Saturday, 19 March 2011

Time to Learn?

After my last post on a brief session at museum whereby I was involved in discussing geosciences with some children it seemed important to review, what children are taught in the geosciences in order to fit events and outreach into knowledge that the children already have.

 Assuming that children have no prior interest (so have not read anything into it, or have a scary obsession with dinosaurs) so that their geological knowledge extends to that they’ve learnt in the class  room.  As luck would have it, my mother is primary school teacher and I’m back home before a little jaunt off to Cyprus, the house is full of a wealth of books for the education of children, it seemed interesting to see how these publications discuss geological issues.

Trend, 1998 found that children (10 to 11) identified geological time as being composed of two different timeframes, ‘Extremely ancient’ and ‘less ancient’ quite what the timings of these are remain a mystery. However, this introduces the question of what we as geologists should use in terms of geological timing. During outreach events (or similar), where student or professional geologists may be acting, our understanding of geological time is so commonplace, so accepted within our lives that we don’t find the need to water it down to perhaps the level it should be displayed at; practically when discussing ideas with children.

Children also have trouble fitting piecing together geological time (Trend, 2000) which leads to problems when we are trying to explain how a landscape developed or the progression of life through time. Stratigraphy is a vital area of the geosciences hence its early discussion within university courses. How can geological time be brought to children – when there have limited fundamental understanding of the concepts involved?

Perhaps for these reasons geology, as taught within Key Stage 2 avoids geological time – instead discussing the composition of the earth, in terms of layers and the composition of rocks. The rock cycle is also included – with no consideration for the timescales behind it.

Therefore, if the children have never encountered deep time, to a child, a long time ago might be last Christmas, not the Mesozoic. Why therefore do we even try to utilise geological time with children? At the outreach event I last posted on we had posters with the geological timescale on it, we gave away cards with the timescale on it – even trying to put the local geology into a timescale. Clearly it was not a worthy cause, I had wondered why I was getting polite but completely blank faces – the children simply  had nothing to base what we were saying on.

Should we then even bother discussing ‘deep’ time when working with children? Well, either we try to educate children during any contact time into geological time (probably neither practical or even possible) or we simply leave it out – tie ourselves in with the national curriculum. This produces the risk of young minds not having a non theistic timescale set in stone, or a challenge to a preconceived theistic idea set in motion at a young age – surely, for the promotion of ‘mainstream’ geosciences and for the ease of future education introducing the geological time scale at a young age is beneficial? It’s just how to do it that’s the problem!


Trend, R. (2000) Conceptions of geological time among primary trainee teachers, with reference to their engagement with geosciences, history and science, International Journal of Science Education,22 (5), pp 539-555

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Touchscreen Display

 Today I had the chance to volunteer on behalf of my university at a local museum, as part of British science week. Which seems to entail plenty of disinterested school children being bussed to a local museum, where a group of scientists from nearby scientific institutions bombard them with a variety of information about mini-beasts, ocean acidification and in our case, fossils and a couple of rocks. The children were UK years 4/5 (so 8-10 year olds) so had plenty of much more interesting things to think about (mainly Pok√©mon)

Initially the session was run as a stand and point, fossils and objects were held and discussed. With cards with the fossils details assigned to each specimen. Hardly a stimulating session, which left most of the children fairly bored (even their teaching assistant wandered off to look at beetles), language used by my colleague was even getting me bored. What 9 year old cares how ammonites floated? They want to know about big things, and feel the fossil!

This seems to directly be an analogue of a lot of museum exhibits, those hidden behind a glass case, safe, although restricted from curious hands and as a boundary between the object and interested parties. These children may never find an ammonite or a mammoth tooth; so will be denied the opportunity to feel the ribs on the shell or the ridges on the tooth.

With this in mind I decided on a fresh approach, as a mini-experiment to see if the children were more engaged: The kids spend all day being talked to, and we have a table of novel and interesting objects so why not get the kids picking them up? Sure they might get dropped, but the university/ museum has tonnes of ammonites, most of which spend their lives in draws.  

Discussion rather than lecturing proceeded. Yes, if these kids decide to go to university and study geosciences they will experience lectures – but there they want to learn. I also found using things the children would have heard about to get them interested, so there has been plenty of talk in the news about radioactivity in Japan as a result of the goings on down there. Well I had found some raduiohalos halos in the biotites of the thin sections of granites we had – seemed natural to get the kids interested in the minerals by relating it to them, also acted to slightly scare them, which always get children interested!

The children who were touching the objects and looking at them as they should be looked at retained more interest (so we can assume information) and asked questions – rather than stood vacantly. Nothing was dropped (except by me), nothing went missing but more was given.
Going back to the different museum analogue should museums operate in this way? Well there are a couple of problems, firstly it was exhausting enough for 2 hours, anyone doing it for a whole day would be shattered. Secondly we were there to watch the objects so it was unlikely anything was going to go walkabout; in an exhibition with maybe unstaffed anything lying around would have to be secured down or very inexpensive (ammonites on Ebay?! – very cheap). But are these such hurdles for introducing geosciences within a museum environment? – I don’t think so!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Let the Credits Roll: Films and Communicating Geosciences

Everyone loves a good film/movie (or a not so good film), but how good a job do films do in communicating geosciences?

