Thursday 20 December 2012

Thursday Video: Further Up Yonder

Processed frame of Further Up Yonder
Courtesy of Giacomo Sardelli

The year reaches its end, and I think this is the last Thursday Video post of 2012. It doesn't really have much to do with structural geology, but it is beautiful. Very. Probably you have already seen it, because it has been a big hit in most of social networks. I talk about "Further Up Yonder: A timelapse message from ISS to all Humankind"by Giacomo Sardelli.

As a geologist working in remote sensing with satellite images, I am delighted with the cinematography of this clip. It makes me feel happy I am a geologist, and what this video show is our playground.

Enjoy it and share it! And find out more in its Facebook page

Further Up Yonder from Giacomo Sardelli on Vimeo.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

"Structural Geology", by Haakon Fossen

Structural Geology, by Haakon Fossen
Rainy summer day in Delft, The Netherlands. I look for cover and I enter into a bookshop -how convenient for a book-addict-. I end up buying a nice Parker pen and an uncommon souvenir: a copy of “Structural geology” by Haakon Fossen. Somehow, it sounds slightly like “The Neverending Story”. Like Bastian, I have been absorbed by a book. It's a long time since I bought my last geologic book in an actual physical shop, and not on a website. It must be special.

Haakon Fossen is Professor of Structural Geology at the University of Bergen. Apart from his academic background, Haakon has also worked in the oil and gas industry. You can learn more about him and his interests on his website.

Haakon Fossen, Structural GeologyThe book, published by Cambridge University Press, is an excellent manual on the principles of structural geology. But before commenting on the text itself, I'd like to remark that the material quality of the book is superb. This book simply says “read me, read me more”. Published in an A4 (kind of) size hardback format and full colour glossy pages. Rich in illustrations, sharp photographies and analogues.

Divided in twenty-one chapters, the text covers a wide range of topics organised in a sequence that travels from the realm of the small and the infinitesimal to the tectonic regimes that shape our planet. After an introduction to the basics of structural geology, Haakon immediately continues with topics on strain and stress, brittle and ductile deformation and regional regimes (i.e. contraction, extension, transpression and transtension and salt tectonics) and relevant techniques in structural analysis (i.e. cross-section balancing and restoration). The last chapter provides an integral view of structural geology, as a summary.

Basement window, Haakon FossenEach chapter is thoroughly illustrated, from an opening full-page image to the broad variety of tables, illustrations and block diagrams that feed the reader's sight page after page. Most of the examples are taken from up-to-date literature, displaying field photos, seismic features, sand-box and other scaled analogues, etc.; all very sharp and with very good printing quality.

The 3D block figures are nicely drawn and fit perfectly their aim. They portrait the discussed topics clearly and in detail. End-member diagrams are also abundant in the text They are clear, complete and not overloaded with too much detail that would mask their purpose. Just for that reason this book is a “must” for any student and professional of the Earth sciences.

Fossen, Rift developmentHaakon's writing is very enjoyable. Easy to follow, fluid and precise. He writes straight to the point, with accuracy and efficiency. The text is easy to follow, as it is very careful in providing good and rich definition and continuous examples. I personally like very much the constant use of mathematical expressions supporting the definitions. A very basic knowledge of linear and matrix algebra will suffice. In depth explanations and short case studies are left for very handy and visually attractive boxes. Each chapter closes with a summary, review questions and a recommendation on further reading. The book closes with two appendixes (one on the deformation matrix, very enjoyable -really!-, and another on stereographic projection) a very useful glossary, the description of the cover pictures of each chapter and the index.

Is that all? No. Because the book, actually, extends out of itself. At the end of each chapter the reader can find a recommendation on a e-module, also authored by Haakon, and freely available online in the companion website at . The reader can also find in there all the images of the book in different resolutions, presentations, excel spreadsheets, sample chapters and so forth. Find out more here.

If you have to recommend or buy a book on the principles of structural geology, this is the one.

Structural Geology, by Haakon Fossen (2012). Hardback published by Cambridge University Press. 480 pages, 549 colour illus. Dimensions: 276 x 219 mm.

Buy at ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦

Thursday 6 December 2012

Thursday Video: Fracking!

The fracking issue in the United Kingdom is being reignited once again since the Chancelor George Osborne has shown in his Autumn Statement support to the the industry in this field, with tax advantages and other iniciatives.

I cannot have an opinion on this topic simply because I don't have enough information. But I find annoying how people who become specialists after reading two or three posts in a forum have a ground and solid opinion, not based on facts and data but on opinions of others.

How much of the arguments against fracking are pure myths? How much the economy really benefits from this shale production? Surely there are pros and cons, but like in many other topics, "controversy" many times is simple ignorance and fanatism. It reminds me the "controversy on evolution": There is not such controversy, full stop.
It's actually difficult to find reliable information on it.

