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May 24 2013

We Have Special Geologist Vision

Sometimes, science feels like you’ve been given a superpower, because you can see things not many other people can see:

geos see

I love being able to pick up an ordinary rock or a plain landscape, and reveal its epic history. I used to think science wasn’t creative. I was so very, very wrong. Science is story, and scientists are storytellers. True stories, far stranger than fiction. I wish I’d know all those years ago. I would have devoted my life to telling those stories long ago, if I’d known how enthralling they were.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    rq

    I’ll take both views, thanks. :)
    Sometimes it’s nice to look at the superficial beauty of something (for example, when I’m tired and just want to enjoy the view).
    And sometimes it’s nice to be able to look underneath and know how it got to be there (most of the time, because knowing stuff is awesome).

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    “I wish I’d know all those years ago. I would have devoted my life to telling those stories long ago, if I’d known how enthralling they were.”

    And the reason you have wasted all those years? I bet you never had a science teacher to light the fire. So why are you still wasting your years as an office hack, when you could be a teacher? I think you would be great at it.

  3. 3
    rq

    I agree with Gregory!
    I think you’d be excellent – no, Excellent!!! – at lighting some fires in the brains of many, many young people hungry for knowledge and just a wee bit of enthusiasm and guidance.
    You’ve definitely done a fine job of teaching me a heck of a lot, and that’s long-distance, via computer. Imagine what you could do in person!
    [/nopressure]

  4. 4
    rq

    *ahem* … wee bit short of enthusiasm and guidance…

  5. 5
    Trebuchet

    Any idea where that top view is? Someplace in the far north or south, I’m guessing, based on the lack of trees. No snow on the distant mountains, however.

  6. 6
    Karen Locke

    Dana, I think there’s something to the notion that you’re a storyteller, and geologists are natural storytellers. Not that our stories aren’t grounded in good hard science; they are. But our collective purpose in life is to make the past come alive again by learning as much about it as we can, and telling the resulting story — sometimes to colleagues via professional papers and conference presentations/posters, sometimes to the public as you do. Still, geology and paleontology are the storytelling hard sciences.

  7. 7
    Karen Locke

    Also, while I’m commenting, let me hawk a book by my friend Don Prothero: The Paleobiology of Indricotheres: Rhinoceros Giants. The illustrations are are all black-and-white which makes the Kindle edition appealing. I’ve flipped through my paper copy, but haven’t read it yet… though this is the man whose textbook turned me on to sedimentology, so I know he’s a terrific writer. And Paleo is his first love…

  8. 8
    Reginald Selkirk

    Geologist vision pales in comparison to science fiction vision:
    Butterflies remember a mountain that hasn’t existed for millennia
    Two links are cited as supporting evidence: an Amazon book listing whose relevance is not obvious, and a Journal of Experimental Biology article which does not mention, let alone support, the claim.

  9. 9
    Malachite

    Karen: “Still, geology and paleontology are the storytelling hard sciences.”

    Ah, they look mighty soft compared to what I face in my area of science, if I want to tell stories about it. At least you can see rocks and fossils. Try taking a photo of an algorithm :-)

  10. 10
    Karen Locke

    @Malachite, we use a lot more algorithmic software than you’d expect I’ve done my share of work on various equipment (not that my own university had much, but Stanford and the USGS lend their stuff out) that required some serious number-crunching to analyze. For my own MS thesis, I spent hours doing the very pedestrian work of counting/categorizing sand grains under a microscope, but then using some very top-of-the-line mapping software to tell where they came from. Geo;pgy is storytelling — but there’s a lot of lab effort that goes into some of those stories.

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