you’ll never look at a rock in the same way again…

By Eleanor

When I began studying geology, I remember my first-year lecturer telling us that we would “never look at a rock in the same way again.”

Before I started uni, I didn’t think much about rocks. They were just there, kind of boring grey or brown, sitting on the ground. But now I know that every rock has a story.

Many of my friends are geologists too, and so I have found myself in situations where I am on a holiday and someone spots a cool rock, and we all crowd around to have a look. These are moments I really enjoy, to be honest. Even though we all have a self-conscious laugh about how “you know you are with geologists when…”, it’s really nice to be able to share the appreciation with others.

When your companions are not geologists, the situation is quite different. This has happened a couple of times lately.

One time was last year in Japan. I was walking along a coastline with two companions (not-geologists) and I found myself looking at stunning volcanic sequences in the cliffs and rock platforms. After a little while, I said, “have you guys looked at the rocks you are standing on?” and was met with blank looks; “Uh… no?”

I tried to hold back from going into ‘overenthusiastic-geologist-lecture mode’. But when I saw this beautiful specimen (below), I couldn’t help myself.

Cool rock

This is a cliff face; I put my foot up on the cliff for scale.

My interpretation is that the big chunk of rock near my foot is from beneath the Earth’s surface. Then, magma came from even deeper, broke off the rock, and carried it upwards to eventually erupt out of a volcano. The eruption is explosive; the magma breaks into fine ash particles, forming a big plume, which then turns into a pyroclastic flow. (If you don’t know what that is, just youtube it. There’s some amazing footage out there. Basically it is a cloud of hot gas, ash and rock fragments that is too dense to stay as a ‘plume’, instead it ‘flows’ down the side of a volcano.) So, this chunk of rock that is now next to my foot either erupts out of the volcano first, or maybe it’s carried along by the pyroclastic flow. Either way, it lands in some soft sediments and punches down through them, and finer debris from the pyroclastic flow fills in the hole it made.

I’d say that’s a pretty dramatic and enthralling story. My companions listened politely, but didn’t display much excitement. Oh well.

I had a similar experience last week. I went on a three-day tour of the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye. On our way through the highlands, we stopped for a photo from a hill. When I walked back to the bus, I noticed a road cutting and it looked interesting so I went over. And saw this!

more cool rock

Road cutting in Scotland

Incredible! This is up there with some of the coolest rock I’ve seen. The dark parts of this rock are sedimentary – like a mudstone or sandstone. They form when sand particles settle at the bottom of a lake or an ocean, and settle into layers, eventually getting compacted into layered rock. The lighter coloured rock formed when magma cooled and solidified. So this was magma, and it has moved up through the Earth, and ‘intruded’ into the sedimentary rocks. It’s broken up these rocks, torn off chunks and moved into the gaps. This is a process that I have heard about since first year, but it is really cool to see it so clearly presented in a real rock. You look at this rock and you can see exactly what has happened to it. Scotland is where a lot of early geological discoveries were made, and I can see why!

When I went back to the bus, the tour guide said with a shrug, “yeah, I thought it looked cool, but I drive past it all the time…”

It made me wonder: why is history such a big part of tourism, but not geology? We visited about six castles on this tour, and heard stories of countless bloody battles. But to me, the story of magma rising from deep inside the earth, breaking up and swallowing the rock in its path, is kind of just as exciting. And to see that process ‘frozen in time’ and exposed in a rock face so that we can see it – well, I think that is pretty damn cool. Just as good as a castle, if not better. But maybe (definitely) I am biased.

So, to my geologist friends: thank you for sharing my enthusiasm! And to my non-geologist friends… well, thank you for putting up with my enthusiasm. (p.s. study geology – it’s awesome! And you’ll never look at a rock in the same way again!)

Geoscience Australia’s 2015 annual Open Day

Geoscience Australia’s 2015 annual Open Day on Sunday 23 August will offer a diverse program of free hands-on activities, science displays and talks for all ages. Come along and learn about the exciting range of work carried out by Australia’s national geoscience agency.

See. Learn. Explore.

