Saturday, February 28, 2015

Geo 1095: February 26, Day 787: Paradise Lost

There is something distinctly cathedral-like about this spot, but human architects had nothing to do with it... it's all water chemistry and geochemistry.

Photo unmodified. May 9, 2013. FlashEarth Location. (Since we're underground, I have only a vague idea where this is with respect to the surface.)

Geo 1095: February 25, Day 786: Limitations

Ascending into the spot named "Paradise Lost," the most heavily and spectacularly decorated portion of the cave along this tour, there are two apparent limitations. First is the limited ability of a camera flash to accurately illuminate and capture scenery in poor (or no) lighting. The rock in the lower right is way over exposed; that to the top is way underexposed. The second limitation will not be so obvious to others... I almost decided not to make this climb. My balance is not good, and this climb is somewhere between a ladder and a stairway, but closer to a ladder. Fortunately, it's narrow, too narrow for more than one at a time, with good sturdy rails on both sides. So the climb wasn't that bad. The descent, which is what I was more worried about, I handled by self-selecting to be last down, and took it slow. So that wasn't too bad either.

Photo unmodified. May 9, 2013. FlashEarth Location. (Since we're underground, I have only a vague idea where this is with respect to the surface.)

Friday, February 27, 2015

"I Have Been, and Always Shall Be, Your Fan."

Today is a loss... if I don't do this (and I really don't want to, but I need to work toward closure), I won't get anything else done. It was announced earlier that Leonard Nimoy has passed away.
I really appreciated that Barack took a moment to respond to this sad news, and even more pleased by how perfectly he hit the notes I'd like to hit:
To which I responded (from this post nearly six years ago), "Obama's statement on Spock is, of course, logical."
Star Trek TOS (The Original Series) started airing in fall of 1966, at a point in time when our family did not have a television. But I saw it occasionally at friends' houses, and of course, heard about it at school. At Christmas of 1967, when I was in 3rd grade, our family did get a small, black and white TV. Star Trek became the show I tried to never miss. The show only rarely achieved "greatness," in terms of what older me would come to require of "great" science fiction, but for 8-year-old me, it was perfect.

And as a kid who was inclined toward science from my earliest memories, Spock was the character I gravitated toward. Level-headed and knowledgeable, he was what I aspired to be.

Flash forward to the seventies, syndication and high school. Reruns reran every weekday at 5 PM... and I rarely missed them. In fact, I audio-recorded the entire series. I basically had the series memorized. And Spock became even more the center of my attention. Dealing with the emotional BS of puberty, I saw in him a model I could emulate. I could experience these intense emotions, but not let them harm me or those around me. It wasn't exactly healthy, for a human person, but it was a strategy for coping with what felt like insanity. It was one that allowed me to empathize with others, but (hopefully) spared others the pain I experienced. From "City on the Edge of Forever:"
McCoy: "You deliberately stopped me, Jim! I could have saved her! Do you know what you just did?"

Spock: "He knows, Doctor...He knows."
In that scene, you can see that Spock is intensely aware of, and is pained himself, by the grief Kirk is experiencing from witnessing the death of the woman he loved, yet remains committed to the reality of what had to happen. That was what I aspired to.

Another episode (the above is generally argued to be the "best," and I tend to agree) that was my personal favorite, was "The Devil in the Dark." Miners are being killed by some kind of ferocious beast, so the Enterprise arrives to try to protect them. It turns out, the miners are unwittingly committing xenocide against a race of intelligent, peaceful, and logical rock-burrowing creatures called "hortas." Spock mind melds with the last surviving horta, and explains the situation to the crew and the miners- which leads to a fruitful partnership for all. I have no doubt this episode played a major role in creating a positive attitude toward geology for me. Did it "inspire" me to be a geologist? Almost certainly not. Did it make geology something I was more eager to investigate when I had the opportunity? Almost certainly. I can't draw the line in there, but it was a big influence.

And once again, Spock was what I aspired to.


There is so much more to say about Leonard Nimoy as a genuine, caring, concerned, and humane human being, and all I've really talked about is his role as Spock. But that's where I'm going to stop, because that's what I knew, and that's the loss I have to cope with. Attempting to go further into the depths of his basic decency would only make it hurt more. I'll leave it with,
Kirk: "We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. And yet it should be noted that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human"

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Geo 1095: February 24, Day 785: Ground Ground Underground

I think this is in the same room as yesterday's dike, but wherever it is, I looked down and was struck by the beauty of the ground and polished stalagmite under my feet. This photo nicely shows the concentric growth pattern of these features. The light/dark variations probably represent differing crystallization habits of the calcite across the duration of its deposition. My guess would be that darker areas represent coarser crystals (think water ice), while lighter areas represent finer crystals (think snow). To be clear, that is a guess, but I suspect it's a good one.

Photo unmodified. May 9, 2013. FlashEarth Location. (Since we're underground, I have only a vague idea where this is with respect to the surface.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Geo 1095: February 23, Day 784: Intrusive Aquaclude

"Aquaclude" may be an obsolete term; I seem to remember reading somewhere that there is another term that's preferred now, but I don't remeber what it is. Basically, as I learned it 30-some years ago, an aquaclude is an impermeable layer, through which ground water travels poorly, or not at all. In the photo, that darker streak is a dike that appears to have confined groundwater seepage to the lower right. Note that in the upper left, there are no stalactites or flowstone. The nature of the dike is unclear to me... I know on previous tours, it has been described as a clastic dike. Unconsolidated sediment intruding up into this limestone prior to metamorphosis seems like a possibility, but post-metamorphic intrusion seems unlikely. Everything else in the neighborhood would also be metamorphosed. However, on this trip, it was described as an igneous intrusion, which makes somewhat more sense in this setting. But I couldn't get at it, and the powers that be would certainly not condone taking a sample for closer inspection in better light. So from my perspective, I'll just leave the question as unsettled. Below is an annotated version of the photo, with the dike highlighted, and ovals around areas with obvious speleothems.
Photo unmodified. May 9, 2013. FlashEarth Location. (Since we're underground, I have only a vague idea where this is with respect to the surface.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Geo 1095: February 22, Day 783: Stalagmite Moonlets

Another "splash" photo, this one is a bit more subtle. If you look in the neighborhood of the upper portion of this stalagmite, you should be able to spot some small transparent spheres, which are droplets of water splashing back from a larger drop that fell from the ceiling. It looks like a contingent of little moonlets orbiting the peak.

Photo unmodified. May 9, 2013. FlashEarth Location. (Since we're underground, I have only a vague idea where this is with respect to the surface.)