It’s been a busy week over at Rosetta Stones, since I neglected the poor thing all month. If you’ve been wanting some tasty geo to sink your teeth into, that’s the place!
With John Glenn’s passing earlier this month, my thoughts turned to space. People don’t think of the stars when they think of geology – I mean, it’s all about Earth, right there in the name. But the earth is made of star stuff. And the way gravity works, it turns that star stuff into rocky little worlds all over the universe, perfectly suited for our good science of rock-breaking. Geology isn’t limited to the planet it was born on and named for. And we can take it all over space and time.
One of the first places we took it was our own moon. John Glenn is among the people who got us there: without his pioneering flight, without the early successes of astronauts like him (not to mention the legion of scientists, engineers, and computing women behind him), there would have been no Moon landing.
We got there. We grabbed some rocks. We made some nifty discoveries. And believe me, green cheese might be a pretty tasty substance, but it’s nowhere near as delicious as the things the moon is actually made of.
The eleven European tourists exploring Antelope Canyon on a fine summer day in 1997 probably never considered drowning in a desert slot canyon to be a possibility. They may have known that water carved those sandstone walls into fantastical curves and angles. But it wouldn’t have seemed like an ongoing process. Why would anyone be thinking of water, standing on dry sand, with shafts of sunlight spearing through from the narrow opening above? Despite it being the height of the Arizona monsoon season, it wasn’t raining.
It started with the sandy silt on the canyon floor leaping six inches into the air. Tour guide Pancho Quintana and his group heard a roar so loud it drowned out screams. The solid rock walls shook. They began running, trying to find a place to climb out. And then they were hit by a wall of water that filled the canyon to a depth of eleven feet. Bodies were thrown into the walls. People might find a grip for a few seconds before debris or other bodies hit them and tore them away, tumbling them down the canyon. Pancho was the lucky one: despite the water and rock tearing off his clothes and skin, he managed to get a foot wedged in a crevice. The rest of the people with him, his tour group and another, were swept out of the canyon and into Lake Powell. Some of their bodies have never been found.
How? How could water suddenly appear from nowhere and end almost a dozen lives in a few minutes?
We’re getting a clearer picture of how science in America will be treated under Trump. It’s horrifying. Our scientific endeavors are under severe threat, as is our environment. Scientists and those who support science have every reason to be concerned about the next several years.
Here’s a small taste of what we’re dealing with under Trump.
Oh, how I struggled with this particular Accretionary Wedge topic:
What geological concept or idea did you hear about that you had no notion of before (and likely surprised you in some way).
I mean, there’s a lot. All the hijinks that go on in subduction zones constantly astonish me. The idea that rocks in the mantle flow without being actually molten, and that rocks have any sort of elasticity to begin with – I found that incredible. I had no idea when I first started studying geology just what temperature and pressure could do to minerals. I mean, I knew there was such a thing as a metamorphic rock, but my eyes popped when I learned more of the details. It seems like every time I read a book on geology, there’s something new and astonishing. For instance: whilst reading a book about caves for a bit of the world I’m building, I found out there are places in the world with natural caves formed in salt. I had no idea that happened.
So yes, I’m spoiled for choice. But I think the one thing that’s made my eyes pop the most is the idea that plate tectonics affects climate.