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Nov 21 2012

The Joye of the Scientific Literature

I bloody love the scientific literature.

This was my night Monday night, while North Creek flooded and the cat cuddled and I recovered my sense of humor after a rough day. I got all excited about finding gem after gem in Google Scholar. I started posting this on G+, but a small observation ballooned into a full post. So it goes…

Off in the scientific paper weeds right now…. Really, all I meant to do was look up a few papers on lateral blasts and Mount St Helens. Somehow, I’ve ended up taking a wrong turn at Bandai-san and ended up in the San Francisco Volcanic Field, squeeing all the way. I had no idea we had maars there! Woo-hoo!

Crater 160

Crater 160, a maar in the San Francisco Volcanic Field. Image courtesy Oregon State University’s Volcano World

And this is the joy of being able to read the scientific literature: I find out things I never knew, things that don’t make it in to general geology books or little articles about the area. Maars aren’t sexy – not when you have a great big stratovolcano and a very attractive cinder cone right there. But they’re sexy to me. So is the in-depth research as to why the San Francisco Peaks have that huge chunk taken out of them. So many exciting stories end up being just a line in the pop sci books, if they make it in at all. And that’s a shame.

Well, I shall change that. When I get through with this, people will find maars irresistible. They’ll dig alongside geologists in a quest to discover the truth about the Peaks. They’ll never look at volcanoes the same way again.

And I’ll do that with rivers, and glaciers, and everything else that shimmers and shines and hollers, “Hey, Dana, over heeeerrrrreee! Lookitmeeeee!!!!!!!!!!” Which is a lot of stuff. Which means I’d better hope I’m effectively immortal….

And if I do my job very well indeed, I will hopefully entice people into reading the geologic literature for themselves. If I do it extremely well, some of them may end up writing books of their own on the things that capture their attention.

Regardless, I just hope I bring across some ¬†of that wonder and joy and excitement of discovery. I hope people can look at the world around them (and other planets!) and see them again for the first time. I hope I can change their reaction from, “That’s nice” to “Wow!

And now I’m going to go back to spelunking the literature, squeeing all the while. It’s so shiny!

8 comments

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  1. 1
    rq

    *ahem* What’s a maar? In layperson’s terms?
    (I’ll delve into the serious literature in a mo but I need a quick layperson’s heads-up.)

    1. 1.1
      Dana Hunter

      I linked it above – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maar. That’s the quick-and-dirty. At some point in the future, I’ll be delving deeper – got a fantastic maar or two from travels with Lockwood to write up!

      1. rq

        Sorry, I missed that link. I clicked on the one that went straight to the scientific article. :) Thanks.

      2. rq

        PS Another local word now made into official geologic feature. ;)

        1. adrian

          And there I was thinking it meant “Malevolent Alien Abduction Research”, that’s what google says!

  2. 2
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Dana:
    Your excitement is almost infectious (meant in the best way possible)!

  3. 3
    sheila

    Squee! I have a maar about 4 miles from home*, and I never knew the word for it until now. This will be useful for work (I’m a tour guide) but mostly it’s just fun. And “maar” is a heck of a lot easier to say than phreatomagmatic.” I can even make uphorrible puns, like “Top of the world, maar.”

    Thank you!

    *Well, half a maar. The other half is under the sea, and forms the island’s main port.
    http://www.inmagine.com/imb018/imb0181020-photo

  4. 4
    Pierce R. Butler

    Somebody not far from here needs to start writing her own pop-sci -rocks book!

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