The Core
Well known for being incrediblely inaccurate the 2003 film The Core centres on a group of hardened explorers (sorry terranauts) sent to restart the cores rotation. Which has ceased is causing all sorts of awful goings on involving microwaves and pigeons dropping dead... even the Golden Gate Bridge is affected (never mind the San Andreas – it’s the ‘waves’ that get it!).  A space shuttle even lands in Los Angeles – this has all the ingredients of a great action film.  Naturally the American’s are all over the saving of the world, despite the Russian’s digging the deepest hole on earth, the Italians going the deepest in the ocean (Trieste in the Marians trench) and the South African’s having the deepest mines. Although those three are based in reality.

Just above the Core, Interesting lava lake and big area of clear material which the  drilling craft is floating on. 
The aforementioned terranauts head, without too much discomfort to the core descending via the Marianas trench (which opens during a quake despite being part of a subduction zone), into what looks like a lava tube – complete with an explosion despite there being no oxygen. Eventually after massacring some more of the mantle they get to the core and using nuclear bombs to get the thing rotating again and save the world. 

In the process they explore a cave full of quartz (which should really be a little further up, having crystallised) 800km down and although its a bit toasty – there isn’t too much pressure. Besides getting through the solid (due to the pressure) Iron/Nickel core is pretty simple too. The film may well be entertaining; but the idea that the mantle can be drilled through is utter nonsense – what’s concerning is that plenty of people do not read about the earth, their knowledge comes from films and TV.

An odd mineralogical assemblage; Quartz + Magma (should be Olivine or at least Websterite)  + Hideous Inaccuracy
Since there are so few films which actually bring geology in an interesting, factually accurate manner there is a strong possibility that people may just see the film and think that it’s based on some real science; That the mantle is home to huge chasms, lava lakes and quartz crystals. When I was younger, I loved Jules Vernes journey to the centre of the earth; even for its factual inaccuracy; even while reading it as a child I knew it was wrong; but that book was one of the reasons I became interested in geology.


Combining film makers favourite place to destroy and a generous heaping of inaccuracy volcano is basically about LA getting a little warm under a brand new volcano. The magma supposedly rises up the San Andreas Fault;  which is a little odd as the San Andreas is strike/slip – and doesn’t support magamtism along its length; nearby areas (such as Long Valley) have magmatism, but they are related to normal faulting.  Besides it passes to the 30-40 miles NE of LA.  The lava which slowly engulfs the city also has odd properties; it looks basaltic (given the flow structures and fact it isn’t forming pyroclastic flows) yet cars are covered in what looks like rhyolitic material. Since the film makers couldn’t decide was erupting it is hardly surprising that they couldn’t decide what was melting either; Basaltic magma is usually around 800°C, while granitic magma sits around1200°C -1350°C. Oddly aluminium with a melting point of 660°C appears remarkably resilient; as the lava flows around street lights, traffic poles and all the bits and pieces sitting around in a city.

'The Coast is Toast': That might be so, but aluminium seems pretty fine.
Given that volcanoes are such a popular ‘popularist’ geology topic to get into it seems curious to have such gapping errors within a fairly successful (and enjoyable film). It displays a lack of understanding into geodynamic processes, petrology and basic physics. The confusion of ‘volcanic eruption so we get ash’ is, alongside one of my pet hates a potentially dangerous problem if any filmgoers experience a more mafic (yet still deadly) eruption they may not recognise the risks (its a bit unlikely but a possibility). 

Turning the argument on it’s head is the possibility that the film will introduce people to the geosceinces. The film made $122,823,468; so we can safely assume that quite a few people saw it ($122,823,468/$5 profit per ticket = 24,564,693.6); if even a fraction of those people then developed even a passing interest in the geosciences then that is surely a good thing? While a volcano in LA is unlikely the film may have awoken residents of that city and others to the significant seismic hazards, which exist; promoting education which can save lives – surely that is a beneficial too?

Looking to another volcanic film, Dantes Peak (I haven't seen it so can't go into much detail), which overall looks like Mt St Helens 2 – the events from this film could be used in an educational manner to educate local people to the NW Pacific region into the warning signs (Earthquake) and to what may well happen if they get left behind.  57 people died in the eruption of Mt St Helens in 1980; is it possible that a popular, exciting film may provide the personal knowledge to minimise those deaths? 

Day After Tomorrow

‘This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery.’
William Hyde of Duke University

Climate change runs rampant, plunging the world into a new Ice Age. There is no need for a critical review here as I stumbled on this: from Paleoclimatologist William Hyde of Duke University; who knows his stuff. It took a little while to load; but is well worth a read – particularly if you have a seen the film,  host a bit of knowledge in ‘climate science’ and utilize a working brain.

