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Un-time-ly illogic

Well the end of Daylight Savings Time is near and so the demands for year-round savings of daylight increase as the sun drops lower towards the horizon.  Federal action must be taken! We must all be on DST! California voters get to vote on this, Florida passed a law asking for this– except that neither can take effect until the federal government acts. Congress forbid states from going on Daylight Savings all year long.  They can stay on standard time all year (which is what Arizona does, to the confusion of visitors to Laughlin who fly into and out of Bullhead City, whose clocks are only an hour different in the winter). But move that clock an hour ahead? No.

Well, you know you can fake it, right? Just go to standard time (which is allowed under the law) and start school an hour earlier, work from 8 to 4 instead of 9 to 5.  How hard is that? It is even a bit liberating–leaving work at 4 might feel like you are playing hooky every day.

But wait, I hear you cry, even that still wastes daylight! Here in Denver there are 15 hours of daylight near the summer solstice–even with DST the sun gets up at 5:30 in the morning. Who needs that! That’s at least an hour and a half of daylight we’re wasting.

So since we all now use cellphones and computers to tell time, and since they all can make these calculations with ease, GG proposes Uniform Sunlight Time (US time!).  In US Time, every morning the sun rises promptly at 8 am. So in the summer months the sun sets here in Denver 15 hours later, at 11 pm. Lots of saved daylight.  And in the depths of winter when we are down to a miserable nine hours and 22 minutes of daylight, the sun sets at 5:22 pm so the average wage earner gets a few rays after work. No more putting a pillow over your head at 6 am in the summer as the sun blasts through your curtains! No more oversleeping that business meeting at 9 because it was darker than the inside of a dog when you went to get up! And all that saved light!

But…but…but–that would change the length of a day! Spring days would be something like 24 hours and 2 minutes and fall days would be about 23 hours and 58 minutes. Well, if you want to get picky, days don’t stay the same length as it is–if you don’t believe it, put a rod in the ground and every day at precisely noon, see where the shadow points. It won’t be the same direction every day because high noon to high noon is almost never 24 hours. Why? Because of the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun. Solar noon moves by about a half hour relative to our 24 hour clock over the year. This 24 hours stuff is just an average over the year anyways; why not monkey with it?

Now we probably don’t want to redefine the length of a second every day.  We could, but that probably would mess things up (after all, you probably wouldn’t want to have to change the stickers on computers every day to correct their processor speed for that day–today only 2.0018 GHz!). So just like going on Daylight Savings, we simply tidy up when most of us are asleep, say at 2 am. From the winter to the summer solstice we spring forward a minute or two, so we might go from 2:00 am directly to 2:02 am, and in the other half of the year we fall back a little. No big deal. We could even mildly adjust the frequency of AC power to get mechanical clocks aligned with this while all our digital toys automatically take care of the switch.

GG is sure that this will solve all our problems with time. So feel free to write your Congressman or Congresswoman–GG is sure they would be delighted to hear about something they could actually do and be a pleasant diversion from partisan screeds they currently find in their in boxes.

Yes, its time for US Time!


“You attract more flies with honey than vinegar” the old saying goes.  It would seem a pretty marginal publisher got the word and is trying it out:

*Dear Dr. **C. H Jones**,

* *Greetings from Nessa Journal of Geology & Earth Sciences (NJGES)*

Recently we have come across your presentation at the *”Seismology of the Americas Meeting Latin American and Caribbean Seismological Commission Seismological Society of America May 2018 Miami, Florida” *with the title *”**Exploring the Extent of Wave Propagative Effects on Teleseismic Attenuation Measurements within the Sierra Nevada**”*. I presume that it will outstandingly attract the readers and will receive applause from the people of all walks of life. I believe it will enrich the knowledge and experiment of people who are involved in all these researches and experiments.

Man, what temptation! “receive applause from the people of all walks of life”! GG cannot wait to walk out to the mailbox to thunderous applause from the neighborhood, or be mobbed in the grocery store for having published in the legendary NJGES!