OpenDayGSA2015

For more information visit www.ga.gov.au/open-day or email openday@ga.gov.au

IsoCamp 2015

By Hannah James

I recently attended the Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry & Ecology short course or IsoCamp at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. It’s a two week summer isotope camp for nerds and it was amazing. IsoCamp is run by IsoPopes, Jim Ehleringer and Thure Cerling and staffed by a whole group of amazing researchers from around the US and the world.

Our morning lectures covered a range of topics from isotopes in the water, tree rings, oceans, atmosphere, soil to animals.

Afternoons were lab time. We developed projects, collected samples, prepared and analysed them and pretended to understand what the data we received was telling us.

IsoCamp 1

SCIENCE!!

For me week one was project burger week. We sampled burgers from several establishments, fast and non-fast food and then analysed carbon isotopes to work out whether the cows were grass-fed or not. This project just made us look like tight-arses, we would purchase one burger between three then cut it up in thirds.

Week two was fish week. We collected fish samples from a fish market and some dead floating fish from a stocked fishing lake. We then used nitrogen isotopes to look at trophic levels and changing diets relating to the fish being released into the lake. This project just smelled really bad!

Evenings were more lectures on forensics, lab equipment, using isotopes in urban settings and NEON, the National Ecological Observatory Network.

I learnt a lot at IsoCamp and in Salt Lake City, mainly that;

  • I have barely scratched the surface of isotope knowledge.
  • isotopes are amazing and applicable to so many topics
  • animals are way cooler than plants, rocks, and soils
  • American’s are super excited about their research
  • Utah, although thought of as a religious state, does great craft beer
  • Salt Lake City is a very well organised and very well watered city
  • The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is wonderful
Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City

Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City

  • And tie dye looks great on everyone!
Tie dye adventurers

Tie dye adventurers

After the course I did some travelling around and discovered Utah is a beautiful and strange place. A German, a Texan and I headed south to Moab, a small town surrounded by the amazing geology of Utah’s high deserts. We checked out Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, and saw some of Utah’s iconic landmarks. If you ever find yourself in that part of the US, they come highly recommended.

The Windows, Arches National Park

The Windows, Arches National Park

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

Green River Utah

Green River Utah

Also if you’re interested in IsoCamp check out http://stableisotopes.utah.edu/isocamp.html for details!

UTAH!!

The benefits of joining earth science societies of Australia

By Pat with help from Tim and Michael

In this blog post i have summarised the different characteristics and opportunities provided by the many earth science societies which are most active in Australia. These societies are particularly underutilised by our generation because most of us think that there is nothing to gain through membership. However as this list shows, not only can they provide you with materialistic support (including money, conferences and workshops), but they regularly provide platforms for professional and social networking, which help you get jobs, establish collaborations for research and provide a rare attentive audience for those horrible geology jokes.

Geological Society of Australia (GSA)

Website: gsa.org.au  Facebookgsa

Areas of interest: Earth sciences (see specialist groups below), education, geoheritage and geotourism

Membership background: Primarily academics and government employees (e.g. state geological surveys, CSIRO, and GA), less so industry workers. Total membership ~2200.

Specialist groups: Palaeontology; coal geology; earth sciences history; economic geology; environmental engineering and hydrology; geochemistry, mineralogy and petrology; geological education; planetary geoscience; sedimentology; solid earth geophysics; tectonics and structural geology; volcanology.

Active in Canberra?: Yes!

Bursaries/funding: Divisional and specialist groups will occasionally offer funding to attend GSA related conferences, workshops or field trips.

Conferences/seminars: Australian Earth Sciences Convention, some specialist groups also run regular conferences (e.g. SGTSG), monthly divisional talks

Publications: Australian Journal of Earth Sciences (AJES); TAG (national newsletter); Divisional newsletters; field trip guides; conference abstracts.

Student membership costs: from $25 (including graduates)

Other activities: The more active state divisions will often run local geological field trips for members. Geoheritage and geotourism (e.g. National rock garden)

SIGN UP

Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG)

Website: http://www.aig.org.au/ FacebookAIGAreas of interest: Hard and soft rock exploration, mining and resource economics.

