Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Terrible Blogger

What have I been doing instead of describing a photo of trough ripples?  I have been writing a sedimentology lab report using Apple's Pages and a paper using LaTeX for an upper division writing class.  I must say, it is rather refreshing to use LaTeX.  Pages has a lot of unpredictable quirks.  Still, it has its charms.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The iPad in Geology Education

I carefully followed yesterday's reveal of the Apple iPad.  I was interested in it because I use technology in the classroom to take notes, view slides, and other important tasks (such as keeping track of data in lab).  I'm not particularly interested in a Netbook because they have proven to be unreliable; I want something that lasts years.  However, the tablet is interesting because it comes from a company known for reliable computers.  But more than that, it could be used for taking notes in class, keeping track of data, while staying connected.

Despite the introduction of iWork for the iPad, I do not see how this device could be useful in an academic setting.  Perhaps if I were the one presenting slideshows using Keynote, it would be interesting.  But I'm the student.  I listen to lectures and take notes, and I prefer, if possible, to do so paperless.  

Currently I use my aging laptop to take notes on slides exported to PDF.  My preferred software package to do that is PDF-XChange Viewer.  I can make comments on specific slides, highlight ideas and comment on them, and even do some basic diagramming using primitive shapes.  Naturally, for some classes, I have to use a pad of paper for complicated drawings.  Unfortunately, I do not see how I can do any of that on an iPad.  

The next problem is a problem of data integrity.  I keep all of my data on a flashdrive and I make daily backups to my laptop using SyncToy.  The iPad glaringly lacks a USB port.  That is also a handicap for those times when I need files from a fellow student (such as field photos).

The keyboard on the iPad looks large but appears to be largely a single-hand affair.  I doubt I could type fast enough to keep up in lecture.  And certainly I would have to buy the case/stand to do so somewhat ergonomically.  Furthermore, I would not want to lug around an Apple Aluminum keyboard with accompanying stand all day long.  Another negative is that it lacks a Unix environment.  I love using LaTeX for my reference laden papers and math-based homework; not a chance of doing so on the iPad.

So at this point, the iPad seems to lack PDF annotations, a USB port, and most likely it has a very slow input interface.  I would have to try typing on an iPad to really know.

What can I see this being useful for?  I think a few pundits have already indicated that it is more of a leave-at-home device.  You can take it into any room, lounge around, surf the web, check e-mail, and read books.  Thus if you have an iPhone, you can leave it to phone calls while in the home.  With the iWork suite, you could potentially be productive with it.  Perhaps you wake up in the middle of the night with a great thesis: turn on the iPad and clumsily type it out.

I do not have plans to buy this device in its first iteration.  In fact, I'm still looking for the perfect device.  I'm surprised Apple did not refresh their Macbook Pro line; I'm a bit more interested in their 13" variant.

I will post a new interpretation soon; it will be on ripples.  I've a great picture for that, although it lacks scale!  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fort Bragg: Glass Beach Marine Terrace Sorting

Fort Bragg, CA exists on a marine terrace.  Its tectonic genesis I'll leave for another day.  The wave cut cliffs exposing the sediments of these terraces vary.  Here in March of 2009, I found part of a terrace eroding towards the city just south of Glass Beach, revealing conglomerate.  A quarter was used for scale (thankfully!).  Remember, you can always click on the image to view it (middle click to view in a new tab in Firefox or right click or command click to see a menu where you can open the photo in a new window or tab).

In these particular photos, there appears to be conglomerate in normal grading (as opposed to reverse grading).  It goes from very large (often discoid) pebbles to small pebbles to granules.   This graded bedding appears to be largely clast-supported (orthoconglomerate).

Why might this graded bedding be occurring along the coast within a terrace?  Given that the pebbles are very well rounded, they were likely deposited by a stream or were weathered away regularly by wave action prior to uplift.

 If this feature were in fact caused by fluvial processes, the larger clasts would be indicative of very rapid flows which were able to move and deposit large pebbles (perhaps by saltation or rolling). Most of the coarse to medium grain sands AND smaller pebbles would have been entrained within the flow.   These clasts probably washed out into the sea.  Eventually the stream velocity decreased, dropping out smaller pebbles and coarser sand.  Then the whole process repeated itself.

One should also note that at the bottom of this graded bedding there is a jumble of large and small pebbles with coarse sand; perhaps this indicates rapid stream velocity changes at the start of a flooding event?

Finally, if this were a feature created by wave action, it might be said that material may have been deposited into the ocean by mass wasting.  Providing that the ocean at this location was shallow enough, wave action could slowly wear down the larger clasts by abrasion.  Storms, perhaps, cause this mass wasting.  The exact mechanism for this kind of sorting under these conditions is a little iffy to me.  But perhaps I'll revisit this later when I've learned more.  However, I believe that fluvial conditions are more apt for this situation as water intensely sheds westward off the Coastal Ranges all along the north coast of California.  Since this is in a terrace, perhaps it represents an uplifted portion of an old stream channel (note that Pudding Creek is a several blocks north of here)?  Sea levels, of course, have not always been where they are now; so it is reasonable that the ultimate baselevel for this stream could have been further out (a shoreline shift).

Perhaps I'll use this opportunity to disclaim any accuracy in my interpretations of photographs I've taken over the last ten years.  First of all, I am a very fresh geology student and so I will be wrong and miss important indicators regularly.  Second of all, I'm relying on only the details in the photographs and my spotty memory.  However, do feel free to elucidate what I might have missed and/or explain pertinent processes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Winter 2010 Geology at UC Davis

This winter quarter I will be studying sediments & stratigraphy (GEL 109/109L), environmental geology (GEL 134), and the "history of life" (GEL 103/103L).

I will be collecting a lot of knowledge and tools this quarter.  Thus, as I progress, I will post photographs from my extensive photograph library and try to explain them.

Last quarter I took classes very fundamental to geology: earth materials and optical mineralogy.  However, it is rather difficult to blog on the scale of minerals.  Fortunately this quarter will finally allow me to apply principles of geology to the many sweeping landscapes I have photographed over the last decade.  By the next academic year (2010-2011) I will be taking structure and should be able to interpret geological phenomenon even more.

The image above is of the sandstone formations at Sächsische Schweiz National Park in Saxony, Germany.  I took this photograph during my 2009 summer vacation.