Derpy Caturday

I had to make a choice: blog, or watch classic Doctor Who whilst scrubbing shiny rocks to make them shinier. Considering my brain decided at the end of day Friday that it was done for the week and clocking out early, I chose the shiny things with aliens. And today has consisted of pounding on shiny things to extract more shiny things, and create smaller slabs of shiny things to give away to folks who like shiny things but don’t want monster-sized rocks to haul around.

I’ve done a desultory bit of research in preparation for showing you waterfalls and other delights, so those will be forthcoming as soon as I’ve got the photos selected and edited. In the meantime, I shall distract you with a delightful find via the Bloggess: Derpy Cats, wherein you will find delights such as this:

And this:

Why, yes, you can say sayonara to the rest of your productivity. You’re welcome.


Derpy Caturday

The Answer to a Geologic Riddle

You have no idea how impressed I am. I tossed a rather difficult puzzle at you, and within the first few comments, you’d solved it!

Cope was on the right track with a guess of “siliceous petrified wood.” Then RQ nailed it: “Carbonized wood fossil. Like really, really old charcoal. Or something. I’m having the gut feeling that carbon is really important here.” Bam! Three comments in, and y’all had it solved.


This is permineralized charcoal.

Permineralized charcoal. Looks like a little piece o’ burnt wood, and yet you can gouge steel with it.

Carbon is, indeed, really important. So is silica. Lockwood, who studied this stuff in depth and wrote up a paper on it for Oregon State University, sent me the following in an email:

The key here is the term “permineralization,” and more specifically, “silicification.” I think those wikilinks will be clear, but the idea is that all the void spaces, including pores between the cell walls have been completely filled with silica, probably quartz. The reason that the pores are important is that it’s those interconnections that give the rock its overall coherence, toughness, and strength. Otherwise, each individual cell would easily break off from its neighbors. As you’ve seen, they don’t. As a proportion of mass and volume, the carbon is probably only a few percent of the total. So there’s enough exposed on fresh surfaces to smudge your fingers, but the bulk of the rock is crystalline quartz, and is very hard and tough. Incidentally, the carbon *will” eventually get rubbed off, and won’t smudge anymore, until you open up a new fresh surface.

You’re screwed if you wash it, too. I’d scrubbed those samples at work and then tried to demonstrate the trick, only to discover that it no longer performs to specifications. A bit mortifying. You can rub two samples together and achieve the smudge effect again, though, so that’s a little bit of all right. Coworkers were appropriately awed.

The Rose thought it might be fusain, and Lockwood ran with that in the email he sent me:

I don’t think this qualifies as “fusain,” because my read on that suggests that term does not cover permineralized material. On the other hand “permineralized fusain,” while it may be a novel word combination, is probably as accurate as “permineralized charcoal,” which is what I’ve used in the past when I wanted to be as clear and technically accurate as I could be.

We may have just coined a new term, people. Be proud!

Lockwood will be giving us some more detail on this remarkable fossil soon, including a photograph he took of a thin section showing the cells, which are perfectly intact, although a bit squished by compression. This stuff is amazingly detailed: you can see the grain of the wood, and on some samples, you can see the tree rings:

Permineralized charcoal showing growth rings.

At the outcrop, which either Lockwood or I will describe in some detail later, you can see what look like logs of the stuff dotted throughout a sedimentary layer:

Outcrop with permineralized charcoal. Click to embiggen. Note the dark blotches that begin in the lower right, behind the tiny sapling, and follow the light-colored arch to the upper left.

This is one of the reasons I love geology, people. Take a closer look at some ho-hum looking gray rocks with black rocks in them, and suddenly you’re looking at the scene of an ancient forest fire, where logs were turned to charcoal, then silica preserved the remains perfectly. You know how delicate charcoal is. Yet with silicification, it turns in to something that can gouge steel.

Close-up view of the part of the outcrop from whence our samples came.

Lockwood should have a more thorough write-up on this stuff later – I’ll link when he does. He can give us some amazing details, considering he’s the one who studied it in depth for OSU. I’ve got a big-picture sense, a rather blurry one (did I mention this stop came at the end of the day when we were all utterly exhausted?), but he can give us cellular-level detail. And as we delve into the geology of the Quartzville area, we’ll discover why Rob had me applauding with his second guess.

But it’s going to take me some time to pull things together, and I’ve still got to get some research done for our next Prelude to a Catastrophe installment, so we’ll be on with sneak peeks. What’ll it be next? Wild pillow basalts, waterfalls, the weirdest cinder cone ever, or the story of a rather angular erratic?

The Answer to a Geologic Riddle

A Geologic Riddle

Right. The fossil plant won by a landslide. Batten down your hats, my darlings, because this one is truly bizarre.

I’m going to show you it. But I’m not going to tell you what it is just yet. It’s a bit of a riddle, and I’d like to give you all a chance to figure it out. Ready? Synapses firing, neurons engaged and all that? Then let us begin.

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A Geologic Riddle

I'm Back. Feeling a Bit… Erratic

After an intense three days of incredible geology with Lockwood and Aaron, I’m back home. The cat’s alive, everyone’s intact, I have sparkly rocks in buckets… it was a great trip!

I’ll be entertaining you lot with snippets from this extravaganza for months. Rocks! Subduction zones! Moar rocks! Flowers! Rocks! Hydrothermal alteration! ROCKS! Unidentified flying dinosaurs! Did I mention the rocks?

Why, here’s one now.

Lockwood et moi at Erratic Rock State Natural Site. Many thanks to the kind geocaching gentleman who snapped this for us.

