Tag: Geology

Day 1000: How It Ends

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Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.

Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.

And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.

Genetics-1

Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.

If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.

Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…

Day 903: O Transatlantica, Our Home And Native Land

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What’s in a name? That which we call a prairie

By any other name would smell as grainy;

So Saskatchewan would, were it not Saskatchewan call’d,

Retain that weird insect surplus which it owes

Without that title.

 

So begins an unimpressively cutesy introduction to today’s discussion about the hallowed names that reach across my nation’s map. I’m aware, of course, that my American readers far outnumber my Canadian loyal, but in all fairness, covering the name origins to fifty states, a district, a country, and untold outlying territories would occupy much more real estate than my thousand words could afford.

And so I patriotically shmush my fingerprints against my keys and delve into the origin stories of my own origin story: Canada. Not her history itself – again, a thousand words only stretches so far across the table – but merely the names of the ten provinces and two territories I had to learn as a kid. There are three territories now, but I’ll happily include my Nunavutian brethren and sistren in today’s little missive.

That said, adhering to the proper essay format I spent the last eight years of my schooling attempting to shatter, we’ll open up big-picture-style: Why the fuck are we called Canada?

Kanata-1

We have been known as ‘Canada’ since right around when the first European boot-heels clomped into the east coast mud in the 16th century and began to establish communities. It originates from Kanata, the Saint-Lawrence Iroquois’ word for ‘village’. Or possibly ‘settlement’. Or maybe it was ‘land’. I’m guessing some Iroquois folks made a sweeping gesture as they said the word and the settlers made their own call regarding the translation. That’s the official legend – however there are other theories out there. Read more…

Day 770: The Summerless Summer

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This year the news has been splattered by alarming weather reports like a silent film soundstage wall after take thirteen of an epic pie fight. Much of the western world has been grappling with weather that we in Edmonton call ‘regular winter’. I’m not trying to minimize the unusual meteorological hip-check nature has bestowed upon my more southernly friends – after all, up here we’re well stocked with snow tires, city plows and vehicle block heaters. The folks in Texas, not so much.

Perhaps the most common and least valuable platitude here is “it could be worse.” The bone-scraping cold and soul-squishing wind are brutal, but at least they’re unleashing their fury during the vacuum of the winter months. When the silver light of spring shows up, nature’s insipid polar fart will be nothing more than a series of old photos, buried deep in the tomb of distant newsfeeds.

In 1816, there was no such relief. The winter was winter, but spring and summer were slaughtered like calves en route to becoming veal marsala, cut down in the prime of youth. Historically they call it the Year Without A Summer. Its effects were cruel but the wonky residue may have given birth to the Old West, the Model T, the Book of Mormon and the Depression-era fad of spooky horror flicks. That’s a hell of a weather pattern.

MountTambora

It all began with the massive eruption of Mount Tambora, located on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. This was one of only two VEI-7 eruptions in the past millennium – and that scale only goes up to 8. This occurred on April 15, 1815, and while the 100 cubic kilometers of solid earth the volcano blasted into neighboring communities caused a virtual apocalypse for locals, the ash and toxins pumped into the atmosphere would sneak up and bitch-slap the rest of the planet several months later. Read more…

Day 683: A Sucker Born, And So On…

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Greetings, fellow passengers aboard this swirling turntable among the stars, as we swivel along at a brisk and oft-terrifying 45rpm, propelling our lives up the charts of human history for a brief fireworks splash before plopping back into obscurity, into the 49-cent discount bin of faded immortality. It’s time to get real, my adoring thous-manauts. These kilographs can’t always dance among the platinum sunshine and giggling gardenias of topics like murder hotels and tax-funded mass graves.

I need to get serious about an affliction that could strike any of us at any time and without warning, provided we are gainfully employed in the string section of a major philharmonic orchestra.

Yes, I’m talking today about Cello Scrotum.

Known in the music business as 'Yo-Yo-M-AAAUUUGGHHH!!!'

Known in the music business as ‘Yo-Yo-M-AAAUUUGGHHH!!!’

Perhaps you’re more familiar with Surfer’s Ear, Golfer’s Elbow, Jogger’s Nipple or Nintendo Thumb. Apart from the surfing condition, these are repetitive-strain injuries that can afflict those who delve obsessively into their preferred pursuit. Much like Jogger’s Nipple, Cello Scrotum is a form of contact dermatitis that, according to a 1974 article in the British Medical Journal, can afflict the non-detachable tote-bags of males who devote their lives to the glorious timbre of the cello. Read more…

Day 505: Superman’s Spectrum Of Weakness

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Not being a scholar of Superman, I would like to know what challenges he faced before kryptonite came along. Bullets do nothing to the guy, a bridge could fall on him and he’d just dust it off, and I don’t think he ever has to get his cholesterol levels checked. Really, kryptonite was an essential plot addition.

Those of us who enjoyed only a casual relationship with the comic books and tended to focus more on the movies know kryptonite as a green glassy stone. But Superman’s writers have had seventy years to play around with this material, and they’ve come up with a number of permutations, each of which affects Superman in a different way. Krypton was a funky planet, and somehow a tremendous amount of its residue has fallen to earth, right into Lex Luther’s hands.

The guy should have been a geologist.

KryptoniteMeteor

Next month marks the 70th anniversary of kryptonite’s first appearance, as a meteor that fell to earth in an episode of the Superman radio series. The comics didn’t pick up the thread until 1949 – editor Dorothy Woolfolk claimed credit for incorporating the weakness as a semi-regular plot point. She was bored by Superman’s invulnerability, and felt the tension bar needed to be raised a little. I can’t blame her. Read more…

Day 296: The World, Coast To Coast

I promised my wife I could make an article about geology interesting. In my defense, I’d downed two delicious pints of Alleykat’s Chili-Pepper lager, and where some men get beer muscles I tend to get a beer writing ability. Plate tectonics? Hell yeah! This shit’ll be riveting!

Now that the passage of a few hours has siphoned the alcohol from my bloodstream, I’m faced with a daunting task. Yet I can’t help but be drawn to this topic. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a supercontinent cycle.

The basics of supercontinents are pretty easy to grasp. The plates that make up the earth’s continental crust are always moving, shimmying under our feet and causing earthquakes that range from the catastrophic down to those tiny ones that stoned people aren’t entirely sure didn’t just happen in their heads. Once upon a time – about 300 million years ago – all our continents were bunched together in a single clump, like the hard candies in my grandmother’s candy dish. We call this clump Pangea.

I didn’t check, but I don’t think those colors accurately reflect the color of the soil.

How do we know this happened? It’s more than just a guess. First of all, the pieces fit together. It’s not a perfect click, but it’s pretty damn close. Second, there are similar sedentary rocks found where these continents used to be connected. Third… well, there are a lot more reasons, ranging from fossils to glaciology to something called paleomagnetics. Let’s just call this a fact and move on. Sciencey people have written it down in text books and it’s on the internet – what more evidence do we need? Read more…