Membership background: Primarily Industry workers, less so academic and government employees.

Active in Canberra?: Not directly, often running events in collaboration with other societies. There is no ACT division, however we can sometimes apply for NSW bursaries.

Bursaries/funding: $1000–$4000 for third year undergraduate, honours and PhD students. Divisional and specialist groups will occasionally offer funding to attend AIG conferences.

Publications: AIG Journal (beginning this year); AIG News (national newsletter); field trip guides; conference abstracts.

Membership costs: Undergraduates: FREE; Graduates: ~$100

Other activities: Generally a very active society offering regular workshops and field trips across Australia. Industry employment surveys. JORC competent person accreditation

SIGN UP

AUSIMM

Website: http://www.ausimm.com.au/

AUSIMMAreas of interest: Primarily industry related including geology, geotechnical, mining engineering, metallurgy, environmental and management.

Membership background: Dominantly industry workers in the above fields. Total membership ~14000.

Bursaries/funding: Too many to list and some are huge (e.g. $20,000 per annum). Some awards are specific to fields/topics. See here and here for details.

Student membership costs: Undergraduates: $11, Graduates: from $66.

Conferences: Numerous small conferences and workshops covering all aspects mentioned above.

Other activities: State student chapters run regular professional networking events. Numerous forms of professional accreditation including JORC, VALIM, CoalLog, chartered professionals and BPEQ.

SIGN UP

Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (ASEG)

Website: aseg.org.au/ASEG

Areas of interest: Geophysical techniques used for hard and soft rock exploration.

Membership background: Industry, academia and government.

Bursaries/funding: The ASEG has a research grant fund for all geophysics research students and offers several student scholarships that vary between state branches

Conferences/Seminars: The ASEG conference and exhibition is held every 18 months, the next will be in 2016 in Adelaide and is a collaborative effort between the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia and the Australian Institute of Geoscientists. Technical talks throughout the year including a distinguished lecture series sponsored by the Society of Exploration Geophysics (international)

Publications: Preview and Exploration Geophysics come free with membership, both are available in print and online

Student membership costs: Student’s can choose to join the Student Sponsorship Program, such that their membership fee is paid for by Rio Tinto or Origin Energy.

Other activities: Provides members with access to educational programs (short courses and lectures) and holds regular social events found on the ASEG website. Past events include: golf, trivia, luncheons and Christmas parties.

SIGN UP

Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA)

Website: http://www.pesa.com.auPESA

Area of interest: Oil and gas formation and exploration, including sedimentology.

Membership background: Industry, academia and government workers.

Active in Canberra? Yes!

Student membership cost: FREE (including PhD students!)

Bursaries/funding: State divisions offer funding between $500–$4000 for undergraduate, honours, masters and PhD students in energy related projects.

Talks: Monthly (-ish) divisional talks

Publications: Conference proceedings and PESA News.

Other activities: Workshops, short courses, field trips and many “Luncheons”.

SIGN UP

Sydney Mineral Exploration Discussion Group (SMEDGE)

Website: http://www.smedg.org.au/

smedgCaters to: Sydney based mineral explorers; primarily restricted to Eastern Australian geology.

Active in Canberra?: Obviously not, but a good excuse to drive to Sydney.

Conferences: Mines and Wines

Talks: Monthly talks

Membership: FREE to all

Other activities: Winter and summer cruises on Sydney Harbour.

Publications: Powerpoint presentations of monthly talks; conference abstracts.

Australian Geoscience Information Association (AGIA*)

*Not to be confused with the Australian Garlic Industry Association

Website: agia.org.au/AIGA

Caters to: Geoscience information workers from government (corporate members: GA, GSWA and NTGS) and industry (corporate members: Woodside, Chevron and Rio Tinto)

Active in Canberra? No.

Student Membership costs: $20 (incl PhD students)

Publications: Newsletter (The Great Australian Byte), Occasional Paper Series.

Activities: Workshops and symposia.

