dinsdag 24 december 2013

Creating a network and find out the name of a rock!

At the end of a week full of science, I had a touristic trip into the woodlands of Muir. Together with a geologist I met in San Francisco, I traveled to the forest with the large trees seen in the very famous bike chase scene in Star Wars on the second moon of Endor. It was a great trip and I can recommend it to anybody visiting the City of Fog.

The Muir Woods are situated in a valley, where the climate is much different than the surrounding mountain lands. So a geologist and a geophysicist could not resist to climb a mountain to the top (I say mountain, but they were large hills, except when I said that the giftshop woman gave me angry eyes). We decided to follow the Hillside trail, followed by the Ben Johnson trail. These trails gave us a good view of the forest and let us examine some really nice rock outcrops of the mountain. And on one of them I found this rock:

It is a greenish rock, which according to the geologist, could be serpentinite or an olivine containing rock (which I know now, serpentinite is as well, sort of :) ). Me, not being a geologist, wanted to know how he could deduce this. So I asked my fellow geologists I had met in Copenhagen (see this post for some details, not a lot). I posted the figure above and the following photo in our Facebook chat session (very modern, right):

This photo is a zoom-in of the crystal structure. My friendly-geologists from around Europe, started asking me questions about, what is the cleavage, the hardness and does it feel oily like? So I did a hardness test. My fingernail could not scratch it, so the rock hardness is >2.5 (on the Mohs scale), but a copper coin could make scratches on it, so its hardness is <3.5. The cleavage looked conchoidal according to some of the geologists (I'm still not sure how they could see this). Furthermore, I told them that the rock felt smooth, almost oily like. Therefore all the geologists in the chat group decided it should be SERPENTINITE!!! (a metamorphic rock originally containing a lot of olivine). 

This tells me that, if you don't know something, ask your network!

zaterdag 14 december 2013

Attending a talk of one of my scientific inspirations

It all started with a delay of four hours. Being on our route for over an hour (above Scotland), the intercom of the airplane (a MD11 type of aircraft) sounded: "This is your captain speaking and I have some bad news." There was a technical problem that could not be fixed in San Francisco, so it was decided to fly back to the airport Schiphol, Amsterdam. I was just finishing my first beverage. One of my colleagues told me that he had several experiences like this with MD11 aircrafts. They are old and should be taken out of service. But for now we got a different MD11 that would take us to San Francisco. Four hours later than originally planned, we arrived in the Fog City (it was a clear day). However, at the gate after the pilot had shut down the engines, the ground personnel tried to connect the power cables such that the doors could be open. Only this was not working, so 350 already a bit weary passengers were stuck inside the aircraft. And no power means no air-conditioning, so temperatures where rising.

Luckily, we could get off after several minutes. For the first time, I entered the United States of America. I did not get any sleep during the trip, so I was very tired, resulting in a black spot up until the day after. Something with jet lag and air-conditioning. The day after, my colleagues and I decided to rent some bikes. This was a good way to see the city of San Francisco and fight the jet lag.

Here you can see me in front of the famous Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day wearing a fashionable helmet. It was a great day that ended in a shabby Jazz bistro, which had a live performance of a Jazz quartet. Nice!

The next day, the purpose of my trip to San Francisco started, the American Geophysical Union. This was a conference for Earth scientists like me. Presentations about any subject concerning research done on geophysical phenomena (there was also some planetary research, which is different than Earth studies according to many of my colleagues. I just sigh and disagree). This meeting attracts more than 25,000 researchers from all over the world. The massiveness of the meeting can best be seen in the poster-hall:

Thousands of people devoted to do science and try to communicate their ideas to the world. I am in a scientific walhalla! Oh yeah, it only rest me to explain the title. One of my scientific heroes is Margaret Kivelson. She worked on the Galileo satellite data that measured the magnetic field of Ganymede. This little moon (the largest in the solar system) of Jupiter is the only moon with a large intrinsic magnetic field. I studied this moon closely during the end of my bachelor studies, reading a lot of clearly written papers by Kivelson. In that period, I became enthusiastic about science. So Kivelson (sort of) represent the start of my scientific career and at the AGU meeting I could finally attend a talk of her.