Coring and cross-sections

Crafting cross-sections by hand is the most tedious thing I think I’ve experienced thus far in my geologic education. I’ve done a handful of cross-sections before in my geology program, but they were very basic. In my structure class, we’re now going full bore and I can confirm that it is not my favorite part of doing geology. On a tangential note, the absolute best way to take away the last bit of a student’s enthusiasm for something so tedious is to let them know that computers can do it with little fuss. I’m probably sounding really whiny, but a lot of structure lab so far seems like long, complex, boring assignments that result in a lot of busy work.

Now that Spring Break is over, our Global Cycles class switched professors and now our resident geochemist is taking over. That means doing a lot of work with stable isotopes and I think that’s going to be really cool. Tomorrow we’re going to spend the day out in the field drilling core for our lab and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never participated in coring, so it will be a good learning experience.

We’re going to be coring through some glacial deposits and in a bog, and since it’s going to be raining all day tomorrow, I’m sure that will be thrilling.

I didn’t sleep last night as I worked to finish my cross-sections that were due today, so I’m looking forward to sleeping right about… now.



On Tuesday, the latest game from thatgamecompany was released on the PlayStation Network. They’re known for making games that exist outside of the norm as far as video games go, and Journey fits that mold quite comfortably. There is no plot exposition, there is minimal explanation of how to play, you’re just dropped into a desert world with a mountain looming in the distance. Along your journey, you will meet other players randomly. You can choose to journey with them or go it alone. You can’t talk to them or communicate with them in any traditional ways; you can’t even see what their PSN id is. The only way to interact with them is to chirp at them with a button press.

It’s easily the most stunning game I’ve played in a very long time. I think that if you have a PS3 and the means to purchase games online, you should buy and play this game. While everyone else is playing Mass Effect 3 and whatever else that people are praising as being amazing or some sort of benchmark in gaming, you can be playing something that truly does something new and innovative with video games. Something that isn’t a toy. Something that is an experience.

Video games are more popular than ever, and it’s unfortunate that everyone is obsessed with military shooters and recycling the same ideas that have been around since the dawn of PC’s. If people were more comfortable with some variety in their video game diets, we might have more than one developer making games like this. Right now, I have to wait for the next thatgamecompany release, or pray for Team Ico to finish The Last Guardian before it is silently canned.

Buy Journey. You’ve had your Die Hard, you’ve had your Black Hawk Down, you’ve had your Lord of the Rings… Have something new.


Somehow, while I was looking up information on the mechanics of back-arc basin formation, I ended up on ChaCha. For the unaware…

ChaCha gives free, real-time answers to any question both online at and through mobile phones by either texting “ChaCha” (242-242) or using one of our mobile apps. Through our unique “ask-a-smart-friend” format, ChaCha has become the leading answers service with more than a billion questions answered to date all in a fun, conversational format perfect for those in need of fast, free answers while on-the-go.

I ended up in the Earth Science section because I was curious, and I was disappointed with what I found. ChaCha may offer quick answers, but not particularly great or accurate answers. So to kill some time…

Q: What did Wegner argue about glacial deposits based on what he observed?

Wegner, as we ALL know, was the main guy behind the theory of continental drift. He had a bunch of lines of evidence to support this theory, and one of them was his observations of glacial deposits.

What Wegner noticed, was that when you looked at the glacial deposits of the southern hemisphere continents, they matched up across continent borders. Similarly to the way that other geological phenomenon did such as fossils, coal beds, etc.

So, Wegner argued that the glacial deposits were once part of one glacial system when the continents were once joined.

Q: Why is the World not round?

I assume this question is asking why the Earth is actually an oblate spheroid as opposed to being perfectly wrong. ChaCha’s answer says why celestial objects are generally round, which doesn’t answer the question.

The Earth is generally depicted as being perfectly round when in actuality, it is not. It’s an oblate spheroid, meaning that it’s a sphere that looks like it’s being pinched at the poles so that the equator bulges out a little bit.

This occurs because of the rotation of the Earth. The rotation of an object results in something called centrifugal force. Centrifugal force is what you’re feeling when you take a turn at speed in a car and your body wants to move to the ‘outside’ of the turn.

