual crater formation in a minute!)

To do this, I punched a hole in the coconut slab, and set it atop the brownie bedrock layer. There was some minor excavation of that layer as well. Using bits of brownie, I constructed the central peak of the crater, and placed some fragmented bedrock inside the crater. Using the extra coconut slab, I carefully compiled a reverse layer of ejecta around the crater.


To prepare the melt for the inside of the crater, I melted a Cookies and Crème bar in the microwave (not for too long or it burns!) and poured it into the crater. After engaging in a little careful destruction to create collapsed crater walls, the Moonscape was done!


Here’s a close up of the side, giving a better look at the overturned regolith/ejecta layer, and the added bedrock.


(A simple line diagram of central peak craters is found here, in case the deliciousness of mine is distracting.)

When a meteorite impacts the moon, the ground is rapidly compressed downwards, away from the incoming meteorite. After the  meteorite impacts, this pressure is released, allowing the material to rapidly – and explosively – decompress, creating the crater.

When the crater floor decompresses, the bedrock under the crater rises up to create a central peak – if the crater is larger than about 50 km. (Craters larger than a couple hundred km in diameter are called impact basins, and develop both a central peak and 1+ upraised rings inside the basic. Craters smaller than 50 km are called simple craters, and lack the central peak entirely.)

When the compressed regolith rapidly expands, it blows the surrounding regolith away from the crater, creating a ring of over-turned stratigraphy. Because of this phenomenon, the older and deeper material gets thrown farthest from the center of the crater. This is visible in the layer of brownie bedrock atop the ejected coconut.

Frequently, the bedrock in the crater floor is fractured, and magma seeps through to the surface, creating a puddle of magma-cemented breccia, sometimes referred to as “melt” – or, in this case, the melted chocolate. Additionally, the walls of medium and large craters frequently suffer from landslides, due to their tall, steep walls.


Now, there are two scientific inaccuracies in this edible diagram: 1) there should be a larger cloud of finer ejecta, and 2) for the bedrock to be so exposed, the crater should be larger in diameter.

But, space constraints aside, it was a fairly accurate model, and tasty to boot!

(My main references for this were my notes from a planetary geology class I took a couple summers ago. Since those aren't online, I've merely linked to some informative wikipedia pages. Say what you will about wikipedia's accuracy, it's still a good starting point!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Montana, Chert, and the 1960s.

Two years ago, this rock really caught my eye while I was caving in the Madison Group of Montana.
First of all, there’s a nifty calcite or gypsum encrusted pocket, which looks much like a sparkly pothole…
(My assumption is that this formed as water seeped through the limestone into a small hole, and then crystallized on the hole’s walls.)
Then there’s the missing chunk, which gives a nice look at a crazy banded chert nodule.
If that chert nodule embodies John Lennon’s “Magical Mystery Tour” era, this nearby chert nodule is more Jackie Kennedy:
Way to keep it classy, chert.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Two Whirlwind Weeks

Two weeks ago, I decided to move to Boise. I was accepted into Boise State University in early December, but financial matters kept waffling the decision until immediately before the New Year.


Since that decision, life has gotten pretty wild. There was a pretty epic cousins sleepover, consisting of myself and four teenagers all sleeping in my parent’s living room. (This basically prompted a regression into the depths of childhood.) There were two New Year’s parties, one of which may have involved bottom shelf booze. There was an excessive amount of detail-hammering-out in mundane preparation for the move.

Then there was the move itself, which was honestly the most painful road-trip I’ve ever been on. It began with yowling cats, and ended with driving snow. It was the longest 500 miles I’ve ever driven.

Now I’m settling into my new place in Boise, trying to get a driver’s license, looking for a job, and registering for classes! I got an introductory geophysics class, and an anthropology class, and am very excited to begin classes next week!


Immediately before the move, I helped my sister shoot a video promoting the John Hopkins 4K for Cancer. This summer, she’s going to be riding her bicycle from Baltimore to Seattle, raising money for cancer research and volunteering with cancer patients along the way. She’s a molecular and cellular biology undergraduate student at John Hopkins, and an avid cyclist. She just started a blog chronicling her training, and eventually her ride, at

It’s been some time since I did film editing, so it’s taking longer than expected. But as soon as it’s done, I’ll post it here!

