Thursday, July 19, 2012

science and technology

I am a luddite. I do all my cross-sections and plane-view maps by hand (someone else digitizes my curves), I have a dumbphone, and I use boring old MS office (word, excel, and powerpoint) for everything. I even did a mini-series of posts about old-school tech (like light tables and semi-log paper) that isn't obsolete yet, dammit! So this month's accretionary wedge on geoscience and technology, hosted at Earth-Like Planet, had me stumped.

But you know what technology has revolutionized my work, both science and management? The advent of super cheap, super fast copier/printers with a scanner. Sure, cell phones and GPS devices and laptops with wireless thumb drives are handy for fieldwork. But they really just made life more convenient.

The ability to spend 50 bucks on a printer/scanner/copier and send stuff instantly has been a game-changer. Need the lab to handle your super-fast turnaround samples in a specific way? Scan and e-mail the chain of custody before the lab manager leaves for the night. Trying to figure out where to install a new monitoring well because now it's spring and your site is under 7 inches of water? Draw a quick field sketch and get the new location approved by a regulator while the drill crew is idling. Working remotely with another geologist and having a big argument over whether the bedrock is forming a ridge or a hill underground? Draw a cross-section and fire it over to bolster your theory. You borrowed fragile construction drawings from the 1950s? Scan the whole pile in 10 minutes and you have a permanent electronic repository. You've just convinced a neighbor to sign an access agreement, but now you need to prove to the lawyers that you're ok to be there? Scan and send.

I can go on forever. But the point is that geology is an extremely visual science. We need to draw maps and cross sections to figure out relationships that we can't see directly, or to synthesize information from a multitude of sources. And in environmental consulting, you have clients, regulators, subcontractors, and coworkers who you need to share that information with in order to make decisions.

Once I got access to a big, fast in-office scanner and an el cheapo field scanner/printer to go with my laptop, my life got so much easier and my actual technical output improved. And isn't that the goal of new technology?

1 comment:

Sumo UK said...

I can understand. I was a luddite too until it became an utmost necessity for me to adapt to the changes in technology. There are advantages and then there are drawbacks. With most people technology has become a detrimental distraction.