Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Geo Biz

I remember being quite struck, taking economic Geology, when the prof started out the first lecture by pointing out that of the ten top corporations in the US (I presume ranked by revenue), nine were geologic in nature- either energy or minerals. I just checked in Wikipedia- and with the proviso that the page says it may need updating, that number is now seven of the top ten. Walmart, Toyota and Samsung are not (directly) involved in geological resources- though of course, the products they sell do depend on extractive industries- but the remainder are described as "oil and gas" industries. Amusingly, Samsung is described as "conglomerate," but I don't think that is intended in the geological sense.

The point is, geology is big business. There's a lot of money to be made there. (Incidentally, "economic geology," as it was called at the time, is focused on the geology, genesis, and clues to metallic ore deposits, not on the role of geology in economics.) Though I took the three-term intro sequence in economics, it was voluntary. I wasn't surprised that it wasn't a requirement for the degree, but I felt then, and still do, that it should be. There have been several stories over the last few days that have brought this connection between geology and economics back to my attention.

Last Sunday I posted an image of an enormous excavator- thanks to Lost Geologist, I now know that it is located in Germany, near Cologne. In this Flash Earth link, you can see the three enormous excavations west and northwest of that city. (Followup: Holy Cow! Zooming on, you can see the excavators in that pit, too!) Lost Geologist says, "The Garzweiler open pit, one of the largest man-made holes in terms of surface area, is located about 35 km WNW of Cologne, Germany." Again popping over to WikiP, I find they're mining lignite, and the pit has a surface area of 48 square km- about 18.5 sq. mi.

It is the nature of geological resources to occur in enormous amounts, thus requiring enormous infrastructure and capitol investment to get at, extract and process them. Another case in point showed up at Dark Roasted Blend on Monday: The Ultimate Moving: Troll-A Gas Platform. DRB has quite a number of photos of moving the platform, and some interesting information. This monster is incomprehensibly huge, but the following image shows its size compared to the Eiffel tower- keep in mind that much of the structure is underwater.
Currently the largest of these is the Petronius platform, "A compliant piled tower design, it is 609.9 meters (2,001 ft) high, and was arguably the tallest free-standing structure in the world, until surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in 2008..." At a cost of about half a billion dollars, you can begin to get a sense of the investments needed to do geology.

Somewhat closer to home, and much smaller in economic scale, there's a story in today's Oregon Live about Esco:
Esco managers don't mind that each tooth, or point, may wear out in two or three days. In fact, they like it that way.

That's because Portland-based Esco specializes in "wear parts," ground-engaging tools whose lifetimes are limited, much like expendable cartridges that drive printer makers' profits. The 97-year-old heavy-equipment manufacturer could be considered an anachronism in its hometown, known for green industries.
While the corporate offices may be in Portland, the foundry that is the focus of much of the story is near Edmonton, Alberta, and manufactures wear-intensive parts for the Athabasca tar sands operations. One passage I found particularly interesting shows it's not always best to design these points for maximum durability:
For Shell, Esco makes screens for huge cylinders known as rotary breakers that spin continuously like cement mixers, sifting tar sand for processing into crude. Opening a rotary breaker every few months to change parts can cost $2 million, including downtime expenses measured in thousands of dollars a minute. Therefore Shell asks Esco to harden one part and soften another, so everything wears out at once.
Again, the costs of geological extraction are far beyond what most people realize- it's not just wealth in the ground that you can dig up with a garden shovel.

