Wednesday, February 18, 2009

non-rock geology

I have to admit that I am not a rock geologist. This sounds funny to a lot of people. What geologist doesn’t like rocks? I think certain minerals are pretty cool-looking (who doesn’t like big chunks of watermelon tourmaline?), but I don’t go haring off through the countryside in search of rocks or minerals for fun. Most of mineralogy and petrology was a painful slog of memorization to me. And to this day, mineral identification is problematic for me unless it’s pretty obvious. For example, in petrology, I hated trying to figure out QAPF diagrams, like this one below

(from Wikipedia) because my feldspar hand sample identification sucks.

I am a process person. How did this landscape come to be, and how may it affect the people living nearby? To go back to petrology, what does this particular mineral assemblage tell us about the conditions under which the rock formed? Closer to my own grad school and work experience, if something nasty is spilled in this area and percolates into this bedrock, where does it go and how does it change as it comes into contact with various materials?

It’s not as simple (or as impressive to non-geologists) as picking up a rock and saying, “Of course! It’s a porphyritic granite with some lovely smoky quartz!” But I’ve always been intrigued by complications.

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