In the Earth’s case, the rotation of the planet is causing it’s mass to move to the outside of it’s rotation resulting in the oblate shape of the Earth.

Q: How does sand turn to glass?

This is either a geology question or a Minecraft question. ChaCha answer neither, and fortunately Minecraft takes it’s cue from real life so both can kind of be answered at once. Sand, well, mature sand, is compositionally almost entirely composed of silica (SiO2) which is the chief component of glass.

You can read about artificial glass making somewhere else, but sand can turn into glass naturally by lightning strike. Glasses are created through a process called vitrification, and a lightning strike can cause this vitrification. When this happens it forms vein-like structures called fulgurite.

It might not look like what you think of when you think of glass, but there it is. Natural glass.

In Minecraft, you take sand, put it in the furnace, add coal and vitrify.

Break is sprung.

Today was my last day of classes for a week. Very pleased with that. I decided to pull the plug on physics and withdraw. 3 labs is way too much. I’ve spent much of the last 2 months completely exhausted physically and mentally, so I am looking forward to having more time to spend on my other classes and sleeping.

Here’s some pictures I’ve neglected to post.

Two new, really great records became available this week that I’d like to talk a bit about briefly.

Every Time I Die‘s new album, ‘Ex Lives‘, is the first I’d like to talk about. Every Time I Die has been one of my favorite bands for about as long as I’ve eschewed mainstream music and media. I fondly recall downloading their first full-length ‘Last Night In Town’ over Soulseek, via dial up circa 2002 and listening to it non-stop. They kind of rolled all into one, all the types of things that I enjoyed about early 2000’s metalcore, it was chaotic, they were clever, it was heavy… I loved it.

Unlike a lot of people, I’ve enjoyed all of their releases however. There seems to be two camps of ETID fans: those who like Last Night In Town and Hot Damn!, and those who like Gutter Phenomenon and everything after. I’ve loved it all, I don’t think the band can do any wrong.  Ex Lives finds a  middle ground between the two sounds and it’s really fantastic. It’s stupidly heavy at times and the lyrical content has gone to a place it hasn’t ever gone before. I really recommend checking out if you get a chance. Probably my favorite record of the year so far.

Next, I’d like to mention Rise and Fall‘s new album ‘Faith‘. I am a huge fan of Rise and Fall’s 2005 album ‘Into Oblivion’ and not as big a fan of their 2009 album ‘Our Circle is Vicious’. ‘Into Oblivion’ is fast, heavy and fierce, and ‘Our Circle…’ is much slower/experimental and not nearly as powerful in my opinion. I enjoy listening to it from time to time, but after ‘Into Oblivion’ I was expecting something different. ‘Faith‘, to me, sounds like the missing step between those two previous records. It’s more experimental than ‘Into Oblivion’, but retains it’s heaviness.  If you like dark, heavy tunes, check it out. It also contains some of my favorite artwork that Jacob Bannon has done in awhile, which is nice.

I’m going to sleep for 2000000 hours tonight, and play video games, and music and and and and….


I took this picture today while I was sitting in the physics building. I really love it. I sit there almost every time I come to the building and today was the first time I’ve ever looked up. It was the perfect opportunity to misuse panorama.

I haven’t posted much lately as I’ve been drowning in school stuff. I took my 2nd Structure exam today and I think I did very well on it. I wrote a pretty comprehensive study guide for the exam and every question on the exam was answered somewhere in it, so I think I got most of the points.

I also got my Volcanology exam that I took on Friday back today. Walking out of the exam I didn’t feel too great about it, but I did well enough apparently. I’ve still got my A in the class.

Tomorrow I’ve got a Global Cycles exam, and I need to finish up Structure and Physics labs tonight at some point. Then– I need to start studying for Friday’s Physics exam.

I’m really looking forward to Spring Break. I’m going to ride my bike as much as possible, dive into my term paper for Volcanology and relax.

Random thoughts on Volcanology

I am currently studying for a Volcanology exam I have in the morning. I’m going to muse about random things we’ve covered in an attempt to know them better.