Is Blackpool going to collapse? No.

Is fracking causing earthquakes? Perhaps Mw 2.3 or 1.5 events, but hardly anything that doesn't already occur naturally in the British Isles

Is the Large Hadron Collider kill us all? Well, do you see what I mean with "controversies". A controversy is good, it sparks debate. A "controversy" is not. I doesn't spark anything.

Most of sources are biased to one side or to the other, and hardly anyone speaks about the geomechanics behind, about the drilling technique, about the geology involved... The truth is that we consume more and more energy, and we need to get it from somewhere. We all know that oil and gas is a patch and not a permanent solution to our energy needs. But as long as we live in as we do now (heating systems based on gas, cars running on petrol), we need fossil fuels and this is not an option.

This week The Independent published a story that, in my opinion, is just bad journalism. "The great rush: Government to give green light to mass exploration for shale gas", simply don't talk about what is actually fracking. It just echoes the arguments of Greenpeace, and this is all. The media has been repeating that for two or three days now:

"They suggest more than 32,000 square miles – or 64 per cent of the countryside – could potentially be exploited for shale gas and is being considered for exploration licences."

So what? It doesn't mean that this 64% of countryside will contain profitable prospects. Most of the surface of any country is potentially open for exploration of mineral deposits, and we don't live in open pits, do we?

Unfortunately, geology is an unknown topic for the vast population. Hardly anyone stops to think "one moment... this earthquakes in Blackpool, CAN they actually be produced by some fluid injection in the rocks down my feet?"

This short clip I found in YouTube is quite appropiate for today. . It's an animation that illustrates part of a talk given by Prof. Mike Stepheson asking, precisely, for information. The public needs information, not ready-made ideas and opinions. And then, they will decide what is best.

And yeah, keep wearing shorts and tshirt at home while outside is freezing. That really helps the debate.

Any opinion? Any good source of information? Let's discuss. :-)

I find the term "fracking" awesome. I think I will use it as substitute of the F word. "What do you think of this fracking shales thing, pal?"

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Photo: normal faults in the Betic Cordillera

Normal faults in the Tablate area, Granada, Spain
Journal of Structural Geology is one of the publications I like the most in our field. I have full access to it included in my Geological Society membership, and I enjoy taking a look to the abstracts every now and then. I usually try to read a paper from JSG every second week or so. I am not always successful in this!

This month catched my attention a beautiful outcrop depicted in the "Photograph of the month" article,  provided by Fabrizio Agosta, from the University of Basilicata, Italy, and it display a recent trench dug for a highway in Granada, Spain, where Triassic basement (marbles) are in contact with beach deposits of Tortonian age (Upper Miocene). Those deposits are beautifully deformed during extension in the Betic Cordillera by several normal faults, forming a typical conjugate pattern alternating synthetic and antithetic faults.

I find two things very interesting: first, the strain concentration near the marble; second, that the cut is actually double, as there is a smaller slope near the foreground, adding an extra third dimension to the structure. Beautiful!

Take a look here. You can download a pdf and a high resolution version of the photo:

I really would like to include a low quality version of the picture here in this article, but even though the very short article is freely accessible, it would cost me just to embed the photo £18.57. Funny non-open access world!

Monday 3 December 2012

Online plate tectonics

The Geological Society of London revamped their website a couple of months ago or so. It's basically the same site as before, but better organised and with a much nicer layout and design. Thumbs up for this!.
Plate tectonics - Geological Society of London
One of the things I like the most is the "Online plate tectonics" site, aimed to students aged 14 - 16 (I personally think any person will enjoy it, at any age). The site starts with an interactive introduction to the distribution of plate boundaries, volcanoes and earthquakes. It has also sections on the pioneers of plate tectonics, explanations about the geochemical and geomechanical properties of plates, and how the plate tectonics have shaped the geography of the United Kingdom. It also counts with tests and glossary areas, where the young visitor can check their knowledge and find answers to their questions.The teachers also have their area, with indications and guidelines.

A great initiative for kids, teachers and general public alike. It doesn't matter how much you know about plate tectonics, you will like this site and you will bookmark it!

Enjoy it and spread it.

Monday 26 November 2012

Industrial Structural Geology: Principles, Techniques and Integration

The Geological Society of London organises this week the Industrial Structural Geology: Principles, Techniques and Integration conference, from the 28th to the 30th of November.

A bit late, but if you are around registration is still open. It costs £150 for fellows (£250 for non-members) and £30 for students.

The program is here:

You can find more information at the GeolSoc. I will be there on Wednesday and Friday, if you fancy a drink (or two...)