"You Want Something Old? Pick Up a Rock."

There’s this thing that happens, sometimes, when a blogger’s busier than an overstocked daycare center whose charges have gotten into the coffee supply and disregarded the decaf. You post a little throwaway something: a video, some photos, a few thoughts. You think nothing of it. You were just filling a gap, sharing something of passing interest that tickled your fancy, and made you think a bit, but didn’t take you more than an hour to slap together, even with having to dig through an external drive for old photos from your craptastic former camera and trying to wrestle something presentable out of them.

You move on to the things that were occupying your attention to start with. Then you notice you’ve caught a few people’s fancy. There’s a comment thread filling up with people sharing their own experiences, and one great and glorious moment where a geology professor wants to filch your post for classroom use. The thing got retweeted around a bit. You delighted the geotweep who’d found the super-awesome video to begin with. And, best of all, you inspired someone else, who riffed off your little post and wrote something utterly wonderful. It’s something that celebrates science, and puts us in perspective. It asks why we’d ever waste our tiny fragment of time with religion when reality is so much more incredible. It goes deep into deep time. And it contains one of my favorite paragraphs ever:

Once my parents were visiting the proprietor of an antique shop in New England.  He said; “You want something old?  Pick up a rock; that’s old.”  And in fact science has revealed just how old, and the resulting figure beggars our evolved imagination.

Pick up a rock. Hold a few million years, perhaps even a few billion, in the palm of your hand. I love an antiques dealer saying that. I love George remembering it, all these years later.

Go read “Our place in time.” It’s just nine short paragraphs, but those few grafs encompass life, the universe, and everything.

I think you’ll see why I always open the links to his posts with the same sensation I got as a kid, tearing the wrapping off the most intriguing present under the tree. George is, in objective fact, a fantastic writer. This one proves it beyond reasonable doubt.

And when you lot see me posting more videos with extras, it’ll be for two reasons: because I’m bloody insanely busy, and because I can’t wait to see what catches your fancy next.

"You Want Something Old? Pick Up a Rock."

3 thoughts on “"You Want Something Old? Pick Up a Rock."

  1. 1

    made me think of my time in the Labrador bush where, apart from wildlife and vegetation, the newest things are the eskers left by retreating glaciers and the scrapes still visible on the rocks from those same glaciers. Makes one think!

  2. 2

    Indeed, what is “old” to a rock? In the valley where I live, on the southwest-south side and a little on the east side, there are Plio-Pleistocene gravels and sandstones. Having studied the history of the rocks around the valley, these are children! Yet some of them — the toddlers — are 5 million years old. The real babies are only about 2-3 million years old. And we don’t yet have a good idea of how they formed; especially for the ones on the southwest side, the gravels seem to be reworked mesozoic rocks from the east, and we can’t figure out — yet — how they got across the valley from east to west.

  3. 3

    I live in a polder, (lake pumped dry) and I think we only got lots of clay here. How old is that ? :)
    I like these kind of ideas. Like for example, when you look at the stars you’re looking into the past, and not just one past, but multiple pasts cause the stars are all at different distances. That idea is amazing too.

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