Magma resevoirs

Magma reservoirs are continuous regions of magma , and serve as the magmatic source for volcanism. Resevoirs are made up of two key components: the magma chamber, and the magma mush. Typically magma reservoirs are described or depicted simply as a magma chamber, but within what people commonly view as the chamber, there is a zone called the mush.

The magma chamber is the zone where eruptable magma is stored, eruptable meaning a non-rigid supply of magma. Generally, if the composition of the magma contains less than 50% crystals, it is considered part of the magma chamber.

The magma mush zone exists where the magma is rigid with greater than 50% crystal content. In the image below, the magma mush is represented by where the crystals are settling.

Volume and size of magma reservoirs can be estimated by measuring the volume of eruptions in the form of lava and pyroclastic deposits. Both lava and pyroclastics were once magma within the chamber. Lava measurements are 1:1 when inferring volume of magma, converting a measurement of pyroclastic however, is more complicated.

Taking measurements of pyroclastic deposits and turning them into value of magma volume requires using the dense rock equation; (volume of pyroclastic deposit) x [(density of pyroclastics)/(density of magma)].

Indirect measurements of magma reservoirs can be made by studying seismic waves in a few ways. One way is  through the observation seismic wave attenuation. Attenuation meaning the weakening of a force, this basically means observing when seismic waves slow down as they pass through the earth. Waves will become attenuated when they pass through a magma reservoir because the magma is a liquid. Seismic waves travel faster through country rock than molten rock.

This also means that magma reservoirs can be detected by locating anomalies in seismic reflections, again because of the properties of solid vs. liquid.

The more interesting way to infer size of magma reservoirs is by analysis of earthquake foci (aka the hypocenter or the spot within the earth, at depth, below the epicenter). Earthquakes only occur where brittle deformation can take place, meaning no liquids. As volcanoes typically occur in seismically active places and can causes earthquakes themselves, you can use that information to map a magma reservoir.

The beginning of the class was focused a lot of magma compositions and tectonic settings while this part of the class has focused on eruption types. So the above may seem a little out of place but it fits.

Here’s some eruption classification junk:

Volcanic eruptions can be broadly split into effusive and explosive eruptions. Effusive meaning non-explosive while explosive eruptions are rather self-explanatory. Within explosive eruptions there are Phreatomagmatic eruptions which are explosive eruptions caused by the violent interaction between magma and some external water source.

To get more descriptive there is also the Lacroix classification system that classifies eruptions by comparing them against iconic eruption types.

Hawaiian Eruptions and predominantly effusive, with lava fountaining common and primarily basaltic lavas/magma.

Strombolian Eruptions are moderate, discrete eruptions with lavas/magmas ranging from basaltic to andesitic in composition.

Violent Strombolian Eruptions are similar to Strombolian except that they have moderate sustained explosions and have a sustained ash plume.

Surtseye Eruptions are basaltic, phreatomagmatic eruptions with a large “rooster tail” ash plume.

Vulcanian Eruptions are eruptions with moderate-strong, sustained explosions with intermediate composition magmas that are sometimes phreatomagmatic.

Plinian Eruptions are eruptions with very continuous blasts and a very high eruption plume. When interacting with water, they are the largest of the phreatomagmatic eruptions.

Outside of those classification schemes, there are also those of George Walker, which measures pyroclastic fall desposits, and the more common Volcanic Explosivity Index which is a semi-quantitative scale of eruption magnitudes using a variety of measurable quantities associated with an eruption.

I am tired now.

Weak end.

On Saturday, I received a bill in the mail from my University stating that I owed them several hundred dollars more than I thought. I had planned my semester according to the bill I received shortly after it began, but apparently that bill had not included certain fees associated to classes that I signed up with late and now also included late payment penalties. That put a real pinch on my wallet as I was banking on my tax return to cover my tuition costs. It no longer covers my tuition costs, and my trip to New Mexico is in jeopardy.

Tonight, at work, while I went over in my head the best way to maneuver a conversation regarding my need for time off to go to New Mexico in a way that wouldn’t threaten my job, I was interrupted by the man I sought to talk to. Before I had even asked him, he informed me that our already short staffed had become more short. The new guy, who has worked here for a total of a week and half, quit. He came to ask me to pick up the hours and effectively put the kaybash on my particpation in the trip to New Mexico.

