A Snippet o’ Subduction Zone Goodness for Ye

If I ever become ridiculously rich, I’m going to open up a geological theme park. Can you imagine the rides? Earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and more – all very exciting. And educational. I think we could make it work, don’t you? Imagine the field trips!

Of course, we’d have to have a roller coaster based on subduction zones. It would be pretty intense. There’d be lots of ups and downs.

Image is a hand-drawing of the Juan de Fuca Ridge (spreading center), the Olympic Mountains (accretionary prism), Puget Sound, and the Cascade Mountains (magmatic arc).

A rough diagram of our subduction zone. Don’t laugh. I had to draw it by hand. Definitely not to scale, but you get the idea.

We’d start at the mid-ocean ridge, which in this case isn’t all that far offshore. The Juan de Fuca Plate is just a fragment of a larger plate. Eventually, it’ll subduct under the North American plate, some amazing geology will happen, and then it’ll only be the Pacific Plate in play. We’ll have to get deeper in to that someday. But for now: imagine our rollercoaster bumping daintily over the spreading center. Maybe, if we’ve got enough money to invest, we’ll even start underwater, just as we should. How awesome would that be?

So we slip down the side of the ridge, will all the black smokers and other excitement, and then there’s a short, smooth ride over the ocean floor between there and the subduction zone. Once we reach there, the coaster goes bumpity-bump over sediments stuffing the trench, and then begins the long climb over the mightily impressive accretionary prism we’ve got going on.

I mean, check it out.

Image shows the snow-capped Olympics rising jaggedly against a partly-cloudy sky. There is a view of the Kitsap Peninsula and Puget Sound. There are trees in the foreground.

A view of the Olympic Mountains from Richmond Beach.

Then once our roller coaster is perched at the tip-top of those glacier-carved peaks of oceanic basalt and sedimentary goodness, it’ll zip down the other side and swoop into the forearc basin. It’ll have a little bump over the Kitsap Peninsula, and then splash into the Sound. Cuz we’re totally gonna have water, right?

Image shows the mountains, the peninsula, and the Sound without trees in the way.

Look at that lovely peninsula and all that gorgeous water.

We’ll have a kinda washer-board effect as the coaster rolls over the topography carved and deposited by the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. Then there’ll be a higher climb over the magmatic arc, the Cascades. Yeah, the northern Cascades have a lot of sedimentary and metamorphic rock, but they’ve also got volcanoes. Maybe we’ll have Glacier Peak erupting as the coaster goes by. We can use synthetic snow dyed gray for the ash clouds.

Image shows the snow-capped Cascades rising over the Puget Lowland.

Foothills and Cascades

(That’s not the view from Richmond Beach, of course.)

So once we’re perched at the tippy-top of the Cascades, we’re staring into the backarc basin. That’s all dry and in the rainshadow, and it’s really magnificent, but of course you can’t see it because we’ve just had an eruption and the wind’s blowing east. Okay, actually, it’s because I don’t have a lot of my photos on this tiny machine, and it took me all night to hand-draw my diagram, since this machine won’t play with my tablet. I had a lot of fun, though.

Let’s take the coaster back to Richmond Beach so we can admire our forearc basin and accretionary prism some more, shall we?

Image is looking south-west from Richmond Beach. The Olympics and Kitsap Peninsula are in view at the right.

Gazing into the mists of the Sound.

Hang out in the basin a while. Make friends with the driftwood. Enjoy the magnificent scenery that results when a bit of oceanic crust slides beneath continental, and glaciers put some finishing touches on an already fantastic landscape.


Image is looking across a beach filled with driftwood. The Kitsap Peninsula and the Olympics are visible across the Sound.

Driftwood in the basin.

Let’s Play Spot the UFDs

We get to see how sharp your UFD-spotting skills are, and see if you can actually identify a few dots. You guys are wizard: betcha you can do it.