Though to “outstandingly attract the readers” might mean standing out on a street corner with a sign “please read and applaud.”

Aloha CNN; NY trillions of times

Residents of Honolulu were probably looking out their windows if they checked CNN this morning…


If you can’t read the small type…


Honolulu is of course on Oahu, several islands away from the Big Island where the eruption actually is occurring.

While CNN showed off their unusual understanding of geography, the NY Times pushed Earth’s history back to far before the beginning of the universe:


Wow, 202 trillion years ago the Earth wandered somewhere different?  What was Earth even doing back then, given there was no universe? [The article correctly talked about 202,500 years].

Wilderness Learning, Part 1

What is wilderness for? These days, it often seems to be a big outdoor gym, with folks trying to out-do one another on a time climbing a wall, running a trail, kayaking a river. While advocates for Wilderness Areas argue for a sort of spiritual renewal, is there anything there beyond recharging one’s emotional batteries or notching some personal best?

It seems a question worth asking in a day and age when we are revisiting what should and should not be allowed to go on in Wilderness Areas. To that end, GG is dropping the third person to talk a bit about personal experiences in wilderness that might be a bit different from expectations. This is pretty different from the usual fare here, both in length and tone, so consider yourself warned, and while the insights I hope to show in these posts could probably be distilled more thoroughly, I hope that the broader context of my (mis)adventures is of interest.

Read More…

Prisoners of the Meme

Certain knee-jerk phrases and assumptions just kind of get GG all grumpied-up.  The two from today? “Nevadaplano” and “Laramide flat slab”.

Now GG is not in possession of God’s plan for the universe or operating a time machine with X-ray vision into the earth. In fact, those who are explicitly investigating such concepts are not the targets of this venom today.  It is those who use these terms–or, probably more properly, use these memes–that drive GG to distraction.

Why? When Peter Bird spoke of a flat slab in his 1988 paper, it was crystal clear what he meant. There was no real ambiguity.  His flat slab had a real purpose, it was a firm creation that could be encountered face-to-face (after a fashion) and be dealt with.  If you spoke of Bird’s flat slab, you knew why it was there, how it hooked into everything, what it was and was not supposed to do.  It was something you could–and many did–disprove. It was an honest to goodness hypothesis.

But the flat slab of the meeting talks is a nebulous invention designed to deflect attention.  “The Laramide flat slab” could be almost anywhere in the western U.S.  It could start back at 90 Ma.  It might be lurking today under Mississippi or the Great Lakes or New Jersey [all such suggestions are indeed out there]–or under your bed calling you on the phone! [OK, that one isn’t in the literature]. It is, essentially, an invitation to suspend critical thought. The flat slab can move mantle lithosphere, hydrate crust hither and yon, it can depress the crust, or raise the crust, stop volcanoes or start them. It is all-powerful. Need something to happen?  Invoke the flat slab and criticism is silenced.

The other boogeyman is of a different stripe.  The “Nevadaplano” is one of those portmanteaus so easily rolled off the tongue that it was, from the moment of conception, a favorite in oral presentation. It was just too fun a phrase to pass up. While it lacks the powers of the flat slab, it, like many superheroes, has its own abilities: it flickers in existence between eastern Nevada, western Utah, eastern California and southern Arizona, appearing where needed just in the nick of time–whether that time be in the mists of the Cretaceous or the dying days of the Oligocene. Its partial namesake, the Altiplano, is known for being flat, a product of internal drainage, yet many (most?) incarnations of the Nevadaplano are externally drained. Nearly all the times speakers call upon the spirit of Nevadaplano, they really have no real need of it. They just need a highland in the right place at the right time–and there is good evidence for many of these highlands.  They just don’t look or behave like the image projected by the Nevadaplano, and one speaker’s Nevadaplano would spit on another speaker’s. You really do wish that the spirit of Nevadaplano would object and not show its face in such instances.

