Wednesday, July 14, 2010

the light table

The humble light table is getting harder to find. The place I’m working at now has a light table, but when I arrived, it was in a corner, buried under about 10 years’ worth of old maps and papers. I’m fairly sure I am the only person who ever uses the light table here.

In an ideal world, I would be a GIS whiz and I would have a full license for GIS and a computer with the capacity to run it without having each change take more than a couple of seconds. And I would have a really big, really light tablet (sort of like…a piece of paper) so I could draw stuff electronically and pull various layers around and see the relationships between site features and the geology/contamination.

What I usually end up with is a selection of fuzzy aerials, maps done by other contractors (no shapefiles for you!), a USGS quadrangle I’ve blown up to almost the right scale, sample points that haven’t been entered into a basemap yet, and maybe some giant copies of as-builts from 1952.

How are these two different contaminant plumes related? Can we figure out what that odd structure is, and what sort of impact does it have? The water table’s doing something funny over here – do we have any evidence for why it looks odd, or is the well just screwed up? Often, the best way to figure out what’s going on is to fire up the light table and start shuffling paper around.

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