All right, first you gotta spot the UFDs in this lovely nature scene:

Image shows the snow-capped Olympic Mountains, the Kitsap Peninsula, and part of Puget Sound.

I solemnly swear there are UFDs in this photo.

I know, it’s not really fair, is it? Huge photo, itty bitty birdies. But I have complete faith in you. My faith is extra-special, as I am an ordained minister. How’s that feel, my darlings? Or should I say, my meatballets?

Okay, yes, you’re allowed to slap my hand with a wet noodle when next we meet. That was a very bad joke.

All right, try your luck with this photo.

A closer crop of the above image. All of the same features, including UFDs, are present.

You’re totally able to see the UFDs now, right?

All right, now that you’ve located the UFDs (you have, haven’t you?), I’ll give you a very special cropped image of them, but you’ll have to go here to get it.

What do you think? I’m pretty sure these are quite common waterbirds round here, but damned if I can remember what they are. Bet you do! Identify away, my darlings!




Holy Schist! Order Today for Christmas!

Okay, gift givers, if you’re still shopping for Dana Hunter’s Gneiss Schist for Christmas, it’s definitely crunch time. This is the last day you can order and get guaranteed* delivery before Christmas.

The very last day!

Image is a black poster with the British crown and the words, "Ok now it's time to freak out."

So if you want to get one or two of these fine, cat-approved items

Image shows Misha lying beside a selection of Gnaughty and Gneiss cards and Holy Schist. There's a stocking full of Holy Schist hanging on the bookshelves behind her.

…then get your order in by 8pm Pacific time today!

Want to make extra-sure you’ll get all your gifties and still have plenty of time to wrap? You can! Order 3 or more items, and you’ll get a free upgrade to Priority Mail. That’ll getcher stuff to ye within 2-4 days, giving you a little more time to get it stocking-ready.

Act now!

Image shows a blurry running cat. Caption says, "LOL I so fst I jst a bluur."

*As long as the Post Office gets the job done within their quoted shipping times. Please contact me at dhunterauthor@gmail.com if your package doesn’t arrive in time so I can track it and get the issue resolved. If your package shows it wasn’t delivered, I’ll refund your order.

God’s Old Earth Curriculum: Introduction

One of the resources I use for our AiCESE articles is a site called Old Earth Ministries. Their tagline is “It’s An Old World After All!” They’re definitely not secular: go to their site, and you’ll see it peppered with Christian apologetics and pleas for you to become a Christian. They represent a variety of old earth creationist viewpoints, and so it’s a bit of a hodgepodge. They describe themselves as mainly “Progressive Creationists,” which will make the biologists scream in frustration:

This view accepts that God created each species of plant and animal as a unique creation, without the use of evolution, and the days of creation refer to a long periods [sic] of time.

Yeah, some folks just can’t stomach evolution. I find it sad that their interpretation of faith allows them to accept most of modern science, but when it comes to evolutionary biology, they fall at the fence. Their God can apparently use allegory for lotsa stuff, but heaven forfend there weren’t a literal Adam and Eve. Unpossible!

Image is a green poster with the British crown and the words "Keep calm and deny evolution."

Image courtesy God of Evolution (CC BY 3.0)

Despite that nonsense, I vastly prefer this type of literalist to young earth creationists. At least they get some science (mostly) right. There are definite blind spots and misinterpretations caused by their determination to make Genesis a science book, but they do a great job exploding young earth creationist crap, and they do it as fervent Christians, which means they can reach an audience I can’t. I believe science should be strictly secular, and absolutely must be taught without religious claptrap in public schools. But I don’t want Christians of the more Biblical literalist bent rejecting science wholesale because they think Jesus won’t love them if they accept the actual age of the earth. I’d rather they accept as much real science as they can. And if sites like this can provide a stepping stone out of the young earth creationist swamp, I’m happy to point them out.

Of course, I have no compunctions about pointing out where they fuck up science, either.