SIGN UP

International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH)

Website: www.iah.org.au/

IAH

Areas of interest: Groundwater

Membership background: Groundwater researchers, industry professionals and government employees.

Groups: Country and state/province/territory chapters; International Commissions (Groundwater and Climate Change; Groundwater Outreach; Karst Hydrogeology; Managed Aquifer Recharge; Mineral and Thermal Waters; Regional Groundwater Flow); International Networks (Early Career Hydrogeologists’ Network; Burdon Groundwater Network; Network for Coastal Aquifer Dynamics and Coastal Zone Management; Network on Fractured Rock Hydrogeology; Network on Groundwater and Ecosystems; Urban Groundwater Network).

Bursaries/funding: assistance to attend conferences from chapters and specialist groups.

Conferences/seminars: Australian Groundwater Conference; annual international congress; other specialist group conferences. Monthly (-ish) ACT chapter talks; public lectures.

Publications: Hydrogeology Journal; IAH technical reports and guides; international, country and state/territory chapter newsletters; conference abstracts.

Student membership costs: from $35

Other activities: Field trips; workshops; international mentoring program.

SIGN UP

Deep Dreaming with Google

You may have seen some pretty weird and crazy images floating around the interwebs recently. You may have even heard about an emerging new artist who is producing them. You see something like this:

everything_3370412k

… and you go and think about someone having a go at some new tools in photoshop and you look at it more closely and you start thinking about the meaning of life and what must be going on in this person’s head.

And then … through a bit of Googling – you realize that actually… it was Google that created them. And by this I don’t mean its founders or some technician on acid, I mean some algorithm came up with this.

Now what is actually going on here is that a fraction of Google employees are working on machine-learning algorithms and the “emerging art” that you see is a part of their testing of this algorithm. I am not going to go into the science of machine-learning (Google it if you like!), but what it comes down to is letting a computer “teach” itself or “learn” how to perform certain tasks by simulating the human brain. This is done using the artificial neural networks. I will try and explain how this works in simple terms. Check out this discussion for more info. In fact, I learned a lot from here and draw some examples from comments in this thread.

Those of you out there who have ever tried to program anything (or have first done so at the Python course) know how hard it can be to instruct a computer to do something. Or maybe a better way of putting it is you know you have to give it a lot of information in order to perform a very simple task, because all this machine understands is numbers. Now imagine trying to teach this machine to recognize a picture of a dog, and KNOW that this is a dog. This is an extremely hard thing to do. To you and me this is a no-brainer – we all know what a dog looks like, but a computer doesn’t. The computer doesn’t even have a concept of a dog. It doesn’t have a concept of a concept.

Imagine for a second that you have met a kid who has never seen a cake in their lifetime (I know, this is cruel, but for the sake of the kid imagine this for me). So this kid doesn’t know what cake is, what it is for, what you do with it, what it smells, tastes or feels like and it has never seen any variant of a cake. Now you have the task of teaching this kid what a cake IS. So you sit this kid at a table and you present it with a few cakes – a brownie, a birthday cake with a candle on top, a pavlova. And you tell this kid that these are all cakes. Mind you, these are all very different cakes. You also point to a birthday cake and you tell this kid “This is a birthday cake”. And the kid goes “ok, I get it”. But you are not so sure – you want to see if this kid really understands you. So you give it a blank piece of paper and a pencil and you ask him to draw you a cake.

Now the kid is at a loss a bit, he has just seen a few cakes and he is still kind of wrestling with this concept and he can’t really just draw you a cake. He doesn’t know where to start. So you make it a tad easier for the kid and you give him one of those connect-the-dots type puzzles (nevermind what this should actually show once you connect the dots!) and you ask the kid to recognize a cake within those dots and outline it for you. And he sets off to the task, identifies 4 or 5 dots that in his mind kind of resemble a cake and he draws a very vague outline around those dots. Now you look at it, you don’t quite see it yet but you want to keep going. So you hide that piece of paper behind your back and pretend to get a new piece of paper but you actually give the kid the same one he just scribbled on. You ask the kid to outline the cake again on this paper. The kid has not only never experienced cake but also doesn’t recognize (for the sake of the argument) the piece of paper in front of him. So now he sees his own scribbles in this puzzle and they vaguely remind him of a cake, so now he adds more lines, more scribbles to the existing ones to make them more cake-like. Now you, being a patient teacher, repeat this a several dozen times, the kid keeps drawing over his own drawings and finally in front of you there is indeed a drawing of something that you might recognize as a cake.