The news regarding geological resources, economics and international relations that I have been most watchful for over the last few weeks is about rare earth elements (REE's)- it hasn't been front page stuff, and I don't know if it's made it into the teevee news, but it should have been up front and center in both. China currently controls the vast bulk of the planet's REE production, and apparently is willing to use those materials as an adjunct to their foreign policy positions. They, of course, claim other reasons, though I'm skeptical. I did a post on this topic 14 months ago, so this problem is not exactly new. I have been hoping to do a meatier post on this, but I keep getting caught up in other shiny things, so I'll just point out some recent pieces that I found especially useful and illuminating. Today's NYT has a very good article (in the business section!) talking about the importance of REE's, the problems created by China's recent (apparent) export embargo, and the environmental dangers that go with their production. As I commented in that older post, I know very little about the geology of REE deposits, but Ole Nielsen at OleLog helped somewhat on Thursday in his discussion of the geology and mineralogy of a particular prospect in Greenland. I say "somewhat" because I have the impression there are a wide variety of deposit types, and this is just one. He also has a list of pertinent links if you're curious to read more on the topic. Another article/editorial from The Idaho Statesman indicates there are some prospects in that state as well.

So even though people rarely think or speak of geology and economics in the same sentence, they are truly inextricable. Both in terms of what it costs to find, extract, and process a resource, and in terms of the revenues and profits derived from such operations, geology is an enormous, even dominant, discipline of importance in today's world.


The Stranglers, Vladimir and the Beast:

From the Soviet escapade into Afghanistan:

Thank you, my fatherland
For helping me to be totally reintegrated and normalised
Only in the world’s greatest socialist democracy
could one hope to be forgiven for losing temporary sight
of the aims and goals of the of the Marxist/Leninist revolution

Two years it took me to be cured of my illness
Being still a relatively young and fit man
I was still in search of fulfilment
The memory of Olger, Sergey and my two children
Motivated me to seek an occupation
That would both repay my debt to my great party
And obviously help the way to international socialism
I was still unable to resume my lectureship at the sub-nucleonic particle physics
And therefore volunteered to help our Afghan comrades
In their great struggle for liberation
I was readily accepted
Into a motorized maintenance unit

It was not long before I realised that our support
For the liberation struggle of our comrades in Afghanistan
Was not viewed at all together unanimously by the local population
In fact, we were not allowed outside of the barracks unless we were in large armoured groups

During our brief stay in Afghanistan
We had discovered some of the very few pleasures open to visitors to this desolate place
A local concoction called “hashish” was being increasingly used by our troops
And many of the helicopter gunship and tank crews, moreover
Would smoke large chillums and joints before embarking on missions around the mountains, surrounding Kabul

Every week comrades who had fallen into the hands of the rebels
would be found in various states of dismemberment around the camp
Those unlucky enough to be still alive
Were sent from rehabilitation
to the German democratic republics
Since this would prevent any undue alarm by our loved ones back home
The wisdom of this policy is evidence of our leaders’ great care for their people

Apart from hashish there was not much to divert or endure the cold mountain nights
And increasingly there were signs of the troops acquiring the illness of which I had previously been cured
And therefore, my attention was focused more on looking at the few animals that were kept within the military compound.
As is often the case between human beings and animals
A close bond of affection can develop
And I became increasingly close to a camel I named Dimitri
Ah, dear Dimitri

No one can really understand the relationship between a man and his camel
As was the case with the army doctors and my superiors
Who sent me to convalesce in the German democratic republic.

Mike & The Mechanics, Silent Running:

Timbuk 3, Life is Hard:

Everybody knows "Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades," but I thought that whole album, Greetings from Timbuk 3, was pretty awesome.

It's Caturday!

The Daily What
And my cute li'l kitteh. Sorry to hear about your loss, Dana. BTW, got into Blooger's settings and went back to the old editor, now I can load pictures just fine.

Followup: The Bad Astronomer found this awesome Star Trek-kitteh mashup.


Is anyone else having problems with Blooger this morning? I can't get it to upload images- the dialogue window to do so half-opens then gets stuck.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Run Away!

Via The Landslide Blog (formerly Dave's Landslide Blog, now relocated to the new AGU Geospace blog collective), an amazing clip of a landslide in Manaus, Brazil earlier this month. Click over for more details- though apparently not too much is known/confirmed thus far.


File Washington state's Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit under amazingly cute things that actually exist. But may not much longer, at least in the wild.
SPOKANE -- The tiny Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit remains an endangered species and threats to the animal have increased in the past five years. 
The pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit in North America, and can fit in a man's hand.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

AW #28: Deskcrop!