This brings me to the OEM Online Geology Curriculum. The founder of OEM, Greg Neyman, has a geology degree. He and his wife also homeschool. Being a Christian but also a man who accepts actual geology, he wanted a curriculum for his kids that would be Christian-based but not YEC. Alas, the YECs have something of a stranglehold on Christian earth sciences textbooks. So Greg wrote his own curriculum, complete with quizzes and tests, and made it available for free online.

I’m intrigued. So we’re going to go through the thing here and see how science fares. I’m hoping he does a decent job, with a minimum of biblical bullshit, so that I can recommend this course to Christian parents who cannot abide using an icky secular science curriculum, but will accept an old earth. I’d rather students get at least some exposure to solid science, even if it’s not exactly correct. It definitely beats having young earth creationist crap like A Beka or BJU thrust upon them. And let’s face it, just about anything is better than ACE.

So, let us explore the world of old earth creationism as presented to homeschoolers, and see where we end up, shall we?

Image shows a row of cats staring out a window. Caption says, "The People Channel. Airing in your area by checking your local windows."

Holy Schist! Time’s Running Out!

We’re down to the last couple of online shopping days before Christmas! If you were planning to give some Holy Schist or Gnaughty and Gneiss gifties, it’s time to getcher order in. You were totally planning to get some, right?

Image shows a variety of Dana Hunter's Gneiss Schist products arranged with a stocking. A starburst says "Act now!"

Want to make extra-sure you’ll get all your gifties and still have plenty of time to wrap? You can! Order 3 or more items, and you’ll get a free upgrade to Priority Mail. According to the Post Office, that’ll get your stuff to you within 2-4 days, giving you a little more time to get it stocking-ready.

All items at Dana Hunter’s Gneiss Schist are kitteh-approved.

Image shows Misha with a selection of Gnaughty and Gneiss cards and Holy Schist. There's a stocking full of Holy Schist hanging behind her.

Make sure your earth science-loving loved ones get a good laugh and some hand-collected (and certified holy) awesomeness this year. Order today!

New at Rosetta Stones: Georneys with Evelyn!

I’ve put up a tribute to my Geokittehs coblogger and awesome friend Evelyn. Some of those georneys will be new for you; some like looking through old vacation photos and enjoying all the fun again. Also, there are gift ideas at the end! So if you’re still trying to figure out what to get your geologist buddies for Christmas or other gift-exchanging holidays, she’s gotcha covered on the bigger stuff. And I’ve gotcher stocking stuffers right here. No worries!

Image shows Evelyn sitting in a gravel road with a cocker spaniel/Shi Tzu mix.

Evelyn and Dingo on the Garnet Road.

Cryptopod: Serpentine Butterflies

I’m pretty sure they’re butterflies, anyway. Dunno: you lot are the experts in such things:

Image shows a chunk of gray serpentinite with a bit of rust-red staining, pebbly ground, and two brown moths.

Cryptopod I

I know the rocks they’re on and around is serpentinite, which isn’t always green. At Patrick Creek, in northern California, quite a bit of it is this lovely silvery-gray sheen with fabulous colors splashed through it. Pretty amazing what rocks get up to in a subduction zone. I’ll be going in to that soon, as I have twelve trillion pictures with moths and serpentinite and so will save some for after you’ve identified our beauties.

Image shows a close-up of a butterfly. The body is very hairy. The antenna look like golf clubs. The wings are a mottled brown and gray, with light gray triangular patterns. The underwings are a russet brown.

Cryptopod II

The antennae look like they belong to a butterfly, right? It kinda creeps me out to think of really thick, hairy fliers like this as butterflies – I’ve always associated that body style with moths. Like, butterflies are supposed to be brilliantly colored and fluttery and stuff, and moths are the practical ones. Is that why these butterflies evolved to look like moths? They envied their practical cousins?

Image shows a similar butterfly, facing left, wings folded in more of a wedge.