Now you repeat this experiment and ask the kid to draw you a birthday cake. After some repetition (of the above-described kind) you have a drawing of a cake with the candle on top! But hold on, you see something weird in this picture. You see that right next to a birthday cake there is this long, slender shape. And then you look at the birthday cake on the table and you see that there is a cutting knife right next to it. Your kid has successfully put an image of a candle into his mind when picturing birthday cakes, but he also thinks that a knife is a part of this cake. If you ask the kid to identify a birthday cake among many other cakes he will always choose the cake with a candle and a knife! And the candle, as far as he is concerned, is a part of what constitutes a “birthday cake”. And so is the knife.

This process essentially describes how an algorithm learns and comes up with those trippy images you have seen around the web lately.

The engineers at Google have been playing with algorithms in the past few years in such a way so these algorithms can recognize a picture of, say, a dog. So the way they do it is they pass pictures of dogs to a complex algorithm and they tell it that each picture shows a dog. They have “trained” its algorithm to recognize objects this way. In fact you can test this yourself. Upload an image, any simple image of a simple object (dog, house, a bird, a tree…) to Google images (just literally drag and drop your image to its search box) and hit “search”. Go ahead, do it. Google will come up with similar images to that one. If you grabbed this photo off the internet chances are it will find the same one. The algorithm has “learned” to recognize objects – much in the similar way of how people do it. This is why if you go and read about this topic more you will find expressions like machine learning, artificial neural networks or deep neural networks .

So once these engineers have trained their algorithms to recognize stuff and successfully employed it in their search engines, they wanted to see what actually this algorithm “thinks” (? Careful now, it doesn’t actually think – you will have noticed I’m using a lot of terms in the post loosely for explanation purposes… that’s why they are in quotes, I’m sure there’s heaps of people online who would scrutinize me for being incorrect. If you notice an error in reasoning, or have questions, please post it in the comments) when it thinks of, say, bananas. So they gave it a picture of random noise (this is our connect-the-dots puzzle in the above example), which looks like this:
3313647292_0dd0a97901

 

That’s right – it’s essentially your dead tv channel. And now they told it to find a banana in this image. After several thousands of iterations (working always on its own output, like the kid that keeps drawing over his own drawings) , this is what it came up with:

noise-to-banana

Yeah, you can vaguely see a banana there, right? Several of them.

Here are some other examples of feeding the random noise to this algorithm and telling it to find specific things.

classvis

 

Look what happens if they ask for a dumbbell:

dumbbells

There is a hand attached to it! Much like the knife in that birthday cake scenario. The algorithm has thought itself that a dumbbell also constitutes a hand, probably because most of the images of dumbbell it has “seen” were of a muscly hand holding one.

These brilliant people have also come up with one final test. They fed a random noise into the algorithm and basically said “tell me what you see”. So they didn’t say that there is a banana in there, or a dog or a parachute. They just instructed it to outline anything it sees there. And THAT’S how you get those trippy images. Through thousands and thousands of iterations and hundreds of different layers of image enhancement (there are layers and there are iterations in this process – separate things – there is a number of iterations on each layer) the algorithm takes some dots and to it these dots look more like a dog, those dots look more like a tree and so on… and you end up with something resembling that starting image. Why is it always dogs and pagodas and eyes you might ask?

This tells you what type of images the algorithm has been trained on. It has been trained on images of dogs and pagodas for example. It has also learned that pagodas appear on the horizons (because pictures it has “seen” showed pagodas mostly on horizons) so if you pass it an image of a tree, chances are it will turn into a pagoda somewhere on the horizon. Eyes? Dogs and all living creatures have eyes. So if it “sees” any creature in random noise it will most likely have eyes.

