Archive for November, 2010

I don’t know why, but this week, I only had 53 submissions.   Whether it was the coming of Thanksgiving, the overload from their other courses, or the fact there is still snow on the ground, over 20% of the class skipped the assignment.   And weirdly enough, everyone who’s last name started with a certain letter was part of the missing group.

The assignments I did receive found:


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Several months ago I started a conversation with Brian Romans about piano music. A few people may know that a piano teacher was my original career aspiration back in high school. Success at piano convinced me that I should reconsider (yeah, I understand the irony of it), so I changed my plans & decided to study geology. But I’ve taken 13 years of piano & 4 years of organ lessons, so my love of piano has not diminished. My main piece of furniture is still the 6 ft grand in the living room 🙂

So why bring this up? A recent request for beginning classical piano literature (preferably with recordings) caused a search through my shelf of music. A few years ago a friend was “given” organ lessons in return for playing at services & funerals, so I had already worked out that recommendation. But I had to think a bit about piano music. Most beginning piano literature is written for the 6-9 yr old crowd, which is probably not what adults are looking for. What I’ve gotten to:

There are probably better recordings of both, but sorting through complete piano recordings is something that might well drag on until the end of time.   There are pianists I like better, but at the beginning level, interpretation is not going to be the end-game.   Now, if this continues onto intermediate & advanced recommendations, then I’ll get pickier with my recording recommendations & as well as what edition to go with.

Reasons for going with the multiple composer option: you’ll get a better idea of the variety of styles that have occurred since Couperin published his original book in 1716 on “L’art de toucher le clavecin” (the art of playing the harpsichord) and extends up to modern works.   Admittedly, modern includes anything really written after about WWI in the piano world.

Reasons for going with Bach: well, its Bach.   Couperin may have come up with a fingering method that Bach admired & used, but J.S. Bach is the “father of keyboard” music.   Bach’s ideas on melody vs. harmony, chord progressions, and structure are the basis for all other piano music–whether its bending, breaking, modifying, or turning the original formulation around.   Understanding Bach helps understand everything that comes after him–of course, try telling that to an 8-year old.   I personally didn’t “get” Bach until I was 16 or 17, which probably made my piano teacher want to strangle me countless times.

Anyone have other favorite books they used at the beginning of their piano careers?

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Live-blogging is not something I could have managed during GSA, since I’m usually taking notes for myself during the good talks (and trying to catch up with “brilliant thoughts” at other times), but I’m going to try summarizing the ridiculously good session that occurred on the final Wednesday of GSA at the beginning of the month in Denver.

I will note that I did attend other sessions at GSA, but most of the time there were only one or two “amazing” talks (e.g. Jane Selverstone’s talk on the microdiamonds found in the eastern Swiss Alps).   The session Wednesday had me writing & thinking the entire time–it was that good.

The session title was “Garnet and Its Use in Unraveling Metamorphic and Tectonic Processes” and was organized by Ethan Baxter, Mark Caddick, and Jay Ague.   Talks were held in the morning and the afternoon was dedicated to the poster session in a rapidly emptying hall (last day at GSA generally has attendance issues).   The wonderful thing about this session was that it look at a rather variety of ways that garnet could be used within metamorphic rocks and did a great job of bringing people together from different areas of our sub-disciple to talk & think about different ways to look our rocks.   And the organizers did a very good job of picking appropriate speakers and ordering the talks, so that there was a flow over the course of the morning.

As stated above, the last day of GSA is frequently a bit sparse attendance-wise.   (In 2001 in Boston I had a poster the final morning of GSA and various people appeared with suitcases in tow.)   And since the topic wasn’t exactly “sexy” (unless your a metamorphic petrologist!), I personally was thinking the room would be half to quarter empty by the time my own talk occurred at 11.30.   Yeah, that was erroneous logic.   Turns out the session was full for the entire morning.   There were people standing for every talk and new chairs had even appeared during one break.   Lots and lots of people were interested in garnet on that day 🙂

For me, the greatest benefit of the talks was all of the different moments when I thought to myself, “oh, I need to consider that” or “maybe we should do that with these rocks?”   Let me give you a short run-down of the high points (and yes, if you’re not a petrologist, this is probably the time to move on to something else):

  • Frank Spear (invited talk) opened the session by asking whether we have to only consider grain boundaries as our effective bulk composition (i.e. what’s actually reacting to form new minerals / grow ones already present), which would lead to some very complicated math… It would also mean that grain size has a direct impact on what kind of garnet zonation patterns are found within rocks.   Thought-provoking, but also a bit scary from the re-invention side.
  • Thomas Lapen (disclaimer: Lukas Baumgartner is also one of my co-authors as well as Lapen’s) discussed differences in what stage of growth of garnet Sm-Nd vs. Lu-Hf actually records
  • Ethan Baxter runs a TIMS lab and his talk gave a good update as to what they could or couldn’t manage to date at this point (garnet can’t be dated in situ like zircon or monazite, you have to actually extract it, which puts limitations on what the resolution of the ages are); for instance, they dated 12 different regions within a 6 cm garnet to get the growth history (episodic not continual)
  • Ashley Russell (student of John Valley’s) presented material on using oxygen isotopes within garnet to address the issue of fluid presence / absence during growth within a high pressure / high temperature (HP/HT) region in the Czech Republic
  • I was happy to see Greg Dumond’s talk simply because he had complicated pressure-temperature diagrams (which is where mine are headed towards)
  • Bill Carlson (also invited talk) returned the session to the theoretical (this is what Spear & Carlson do better than almost anyone else) and discussed why not only large cations, but also small cations, diffuse slower than moderate-sized ions.   He ended with a teaser that this may be true for divalent cations (e.g. Mg, Mn2+, Fe2+, Ca), but not for trivalent cations, which he’ll discuss at AGU
  • Sumit Chakraborty looked at diffusion rates of elements within garnet comparing the various calibrations that have been made–especially of calcium within garnet–and argued that you need to go with end-members (grossular vs. andratite vs. uvarite) instead of simply Ca vs. Mg vs. Fe.   This talk & several others resulted in several serious discussions with members of the audience, but the long & short of the matter is that we need to understand how fast things diffuse & what controls them in order to model the process in real rocks.   This theme would also come to the front in Baumgartner’s poster (volumetric differences between garnet end-members) and Caddick’s modeling of diffusion vs. growth and the resultant patterns in garnet (also a poster)
  • I’m not reviewing my own talk…