Cryptopod III

This one looks pretty aerodynamic, like a very elegant paper airplane, folded by someone who actually knows what they’re doing. So I suppose I can begin to think of them as sleek. Then again, one goes and looks like it’s sticking its tongue out at us, and shatters the illusion. Even though it’s a very lovely, curly tongue.

One of the moths on a serpentinite pebble. It's got its wings stretched out like an opera cape, and there's a curly little proboscis sticking out.

Cryptopod IV

Can you blow a raspberry with a proboscis? That one’s certainly trying, methinks.

Here’s the two in a grouping more friendly to photographers. Maybe they’re sorry about being rude.

Image shows two of the brown butterflies together.

Cryptopod V

And as a grand finale, one posed beautifully with a pyramidal chunk of serpentinite, which was utterly awesome.

Image shows a pyramid-shaped chunk of serpentinite with a butterfly balanced on the tip, wings outstretched.

Cryptopod VI

Right, my darlings: hopefully you’ll be able to identify our hairy butterflies who seem to love serpentinite as much as we do, and then I can in the near future regale you with tales of serpentinite, with some more fabulous butterfly photos. They really did a great job posing on the rocks for us!

Holy Schist! It’s Almost Christmas! Getcher Gifties Nao!

Remember how you were planning to get some great geological gag gifts, hand-collected, hand-crafted, and in some cases, hand-blessed? You know how you’ve been intending to get that done, only

Image shows a wee Douglas Squirrel in a tree.


And now it’s only ten days before actual Christmas, which means time’s running out!

Image shows a cat looking shocked, with its mouth open. Caption says, "OH NOES!"

Never fear! There’s still time! There’s still plenty o’ great stuff in stock! Just look at the bounty you could have, and right in time for Christmas, too!

Image shows a variety of Gnaughty and Gneiss cards and Holy Schist, with a stocking.

Awesome geological gifties!

But hurry! Shipping time is 3-6 business days, so you gotta act fast to ensure somebody gets a little gneiss coal in their stocking, or ends up shouting “HOLY SCHIST!” in front of Grandma! Order nao!

Giving up on gifts? Going the gift card route? Get yourself a Gnaughty or Gneiss card to present it in! That way, it totes looks like you had it planned all along.

Image shows a cartoon Santa head, looking pensive. Santa's hat has a rock hammer on the white brim. Thought bubble says, "Gonna find out who's..."

Geologist Santa card cover.

There ye go. Shopping all done, gifties on their way. How easy is that?

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again: Newly Discovered Images of Mount St. Helens Pre-Eruption Will Leave You Stunned

The universe is a funny ol’ place sometimes. You’d think a photographer would develop a roll of film shot while flying around an actively erupting volcano, but Reid Blackburn put this one aside. Perhaps he thought he’d get to it later, and then forgot in all the excitement. Besides, he had other great images from that day. So that roll of Mount St. Helens film remained undeveloped.

He might have thought of it after the cataclysmic eruption of May 18th, mere weeks later. Fresh images of the volcano pre-decapitation would have come in useful. But he died that day. What was thought to be his only roll of undeveloped film perished with him, too damaged by the incredible heat of the blast cloud to yield its images.

And when his desk was carefully packed up and his work for the Columbian neatly stored away, no one noticed another, quite intact roll.

Over thirty years, it sat silently in storage, until someone looking for something else chanced upon it, and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if….?” And a developer of old black-and-white film was found, and images of a waking volcano, shot by the man who would not survive her paroxysmal fury, appeared.

A strip from the contact sheet of Reid's last roll, showing Mount St. Helens in eruption, with one haunting image of her (mostly) intact cone. Click the photo to be taken to the Columbian's website to view the full image and story. Image courtesy Reid Blackburn / the Columbian

A strip from the contact sheet of Reid’s last roll, showing Mount St. Helens in eruption, with one haunting image of her (mostly) intact cone. Click the photo to be taken to the Columbian’s website to view the full image and story. Image courtesy Reid Blackburn / the Columbian

And we have just a little bit more of Reid Blackburn’s amazing work on that mountain.

