Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ten Things I Love About Studying Geology

There’s a wee bit of a geomeme going on about what one likes most about one’s geologic field of interest. It started with Erik Klemetti’s post on “10 Thing I Love About Volcanoes,” and was quickly followed up by Siim Sepp’s post on “The Top Ten Reasons I Love Sand,” Callan Bentley’s post on The Tope 10 Reasons I Love Structure,” Silver Fox’s post on “Top 10 Reasons I Love Detachment Faults,” Hollis’ post on “Top 10 Reasons I Love Wyoming Geology,” and then Garry Hayes's post on “10 Reasons I Love Teaching Geology At Community College.”
Since I’m a geo-baby, I thought I’d talk about what I love about being a geoscience student!
I originally studied classical literature, philosophy, math, and science at a liberal arts college. While that experience has deeply shaped me, the most important thing it taught me was what I really want to study – the world! Geology is the best way to study the world that I’ve found, so I happily switched majors!
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Woo, rocks! My excitement face shortly after switching majors.
I’m just getting into upper-division coursework, and I decided to take a geophysics major, so I have quite a challenge ahead of me! But I’m excited to have the opportunity to study so many cool things, for the following reasons:
1. Real facts.
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The movement of Mars, over 16 years, according to the folks before Kepler.
The Earth revolves around the Sun.
Atoms exist.
The “heavenly spheres” are the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, and the thermosphere. Sometimes the magnetosphere and the galaxy come up. None of them play music, or have anything to do with the divine.
Promise.
2. Whiteboards > Chalkboards
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Chalk dust gets everywhere: in your nose, in your hair, on your pants. It may look hip and old-school, but it’s kind of a pain.
Whiteboards, on the other hand, only leave black smidges on your fingers.
3. Arts & Crafts Time.
Recently, I was talking to a computer science student about how much I like graphics. His response? “But I thought you were into, like, geology.”
But the geosciences are filled with pretty pictures! There are nifty geologic maps and psychedelic polarized thin sections. There are colorful charts and graphic graphs. And, of course, the “reference photos.”
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Look at that rhyolite! Sunset for scale.
4. Interesting lectures.
I love listening to people explain things I know nothing about! It’s a great way to explore the field, learn more about the world, and make connections to things I’m studying. I’m most comfortable when I’m a little bit confused.
5. Fancy equipment.
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Or not so fancy equipment.
I can’t even properly pronounce magnetometer, but I’ve used one (briefly.) Seismometers are currently blowing my mind, and I’m really excited for the vibrating trucks while studying active seismology. I also love using fancy technology like remote sensing satellite data and excessive computing power. The toys are awesome.
6. Fieldwork.
Homework for a liberal arts major:
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Homework for a geoscience major:
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One of these will result in a Vitamin D deficiency.
The other will result in a cold beer.
Tough call, right?
7. The people are nice.
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Pretentious, me? Never.
Being pretentious is a prerequisite for a philosophy scholar. Sometimes, they’re lovely, fascinating people. Frequently, they’re mean as snakes, twice as funny looking, and think they’re the coolest thing to wear tight pants.
Geologists are good-natured, helpful, and handy in a pinch. Also, they’re generally gorgeous – the men are handsome and handy, the women are beautiful and highly competent. I think it’s all that Vitamin D.
Plus, it’s just tough to be pretentious while “examining the sagebrush.”
8. The scope.
From isotopic changes in the range of parts per billion, to the rise of immense mountain chains hundreds of kilometers long; from the earliest creation of the planet, to the future movements of continents; from the relatively slow movement of water through a watershed, to dramatic pyroclastic deposition over the course of a few minutes; from the glacial moraine in my parent’s backyard, to Arizona-sized volcanoes on Mars – geology encompasses all of these.
How is that not awesome, in the truest sense of the word?
9. Real-life applications.
I LOVE the thought that, someday, I’ll be qualified to search for oil, reconstruct the tectonic history of the planet, understand hydrological changes in caves, analyze earthquakes to see the structure of the planet, make discoveries about cryovolcanism on Enceladus, or help predict volcanic eruptions.
Or even just be able to pick up a rock from the river, and know what it is, and where it’s been. That’ll be pretty cool too! 
10. The fine line between “work” and “vacation.”
Work:
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Exploring a’a lava at Craters of the Moon.
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Doing cave monitoring for the BLM at Craters of the Moon.
Vacation:
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Learning about multi-colored lava underground near Mt. St. Helens.
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Examining glacial geology and learning about Idaho geology at Redfish Lake.
Bonus!
11. New things to learn. Everyday.
Today, I learned how to analyze stress and fracturing in rocks using a wacky thing called a “Mohr’s Circle Diagram.” Then I learned about constructing three-dimensional objects just using calculus. Then I learned how to make Java applets. Then I learned how to find different rock types via satellite. Then I came home and read about ocean islands and mantle plumes.
In one day. Who knows what crazy business we’re going to learn tomorrow?
I’m sure it’s going to be incredible.

2 comments:

Gaelyn said...

This is a Wonderful post! Your excitement comes through the screen. Going to school and learning should be a provocative experience. I kind of miss that. You're getting a well rounded education.

Never saw the multicolored lava by MSH.

AerialGeologist said...

Great post! I remember when Mohr's Circle blew my mind in structure class, and then again in an engineering geology class (it's used by engineers, too!)

I like the correlation between pretentiousity(?) and vitamin D. I smell a journal article in the makings.