Of the posters, I spent most of my time talking with Mark Caddick and the implications of his model (he has a paper out in November’s issue of the Journal of Petrology if you can 1) get behind the paywall and 2) are interested).   Baumgartner’s poster had a rather large crowd in front of it the entire length of the poster session and it was a veritable “who’s who” of metamorphic petrology.

(I want to apologize if I misconstrued anyone’s research–I’m reading my hasty notes in trying to summarize this and may have missed some blatant point or re-interpreted something to suit my own research needs.   And if I didn’t cover your talk, it doesn’t mean it didn’t influence me–just means that I had to pick & choose for length.)

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Lecture topics for week #10 included streams & rivers as well as the oceans, so it was a water-rich topic choice.

In case you were curious, this week had 59 entries submitted.

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Week #9 went from 31. October – 6. November (or GSA week, depending on your view).   Most of the 64 entries (yep, that’s better than the previous week’s 54) were about 4 topics:

There were a few other slightly strange entries (Cassini images of Saturn, sinkholes in Germany), but the two that stood out from the outliers were:

  • flooding in Vicenza, Italy which closed down a US Army post (the articles were from Stars & Stripes as well as the Army news corp) — catches my eye due to old habit of reading the European edition of Stars & Stripes while my brother was stationed in Germany
  • protesting of nuclear power plant extensions & transportation of used material to Gorleben in Germany, which caused me to smile since I lived relatively near to Gorleben when I was 16 and have seen countless protests in the area along the rail lines (which is how they’re going to transport the nuclear waste) including earlier this year while visiting friends

I’m now caught up with grading the news journals — well, at least for another 30 minutes when the week #10 journals are due 🙂   I’m going to call it a night before that happens.   Tomorrow I hope to return to my office despite the snow and grade a few other things before playing with a few solution models for my own research.

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(The silence is mainly due to working.   pre-GSA I was prepping to get everything done before jetting over to Denver.   Once I returned, I had to catch up from GSA.   Altogether, that means I’ve been spending the majority of my time grading, writing lecture, prepping field trips, and kicking my pseudosection models.   I just gave one midterm in petrology and intro has one on Monday, so the grading is not nearly over.   But, I want to start to catch up on blogging.)

Week #8 for the geology news journals was 24. – 30. October.   In case you forgot, that was the 7.7 magnitude earthquake off of Indonesia, the resultant tsunami, and an unrelated eruption of Mt Merapi.   It was not a good week for Indonesia.

Of the 56 submissions I received (yes, I have 70 students in the intro class…), all but 5 dealt with one, two, or all three of the events in Indonesia.   Unfortunately, there were a few “common” misconceptions that either my students borrowed from the news articles or inserted themselves into the summaries:

  • misconception #1 – the earthquake caused the eruption of Mt Merapi; Jessica over at Magna Cum Laude dealt with this one very well earlier this week, so I’ll let her present the scientific reasoning
  • misconception #2 – the USGS reports all of the earthquake sizes on the Richter scale (as a side note, this has been coming up a few entries per week, but we haven’t gotten to EQs yet in lecture for me to talk to the whole class about it yet); the Richter scale was developed in the 1930’s by Richter & Gutenberg at CalTech to specifically measure by the amount of energy (the local magnitude) released by an earthquake for regions in California by looking at ground movement.   Different rocks will react differently to seismic waves depending on what they’re composed of & their current temperature, which means you can’t use the same local energy scale for different places on the Earth.   For instance, seismic waves on the west coast go through warmer rocks and therefore are slower & diffuse quicker than seismic waves through the cold east coast rocks.   When an earthquake happens in LA, it doesn’t ring church bells in San Francisco (380 miles), but in 1886 an earthquake in Charleston, SC rang church bells in New York City (800 miles).   The Richter scale is also only appropriate for earthquakes with a magnitude less than about 7.   What we now use in the world is a magnitude moment measurement, which was developed in the 1970s (by Hanks & Kanamori–also from CalTech!).   Though moment magnitudes are not appropriate for small earthquakes (<3.5), it has no upper end and will be appropriate for all rock types & temperatures.   The calculation is based on properties of the rock where the rupture occurred, the area of the rupture, and the average amount of displacement that happened.

The second point will be part of my discussion of earthquakes in the coming weeks, though it wasn’t something that I even understood well until I started teaching introductory earthquakes & volcanoes.   I have no idea whether its even a topic in my Marshak textbook–which is currently at work (I’m at home due to a rather large sudden snowstorm in St. Peter today).

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