Archive for January, 2011

My Iceland class ended today except for grading, which hopefully I’ll have done by the end of tonight.   We have a week free (research!) and then the spring semester starts.   I have two classes this spring: mineralogy and structural geology.   I’ve taught both before 2 or more times, so I have a basic outline of what I want to cover & how, but am tweaking things here and there.

One aspect I added to mineralogy on the last round was adding the concept of “mineral of the week” and reading a paper from Geology about that mineral.   I can’t claim credit for the idea of a mineral per week — I picked it up at the Using Visualizations SERC workshop (uh, my picture is on the front page…) from Darby Dyar who was talking about her new textbook.   My copy of her book is at work, but ch. 1 includes the “big 10 minerals.”

The following September, Chuck at Lounge of the Lab Lemming posted a top 50 list of minerals.   Several people commented, but the meme took a turn when Callan asked for top 5 minerals that students should know.

Callan went with:

  • quartz
  • plagioclase
  • clays
  • olivine (maybe garnet, spinel & perovskite?)
  • ice

Kim responded by listing:

  • quartz
  • calcite
  • pyrite
  • clays
  • olivine

Silver Fox went with:

  • quartz
  • calcite
  • clays
  • iron oxides
  • olivine

Jay revised a bit more:

  • quartz
  • calcite & aragonite
  • olivine
  • smectite
  • apatite

Ok, why am I dragging this up again?   I have 13 weeks to fill to assign minerals to this spring and I only have 12 minerals.   I’m looking for opinions about what my 13th mineral should be–or even arguments about why I should drop one and swap in two other minerals!

My current list:

  • quartz
  • K-feldspar
  • plagioclase
  • muscovite
  • biotite
  • amphiboles (yes, I grouped them)
  • garnet
  • olivine
  • pyroxenes (one thought is to separate opx & cpx)
  • clays
  • calcite
  • hailte

I feel much more confident about the longer list of minerals we’re going to look at in thin section & hand sample, so I’ll leave that in the drawer.

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I’m beginning to wonder if I’m even supposed to post something from Callan’s bake sale.   The signs are not promising at the moment…

  1. my nicely thought out bimodal garnet distribution mica-schist cake used up all of the eggs, cornstarch, and butter in my house; this would have been fine except for…
  2. the batter wasn’t thick enough and instead of getting a random distribution of “garnets” I managed to produce a cake that looked more like a volcano with a cumulate layer on the floor of its magma chamber
  3. the center of the cake refused to actually finish baking
  4. it tasted good (how could anything with a chocolate cumulate layer not taste good?) and I took pictures
  5. I though that I would try again last night with a different batter, but I’m out of critical baking components
  6. my camera has magically disappeared since yesterday

I’m really hoping the camera appears by the end of the weekend.   But at the moment, I’m submission-less.   Sigh.

I need to go back to grading field guides, so I’ll look once again once this next round is done.

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(I’m still catching up with some of activities we did over the past few weeks.   This one was done during the first week of class while we were discussing magma / lava properties.)

I went searching at the SERC site for a viscosity experiment demonstration and found one by Ben Edwards written for a petrology class.   Since my class didn’t have that kind of background, I changed the assignment some to make it more simplistic (removing the math & compositional links).   I wasn’t really sure how well this was going to go, but it turned out to be one of the best assignments I’ve ever downloaded from the SERC site.

I’ve posted my notes, handouts, and logic over on my Google site.   But I’d like to post pictures here.

Basic setup:

  • use a tilted large wooden board covered with wax paper as our flow surface; whole set-up on top of an old plastic shower curtain for easy clean-up
  • have 9 different corn syrup preps to pour down the board to record things like: how long does it take to get to the bottom; shape of the flow; width of the flow
  • before pouring them down the board, we blew bubbles in the corn syrup with straws to determine how easy / hard it was to do, what the bubbles looked like, and how quickly they moved to the surface

All in all?   Great set of experiments that the students got into & maybe more importantly, still remembered which ones and gone faster / slower and easier / harder for the bubbles to move several weeks later.   High recommendation for this activity if you want to teach about viscosity.

Amy blows bubbles in the "cold" experiment while Todd looks on

Emily pours the mix with lots of couscous (ie crystals) down the board

run with lots of water got the bottom before any of us were really ready :)

the cold one took forever to get to the bottom

we had plenty of time to sketch & take pictures with the cold one

the cold one also had the most interesting morphology at the bottom

beginning to wonder if it was ever going to get to the bottom line...

part of it finally crossed the line... this one was no issue to get into the trash before it ran off the wax paper onto the shower curtain 🙂

the warm one got to the bottom before Emily had even stopped pouring!

