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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Puddingstones: Plum Wonderful!

Puddingstones: Plum Wonderful Stones filled with "Berries & Currants" of Jasper & other Pebbles

 




     For some reason, all sorts of stones have been on my mind the past few weeks, including the wonderful Michigan puddingstones pictured above. Their name comes from the resemblance to English suet or pudding filled with berries and currants, and, well, they do look good enough to eat!

      Puddingstone, or  plum-pudding stone, is the name given to conglomerates (of different origins, compositions, and locations) that consists of distinctly rounded pebbles whose colors (in this case, Jasper chalcedony red) contrast greatly with the color of the finer-grained matrix (or cement) surrounding the pebbles. The Michigan puddingstones pictured above are likely associated with glacial activity of fairly recent origin.

     In contrast, I cut my geologic teeth in the Northampton and Boston, Massachusetts, area where we drove miles and miles from little scraps of outcrops to other little scraps of outcrops to look at the Roxsbury Conglomerate of the Boston Basin:



     Originally thought to be associated with shallow river and lake basins, the prevailing hypothesis is that these puddingstones or conglomerates are associated with very deep marine basins in a suite of rocks known as turbidites, associated with deep-sea submarine fans. They are also much, much older (and they look it!), dating from 570 to 595 million years ago.

      There are other puddingstones, such as the Hertfordshire Conglomerate in merry old England :




     And the Jelly Bean Conglomerate of Arizona and the western United States:




      I had the good fortune of attending geologic field camp in Arizona where we could see the Jelly Bean comglomerate stretching out for long distances (no driving needed, it was strictly a walk in the geologic park).

      Naming stones or rock formations based on their similarities to foods we eat is decidedly more fun than the geologic convention of naming formations based on the locale where they were first discovered. It is a sense of whimsy I shared with Robert W. Hickman, my first geologist boss, amazing teacher, and good friend. I am also writing Bob's eulogy today. Bob would have enjoyed this:

   



        
     Thanks for all you comments and suggestions. I look forward to a bit of puddingstone discussion with you. If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding (Pink Floyd), but you may surely have some puddingstones.

Dessertedly,

Word Woman (aka Scientific Steph)
     



20 comments:

  1. If a Mondegren is a mis-heard song lyric, what's the term for a misheard cliche? I think anyone who says, "The proof is in the pudding" should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.

    Is the (J. Alfred) Prufrock in the puddingstone?

    Etherized upon a table, yours truly,

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    1. Is that the ether talking, Jan? (Hope all is ok)

      I always rather liked making pudding as it is watery, watery, watery and then, poof!, it's all thick and pudding-y.

      And, yes, the Prufrock is in the puddingstone (I like it!)

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  2. Just waxing lyrical. I could lose my poetic license that way.

    Anyway, I could swear I've run across the term "puddingstone" once or twice in the past year. Maybe in an Cox/Rathvon acrostic? Or in a guidebook while hiking in Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe?

    Don't know why this made me think of an "aha!" moment I had while in PA school. In microbiology class, the professor mentioned siderophores, which are iron-chelating substances that some bacteria produce. ("Chelating" is a great word in its own right, bringing to mind crabs claws grabbing metal atoms.) I was unfamiliar with the "sider" root in connection with iron; I was only familiar with its use referring to stars, as in a sidereal (as opposed to solar) day or year. Turns out that iron, the most abundant element on earth, is never found naturally in metallic form on the surface, because it's too reactive. The exception is in iron meteorites ("falling stars"); hence, iron was termed "star metal".

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    1. Oh, good. And, indeed!

      I would not be surprised if there is a puddingstone in the Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe. It's kind of a catch all term though and really doesn't say a lot about origin, deposition, etc. Just very descriptive. I think it's a great word.

      Enjoyed your iron thinking, also. Word origins are lots of fun. Iron is particularly fun as the Greek and Latin languages treat it so differently.

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  3. Your "Do Not Trust Atoms" sign reminds me of a favorite T-shirt/bumper sticker, Steph: "Never Marry a Tennis Player -- Love Means Nothing To Them"

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    1. Love it (not much of a tennis player so that is meaningful ;)).

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  4. Happy National Indian Pudding Day! Made with flint corn, no less. That makes flint a puddingstone, right?