The swirly images of regular things and/or nature that you can find online like this one:

verspjbwjtnhened091h

are created using the same process but to a lower layer – meaning the algorithm is at the stage of outlining some edges and geometrical shapes that it can recognize in the image. It hasn’t gone any further (it’s not looking for dogs, cakes or pagodas).

So if you now Google “deep dream” you will see all sorts of these images. You will recognize Google’s dream algorithm style pretty quickly. As to why it’s called “dreaming” – there are ongoing debates online whether this is an appropriate name or not, but this post is already too long. Suffices to say that the algorithm builds an image on its previous “experience” of certain objects – which is similar to what our brains do when we are dreaming.

You can have some fun too and create some of your own images like that. In fact a lot of people are doing it and the results range from meh, to beautiful to thanks-I-didn’t-want-to-sleep-ever-again creepy. I have personally uploaded three of my photos to this site and will be waiting for about a week for them to get processed. Once the results are out – I will show them in a new post, so we can all have a good laugh. Or no sleep.

And just to top it off here’s this process animated:

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/132700334″>Inside an artificial brain</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/jncx”>Johan Nordberg</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

References:

http://googleresearch.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/deepdream-code-example-for-visualizing.html

http://googleresearch.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/inceptionism-going-deeper-into-neural.html

https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/3cbelv/eli5_can_anyone_explain_googles_deep_dream/

https://www.reddit.com/r/deepdream/comments/3cawxb/what_are_deepdream_images_how_do_i_make_my_own/

The lowest place on Earth

The lowest point on our planet is the Challenger Deep, around 12 km below sea level. There is a slight problem with it though – it is underwater. The lowest place you can actually go there without getting too wet is the Dead Sea, a hypersaline lake on the border of Israel and Jordan. You are going to get all wet and sweaty, because unlike Canberra at this time of the year, that place is incredibly hot. Here’s a cropped screen capture of today’s forecast from the Israeli Meteorological Service:

A cropped screen capture of today's forecast from the Israeli Meteorological Service

Now, I could talk to you about the environmental crises occurring there because we’re geoscientists, or I could write something about the rich history of the place because some of us may be interested in that. I was going to do it when thinking about this post, but then I decided that I will not. That’s boring stuff and you can go and find some papers or articles about it. Being a native of the Israeli desert, just looking at some pictures of this area made me feel all emotional and stuff. That place can definitely take some deep feelings from your heart and throw them in you face until you start crying like a little baby because it makes you so happy (and sad because I’m so far away).

So instead of going all academic telling you that it’s lower than 400 metres below sea level and decreasing because of human activities, or that it occasionally spits out asphalt that starts floating on the surface of the water, I’ll try to convey some of those inexplicable feelings to you. Feelings work better with sound, so here’s a song to play in the background while you’re reading this:

That song is called “tzipor midbar” (ציפור מדבר), meaning “desert bird”. Some say the lyrics are about a town called Arad, the neighbouring town to the famous Masada fortress, where the Roman army lay siege until all the Jewish inhabitants committed suicide.

A view of the Dead Sea from Masada. © by CarmelH, source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/17257440

A view of the Dead Sea from Masada. © by CarmelH, source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/17257440

My own relationship with does not go too far in time. I only got to intimately know it in my early twenties, when I had a job there. My task was to operate a barge that extracted carnallite (KMgCl3·6[H2O]) from the evaporation ponds and pumped it to the factory where they produced potash, magnesia, bromine and all kinds of chemicals from it.