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I’ve been trying to mix in some culture to my Jterm class on Iceland.   The 2nd Thursday of the class, we watched a few TV shows & an Icelandic movie (all available instantly on Netflix, in case you’re interested):

  • Anthony Bourdain, “No Reservations” Collection 1, Episode 2: Iceland — for some reason they filmed this in Iceland in the winter, so it was an American’s view on non-tourist season Iceland; long & short of it: Icelanders drink quite a bit, like to weight-lift, and eat things that completely grossed out my students
  • “Destination Truth” Season 2, Episode 12: Issie & Icelandic Elves — this was a bit over the top on the “ghost-hunting” side, but gave some decent background on cultural beliefs in Iceland
  • our Icelandic movie (with subtitles) was “Jar City” & is based on the book of the same name by Baltasar Kormakur; long & short of it: Icelanders eat icky things (this was actually worse than Bourdain!), Icelanders seem to know who you’re talking about even if you just use first names, there is an Icelandic genetic database & few enough people live in the country that weird connections can be made, and the Icelandic prison system seems fairly lax

On the third Thursday of the month, we gathered in my house to cook some traditional Icelandic dishes.   There was a strong push due to the TV-watching of the previous week to go vegetarian, so I managed to cobble together a set of non-meat dishes.   The main resource I found was a cooking blog entitled Icelandic cooking, recipes, and food.   What we ended up making:


making the flatbread

Emily rolls out the flatbread

Dustin had the job of pricking all of the flatbread

after a few, Dustin got creative 🙂

the flatbread was cooked in my cast iron pan (no fat / oil / Pam used) instead of directly on the cooktop due to the fact I have an electric stove.   The flatbread was not the most flavorful item, but it did a good job at sopping up the pickled cabbage juice & the soup.

pickled cabbage (front) & boiling the rutabagas (back) on the stove

the only hard part with the “veggies” was figuring out how to chop & peel the rutabaga.

after quartering the cooking & cooled potatoes, Beth & Emily wait for Travis to finish prepping the sugar + butter

waiting for the sugar to brown before adding the butter for the potatoes

Travis stirring the potatoes in to caramelized them... still ended up with clumps of butter-sugar

of the “lunch” portion, the potatoes were probably the best thing.

sitting down to lunch (CW: Beth's hands, Sam, Dustin, Amy, (Travis), Emily)

what the food looked like cooked

after lunch, we made two sets of cookies + rice pudding.   The rice pudding was too bland for the crowd, but Siggi’s cookies were well appreciated.   The snails could have used icing according to my class and then they would have been like cinnamon rolls.

Siggi's cookies - which supposedly will last several months, but were gone by the time the snails came out of the oven

the snails have to go in the fridge for an hour before you can bake them, so we watched part of the NOVA: The Vikings while waiting.

sprawled out in the living room half of my 1st floor - note the grand piano

cinnamon snails (box containing hartshorn showed up after they were in the oven!)

the students were wonderful about cleaning up after the cooking, with Amy taking over the dishwashing corner.

trying to clean up after using a number of my pans & bowls

all of the non-geology students got a huge laugh out of Sam whipping out his handlens to look at my genuine Gore Mt garnet cheeseboard:

Sam proving that he has a future in geology

All in all, it was a good day.   Everyone claimed to be stuffed by the time they tumbled back out into the freezing cold.   Hopefully all the butter gave us a bit of padding to survive the negative temperatures 🙂

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I attended a bridal shower Saturday afternoon that was held for a geology friend.   Everyone at the shower was either a geologist or worked with geologists.   The hostess wanted to create something that reminded the bride-to-be of her home and went with a stromatolite cake!   Now, the geologists in the room don’t blog, so I’ve taken it upon myself to post pictures of her cake as a tease for the Accretionary Wedge #30.   I’ll post my own creation later in the week.

The cake:

the inside:

ok, so what is a stromatolite and why on earth is this cake a weird blue-green color?

Stromatolites are some of the earliest forms of life that have been found on Earth.  They are comprised on microbial mats within water that trap sediments into layers.   The microbes are made up of cyanobacteria, which are also known as blue-green algae (hence the food coloring choice!).   There may also be non-bacterial stromatolites, but we’ll avoid that topic for the moment.

The oldest preserved stromatolites at the current moment are somewhere between 2.7 and 3.5 billions of years old (I’m not getting into that uncertainty right now), which considering we don’t get hard parts until the Cambrian explosion ~580 million years ago is quite amazing.

