Saturday, September 15, 2007

Geology 101

Most folks seem to think geology is one of the most difficult sciences to understand. Why? I was never quite sure as a student why other students felt that way, but I heard that perspective repeated over and over again during my tenure as a geological lab assistant at Cleveland State University. Students felt the geological elective, Geology 101, which was a class non-science majors could use to fulfill one of their requirements in the sciences, was very, very difficult.

As the geology major, I would stare back at them with astonishment. How could geology, the obviously greatest of the sciences - be hard? Certainly chemistry and physics were much tougher than geology, and they both used much more math than geology. And biology - wow, that field was literally filled with organic pitfalls. Nevertheless, during three years of assisting students in the labs, that geological perspective never seemed to sway. They took Geology 101 for whatever reason, but many of the students were intimidated by it, intimidated by what it stood for, some of them were even terrified. I mean, having to identify rocks and minerals, know what makes a volcano blow, understand how erosion works, know what weathering is, and just what is a glacier and how does it form, what is the Pleistocene, how does a cave form, how are minerals formed, blah, blah, blah. (Yep, have to admit, when I think about it, it could go on for quite some time - the things geology encompasses).

I suppose now I guess I can see their point. The geological sciences are the combination of all of the other major sciences - biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, even ichthyology. But consider this too - geology is just about everything we are. From the keyboard I'm typing with, to the screen I'm looking at, to the chair I'm sitting on, to the light I'm using to see by - and boy, at my age, I do need more light than I used to.

So, from my perspective, if someone doesn't understand at least a little about the geology they're "standing on," it's really like not knowing who your grandparents were and not knowing anything about where they were from. And if you do know something about geology, you're not that surprised when big earthquakes happen, when tsunamis wipe out towns, and when volcanoes blow their tops, sending thousands of tons of dust skyward, reddening the sunsets for months. As a geologist, these things are completely logical to me. Millions of creatures have come on gone on the Earth, why should our age be any different. And truthfully, it isn't.

Up Next: The Geology of The Caverns of Mare Cetus

1 comment:

Joe Erjavec said...

Hi Uncle Jim,

Glad to see you have your blog up and running. I added a link to you from my blog.

Good luck!