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Rosetta Stones

Rosetta Stones

Adventures in the good science of rock-breaking.
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    Dana Hunter Dana Hunter is a science blogger, SF writer, and geology addict whose home away from SciAm is En Tequila Es Verdad. Follow her on Twitter: @dhunterauthor. Follow on Twitter @dhunterauthor.
  • Oso Mudslide: Links to the Geology Behind the Tragedy

    Aerial photo showing the extent of the slide. Courtesy Gov. Jay Inslee via Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

    On Saturday, the Seattle region experienced one of the worst landslide disasters in its history. A lot of the hills around here are unconsolidated glacial deposits, and they’re ready to fall at the slightest provocation. Heavy rains and a river determinedly eroding the toe of a previous slide, possibly combined with some unwise land use [...]

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    The Seduction of Subduction

    Olympic Mountains

    This: This is why I love the word subduction.  Every time I’m reading about the geology of a region, when I come across that word, I get a tingle down ye olde spine.  Because I know we’re in for it.  I know the landscape’s going to be exciting.  I know we’re in for volcanoes and [...]

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    A Travesty of an Education

    Illustrations from A Beka Book's Science of the Physical Creation in Christian Perspective, BJU's Earth Science 4th Edition, and ACE Science PACE 1096. The misinformation presented to students in these books is breathtaking.

    Would you be upset if I told you millions of kids are being taught that the earth is less than 10,000 years old? This is happening in Christian schools and homeschools* throughout America and the UK. Textbooks used in these schools are written from a biblical literalist viewpoint. To them, Genesis is a scientific treatise. [...]

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    The Outstanding Imagery of Amanda Reese

    Firehole Lake Drive, Yellowstone National Park, WY, June 2013. Photo copyright Amanda Reese, used with permission. All rights reserved.

    You want some Yellowstone? You got some Yellowstone! Amanda Reese is one of my most talented friends, and she’s just got her photography website up. After I did a lot of squeeing and awing and OMGing, she graciously agreed to let me filch a few of her images to show you. Because supervolcano. Love it! [...]

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    The Cataclysm: “Stripped from the Proximal Forest”

    Scorched needles beneath layer A3 plastered on tree, about 20 km from Mount St. Helens. Needles beneath layer A3 are just as scorched as those not covered. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 268, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250.

    A rather extensive forest became part of a directed blast deposit: that’s the summary. One moment, you’re a green and pleasant home for much of the local wildlife; the next, you’ve been rudely ripped apart and incorporated within a bunch of rock and ash by a volcano having a bad turn. So it goes. When [...]

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    The Geologic Challenges of the Alpine Areas at the Sochi Olympics

    One of the ski jumps. Photo by Atos International via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    We’ve seen how a wetland was turned in to Sochi’s Olympic Village. Let’s take that short trip to the Krasnaya Polyana mountain area and see what geologic challenges the engineers faced bringing us the facilities necessary for the alpine and Nordic events. Put it like this: it weren’t easy. The site for the alpine events [...]

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    Happy 205th, Charles Darwin!

    Image is a posterized version of an elderly Charles Darwin, meant to spoof the Obama Change poster. Caption says, "Very Gradual Change We Can Believe In"

    ‘Tis Darwin Day, the day Charles Darwin was born in 1809, fifty years before he would publish the book that launched evolution as science. Everybody goes on and on about finches this and barnacles that, but we geologists get to claim him as one of our own, too! Darwin was a geologist, first and last. [...]

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    When Seahawks Fans Cause Seismic Events

    Malcom Smith hoists his MVP trophy. Congratulations, Malcolm! Screenshot from same video as above.

    After the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, I got curious: did all those fervent fans I’ve been seeing painting the town blue and green for the last several weeks cause another BeastQuake? From a brief browse of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, it would appear sadly, no. There weren’t enough fans packed tightly enough in [...]

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    Building Sochi’s Olympic Village: An Olympian Task in a Geologically Risky Area

    A beautiful image of Sochi with a pink sky and red-roofed white buildings, one of the charming ponds, and the mountains in the distance. Not bad! Image by Stefan Krasowski, Flickr, under a CC BY 2.0 license.

    This blog appears in the In-Depth Report Science at the Sochi Olympics So, Sochi! The Olympics are about to start, you’re going to see all sorts of shiny new buildings and ski slopes, and you’ll be so excited by the events you may not pause to consider how they got there. You may have spent [...]

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    The Cataclysm: “Fully Down and Buried”

    Proximal downed tree, at Obscurity Lake 15 km north of Mount St. Helens, projecting to left beneath coarse layer A1, in turn overlain by layers A2 and A3 at right. Tree is darkened where tree was debarked and scorched where not protected by overlying layer A1. Photo by R.B. Waitt, Jr. Skamania County, Washington. 1980. Figure 266, U.S. Geological Survey Professional paper 1250. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

    Geologists did a lot of talking to trees in the aftermath of Mount St. Helens’s eruption. They had a lot of questions, and the trees had a lot of answers*. Few talked to the trees as extensively as Richard Waitt. He was investigating the blast deposits, and found the trees to be quite helpful. His [...]

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