Apr. 25th, 2017

It's beyond dizzying, when the zoom is pulled waaaaay back like this.
  • It is not unknown for a geological textbook to include snatches of the poem. It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind). That each by observation Might satisfy his mind. {盲人摸象~}
  • the science seems for the moment more imaginative than descriptive. Where it is solid, it is imaginative enough. Geologists are famous for picking up two or three bones and sketching an entire and previously unheard-of creature into a landscape long established in the Picture. They look at mud and see mountains, in mountains oceans, in oceans mountains to be.
  • “If you go down into the earth here to a depth that about equals the width of one of these fault blocks, the temperature is halfway between absolute zero and the melting point of the rock. The crust is brittle above that point and plastic below it. Where the brittleness ends is the bottom of the tilting fault block, which rests—floats, if you like—in the hot and plastic, slowly flowing lower crust and upper mantle. I think this is why the ranges are so rhythmic. The spacing between them seems to be governed by their depth—the depth of the cold brittle part of the crust.
  • The Humboldt River, blue and full, was flowing toward us, with panes of white ice at its edges, sage and green meadow beside it, and dry russet uplands rising behind. I said I thought that was lovely. He said yes, it was lovely indeed, it was one of the loveliest angular unconformities I was ever likely to see.
  • To make the rock of that lower formation and then tilt it up and wear it down and deposit sediment on it to form the rock above would require an immense quantity of time, an amount that was expressed in the clean, sharp line that divided the formations—the angular unconformity itself. You could place a finger on that line and touch forty million years.
  • Black is regarded as the discoverer of carbon dioxide. He is one of the great figures in the history of chemistry. Hutton and Black were among the founders of an institution called the Oyster Club, where they whiled away an evening a week with their preferred companions—Adam Smith, David Hume, John Playfair, John Clerk, Robert Adam, Adam Ferguson, and, when they were in town, visitors from near and far such as James Watt and Benjamin Franklin.
  • Some creatures, on the other hand, had appeared suddenly, had evolved quickly, had become both abundant and geographically widespread, and then had died out, or died down, abruptly. Geologists canonized them as “index fossils” and studied them in groups. Experience proved that the surest method of working out relative ages of rock was not through individual creatures but through the relating of successive strata to whole collections of creatures whose fossils were contained therein—a painstaking comparison of arrivals and extinctions that helped to characterize the divisions of the time scale and define its boundaries with precision.
  • the Paleozoic era. It was a unit—well below the surface but far above the bottom—just hanging there suspended in the formless pelagics of time.
  • Like the general run of meteorites, an Apollo Object could be expected to contain a percentage of iridium and other platinum-like metals at least a thousand times greater than the concentration of the same metals in the crust of the earth. In widely separated parts of the world—Italy, Denmark, New Zealand—the Berkeley researchers found a thin depositional band, often just a centimetre thick, that contains unearthly concentrations of iridium. Below that sharp line are abundant Cretaceous fossils, and above it they are gone.
  • the Mesozoic, an era of burgeoning creation within deadly brackets of time.
  • The opossum may be Cretaceous, certain clams Devonian, and oysters Triassic, but for each and every oyster in the sea, it seems, there is a species gone forever.
  • “This stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.
  • It was at some moment in the Pleistocene that humanity crossed what the geologist-theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the Threshold of Reflection,
  • Seeing a race unaware of its own instantaneousness in time, they can reel off all the species that have come and gone, with emphasis on those that have specialized themselves to death.
  • “A million years is a short time—the shortest worth messing with for most problems. You begin tuning your mind to a time scale that is the planet’s time scale. For me, it is almost unconscious now and is a kind of companionship with the earth.”
  • “If you free yourself from the conventional reaction to a quantity like a million years, you free yourself a bit from the boundaries of human time. And then in a way you do not live at all, but in another way you live forever.”
  • the “early late-middle Mississippian.” To say “middle Mississippian” might do, but with millions of years in the middle Mississippian there is an evident compunction to be more precise.
  • I put two nickels in a slot machine and got two nickels back. The result was a certain radiance of mood.
  • “Silver is our most depleted resource, because it gave itself away,” said Deffeyes, looking mournful. “You didn’t need a Ph.D. in geology to find a supergene enrichment.”
  • he appeared to be the Gnome of Princeton, with evident ambition to escalate to Zurich.
  • And so he had invented and machined a corer that would tap clear-plastic tubing gingerly into the earth with a micropiledriver made of nonmagnetic {洛阳铲?}
  • So by looking at the paleomagnetic compasses in rock you can tell not only whether the magnetic pole was in the north or south when the rock formed but also—from the more subtle positions of the needles—the latitude of the rock at the time it formed.”
  • Curves based on Paleozoic and Triassic rock in North America and in Europe looked much alike but, oddly, stood separate in the way that a single line will appear to be double in inebriate vision. The gap corresponds to the present width of the Atlantic Ocean. The opening of the Atlantic began in the Triassic.
  • Eurasian Plate, a large part of which used to be known as the (heaven help us) China Plate.
  • much to help lift it twenty thousand feet. Seafloor—ocean crust—is dense enough to go down a trench, but continents are too light, too buoyant.
  • The mountains are in some trouble. India has not stopped pushing them, and they are still going up. Their height and volume are already so great they are beginning to melt in their own self-generated radioactive heat.
  • If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.
  • The huge body of sediment would one day be lifted far above sea level and dissected by weather and wrinkled into mountains in the way that the skin of an apple wrinkles as the apple grows old and dry.
  • The whole of plate tectonics, a story of steady-state violence along boundaries, was being brought to light largely as a result of the development of instruments of war. Earthquakes “focus” where earth begins to move,
  • The profile of the spreading center in the ocean bottom off Oregon seemed remarkably familiar to someone who had done his thesis field work in Nevada. It appeared to be, in miniature, a cross section of the Basin and Range. The new crust, spreading out, had broken into fault blocks and had become a microcosm of the Basin and Range, because both were expressions of the same cause.

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