#EGU16 Day 1 – Ethics, planets and fractals.

We’re here!! Day one of #EGU16 has been and gone and wow was it a cracker! I got to attend lots of interesting sessions today, starting off with the ‘Geoethics: theoretical and practical aspects from research integrity to relationships between geosciences and society‘  session in the morning, which featured some really interesting talks on the place of ethics in geoscience. Its a conversation that I feel is really important – as an interdisciplinary researcher coming from a geoscience background, I had never really considered ethics before I started the psychology side of my studies, but you would perhaps be surprised at how necessary it is to mainstream geoscience. One of the speakers Stefano Tinti discussed the difficulty of providing short term hazard assessments, as unlike long term assessments, they were harder to prove ‘scientifically’. Instead he proposed a cyclical interaction between geohazard assessors and the users.

“Science assessment needs to replace a line with a loop”

Stefano Tinti, University of Bologna

Next we heard from a colleague of mine Johanna Ickert, who is a transdisciplinary visual anthropologist studying seismic risk communication in Istanbul. Ethics is very much at the centre of Johanna’s work, so it comes as no surprise that her work had produced some very interesting results. Key amongst her findings from was the perception that locals judged the scientists to have a moral responsibility as a major player in the approach to seismic risk in Istanbul, but that the scientists expressed a reluctance to go beyond their established role as subject expert.

Johanna Ickert's talk front slide

Later in the day I attended a joint NASA-ESA-EGU Union Session and observed a talk on NASA’s planetary missions, given by Jim Spann. This was a great talk, not only because it gave insights about a whole host of different missions, but also highlighted the truly international remit of space exploration. Often I hear people bemoan the UK’s lack of a space programme, but this talk showed that it doesn’t matter which country you live in, you can still get involved in a space programme! Jim described the two main types of mission, entire (where the whole mission objective is completed in one go) or strategic (where it might take several missions to complete the objective).

Number of NASA missions with an international component

He described how many of the missions have an international component that you might be surprised by – the photo above has circles around all the mission with international collaboration, which although you can’t see any of the detail, really goes to show how much of NASA’s missions rely on the scientific, technical and logistical support of other countries around the world. Also I was surprised to hear about the unexpected durability of some of the spacecraft – the Cassini mission has been extended TWICE, which Jim said is a stamp for the success and longevity of international endeavours. He ended his slide with an image which is so far my favourite of the conference – if anyone knows where it is from, please let me know, as I think it is spectacular!!

girl blowing planet bubbles NASA

One of my final sessions of the day was one that I mentioned in yesterday’s post 5 sessions you may have missed. Yes, of course I mean the session on fractals!! Or to give it the correct name: ‘Multifractals and singularity analysis in mineral exploration and environmental assessment‘. Now maths is not one of my easiest languages – it can be quite a struggle for me sometimes, but a talk combining fractals, singularities and geology?! COME ON!!! So I went to find out about fractals. The talk I saw was presented by Claudia Oleshko, and discussed the use of fractals in geoengineering for hydrocarbon reserves. As far as I understood the talk, she said that you can’t use fractals if you have no idea of the physics of the region you are trying to model, but that if you do, fractals provide a way to combine and integrate heterogeneous data (aka data that is all different types/kinds) at a range of scales. When you do this you get better quality information about how fluid flows inside pores, that can be used by industry  to improve oil and gas extraction. And just to be clear here when I say fractals, I mean fractals like this:


What a day!! I’m looking forward to tomorrow now, what sessions have you got planned?


The geology of Super Bowl XLVIII

So this year, for the first time in YEARS, I didn’t stay up all night watching Super Bowl Sunday. No I was being sensible as I had to be up early do go to a first aid course. In hindsight, I would much rather have stayed up for Super Bowl (go you Seahawks!) as the first aid course was not as interesting as they usually are. So here I am, knowing the Seahawks won (yey!), watching the catch up on the t’internet. So I thought whilst I was doing so I would have a little look at the Geology of the Super Bowl!

