Thursday, October 29, 2009

Party like the Paleoproterozoic

The Paleoproterozoic was an interesting time. Oxygen finally settled into the atmosphere on a permanent basis, most of the iron formations we use to make cars, bridges, skyscrapers etc. were formed, and the removal of methane from the atmosphere cooled the surface until everything froze, creating a condition known as the “snowball Earth”.

Similar conditions may have reoccurred again in the Neoproterozoic, but since then, the tropics have tended towards being ice free. But will this last? A simple extrapolation says no.

Figure 1. linear extrapolation of the last three years of sea ice minima.

As you can see, sea ice has been increasing for the last three years, by about half a million km ^2 per year. With only 360 million km^2 of ocean on the planet, a continuation of this trend will freeze the entire ocean by the year 2724! We are all doomed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Asshole of the Month

The Asshole of the month award for October 2009 goes to the United Airlines Steward who harassed the woman sitting in front of me as we came in to land at Sydney this morning. She was flying with an 18 month-old in her lap, and a three-year-old in the seat next to her, with no other adult assistance. The flight was over 13 hours long. And the kids were great- there was a brief point where the older kid tried playing with the hair of everyone around him (including me), but in general they were quiet and kept to themselves the entire flight. No so for the steward, who went off on some passive-aggressive, sarcastic bombast. With slang. American slang. To an obviously non-American passenger. I don’t know what he meant by “fresh”, but I don’t think that word can really be applied to anything on a sold-out 747 that has been in the air for over 12 hours. Luckily all the other 400-odd people on board were acting sensibly, so the flight as a whole was surprisingly bearable. He should have been pinning a medal on the woman. Instead he made trouble. What an ass.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Conversation is a two way street

After the GSA meeting ended today, I popped down to the Mall up the tracks to do some American shopping that the exchange rate was beaconing me with.

In the mall, I discovered a new form of salesmanship, which did not seem to exist in America the last time I went shopping here- the steamroller pitch.

As I was passing a stall selling some sort of froo-froo cosmeticalogical instruments, the lady at the stall said, “excuse me.” Before I could so much as introduce my self she had grabbed my hand, filed off the slickensites of my fingernail, and was well on the way to achieving an optical polish before I managed to express my disinterest.

This approach was repeated at the very next stall. Before I could utter so much as a “G’day”, the stallkeeper was thrusting his wares in my face.

“Excuse me, excuse me sir, how would you like some genuine Australian sheepskin ugg boots… You can wear them in…”

At this point I should mention two things.

Firstly, years in Australia has left me with a hybrid accent, which I can dial between 90% American and 70% Australian depending on the situation. While I have a way to go before achieving neutrality, I can generally bend it far enough in the correct direction to make a retail transaction without attracting attention.

Secondly, there is a genuine Australian Ugg boot factory about a mile from my work place. The guy there is fantastic- he gave LLLL a free pair of cute little baby uggs when we replaced Mrs. Lemmings boots. So I was curious as to whether they were doing well enough to sell overseas.

Dialing my accent down to its most ocker setting, I asked the salesman a simple question:

“Soowich factr’y are they made in?”

But he wasn’t listening, he was selling. He deflected his rapidfire exclamation of their virtues enough to mention the brand (which I have forgotten), until I deflected him again.

“So are they made in Austraaaaalia?”

He still hadn’t broken stride “They are made in China, but I can assure you that they sheep skins they are made of really do come from Australia, As you can see we have blah blah blah…”

And then he mentioned a price which was really not consistent with the quality of his boots. As he continued on, I realized that I had no choice but to interrupt him.

“Now look here, mate. Do you really expect me to pay twice as much for some Chinese factory worker to put the blokes down the street out of business, just so-”

All of a sudden is mouth stopped moving, and his eyes expanded until they resembled saucers.

I was amused enough to forgive him for his rudeness at that point and leave the lesson there, until he regained his composure enough to defend his actions.

“Well, what am I supposed to do, I can’t tell where you are from just by looking at you...”

And that, my friends is why we pause, introduce ourselves, and say G’day.

Conversation is a two way street.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

GSA day three

Today was one big schmoozefest and storytelling day, and of course reposting other people's adventures is not a very polite thing to do. So I will let all of you non-existent readers fill in your own blanks. Have you combined hitchhiking with fieldwork? If not, what is the transport method you have used that is most likely to draw frowns from the front office staff..?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

GSA day two- geoblogger meetup

Quiz time:

The GSA geoblogger meetup happened in...
A: pyjamas.
B: a basement.
C: a blogger’s mom’s house.
D: a pub.
E: all of the above.

Pseudononymous bloggers came...
A: in Burquas.
B: in superhero outfits.
C: in early, hid under the tables, and would’t come out until closing.
D: by conference call/ skype/ iPhone app.
E: all of the above.

We spent our time...
A: talking about blogging.
B: blogging about talking.
C: drinking.
D: taking phone shots of each other drinking for later BUI incidents.
E: all of the above.