I need money, and for that I need to work, and to work, I need to be at work. Needless to say, I am rather bummed out. I was really looking forward to going to New Mexico and experiencing geology like I have never done before. I will be jealous when they return.

Maybe the weather will be nice enough and I can head down to Southern Illinois and bask in some of Illinois more interesting geology.

Photo by Charles Carrigan

A complete and total failure…

We had a pretty decent snowstorm here last night. It’s been a warm, tame winter so I really appreciated it. It will probably be gone in a day or two and be the last snow storm of the season, so I’m glad we had it.

Last week, I posted this:

Plans for this week: Taxes, finish last weeks labs, start this weeks labs, start studying for Stratigraphy and create some sort of schedule that allows this all to happen in the most stress-free, non-sleep robbing way.

LOL. I am stressed, I am sleep deprived, it is Friday night, and I am behind on my work. I mean, I got stuff done, but it wasn’t easy, and I still have Physics stuff to do that was due this week that just didn’t get done. I have completely failed in that respect.

I did finally get my Cycles exam back and my good feelings about it were accurate as I received an A. It made me feel a lot better about my Stratigraphy exam which I also felt pretty good about afterwards. So that stress is lifted off of my shoulders only to be replaced with the new stresses of upcoming exams once again.

Next Friday is my next Volcanology exam, and shortly after that will be the next Structure exam. I am going to dominate my Structure exam no matter what. I am embarrassed by my poor grade on the first exam and I will pull myself out of that embarrassing hole.

I’m going to go work on homework now. At 9pm on Friday night.

Breathe in…

Here is a satellite view of McCarty’s flow in New Mexico. Some people from my Volcanology class and I are trying to spend spring break there doing rock nerd shit and trying to demonstrate an understanding of things we think we know. Really looking forward to it– camping and rocks that aren’t carbonates or sandstones.

I am done with my exams for a few weeks, very happy about that. Stratigraphy exam wasn’t nearly as bad it could’ve been; I was running out of time because my answers were so detailed, which usually is a good thing (in my head at least). I know I missed points on a few questions, but nothing that would sink the ship. Didn’t get Cycles exams back today like I thought I would, which is probably for the best. Had I got it back, I probably would’ve spent time obsessing over it instead of studying for Stratigraphy

Anyway, I get to spend my free time working on Physics and labs, and not obsessing over studying. Studying will not disappear completely, but hopefully be a constant that reduces the need for stress inducing super-study sessions.

Also, I got an e-mail today informing me that I would not be offered a position in Svalbard. A little disappointing, but the note was very will written and very complementary and came with a lot of information and advice based on what I wrote in my essay. That’s what I guessed anyway, if it was a mass, generic e-mail then it was very well written because it fooled me. So, it’s disappointing overall, but I don’t feel terrible about it. I will be doing something else this summer.


I got my Physics and Structure exams back today. I got a B on my Physics exam (which sets a nice precedent for the class considering I didn’t even have time to do all 4 problems), the problem I thought I was way off on turned out to be almost 100% correct.

Structure was a disaster though. I got a C on it which, given the class average, is nothing to be happy about. Really ruined my day, to the point where I’ve decided I am throwing all ideas about comfort out the window now. The pace has been set for the semester and I want to jog ahead of it. No sleep? No problem.

I have my Stratigraphy exam tomorrow, I am not exactly sure how I feel about it yet. I’m going to do a lot of reading a reviewing before hand, but as with the Cycles exam the same professor gave a week or so ago, it’s hard to feel adequately prepared. He writes his tests to get an understanding of everything you know– not to quiz you on specifics. I felt like I did well on his Cycles exam, but I haven’t got it back yet, so I can’t be sure.

All I know is that, overall, I am doing pretty well this semester grade-wise, but doing poorly in Structure just makes the whole thing feel like a crap shoot.

… and because I hate making posts without some kind of image in them, here’s a big dumb picture I took the other day.