And just a little bit more of his legacy lives on.

With thanks to Trebuchet, Oenotrian and wxsby, who all let me know about this awesome discovery. Thank you, my darlings!


Originally published at Rosetta Stones.

The More Things Change: Creationists and Their Lying Lists Edition

This is why history is so fascinating to me: I get to learn that creationists have been using the same dishonest tactics for at least 96 years. I’m reading Ronald L. Numbers’s The Creationists, and on page 66, I come across this paragraph from William Louis Poteat, responding to creationist T.T. Martin’s list of “twenty-one really great scientists in the world” supposedly rejecting evolution:

Two do not appear in the biographical dictionaries, five are misrepresented, seven won reputation in other than biological fields, and six have been in their graves more than forty years, two of these having died long before Darwin’s great book was published. One lone biologist is left to support the thesis that the doctrine of evolution is discarded by the science of today. And this man’s position is so peculiar that he is usually mentioned as the single exception to the universal acceptance of evolution by biologists of responsible position.


Image shows a cat lying in front of a notebook and pen, looking up at someone off-camera. Caption says, "I've reduced your list to reputable evolutionary biologists only. Alas, it is blank."

This is laughably familiar to anyone who’s been following the creation-evolution wars for more than ten seconds. The Discovery Institute, that laughable bunch of assclowns polluting my fair city with their ignorance, likes to put out a list of “scientists” who supposedly “Dissent from Darwinism.”

Cast your mind back to 2001, when DIsco clogged up some major newspapers with a cunning advert trying to convince the public that scientists totes don’t like evolution! See how they spun:

The list consists of 41 biologists (over half of whom are biochemists), 16 chemists, 4 engineers, 2 geologists/geophysicists, 8 mathematicians, 10 medical professionals, 4 social scientists, 15 from physics or astronomy, and 3 whose specialties we were unable to determine. Few were from biological subfields associated with organismic and population-level biology — the divisions of biology most closely associated with the study of evolution. None was recognizable as a prominent contributor to the scientific literature debating the role of natural selection in evolution. (The list published on the review evolution web site, which we analyzed, originally contained 103 names. The ads published in the print media contained 105 names, with the addition of the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture, the creationist arm of the DI, President Stephen Meyer and Fellow Paul Nelson, both of whom hold PhDs in philosophy.)

I’ve highlighted my favorite bit. Also, that’s not all the deception they practiced. Be sure to read up at the source!

They’ve added names as the years passed. In 2004, they had around three hundred. Which would be a possibly impressive number, if Project Steve hadn’t had about 500 scientists named Steve supporting evolution by then, and if so damned many of their signatories hadn’t been useless:

Most of the signators to the DI’s list (about 80%) are not biologists; some are not even scientists. Generally speaking, mathematicians, electrical engineers, philosophers, and so forth are only marginally more qualified to comment on the validity of evolution than the average person on the street.

You can peruse the 2011 state of the list here, where you’ll learned dead people are counted as ardent supporters, nobody likes to mention their affiliation with Cedarville, Liberty, or Oral Roberts universities, and lots of others also seem quite shy about mentioning who they’re currently affiliated with, choosing instead to boost their science cred by saying only who they got their degree from. Also, active researchers are not well represented:

In fact, relatively quick searches reveal that a very large percentage of the signatories have no academic affiliation at all; the number of biologists actively researching biological issues even remotely related to evolution can be counted on one hand.

Oh, my.

Image shows a white cat stretching out one paw, showing all five toes. Caption says, "Count dem on one paw? Dat not very many."


For all the exciting ways today’s creationists like to pad their list of scientists, start with this entertaining and educational video. Have blood pressure meds handy.