Sunday, June 6, 2010

Medusaceratops lokii and Other Recent Geo-Trivia

I know it's frowned upon to combine Greek and Latin roots to create new science terms, but is it OK to combine Roman and Norse mythological characters to create new scientific names?
The stunning new species has been identified as Medusaceratops lokii, a nod to two freakish mythological beings that inspired Michael Ryan -- the dinosaur's Ottawa-born co-discoverer-- when it came time to assign a name to the creature.
You can see a rendering of this very strange looking creature at Paleoblog.Any geology person worth his or her halite luvs them some Far Side. And this has to be one of the favorite geology panels from that comic, from 1982. It's hardly news, first being officially used in 1993, but it's news to me that "thagomizer" is actually the official term for the arrays of spikes at the end of Stegosaurus tails. The comic below came to my attention via Swans on Tea.
Via Andrew Revkin at the NYT Dot Earth blog, I learned that the total amount of oil in the reservoir that is currently vomiting into the Gulf of Mexico amounts to trivia:
BP officials have estimated it contains no more than 100 million barrels of oil. That’s five days and change worth of American demand for this precious fuel.
Note that's a maximum. I'll try to do a more meaty post on the spill, but there's an awful lot of information, and it's painful and infuriating for me to go through.

This hurricane season is shaping up to be the worst since 2005, perhaps comparable.
The hurricane season of 2010 is upon us. With unprecedented sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, El Niño gone and possibly transitioning to La Niña, a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, a million earthquake refugees in Haiti at the mercy of a hurricane strike, and an ever-increasing number of people living on our coasts, the arrival of this year's hurricane season comes with an unusually ominous tone. NOAA is forecasting a very active and possibly hyperactive season, and Dr. Bill Gray has said he expects "a hell of a year."
"2010 hurricane season seen more active than feared." Whew! That's a... say what? "Worse!?!?" Guess what? Haiti's not prepared.

This was picked up by Geology Rocks:
from Good Will Job Hunting, URL Hire Me Because I'm Smart, with the comment,
The Earth’s altitudes are bimodally distributed — there is lots of terrain just above sea level, and lots of terrain 2 miles below sea level (the “abyssal plain”).

Weird, huh?
Well, no, not really. This distribution is an easily predictable result of having two different kinds of crust over a plastic (but solid) mantle. Continental crust is thick and comparatively low density; oceanic crust is thin and comparatively high density. I'm sure this was kind of weird looking fifty years ago before the development of plate tectonic theory, but someone who has a middle school level understanding of geology at this point shouldn't find the above diagram the least bit mysterious. It is very cool, though.

Exciting news about my home ground, from my home ground:
America's Pacific Northwest has a 37% chance of being hit by a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake in the next 50 years, a new study shows. That's more than double previous estimates of a 10-15% risk, says Chris Goldfinger, a marine geologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
I'm curious to see how this stands up to verification and critical review.

Speaking of Oregon, it's official: NOAA is here.This is very big news for Newport, about an hour across the Coast Range. OSU has a world-class school of Oceanography, Jane Lubchenco is from OSU, and Newport, along with most of the Oregon Coast, has been slammed pretty hard economically over the last 20 years, by both loss of logging jobs and fisheries restrictions. Tourism has helped, but not enough. Good on ya, Newport!

I don't do Twitter; nothing against it, and there are a couple of accounts that I check from time to time, but there's just too much other stuff for me to read and check on. So I was aware of this contest, but wasn't paying any attention to it. "Stephen Fry crowns most beautiful tweet at Hay Festival" Imagine my surprise to find it was a geology-related winner! And here it is:
The winning tweet read: "I believe we can build a better world! Of course, it'll take a whole lot of rock, water & dirt. Also, not sure where to put it."

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