Or, in my case, a shelf crop photographed on the floor. Matt at Research at a Snail's Pace is hosting this month's Accretionary Wedge with the theme of Deskcrops- in other words, rocks that "crop out" indoors; I've been thinking of them as domesticated rocks. My contribution is a vaguely heart-shaped pillow basalt that I picked up for Callan, who sent out a request a year and a half ago, and is hearing about this acquisition only now.  This was obtained on Marys Peak on a geoexcursion with Dana a bit more than a month ago... and I really need to get back to this series and finish it up.  So as it turns out, this isn't really my deskcrop, after all. It just happens to be residing in my apartment at the moment. (All the pics should get much bigger if you click on them.)
To highlight some of the distinguishing features of pillow basalt, let's start with the exterior: characteristically, if fairly fresh, the outside will have a glassy rind with and "alligator-skin" texture- sort of pebbly, where the "pebbles" are a couple of cm. in diameter and flattened.  
The scale is in inches on the outer edge and centimeters on the inner side.  Accessory minerals are zeolites and calcite, and you're almost guaranteed to see some combination of these in pillows in my experience.  This particular piece is about a quarter of a single pillow, and the overall shape of the whole pillow is roughly sphereoidal, generally with some flattening along the original vertical axis- oblate sphereoids.  Somebody thought they looked like pillows, though they're not flattened that much, hence the name.
But there are a number of ways rocks can come to have round shapes- erosional transport and sphereoidal weathering are two that come to mind, and there are plenty of ringers for pillows in other basalts around the PNW.  The glassy rind is very susceptible to weathering, and is often not very distinctive in older outcrops. If I had to pick one feature as diagnostic, I'd pick radial jointing, shown nicely in the photo above. Note the coating of white secondary minerals- again, calcite and zeolites- along the joints. Some of the zeolites are pretty resistant to chemical weathering, and I've seen quite a number of "outcrops" where the spiderwebs of white minerals allowed the original pillows to be identified, even though the entire pile had weathered to clay, or saprolite.
I generally get out the door pretty quickly after I wake up in the morning- I generally pick Ozma up and give her a little scratching, but I don't spend a lot of time sitting around.  She was pretty jealous that I was paying so much attention to a rock this morning, and despite repeatedly moving her, she managed to get into nearly half the pictures as she tried to figure out the appeal.
This is a photo of our quarry at the quarry... a fair portion of this fell apart in the walk back to the car.
And above is the exposure it came from. As I said, I'll get back to this and write it up in more detail sometime, but it's nearly 6:00, I still have a bunch of stuff I want to read, and that's all for now.


A FaceBook friend sent me a message this morning saying, "Remember to vote Lockwood, I'm pretty sure you don't need reminding, but I'm doing it anyway!" The above vidclip (from BlueOregon) is kind of trite, to my taste, but it does highlight an interesting bit of information: Oregonians vote at a higher rate than any other state- the figure given here is 84.9%. (I suspect that's the turnout for the '08 election, not an average.) But the clip was posted with the cute double-entendre "More Oregonians do it than in just about any other state. We do it at home, in private; we do it public, with our friends; we even do it at school and at work." What we do in all those various settings and combinations is, of course, vote.

We have a unique vote-by-mail system that I've discussed before- the ballots are sent out about two weeks before election day- so your address on your registration MUST be current- the ballot will not be forwarded to a new address. Voters thus do not need to show up and wait in line in crappy weather, they can do it at home, at school, etc, at a day, time and place that's convenient to them. It's traditional in my case to do it at the coffee shop. The completed ballot is placed in a "secrecy envelope," which is then sealed, then that package is placed in an authentication envelope, which the voter then signs and seals.  The signature serves two purposes: first, it serves as a statement that the voter affirms this is his/her vote, and that no one has unduly pressured or forced them to vote in a manner against their wishes (doing so is a major crime). Second, when the ballot gets to the county office, the signature is compared to the voter's signature on file, confirming that the registered voter is actually the one that completed the process. The outer envelope is then removed, and the inner envelope is taken to a different room before being opened and the ballot counted.  Thus the voter's identity is separated from the ballot before the ballot is seen.

