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I'm a consulting geologist for a small company in the Denver area. I study problems related to active tectonics, using geomorphology, structural geology and remote sensing.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"dogmatic indoctrination"

what a load of crap. i've just run across a story published by the bbc about a new group in the uk who are attempting to introduce the concept of intelligent design to public school curricula. like most well-funded religious groups, they have 'freely' distributed learning materials to many schools... middle-schools mostly. the group calls itself, "truth in science" and states that much of what is, "taught in school science lessons about the origin of the living world has been dogmatic and imbalanced."

now... to hear a group (which touts intelligent design and creationism as having valid scientific value) call a system, based on empirical evidence and which has withstood the rigors of the scientific method and community at large for nearly 150 years, "dogmatic and imbalanced" just cracks me up. granted, the bible (among other religious texts, but specifically the bible) has been around for well over a thousand years, but was never written based on observed data. it was written by a large group of men about what other men had said, and has been subsequenty subject to innumerable interpretations because of this. moreover, little or none of what is stated in the bible about the creation of the earth and species was directly observable by anyone involved in writing it. strictly speaking, it could qualify as hearsay. i know that is a harsh term (one that i'm sure some people would be willing to kill over), but one that i think applies and is impossible for anyone to logically refute.

"truth in science" does bring up some interesting points on their website about the fact that school curricula are limited in their scope... but these are 10-year olds, for god's (facetious pun intended) sake! I fully agree that discussing the short-comings of darwinism and exploring the scientific ramifications of the idea of intelligent design is a completely valid and potentially very useful exercise, but that discussion has a place and time: college philosophy, ethics, molecular biology and divinity courses, to name a few. civilizations have risen and fallen before philosophers or religious groups have been able to agree on any universal truth, while science has 'designed' a reasonable explanation for probably 90% of our level of understanding of reality (allowing that there is potentially much we still do not understand).


I think the issue of "indoctrination" is an interesting one, especially when it concerns two groups of opposing (or at least mutually exclusive to a certain degree) 'understandings' of reality (rather than use the terms 'knowledge' or 'belief'). one group's education is another's indoctrination, when said education excludes an understanding held to be 'truth' by one group or another.

i argue that a well-balanced curriculum should be attempted, but that 6th grade classrooms are not the place to introduce complicated metaphysical concepts to our children. for now i would focus on observables; dna progressions & gaps, taxonomical evidence for (and against) evolution, age determintions based on scientific (radiological and cosmological) evidence, etc. most importantly i think, is that children be taught to question things, to resist indoctrination... which of course includes questioning religion from a critical and scientific standpoint (something which i think is often glazed over by religious interests), as well as questioning our ever evolving science-based understandings of the world around us.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

local airy isostacy

still working on that stupid problem. not because it's particularly impossible, but because i am still only nominally motivated to finish it. the deal is: local airy isostatic compensationally derived elevation as a function of variable thickness of mantle lithosphere under thermally driven expansion of mantle rock and correlated changes in material density in the presence of a steady-state geotherm. joy. it's an interesting problem actually, but since i lack the calculus skills of your average m.i.t. mathematics grad student, i am attacking the problem from a graphical / geometric standpoint. luckily, all the base assumptions i'm making allow me to look at the problem this way, since "steady-state conduction" generally means linear geothermal gradient... i.e. a straight line that is easy to assess with simple algebra. it's the feedback from variable thickness and multi-material (varying material properties) layering in the model that throw a wrench in the works. the equation i've derived has 20 terms at the moment. i'm sure if i'd attended a normal highschool that actually taught math worth a damn i could probably boil this down to a simple integral with something like 5-6 terms, but lo; the alternative community highschool was better at teaching things like comparative literature and global economic politics.

anyway, i need to go buy batteries for my calculator before i can really finish this thing. here's a quick pic of my scratching and scribbling.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

if i had a backhoe....

...i would totally do something like this. probably the coolest use of heavy machinery i have ever seen... some might think it cruel, but i think it's hilarious....

watch the video ...


Thursday, November 23, 2006

turkey day

i feel like a turkey. well, not precisely, but this stupid homework makes me feel about as intelligent as one. once again, i reaffirm my opinions that a certain professor here at my university is one of the worst professors i've ever had when it comes to giving out work. professors "A" and "B" co-teach a class. professor "A" writes some of the homework questions, so does professor "B". professor "A"'s questions are intelligible and clearly presented. they take me about 10-20 minutes per question on average. professor "B"'s questions are muddled, obtuse and perfunctory melanges of vaguish hints, which i imagine "B" thinks are practically obvious. these take me days, and i'm lucky if i actually finish one all the way through (these are the classic 10-part questions which build on themselves... meaning that once you're stuck, you're totally screwed when it comes to answering the rest of the question; this is poor design and does anything but contribute to learning). once again, the engineer holds the upper hand, not in superior ability or intelligence, but through their odd inability to articulate in spoken language what they understand mathematically.

anyway, i'm sitting in my %&#$ing office on thanksgiving, beating my ahead against the desk and hoping that this stupid problem will solve itself soon. at least it's quiet here. i think i will be riding my bike tomorrow.... before trying desperately in the next couple of weeks to finish my poster for a.g.u. and classes.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

google universe

so far this morning i've been preparing for my trip to death valley tomorrow by touring google earth and recording gps coordinates into my garmin e-trex so i can point out specific features when we're in the field. invariably google earth sessions turn into daydreaming exercises in things like folding space, super-fast personal space-craft and teleportation. oh the places i would go (to borrow from dr seuss) if i had the ability. with the ever-increasing resolution and data comprehensiveness offered by the service, i wonder how long it is before google mars is launched, and then google sol system. (side note: our sun is named "sol"... which has led to our system being referred to as "solar-system", but since the astronomical status quo is to call a stellar-system by the name of it's primary star such as 'the alpha-centauri system', i prefer the name "sol-system".)

...if only there was some way to select your desired destination on the computer screen and click on a button labeled "add to cart" or even "make it so" (appropriately nerdy quote from captain picard, who by the way has one of the most complete biographies imaginable on wikipedia)... resulting in instantaneous travel to your chosen location.

well.. enough of that for now. back to work.