The author in his early twenties, driving a small boat to a barge

The author in his early twenties, driving a small boat to a barge

Occasionally, during night shifts, the factory would shut down for maintenance, so that means that barge has to shut down as well. This means no noise from the machinery, and no lights because we don’t need it. And then it hits you – complete silence. Complete darkness. It’s you, alone (well almost, we’re two on a barge) in the middle of nowhere. You are on the sea, and the closest sign of any civilisation is the factory itself which may be several km away from you. Then you look up, and see the sky. Completely clear, millions of stars. You can almost see shadows cast by the glow of the milky way. And then the sun rises:

Sunrise, looking east

Sunrise, looking east

I worked there for only six months, but I visited the region countless more times. Easy when it’s only 1.5 hours away from where you live! Now, most tourists only visit Masada and the hotels. That’s not a bad thing, considering this is how the beach looks:

Yes, that's salt. Halite. NaCl. © by volnat, source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/61624861

Yes, that’s salt. Halite. NaCl. © by volnat, source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/61624861

Once you go slightly deeper to the desert, you find amazing things. First of all, the entire thing exposes magnificent outcrops of sedimentary rocks. You can see beautiful patterns in clays and marls, huge ammonites, quartz geodes (locally known as תפוחי אליהו, Elijah’s apples), huge dolomite crystals and what not. One of the most peculiar things you can find there is a huge salt diapir. That’s a mountain made out of almost pure salt, called Mount Sedom (of Sedom and Gomorrah fame). It’s always hilarious making unsuspecting tourists to actually lick the mountain:

A Belgian friend experiencing some of the tastes of the Middle East, Mt Sedom

A Belgian friend experiencing some of the tastes of the Middle East, Mt Sedom salt diapir

Although this place is a desert and not much (if at all) can survive in the Dead Sea (hence the name), there are some green spots around it. One of my favourite ones is Ein Bokek, a small oasis in a canyon that flows all year. There’s nothing like wetting your feet in the cool water after a long walk in the scorching sun.

Ein Bokek. © by serstef, source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/43352661

Ein Bokek. © by serstef, source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/43352661

I will stop now because just writing this blog post makes me home sick. I will finish with another song. Don’t worry – this time it’s in English. The filming location, the vibe of the song, the choreography, the effects, and everything else in this song makes me feel like I am actually standing there, 40°C, facing a strong and dry western wind. Put it on full screen and plug in your headphones.

Gneiss2MeetU: A ‘geologists only’ dating app

Tim Jones

In the late 90s, online dating was expected to become a cyber dystopia for weirdos and burnouts who couldn’t get a date in the ‘real world’. And while it still has its issues, hooking up over the web has become something not many of us expected it to be –normal. But rather than getting down and digital with ‘coolguy2000′ who you met in a Green Day chat room, today’s virtual date is conducted through matchmaker websites like OKCupid and mobile apps such as Tinder. With their explosion in popularity the market of dating websites and mobile apps has become saturated, which makes finding the right one almost as difficult as finding the one.

Here at oncirculation we care as much about your hearts as we do about your samples. To find out how one navigates through the world of swiping, poking, liking, matching all at light-speed rates of rejection, we contacted Charlotte Lyell, creator of a ‘geologists only’ dating app, and asked about her experience with online dating:

“I’d been online dating for years, drifting from one app to the next… I told myself that if I just kept looking, I’d eventually find the right dating service for me. There were a couple that I really liked, including one I was using for about a year but it didn’t work out. Anyway, it all culminated on a business trip when I got blind drunk and downloaded a bunch of apps all in one night. I’ve been between apps ever since.”

Feeling dismayed with her online encounters, Charlotte decided to make up an app for those with a very specific interest, Geology. When asked why geologists require a separate corner of cyber space to themselves, Charlotte replied:

“Dating can consume a lot of time and most people expect a quick response. But geologists are different; abstract concepts like ‘tomorrow’ and ‘next week’ are meaningless to us. A week, a year, a million years –they’re all relatively short periods of time. Also, most of my clothes were bought at a Kathmandu sale and while most people think wearing cargo pants and hiking boots everywhere is tacky, geologists appreciate the practical aspects.”

The app itself, called Gneiss2MeetU, has several unique features you won’t find in typical online mediums, including the ability to reject anyone who doesn’t wear polo fleece and an instant match up if you have the same favourite dinosaur.

In science we are all faced with things we don’t understand and often, after much struggling, we will fail. Over time, it becomes easy to lose hope in our scientific endeavours and the same is true for love. But Gneiss2MeetU offers a new method, an avenue of inquiry that might just work for you, so what do you have to lose? As George Harrison wrote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.”

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