Every week (or so) I post a quick Q&A with one of our bloggers on the network, so you can get to know them better. This week, I chat with Dana Hunter from Rosetta Stones.
Hello! Let’s start with first things first. What is the name of your blog and why did you choose that name – what does it mean?
After long and careful consideration (about an hour), and having a few people vote on the possibilities, I chose Rosetta Stones. I wanted a name that evoked the idea that rocks have "languages" of their own, which we've learned how to translate. We found the Rosetta Stone, which unlocked ancient languages: rocks in the field do the same thing for geologists, allowing us to read the stories contained in them. Reading the rocks has taught us amazing things about how Earth and our solar system began, evolved, and act.
Where does the artwork for your banner come from, and what are you trying to convey with it?
I raided the house for interesting hand samples and stuck them on a tile of brown marble from Home Depot. I haven't got good lighting in this apartment, so I ended up photographing them on the bathroom counter. There's all sorts of wonderful stuff in there (the banner, not the bathroom): garnet mica schist and orthogneiss from the Cascades near Ross Lake, Washington; blueschist from Bandon, Oregon; turbidites with plant fragments from Oregon; pink rhyolite with garnets from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest; a bit of phyllite with a wonderful quartz vug from the Olympic Mountains, Washington; an opalised fossil clam from Australia; a bit of the Barringer Meteorite from Barringer Meteor Crater, Arizona; beach pebbles from Rosario Head, Washington; conichalcite from Sonora, Mexico; astrophyllite from Russia, and linarite from Arizona. Each one of those stones has got a story, which I'll tell as we go along. And they're shiny. I wanted my banner to reflect the fact that geology is diverse, interesting, and quite often gorgeous.
Hopefully I succeeded, despite having to shoot it in the bathroom.
Tell us more about yourself – where are you from, how did you get into science?
I was born in Indiana, moved to Arizona as a small child, and lived there for thirty years. Then I surrendered to the siren song of Seattle. I loved things like geology and astronomy as a kid - thought I'd even be an astronomer at one point, but it turned out I'm an SF writer. And I liked SF because I started on the fantasy side and thought that meant I didn't have to do all the hard science stuff. I never completely lost my love for science, but high school nearly beat it out of me. I hated biology for years because of it.
Fantasy brought me to science, strangely enough. I didn't just want everything to be magical - boring and far too easy. So I started reading cosmology, astronomy, and physics. Worldbuilding forced me to take a closer look at how our world works. And then I had to face facts: if I'm going to have aliens, I must know how they evolved, no matter how much I despised squishy stuff like biology. So I went spelunking on the intertoobz and came across PZ Myers, who introduced me to the whole evolution vs. creationism debate, which got me hooked on hard science and even made me adore biology.
How did you get into science blogging and science writing? What were the early influences on you regarding your blogging style and topics?
PZ turned me into a science writer. He gave a talk in Seattle in June of 2008 that turned me from a political blogger into a sometime-science blogger. Science turned out to be much like potato chips: I started wanting more and more. And the science I'm best at and have all round me is geology. Then the geobloggers found me, fostered me, and here I am today, writing Rosetta Stones! Not precisely what I anticipated when I started this journey, but the unplanned detours are quite often the best.
We could be here all day talking about my influences, there are so many. But the critical ones, aside from PZ, were Anne Jefferson and Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous, which was the first geoblog I encountered, and Ellen Morris Bishop. Here were these folks writing up geology with a wonderful mix of enthusiasm, conversational English, and intriguing jargon clearly explained, complete with incredible photos. That's what I decided I must do. Science and scenery, passion, prose and poetry, all in one. Gorgeous!
What is your blog about? Who is your target audience, and why do you think people should read your blog?
Rosetta Stones is about the good science of rock-breaking. Geology gets shuffled off to the side in the sciences: people are all about biology and physics and astronomy, and sometimes seem to forget such a thing as geology exists. Earthquakes and volcanoes get some press, yeah, but it's so much bigger than that. Charles Darwin started as a geologist and remained one to his dying day. The advances we've made since his time are every bit as exciting as the leaps in our understanding of other sciences. Geology impacts everything. It's vitally important to understand that where we live, the metals and crystals in our gadgets, even the diversity of life on Earth, all owe something to geology. And when we head for the stars, we'll be doing geology on other worlds. We've already sent a geologist to the Moon. We'll send one to Mars, and beyond. Geology is necessary, but it's also beautiful.
And it's a science that's very friendly to ordinary people. You don't have to be an expert with a PhD to understand it. Regular folks can speak the lingo. Rosetta Stones is there to entertain both geologists and layfolk who didn't have any idea they could ever like geology.
Understanding how the world works changes your entire perspective. It becomes something far more than a place we happen to live on that has got some nice scenery. With geology, you can hold millions, even billions, of years in the palm of your hand. You can make better decisions about where and how to live. And you can sit down with a little rock in a garden and hear a fantastic story. Reason enough to read a blog about it, wouldn't you say?
Previously in this series: