Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Quartz crystals

In the summer of 1980, a friend of mine and I drove over from Bartlesville, Oklahoma to Hot Springs, Arkansas. This was not a desperate bid to escape Bartlesville. We were hunting quartz crystals, for which Hot Springs is justly famous. The hot springs for which the town is named encouraged the growth of quartz crystals in fractures deep in the rock. I have seen crystals more than a yard long from Hot Springs. We didn't find any that big, and the ones we got looked rusty. This is where being a geology graduate student came in handy. When I got home to Lawrence, Kansas, at the end of the summer, I popped my crystals into a large beaker of dilute HCl and boiled it. (In a chemical hood, of course; don't try this at home!) We didn't get all of the iron oxide off, but we did remove most of it. Last week I found this specimen in a box of stuff and thought it would be a good opportunity to find out how good my cell phone camera is at doing macrophotography. It could be better, and it could be worse.

Evolution, in your brain


This Thursday evening at 730, here in Tuscaloosa, Michael Anderson will be talking about brain evolution. I am really looking forward to this lecture (which is free and open to the public). There is a lot we don't know about how our brains work, and a lot more we don't know about how they came to be the way they are. It is an important area of research that should be of interest to everyone. After all, it is about us.

There are two more lectures after this one. And that is just the semester!

022117 b — Geologic core workshop

Core workshop — Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The Alabama Geological Society is hosting a half day hands-on workshop on describing core. This workshop is for geologists who have little experience studying core. You can learn a lot from core, but going from outcrop to core studies can be a challenge.

This workshop will only be useful to people with a significant amount of training in geology (at least two or three years of college coursework). Ask me if you have any questions.

I am not directly involved with the workshop, but I am a member of the Society, and I work with the conveners of the workshop.


spring rain
pounds warm February earth
azaleas open

Monday, February 20, 2017


Spiral's Heart

I chose this place
because the massy stars
fill the sky from horizon to zenith
to horizon

I chose this place
despite the hard
radiation, which necessitates
shielding from its glory

I chose this place
so close to the galaxy's
black and deadly heart
for its bright beauty

I chose this place

Ebola lecture, Tuscaloosa

Talk this Friday,  February 24th, 1:30 pm, ten Hoor 30, UA, Tuscaloosa
Dr. Rob Wallace (author of "Big Farms, Big Flu"; and "Neoliberal Ebola")
University of Minnesota

Title: Bird flu, Ebola, and Zika: When Evolution Meets Political Economy
Our economy is transforming planet Earth into planet Farm. Agribusiness’s impact extends to the deadliest of diseases. Ebola and Zika both recently re-emerged when logging, mining, and intensive agriculture opened up neotropical forests to their escape. There are other pathogens evolving more directly off megafarms. We can model such connections, but there are broader implications in play as well. The search for a more perspicacious evolutionary biology is not necessarily divided from the fight for a better world. Hume's guillotine and Moore's naturalist fallacy, wise cautionaries at the heart of much of the natural sciences, are often circumstantially fallacious.  Whereas many a new scientist is taught in the lab--as opposed to the classroom--that conducting good research revolves around avoiding professionally awkward study questions, in actuality the struggles for truth and justice can be deeply entwined. 

Special thanks to the Department of Anthropology, the Blount Initiative, New College, and the EVOS program for sponsoring this lecture. 


the bass leaping
is observed only by the fly
lake property