After all, how can you say no to claymation cellular replication?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Travel Meme: The PNW Edition

This travel meme seems to be a geoblogosphere favorite! This year, Silver Fox started it, and has a list of this year’s participants. I’m a little late, but better late than never, eh? In 2010, I visited a mere 4 states – but lived in 3 of them!


In January, I hiked up Mt. Si with my family and some of my mum’s caver friends. It was a little chilly at the top, but what a view! Also, my family took a day trip to the Portland Art Museum (and Voodoo Doughnuts!) At the time, I lived in Olympia, Wa. (The state capital, 2.5 hours from Seattle, and the hipster-little-sister-city to Portland, much to the chagrin of Olympians everywhere.)


In February, I went to visit Oregon Caves National Monument with the Cascade Grotto for a conservation weekend. I picked some lint, but my father and another power-tool devotee removed a large piece of metal from the cave, dangling on rope, wielding reciprocating saws.

P1190951In  March, my friend Sarah visited, and we went on a lovely lake hike with her mum near Brown Creek.


Also in March, I visited Discovery Park in Seattle with my school’s geology club. We looked at the glacial deposits there, including the Lawton Clay, Esperance Sand, and the Fraser till. Underneath all the glacial deposits lie the pre-glacial, river-deposited, and highly photogenic Olympia Beds.


In April, I visited Elliot Bay Book Company in their Pioneer Square location, the day before they moved to a new location in Capital Hill. There was a reason – high rent or some hogwash – for the move, but I think the new location is fugly compared to the creaky wood floors and dark, brick-lined basement café. Pfft.


In May, I visited the Columbia River Flood Basalts twice: once on a geology club field trip, where we visited Dry Falls, Grand Coulee dam, and went on a geology hike…


… and once on a Northwest Geological Society field trip, focusing on structural geology. I haven’t studied much structural geology yet, so this basically blew my mind, especially this scenic anticline. Overall, it was a pretty basalt-tastic month.


In June, I had a fun-filled four-finals week, and then packed up my apartment and moved to South Idaho. On the way, I swung by the John Day Fossil Beds in Oregon.


In July, I was busy travelling around Idaho, doing an internship at Craters of the Moon.


In August, I went to north Idaho for a trip through Papoose Cave. We rappelled down a 22’ waterfall, but, unfortunately, the 40’ waterfall had too much water to rappel through. We got to see some great limestone during the short trip, but no formations.


After that, my sister and I took a trip to Yellowstone, where we saw hot springs, microbial mats, and a bunch of animals.


In September, I went to the Northwest Caving Association Regional in Bend, Oregon, and saw even more lava caves (and some long tree roots!) Then I finished up my internship and moved back to my parent’s house in the Seattle/Tacoma suburbs.


In October, I went on the annual bike riding / wine tasting trip in Eastern Washington with my parents and their friends. (I always hope for some hilarious middle-aged drunken hijinks, but they’re all too wise for that nonsense.) Also, my brother graduated from Universal Technical Institute in Phoenix, and we went to see him and his wife. During the plane ride, I got a great aerial view of some nearby volcanoes.

2010-11-04 AreaD RightOfPromintory7

The day after returning from Phoenix, I moved my possessions into my parent’s van, and drove down to Oregon Caves to work on a restoration project.


In November, we visited Crater Lake. We went home to Washington for Thanksgiving, and then returned to the caves for more work.


In December, we travelled back to Washington. Before that massive snows and a power outage made life a little adventurous, but we got to have an active lesson in static and kinetic friction, and how the coefficient of friction of ice is different than that of pavement. Sometimes this was bad…


… but sometimes it was pretty useful.


On our way back, we visited some of the historic covered bridges in Cottage Grove, Oregon.


Before the New Year, we visited Seattle three times. (My mother likens these shipping cranes to Brachiosauruses.) We did a toursity gig – the ballet, Pike Place Market, the waterfront… It was really nice to visit the city a couple times before I move to Boise next week.

Here’s hoping 2011 has some more travel adventures, and that everyone had a happy New Years!