The ballot can then be mailed to the pre-marked address or dropped in official drop boxes at public locations like libraries and post offices by 8:00 PM election day. Last I read, something like 15-20% of registered Oregonians have already voted. I generally get mine into the OSU Library drop box Monday afternoon. Mailed ballots should be sent no later than Fri. or Sat. before the election- arrival at the county offices, not postmark, must be by 8:00 PM of election day.

Long and short, I actually feel a little bad I can't take more pride in not having missed a major election since 1992 (I was moving, and without a vehicle, and starting a new job, I just didn't get the paperwork done for an absentee ballot). Oregon makes voting so convenient and easy that I can't really feel all that great about actually doing it. But given the rampant concerns with either fraud or lack of opportunity/time/access to voting facilities, it does seem like the other 49 states might want to take a look at Oregon's system.  Many of us were uncertain about it when it was instituted, but it makes it less of a hassle to vote than we could have imagined, and I haven't met anyone in the last decade who doesn't like it.

So yes, I will vote. And whatever weaknesses or strengths your state's system has, you should too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rusted Root

A friend just reminded me of this group... and of course the U-tubez delivers.

Seal Rock

Geology Rocks posted this earlier today, from Seal Rock State Park, between Newport and Waldport. This is likely Columbia River basalt that reached the coast, then re-intruded into unconsolidated sediment. This has been shown to be the case for numerous similar basalt headlands further to the north, but I don't know for sure whether it's been confirmed in this instance.  If it is, it's the farthest south occurrence of CRB (exposed, at least) along the coast.  It's a gorgeous spot, with a ring dike somewhat sheltering a nice sandy beach.  It also happens to be the first Oregon scenery I visited after I arrived in Oregon some 30 years ago.  My dorm roomie drove us over to the coast, and we went climbing around on the rocks. This spot is very exciting, and not too hard to get to, though I doubt I'd try again now.

Followup: Reader/commenter SkinnyDennis left a link to the location in Google Maps- the photo is looking down that crevice between the two dikes, and if you back out a bit, you can see how the dike arcs out into the surf, then back to shore to the south.

Tuesday Tits

White-browed tit, Poecile superciliosa. Photo from here, description here, and I adore that species name. This isn't merely a great tit, it's a superior tit. At least it thinks it is. Ah, interestingly, supercilious has an etymology deriving from "eyebrow."

Not To Worry

Tweeted by @Camilla_SDO, "Do not worry! This is not the largest Coronal Mass Ejection ever. Just a glitch in @ & we are fixing it."
Very funny! Coffee up my nose, not so much.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Millimeters Matter... Splat!

Via Facebook friend Jennifer Tucker, 2.5 mm (0.1 inch) cream pies! Being Catapulted! At Insects!


Daniel Ellsberg On The New Wikileaks Release

I've been paying a sort of half attention to this... my basic feeling, as I've said before, is that if you've been paying attention, there's not really anything new here. But I found this perspective, by Daniel Ellsberg (of The Pentagon Papers fame) in The Guardian startling, and an important way to think about the importance of the documentation.
Now we know that the Pentagon, which claimed in the early years of the Iraq invasion either that it didn't count casualties or that it had no evidence of them, was indeed keeping meticulous records all along. It has reports of 66,000 civilian casualties – 15,000 of which were completely unknown to Iraq Body Count, the only public attempt to log the war's victims. That means 15,000 deaths that never made any news report – five times the number murdered on 9/11. It certainly would be news if they were American or British deaths. That's 15,000 families who've suffered huge anguish and who may potentially have been motivated to seek revenge against American or allied troops. For the Pentagon to lie or try to hide this kind of carnage can only be self-defeating.
The previously unknown victims outnumber the dead of 9/11 by five to one.