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/13/244983031/its-national-indian-pudding-day-heres-why-you-should-celebrate

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    1. Happy National Indian Pudding Day to you, Jan! I knew there was a reason to go with puddingstone this week...And, of course, one of the main reasons I like geology so much is all the puns. Yes, I think it does make flint a puddingstone today.

      I have my grandmother's Indian Pudding recipe and make it once every fall, served with vanilla ice cream. It's soooo good. Maybe that's why puddingstone came to mind. My grandfather used to say (very non PC) that the raisins in it were the Indians.

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    2. Nonsense: the raisins in the expanding pudding are galaxies! Isn't that how the Hubble expansion of the universe is always explained? (And isn't it nice how "galaxy" shares a root with "lactose", "lactation", etc, in etymological tribute to our own Milky Way?)

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    3. Great to see you are not taking a lax attitude toward all of this, Jan! And not pudding us on . . .

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    1. Wow, Paul, it does resemble Claxton fruitcake (only lighter & no icky red and green maraschino cherries).



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  6. While you're eulogizing Bob Hickman, Stephanie, I'd like to give a shout out to my 7th-Grade Earth Science teacher, the late Frank Monte. Thanks to him, my first fill in today's NY Times crossword was KARSTS ("Rough limestone regions with sinkholes and caverns"). Whenever I point out some geological feature we're driving or hiking past, my wife always asks, "Mr. Monte?" What he taught, nearly 50 years ago, seems to have stuck.

    Shifting topics: As a literate geologist, do you admire John McPhee's writing as much as I do? If I were marooned on a desert island with every word he ever wrote (well, maybe not when he's going on about shad), I would be just fine without rescue for a long time. He may be the only thing that makes me OK about being an New Jerseyan.

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    1. Yea! for the Mr. Montes and Mr. DeShaises of the world! Tom DeShais had us doing college level geologic work in middle school. We loved it...His respect for our intellect is something I strive to model with the kindergartners.

      Yes, I am a John McPhee fan. "Basin and Range" remains one of my favorites.I even liked the shad one as I grew up in Windsor, CT, home of the Shad Derby and Shad Queen.

      It seems as though Mr. McPhee's teaching at Princeton is as spot on as his writing. It's a great combination. Hope you will journey over to visit him soon!

      So glad your passion for geology remains alive, Jan!

      Just submitted Bob's eulogy to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, complete with a wonderful photo of him in a jasper bolo tie (polished, just like Bob).

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    2. Princeton is a shleppy hour-long drive from me. I learned from his recent New Yorker piece (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/07/01/130701fa_fact_mcphee) that we share the old-guy-on-a-bike thing, tho he's considerably older. I found his obsession with collecting golf balls amusing because I also stop to pick up golf balls that I see while biking. I don't collect them, though; I just toss them onto the green as I ride by, hopefully giving some poor duffer's ego a boost when he finds his ball there.

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  7. I can imagine you and John riding bikes together stopping only to throw and pick up golf ball. And having discussions about the meteorites found in NJ coastal plains. And deciding to look for glauconite around Freehold. ;-)

    Have you seen the "Roadside Geology" series? The Chronics' guides to western states are quite good, if a bit uneven in places. David Harper published "Roadside Geology of NJ" in April. Maybe your copy is already dog-eared.

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    1. I don't have a copy.... I'm actually not that into geology, I guess. But the preview on Amazon.com looks interesting. And "puddingstone" does appear in the index, so I guess I'll have to take a look.

      McPhee is very into how much geologic diversity exists in NJ. But I more appreciate that it is, in his words, "A Textbook Place for Bears" (Table of Contents, 1986). (No sightings for me since July, alas.)

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    2. A tiny state with four geologic provinces: how lucky you are!

      As to the bears, I am imagining a few of the lumbering creatures reading "Earth," and that makes me smile.

      If you see one reading, please take a photo to share.

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  8. Lost another geologist this year: Halka Chronic: http://m.azstarnet.com/lifestyles/announcements/obituaries/halka-chronic-february---april/article_820d9ec5-ddb3-5ea5-aee9-67b4a2b759fc.html?mobile_touch=true

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  9. Shout out to Dot, Ann, Bob, Sarah and many other puddingstone fans this Thanksgiving! Enjoy! Steph

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