Super Bowl XLVIII image from Wikipedia.com

Super Bowl XLVIII image from Wikipedia.com

Let’s start with the location. Super Bowl XLVIII was in New Jersey this year – at the MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants. The geology of this area is a mudstone/siltstone/shale that was deposited in the Lower Jurassic to Upper Triassic. The area has been extensively glaciated, and at the end of the last glacial period, Lake Hackensack formed and was gradually filled with layers of silt and clay. The site eventually became the marshlands of the Hudson River and a part of the floodplain for the same. As such when the stadium was constructed, piles were used to prevent the building moving under its own weight on the unstable ground. Details of the geology of the stadium area and the geotechnical engineering plan are avaliable here.

Now the game is going well, but it wouldn’t be controlled at all without the ref’s whistle. The whistles used by the NFL are produced by Fox40 and are made of polycarbonate plastic. They are pealess which makes them more reliable (apparently – I’ve never tried one) and produce a sound of 115dB!!! The polycarbonate plastic is a very durable type of plastic, usually made from hydrocarbons – so oil and gas…

TOUCHDOWN!!! And you know what that means – it’s time to go for the conversion. And you wouldn’t be able to get the extra point without the goals. The goal posts in yesterday’s game are aluminium (or aluminum in the States!) and are made by a company called Sportsfield Specialities. Aluminium, those of you who saw the mineral advent calendar may remember, is a metal found in the mineral Bauxite (among others). Still I’m not sure that’s what Malcolm Smith was thinking in the moment he flung that ball at the goal in victory after an AWESOME touchdown. Or Steven Hauschka when he lined up for the conversion.

Well done Seahawks!!!!

Bauxite (image from Wikimedia.com)

Bauxite (image from Wikimedia.com)

Its half time and how the heck do they manage to get that stage set up so quickly?!?! I mean there was a whole football game going on on that field about 2 minutes ago!!!! Anyway. I like the fact that the lights are on people’s heads apparently. It gives me a funny image of all these people with free headlamps stuck on their heads!! To make those lights work little LED lights were embedded into black hats by a company called PixMob. LED lights depend on gallium nitride (or other gallium based compounds) on a sapphire substrate to work. Gallium is a rare element found in the minerals Sphalerite and our old friend Bauxite. So you could say that the audience were wearing tiny crystals wrapped in a rare element. Awww, makes it seem all special doesn’t it!!

Little LED lights sparkle in the stadium...

Little LED lights sparkle in the stadium…

Now, as much as I am supporting the Seahawks (because they are from Seattle and my favourite part of the States so far is the Pacific North West in general and Washington in particular and not because they won, I would have supported them anyway), are the Broncos even there? I mean I see people in orange shirts and that looks like Peyton Manning, but 29 to nuthin and we have only just started the third quarter? Come on – a little more fight for the Super Bowl guys!!!

So the Broncos score, but is it enough? (we know it’s not) At least the Broncos mascot Thunder the horse got to have a little run. Ah that’s nice. Thunder, like many horses in the US, is probably shod with steel. Steel is an iron and carbon alloy and iron is a metal found in many minerals; pyrite, ochre, haematite and goethite. Poor Thunder – you won’t need long lasting shoes tonight – you might as well just head for the stable.

This is Thunder - the Bronco's mascot (image from Wikipedia.com)

This is Thunder – the Bronco’s mascot (image from Wikimedia.com)

And the Seahawks win! Whoop! Well it’s a bit less exciting when you know the score before you see the game, but it would have been better if the Broncos had been in it more. But anyhoo – it’s now all about the prize – the Vince Lombardi Trophy. It is 56cm tall and is entirely made of sterling silver by Tiffany’s jewellers.

Congratulations Seahawks, you deserve it.

To the victors, the spoils.

To the victors, the spoils.

Any more geology from the Super Bowl? This was just a quick skim really….