This was enormous good fun, and I look forward to many more trips like this with Lockwood, Aaron, and hopefully other northwest geobloggers.

Right now, though, I’m going to go reacquaint myself with my bed and my cat. I’ve sorely missed them both.

Whilst I’m passed out, let me know what you want sneak previews of first: wild pillow basalts, waterfalls, the weirdest cinder cone ever, or the most bizarre fossil plant I’ve ever encountered.

I'm Back. Feeling a Bit… Erratic

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Tell Me About the Forest

At last, we leave North America! This magnificent UFD comes from our own RQ. It’s posing prettily in a Latvian forest.

UFD I. Image courtesy RQ.

I love it. I love the lushness of that forest, and the slight quizzical tilt to this bird’s head. I love it’s white-patched wings gleaming against the darkness. I love the fact we finally have an opportunity to identify something that’s not from North America!

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Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Tell Me About the Forest

Sunday Song: Fun With Drugs

Thank you, all of you, for your enormous outpouring of support. I figured I’d get a few “Yay good luck!” comments. I got so much more. With this sort o’ backing, I think this might actually work!

It’s also nice to know I’m joining such an awesome crowd of quitters. Quitting drugs is one form of quitting I can wholeheartedly endorse – especially when the company’s congenial.

I filled my scrip for Chantix today, and the dreams have already started. Merely having it in the house, unopened, led to a nightmare in which Doctor Who was canceled. A truly terrible nightmare indeed. This is some powerful shit.

Since I’m about to start a prescription drug, I’m thinking about drugs, and one of my favorite songs about drugs ever.

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Sunday Song: Fun With Drugs

New at Rosetta Stones: Blue Flamer

That’s an FBI term, by the way. An ambitious person is said to have blue flames coming out of their arse. That’s neither here nor there, but is the sort of free-association that happens when you haven’t had enough sleep, and you’ve just been writing up a several week extravaganza of phreatic eruptions at Mount St. Helens.

I’m going to go drink to Dave Johnston, who first saw the blue flames dancing within her craters, and Dwight Crandell, who called the conclusion very nearly perfectly. Join me in raising a round to their memory.

New at Rosetta Stones: Blue Flamer

Soon To Be A Quitter

I love smoking. I don’t love the expense, or the health risks, or the stench, or being driven out into the buttass freezing cold, but I bloody love smoking otherwise. It gets me outside at random times, whereupon I see things that people who aren’t driven onto the porch in the wee hours o’ the morning by the nicotine demons don’t see. Like the badger that one night. The badger was awesome.

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Soon To Be A Quitter

A Reward for Your Patience

Sorry, my darlings. It’s apparently a holiday week: I’m disorganized as hell and keep getting distracted by shiny things when I should be writing. I’ve nearly got everything together for our next Prelude to a Catastrophe installment. Unless a squirrel happens, I should be writing it tomorrow night.

We will not discuss the post WordPress decided to eat earlier tonight.

In the meantime, the SciAm blog network turned one yesterday, and we celebrated with a bit o’ cake and curiosity. For those who didn’t see or didn’t feel like fighting with its comments system, you can answer nosy questions here, if you like. I know a little about some of you, and a lot about a few of you, but I know there are folks here who haven’t got the chance to say something about themselves. And you’re important to me. If you want to delurk, I’d love to hear from you!

And I’m going to give you, my patient darlings, a little bit o’ beauty from Mount St. Helens. These are from September last year, and I haven’t yet published them. Exciting, amirite?

Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge, September 2011

Yeah, that’s me trying to get all artsy-fartsy with one of the blow-down stumps and the volcano in the background.

Mount Adams from Johnston Ridge.

One thing I appreciate about Mount St. Helens, among many, is the blast zone. It’s amazing how much geology you can see with all the trees gone. Not that I don’t like trees, mind, and I hate clear cuts, but if a volcano wants to do a little deforestation, who am I to argue?

I’m off to Oregon soon. I might swing by and see the old girl, just the two of us. I’ve never spent quality time with her alone. We’ll be spending a lot of time together this summer: I’ve got to run Suzanne over for a nice jaunt later in the year, and Amanda and I are going to explore Ape Cave sometime before fall. We’ll see if temptation gets the better of me as I pass by her exit on my way down to collect Lockwood for some adventuring.

If I do go, what do you most want me to grab you photos of?

A Reward for Your Patience

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Feeding Time!

These little beauties come from our own Trebuchet, who got the whole UFD thing started. It’s a good thing other people don’t collapse in a molten heap of squee when they see birds like this, or we’d never have any decent UFDs. I’d have probably missed my opportunity by screaming “ZOMG they are so cute!!!” before grabbing the camera and snapping a photo. Birds, for some reason, tend to fly away when you make loud noises at them.

UFD I. Image courtesy Trebuchet.

This is why I keep meaning to go buy a bird feeder. I’ll probably do it after I quit smoking – it will force me to go outside for things other than sacrificing another portion of my lungs to the nicotine demon. And my cat will be ecstatic. As long as the sliding glass door is closed, she can style herself the Great Huntress. She’s brave as long as she’s in no danger of getting pecked.

These little delights were snapped in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve not seen them round before, but then, I haven’t got a feeder, and the birds in this area seem to think it’s funny to hide behind leaves and sing lustily just out of sight – unless I don’t have my camera with me, in which case they parade around in plain view. Mocking birds, the lot of ’em. It’s all right. I’ll soon have my hands on a feeder, and we’ll see who laughs the last laugh then.

Gracias, Trebuchet!

You, too, can have your very own UFDs identified! Just send me a photo or several, with UFD in the subject line, and a description of where the photo was taken. You can find me at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com.

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Feeding Time!