Flowers and candy, ya youbetcha.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What You Could Read

You know, if you want: The Borowitz Report.  Here's a few titles and excerpts from recent posts. (To read the full post(s), click the title(s).)

Christine O’Donnell Favors Separation of Speech and Thought

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know if there’s anything about that in the Constitution,” she added. “In the version of the Constitution that I read, Big Bird didn’t mention it.”

Palin’s Evolution into O’Donnell Proves Darwin Was Wrong

Dr. Kyosuke stunned the conference when he presented his scholarly paper, “Tea Party Politicians and the Theory of Devolution,” in which he studied the so-called “reverse natural selection” at play in GOP candidates for Governor of New York. “If we chart the trend line from George Pataki to Carl Paladino, within fifty years New York might be governed by Cro-Magnon Man,” he said.

Rabid Dog Briefly Mistaken for Tea Party Candidate

The dog, later identified by its owner as “Mister Buster,” held the crowd spellbound as he barked, growled, and frothed at the mouth, eventually receiving a standing ovation for his exertions.
I may have already noted that last one- I know I meant to. But very often stuff just sits in RSS and gets forgotten, then disappears after a week or so. And the gag is still funny a second time, right?


The APOD folks have an odd choice for their Astronomy Photo of the Day today, a ThyssenKrupp bucket wheel excavator. If you read through the description, you can see the connection- mines visible from space, a machine larger than the NASA crawler that transports the shuttle, and so on.  But let's face it, astro folks: you just have a bad case of rock envy.

Sunday Funnies: SUDDS Edition!

Dr. Boli
cute puppy pictures-LABRALANCHE
see more dog and puppy pictures
4 koma comic strip - Keanus Projection
see more Comixed
Clay Bennett
Bits and Pieces
The Far Left Side
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr

Bell councilman: In the Oct. 13 Section A, a profile of Lorenzo Velez, the only Bell City Council member not charged with a crime, described Bell as "a city dominated by blue-color Mexican immigrants like himself." It should have said "blue-collar." Link
Regret The Error
Fake Science
Celebrity pictures - Lily Tomlin
see more Lol Celebs
Celebrity Gifs - Simon and Garfunkel
see more Lol Celebs
Celebrity Pictures - Family Feud, Batman
see more Lol Celebs
Yoga Balls Aren't For Everyone Gif -Yoga Balls Aren't For Everyone
see more Gifs
Bits and Pieces
The Daily What- The droid you're looking for is for sale here.
see more Ugliest Tattoos
Geology Rocks
4 koma comic strip - The Perils of Facebook
see more Comixed
awesome photos - Wait...Am I upside Down?
see more Epic Win FTW
Savage Chickens
Joy of Tech
Imaginary Bowling again, Sir?
see more Historic LOL
funny puns-Saturday Nut Fever
see more So Much Pun
Sofa Pizza
Sofa Pizza- Denied!
Dr. Boli: Emulation (noun). The process of making someone or something into an emu.
Luke Surl- So that makes this a good day.
demotivational posters - DAMN YOU THERMODYNAMICS
see more Very Demotivational
funny puns-The Cysteine Chapel
see more So Much Pun. No, I didn't recognize the molecule either, but this is the Cysteine Chapel.
see more Political Pictures
Taco Bell: No Delusions About Its Customers
see more Political Pictures. Posted with the title, "Taco Bell: No Delusions About Its Customers."
Dark Roasted Blend
Fake Science
I See What You Did There
see more Oddly Specific

"Television – a medium. So called because it is neither rare nor well done."
Quotes of the Day- Ernie Kovacs
demotivational posters - BAD VACATION
see more Very Demotivational
This must be for the sequel. It's been many years since I saw The Dark Crystal, but I don't remember that part at all. EpicPonyz
Celebrity Pictures - Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner
see more Lol Celebs
Bits and Pieces
Sofa Pizza
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Okay, old gag, but Star Trek AND Dinosaurs? Gotta go with it. Comixed
Bits and Pieces