Australian stromatolite (note the layering):

Some of widest arrays of types of stromatolites can be seen at Glacier National Park (~800 million years old):

Cambrian stomatolites in Sarasota Springs, NY:

The great thing is that unlike many organisms that have come & gone on the planet, we can still go and see live versions (they dominated in the Proterozoic, but are relatively rare now).   Here are some modern examples in Shark Bay off of Australia:

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We’re at the portion of the Iceland class where we’re going through the history of the island nation and talking about what kind of volcanic activity occurred at specific times & the impact it had on the society.   I have a few activities to fill in that we did, but I was reading a Science article about the 1783 Laki eruption (Stone, 2004, Iceland’s Doomsday Scenario?: Science, 306, 1278-1281) and at the end of the first column they talk about what would happen if a similar sized eruption happened today:

A similar blast in modern times would pump so much ash and fumes into the upper atmosphere that the ensuing sulfuric haze could shut down aviation in much of the Northern Hemisphere for months, Thordarson and Stephen Self of Open University in Milton Keynes, U.K., argued last year in the Jour- nal of Geophysical Research.

“It’s not a matter of if but when the next Laki-like eruption will happen” in Iceland, says Thordarson, who splits his time between the University of Iceland and the University of Hawaii, Manoa. “We certainly don’t want to be here when another Laki- type event hits,” adds Self.

There are days when geologists look awfully smart 🙂   I just wanted to share.

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Surprising figures #1

I was reading a textbook the other night and found this diagram:

(I’ve removed a few captions.)   If I had been reading a structural textbook, I would have just kept on going right by the diagram without further thought.   This type of duplex structure is standard fare in structural geology.   However, the diagram is demonstrating the deformation that occurs in a different sub-field than structure.   Anyone know what kind of textbook I was reading & what was being deformed?

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In case you did not submit an abstract to the Northeastern / North-central GSA (20. – 22. March) meeting in Pittsburgh in March, the technical schedule has now been posted & emails were sent out.   I enjoy NEGSA because its on a more intimate scale than either AGU or the national GSA meeting, the usual abundance of very good Appalachian tectonics / petrology / structure sessions, and the rows on rows of undergraduate research posters.

Callan has already started picking out a few talks that may be interesting.   I’m more at the sessions that may be cool stage as I also consider when I’m going to fly out & back.   Ones that have sparked my interest:

In addition, there are a number of public outreach and undergraduate education sessions that I’ll drift through.

Last year, I augmented by conference-fun by also participating in a two-day field trip across the Valley & Ridge (which Callan live-blogged starting here & summarized here [links to his old blog]).   I considered doing the same this year, but having previously lived in western PA, nothing really struck my fancy from the list.

I am hoping to participate in a SERC Designing GIS and Remote Sensing course, modules, and activities for teaching geoscience students 1-day workshop pre-meeting, but won’t hear back till February from those guys.   The application deadline for that workshop was just extended to 1. February, so please consider applying if GIS / Remote Sensing is your thing.

All in all, looks like I’m going for the whole meeting this year.

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Due to the complexity of the corn syrup viscosity experiments, I’m going to come back to that activity later.   Instead, I’ll skip ahead to my next GoogleEarth file.

This kmz is fairly simplistic: I simply cruised through the Global Volcanism Project looking for a variety of volcanoes with different structures.   There is a kmz file of all the volcanoes within the GVP database, which can make them easier to find, but you sort of have to hope your students don’t find it since it includes all of the answers.

The students then have to determine whether the volcano is a dome, stratovolcano, shield volcano, cinder cone, or a maar.   For a few cases, I added a few hints to help the students understand they were looking at a cinder cone and not the shield volcano it was on.   For some of the cases, I also asked the students to distinguish whether it was a crater or a caldera.

Ways this might work better:

  • take a collection of Erik’s Mystery Volcano pictures and ask them to identify the structures – would cut out the ability to simply use the GVP database
  • add a fissure or two into the mix
  • find a better maar (I think it may be mislabeled on the web… but I wasn’t sure)

Suggestions on volcanoes I should include?   Ones I should avoid?   How this might be a better assignment?

And, as of 30 minutes ago, this assignment is up on my Google site including the kmz.

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Due to the several requests, I realized that I really should make even my preliminary assignments available for others to play with.   I went with the simplest option and simply made a Google site.   Feel free to download, use questions, modify like crazy, and find some form of inspiration.

At the moment, I’ve added the Plate Tectonic – GoogleEarth assignment (thanks Brian for listing it in your weekly roundup!).   I’ll try to add more as the weeks go on.   If there is something that you want me to bump up the list to add, please just ask.

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