Thursday, November 24, 2011

All Geology Is Connected

Yesterday, after attending a talk that got me thinking, I tweeted this: 
At a talk about how/where diamonds form I heard about "diamonds" that plug gas wells #AllGeologyIsConnected
The talk was part of the colloquium series in the department where I'm a grad student. A couple of the faculty work very hard to bring in guest speakers every two weeks to give talks about various aspects of geoscience. The room is never full for these talks. I know not everyone can make it to every talk, but I also suspect some people don't come to these the talks if they are not "relevant" to their own research. They're missing out.

I have geologic interests outside of my own research. I want to learn about other aspects of geology. Besides which, I find going to "unrelated" geology talks sparks my thought process, and I sometimes get new ideas for how to present/explain/display something I'm working on.

More importantly though, all geology is related, in a broad sense, and you never know what background info you are going to need to call on to solve a problem.  Today's colloquium talk, or rather the discussion at the end of it, was a really good example of this.

The title of the talk was "Diamond: Deep Carbon from a Shallow Source." The abstract can be found here. It was about isotopes and eclogite and peridotite and diamonds and inclusions. I'll admit, most of the details were beyond me, but I still learned something from it, and I was surprised at how much I could follow (it seems going to talks "unrelated" to my research is paying off, and I'm learning new stuff).

The questions at the end were really a discussion on the still-unknown stages of the formation of diamonds. But someone in the audience had insight that yielded a "wow" from the speaker. It was a petroleum geochemist who specializes in carbon sequestration and biodegradation and other important stuff like that. It might be a bit of a stretch to say that these two researchers, although both geologists and both geochemists, don't have overlapping research (but let's pretend they are completely "unrelated," for the sake of my argument). The petroleum geologist suggested that diamondoids, which are found in petroleum and actually clog up gas wells, might have clues about some of the unknowns.


Most of us were chuckling over the idea of "diamonds" clogging up gas wells, but we could still see the wheels turning as the speaker thought about this new approach to his research and the possibilities it might yield.

My point in all of this, besides the fact that it's kind of cool that there are diamonds that plug gas wells, is that all geology is related and doesn't have to be directly connected to be relevant. And that's pretty cool.

Thinking about not looking up from the path you're on reminds me of something that happened when I was in Bolivia doing field work...
Coming around the bend towards the end of a day in the field, we were so focused on the path in front of us that we almost missed this biotite-bearing outcrop that provided age constraints on the beds we were mapping.  

That's right, we almost missed this outcrop.

Now as it turns out, even if we'd missed the first one, there was still lots of ash around to collect samples from.

But this one is so cool...

In so many ways.