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Monday, June 23, 2014

Cool Antipodes Tool and Earthquakes in Alaska and New Zealand

     Today two high Moment Magnitude Scale* earthquakes in Alaska (8.0)

              and New Zealand (7.0)

sent me looking for a tool to see if the two quakes were antipodal (on the other side of the earth) to/from each other. This site is quite fun and useful:

                ANTIPODAL TOOL

     What would you guess is antipodal to each location? Have a look. I was a bit surprised.

       The New Zealand quake is described in this USGS link :


         And the Alaskan earthquake here:


        Both areas are tectonically quite active. I currently have a friend in both locations so have been paying particular attention to the tsunami warnings in the Aleutian Islands.

         Discussion of antipodal earthquakes is mostly anecdotal but this scientific paper looks at antipodal earthquakes as a way of determining that the earth's core is anisotropic:


          *Here's a link to our earlier Richter Scale vs Moment Magnitude Scale discussion (if you need a review):

            Moment Magnitude Scale vs. Richter Scale

           And a bonus photograph of spectacular orthorhombic cornetite crystals: (take a close look at the color and crystal shape of this secondary copper mineral):

            Any thoughts on Antipodal Earthquakes? Cornetite? 

Whole lotta quaking' going on,

(Word Woman)

Antipodal Map (in case the tool isn't working):

Beach time at Medano Creek in The Great Sand Dunes, CO. And reading is fundamental...



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The "Proof" is in the Puddingstone: Theories are Malleable, but not Infinitely So

     This post is dedicated to my Smith geologist friend, Dot, on her birthday. We surely enjoyed many a puddingstone outcrop in New England! Here is a thin section of the Roxbury Conglomerate, informally known as the Roxbury puddingstone: 

Last fall's puddingstone post remains the most popular at PEOTS so a tangential revisit to these conglomerates is in order:

     The article linked below discusses proof (but not necessarily in the puddingstone) and theory as being two of the most misunderstood and misused words regarding science:


      It's a good list. Ten items is a reasonable number to absorb--like the 10 items at the fast line at the grocery store or David Letterman's top 10 list. It's a catchy way to get the general public thinking about scientific vocabulary. It's not perfect but it'll do.

      I'd like to focus on the first two words, proof and theory, but the other eight words/phrases are worth a look also.

      The phrase "Theories are malleable, but not infinitely so" resonated with me. We know plate tectonics is essentially the way features on the earth's surface are formed, but it is the constant refining and sculpting with more and more data that makes the theory malleable and testable (since Alfred Wegner proposed it in 1939). The defining characteristic of all scientific knowledge, including theories, is the ability to make falsifiable or testable predictions (as we've discussed earlier).

       "The fact that science never really proves anything, but simply creates more and more reliable and comprehensive theories of the world that nevertheless are always subject to update and improvement, is one of the key aspects of why science is so successful." We don't really "prove" things. We refine, bolster, add to a mountain of evidence. . .but scientific proof is different from that "proof is in the pudding(stone)." We can't taste the fruits of our research and get the "proof" as we can in cooking.

     The hot, steamy cooking of the earth like this Fly Geyser in Nevada, remains part of the theory of plate tectonics. We just can't consume it or prove it:

     Do any of the top ten words resonate with you?

Here's to another great trip around the sun,

Steph (Word Woman)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Squaring the Circle: Earth and Moon are 60 million years older than we thought, Dante and Math

     The big buzz (Aldrin) of the day yesterday:


     Sixty million years, give or take 20 million years is a really big deal. The push to ever older ages for rocks on the earth by these French researchers is quite a statement.

     The discovery of older inclusions of xenon gas in Australian and South African rocks points to a much older earth and moon. 60,000,000 years is a huge deal, even to geologists. Many more years for processes to happen. . .

     And this article about Dante and mathematics is worth a look. The question of "squaring the circle" is at the center of Jones' work:


     The tie in? Besides the great rota of life?

     The look at Dante's poetry from a mathematical perspective points to a time when math/science and poetry/the arts were more intricately linked. My question? How and why did they get so separated? Is it merely the increase of the amount of  information so we "can't" keep both parts intricately linked?

     Looking forward to a Wednesday meeting here.  As always, I appreciate your wisdom and insight...about science, words, squaring the circle, and any and all tie-ins.

Mid-weekly, tri-angling squaring the circle,

(aka Word Woman)


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Leaping Lizards: Saltation vs. Saltation: Jumping Grains vs. "Hopeful Monsters"

     A Smith friend (thanks, Dot!) sent this link to a University of California at Berkeley page which draws a timeline of evolutionary thought in a clear, spatial manner:

     For live links, see the page below:


     The graphic is particularly intriguing because it includes both biologists and geologists.

     The scientists are essentially grouped as non-Darwinians, Darwinians, and neo-Darwinians. And who doesn't enjoy a good Galapagos tortoise photograph:

      The branch which caught my attention was the "Hopeful Monsters" tied to Richard Goldschmidt. (Of course, this branch is still under construction at the Berkeley site)...But, the connection between "Hopeful Monsters" or saltation in evolutionary biology to saltation in geology was too enticing to pass up. Saltation is the jumping over quickly from one creature a la macromutations (in biology) or one grain (in geology) to another. Fast evolution, fast geologic change vs slow evolution, slow gradual geologic change.

     In general, both evolutionary biology and geology tend to change slowly over many generations or years. But there are times, as in the Scablands of Eastern Washington, where floods have occurred over a short time period (55 years at a time over a total of 2000 years) creating a landscape that changed relatively quickly:

      As to "Hopeful Monsters," relatively rapid changes due to macromutations were proposed by Goldschmidt in 1940. Many neo-Darwinians dismissed his ideas, however.
      On the subject of Goldschmidt, Donald Prothero in his book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters (2007) wrote:

"The past twenty years have vindicated Goldschmidt to some degree. With the discovery of the importance of regulatory genes, we realize that he was ahead of his time in focusing on the importance of a few genes controlling big changes in the organisms, not small-scales changes in the entire genome as neo-Darwinians thought. In addition, the hopeful monster problem is not so insurmountable after all. Embryology has shown that if you affect an entire population of developing embryos with a stress (such as a heat shock) it can cause many embryos to go through the same new pathway of embryonic development, and then they all become hopeful monsters when they reach reproductive age."

       A paper by Page et al in 2010, showed that the Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) could be classified as a hopeful monster as it exhibits an adaptive and derived mode of development that has evolved rapidly and independently among tiger salamanders. 

     In both biology and geology, periods of rapid change make sense.

      (It is unfortunate that some creationists have taken the "Hopeful Monsters" theory as meaning there are no transitional fossils and that "punctuated equilibrium" translates to no evolution. Punctuated Equilibrium is not the same thing as "Hopeful Monsters.")

     Leaping lizards! That's a pretty hopeful looking monster.

With all good things saltational and not, I look forward to your thoughts,

(aka Word Woman)