Science is supposed to be a precise business.  When we speak of the San Andreas Fault, the Navajo Sandstone or the Channeled Scablands, these are things that are well defined even if there are some blurry edges somewhere. Even multifaceted terms like “lithosphere” rarely convey different notions to different listeners within the context of a talk. But the flat slab and the Nevadaplano are, as usually used, lazy shortcuts designed to avoid grappling with a more complex world. They are oral mirages, temping visions made in one’s mind that cannot be examined too closely or compared with others. Simply enough, they are not science.

Meeting Survival

Sorry to have left loyal readers in the lurch without a dose of grumpiness for awhile–been taking the show on the road the past couple of weeks.

Presently though at the Geological Society of America conference, which means it is time to try to get through one of these meetings without going either broke or insane.

Now, if you have a grant where you actually budgeted for the real cost of the meeting and you aren’t trying to stretch that money to cover two meetings and an extra week of field work, stop here.  This isn’t for you, you lucky dog.

The rest of us find ourselves in meeting hotels that are usually insanely expensive but, thanks to the group rate from the meeting organizers, are merely expensive. What is amazing is just how expensive they can be after you’ve already paid for the room: of course there is the honor bar (“honor”–yeah, right, that is why they installed a frigging weight sensor in the fridge to charge you if you lift anything out). Gotta love that $20 mini bottle of wine–nothing says desperate than drinking a small bottle of grossly overpriced hotel wine from the honor bar while alone. And there is the little place in the lobby to buy things at only slightly under honor bar prices, or the gift store with fine and tastefully lacquered beer steins with pictures of the host city on them for a mere $50. For parents, nothing says “I love you, my child” more than a $15 hotel gift store pencil case with the corporate logo on it (unless it is the little bouncy balls some of the booths in the expo give away for free).

But while the rest of the world has decided that free wifi and a complementary breakfast should be part of nearly every American hotel stay costing more than about $60, here in the land of the $250 room (if you are so lucky), there is not so much as complementary mint at the front desk (well, ok, GG sees a Dasani on the desk here with a note claiming its free–but you know what? Can you really trust that its free?). Unless the meeting has arranged free wifi, be ready to drop a sawbuck a day on an internet connection (or plan to frequent local coffee houses that will let you use their wifi for the cost of a cup of joe–sorry, in Seattle now, PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE), or join the ranks of your peers plopped on the edges of corridors in the meeting area like the street people cadging quarters outside the facility while the glom off the free meeting internet).

Heaven help you if you brought a car.  That goes double if you rented it.

Then there is the actual reason you are here: the meeting.  Younger attendees wonder why the graybeards they are trying to meet are so hard to find, and the answer is that they have strategies to avoid the meeting except near their invited talks or when there is an NSF program officer available to strong arm. They’ve learned that a four or five day meeting is enough to send the strongest to a week of recovery in a spa.

With all of that, here are GG’s suggestions for surviving a professional meeting with a minimum of financial and mental damage.

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Monolithic Logic

Two substantial rockfalls at the east end of El Capitan (near where Horsetail Falls sometimes appears) have resulted in one death and two injuries. Frankly with all the climbers and tourists it is kind of surprising that this is limit of the human toll. This corner of the face of El Capitan seems to have had less activity prior to this than some other nearby corners of Yosemite.  Things could be a lot worse: Stock and Uhrhammer (2010) dated the very large rock avalanche from the east face of El Capitan to about 3600 years ago (in red on map below excerpted from Wieczorek et al., 1999), and a couple other younger rockfalls have come off El Capitan in historic time (the orange areas on the map). From the photos out there, GG has guessed at the approximate location of the debris that came down this past week (added to map below; the rockfall source is on an essentially vertical rock face).


Anyways, the intent here is not to consider the geology of this so much as a controversy that coverage of this event has sparked in some corners, namely, is El Capitan the “largest granite monolith” as termed by some reports?

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