The beer was...
A: outstanding
C: superfluous.
D: spilt on the pyjamas we wore in mom’s basement.
E: all of the above.

The pub closed...
A: early.
B: late.
C: after the cops were called.
D: as soon as they realized we were all cybernerds.
E: all of the above.

The most awkward line was...
A: I don’t read your blog.
B: I don’t read any blogs.
C: you know him from where?
D: why do you care about rocks?
E: all of the above.

The events that transpired in the Tug...
A: stay in the Tug.
B: are all over facebook.
C: will make a participant’s career.
D: will break a participant’s career.
E: all of the above.

Post answers in comments.

Monday, October 19, 2009

GSA day one

Well the first day of the GSA meeting has come and gone.

I missed the carbon sequestration talks, but did make it to a biogeochemistry talk on mesoproterozoic Brazil. Our booth ran a bit more roughly than I hoped when our magnet decided to misbehave back in Canberra, but we did give a few people the opportunity to run the instrument. I also caught Ron Schott's gigapan setup (didn't quite make the talk), and can say that he is as enthusiastic about it in real life as he is on his blog.


The leaves! We don't have fall colours in Australia, so red and yellow trees were certainly a hit.

Old friends. Some I've been dying to see, some I wan't expecting until they came around the corner.

The food and drink around town.


My brain. I fought a few unnecessary battles with my computer.

Internet protocols and software. Erasing a page of ip addresses then typing them in exactly the same should not be necessary to connect to the web.

The program book. for some reason, the web page is great, easy to use organization, but the printed book is a all over the shop.


Parenting is great preparation for jet lag. I felt no worse today than I do after a standard night of child-induced insomnia.

Tomorrow is the designated "Hi, I used to read your blog before I found better things to do with my time" night. Tune in tomorrow to see how good an icebreaker that line is. I can tell from the recent comments that many of y'all feel the same way.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

GSA is alomst here.

It is very late and I have a plane to catch tomorrow, but here are some talks I am looking forward to:


Roberts et al.; Session No. 87, OCC Portland ballroom 255; Monday, 11:20 AM-11:35 AM.


SOLOMON, Sean et al.;.Session No. 197, OCC: Portland Ballroom 254 Tuesday, 2:15 -2:45 PM


Anyone else particularly keen to see something? If so, comment (plugs welcome).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hadean zircon bingo

I realize that my geoposting here has been slack of late, but work has been flat out preparing for the Portland conference. This evening, however, I managed to do some internet dating, geology style. The cross-building remote operation which we ran today at work has now been tested across town. Assuming the tubes are aligned for us next week, we will hopefully have a mount of Jack Hills zircons under remote control from booth #301 at the Geological Society of America conference. If you're there, swing by and see if you can find relics of the oldest known terrestrial material.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Have you seen this bird?

Back in 2005, Mrs. Lemming and I hiked the Grand Canyon, starting down from the south rim just as the Sun rose over the frosty cliffs. We were lucky enough to see not one, but two California Condors on our walk down.

Because the condor is critically endangered, all of the birds are labelled and tracked by conservation officers. A complete list of the birds released in Arizona can be found here. Browsing this list, I noticed that the bird pictured above is missing, presumed dead.

A brief correspondence with the conservation officers revealed that the bird disappeared in January 2009, just over three years after this picture was taken. If anyone has seen the bird since that time, please contact the Peregrine Fund via their web page.

The other bird we saw, number 72, is currently listed as "doing well in wild".

Friday, October 09, 2009

LCROSS impact in half an hour

NASA is about to crash a satellite and a spent upper stage into a shadowed crater near the Moon's south pole, to see if it acts like a giant cold trap and holds significant water.

I'm guessing that it will be low-to-none. This will be disappointing to exploration dudes, but is far more interesting scientifically.

The moon has not yet risen here in Australia, so it will not be possible to observe the impact.

I wish the NASA TV folks would speak metric, though.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

GSA meeting presentations

One of the reasons I have not been blogging much recently is that I have been spending too much time on the internet for work. Much of that involved collating research done using our instruments that is being presented at the conference. So for anyone interested in applications of zircon geochronology to geologic problems, I have a list.
And, yes. The time scale is correct to within a pixel, and uses the international standard colors. It is the ICS timescale, though, not the GSA one.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Space carnival

Number 123.

Number 122.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Arctic sea ice prognosticator of the year is...


The JAXA minimum arctic sea ice extent value for 2009 was 5249844 km2, which was recorded in September 13.

The final score for each contestant is the value of their Gaussian curve at 5249.844, and is listed in table 1.

Table 1: Contestant final scores and original guesses.

The results are plotted in figure 1.

If I recall correctly from the original comments, Hypocentre is a hard rock geologist, and the 2nd through 5th place winners were all climatologists.

Figure 1. Contestant curves and final 2009 minimum sea ice extent (red line).

Hypocentre, as the winner of the contest, may now nominate a topic for a future blog post (post nomination in comments, please).

Everyone else, tune in next (northern) summer solstice for the 2010 version of this contest.

Commentary, corrections, and sour grapes are welcome in the comments section.