Given that knowledge of what man induced cooling is considered to be doing to the planet should be, in my opinion using a popular film to inspire is the transmission of the risks of climate change; which should really be common knowledge  is the way to do it, but it’s like dealing with young children: You give them a inch (climate change will cause global cooling across large areas) and they take a light year (going to happen, will affect New York, massive tsunami and instant frozenness).

Tidal Wave / Tsunami which soon freezes - very quickly
What line can science take? It would be foolish to shun all films which feature some form of geological aspect, our science is in many ways lucky to have such exciting processes ongoing and Hollywood has the money to make people excited about the more juicy bits of geosciences (I would love to see a film on Barrovian Metamorphism - 'We're 20km down and its getting hotter; amphibolite is growing!').  However the mistakes made within many a production can lead to an over-sensationist  viewpoint, leading the public wrong with basic geological inaccuracies; which may not be corrected until challenged. The answer, I feel is then to engage with a film and to present the ‘real’ science alongside use the momentum generated by a popular production to get people interested, be it onto a factual website or buried into a book. 

Knowledge and interest can only be a good thing. 

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Down to Earth.

Google Earth is without doubt Google’s best products, forget finding out what’s my local take away, forget rapid transit around a city – I want to look at my house in amazing resolution and wander around the Californian Desert looking for faults!

Possibly the most powerful thing about the program is its ability to easily incorporate third-party data onto the projection of earth, most of this information is free, and files are fast to download. Many a fieldtrip I have been on with the University has utilised the software to provide a image to demonstrate the presence of a fault or particular bed - I even used Google earth to find faults in my dissertation mapping area that had eluded me in the field (to be fair, they were cutting schist). Information extra to the program is downloaded to the user by a small (since the data is then streamed from the web) file termed a ‘kml’.

The BGS have released all of the UK’s geology (At a fair resolution) as a kml file, and although it makes the program run bit slowly (best to zoom in, find an area then turn it on). It’s a great resource, and given that in a previous post I highlighted the importance of maps in interesting people to the geosciences the availability of free, exciting maps presented in a naturally pleasant manner on a simple to use – but powerful program is brilliant.

Image of the Geology of Central UK - each bed can be clicked on for further data. Resolution improves when zoomed in. A brilliant free resource for public communication of Geology. 
The USGS, however are not left behind; they have released an earthquake locator kml file; which also gives the locations and movement of worldwide tectonic plates. Alongside, mainly Californian resources into tectonics. - With supporting material provided. Recent events in the far east, have highlighted the importance of an understanding of tectonics and downloading that particular kml file really highlights the incredible activity that has resulted in such devastation to a sizeable area of Japan.

View of Japan and the Aleutian Arc from the USGS highlighting the activity in Japan over the past few days 
Given that the program is provided by Google you would expect easy integration with resources online; Websites (or lecturers) can provide a .kml file for download to show a certain feature (glacier, mountain, fault, volcano etc...). While the program itself features further third party features, such as images of natural wonder (and animal migrating) or a factor of human life being put under threat (such as global warming). What is missing though, considering that seeing something in the field is a lot better than in a textbook, is geological field localities; people could virtually visit Hutton’s unconformity to learn about geological time, or explore the Barrovian district of Scotland to learn about metamorphism. These resources may be specialised but similar ones exist for biosciences and conservation; why not geology? The perfect science for Google Earth.  

Brief Footnote:
Great post about a nice little online game to play

That would be an Ecumenical Matter

The premise of the video is one of trying not to get the old drunk guy to offend the bishop by insulting him in some manner,

This leads me to the question, with some links to the video; should religious groups have any involvement in science policy (particularly geosciences) . Now before I get started I really ought to point out that I have no religious faith and find blind faith in invisible friends a poor utilisation of 4 billion years of evolution. I will try to be balanced, but there is no guarantee.
So science is based on imperative evidence, deducing theories and testing them against observations. Then discussing these observations and theories within the larger framework of science to produce what can, after a substantial body of work be termed as ‘fact’. Religion is not, it is based on stories written millennia ago. Now it’s important to consider what religion has given science, Islam essentially produced modern astronomy, while Universities funded via Religious organisations have allowed leaps within science in both modern and ancient times.  In today’s science dominated and driven society though, there is little place for the word of an invisible lord.

Stem Cells are very possibly the most exciting area of medical research now, a simple view of news sites shows what opportunities this technique can give the world. With Heart Disease to Skin Replacement under the radar of Stem Cells, this is a beneficial technique to mankind. Ethical questions are aroused, via the creation of an embryos life to produce the necessary cells, but this is an Embryo, it has no real brain, nothing tangible that is a ‘life’.  Moral objection against such a beneficial treatment could be founded on perhaps a moral superiority, but let’s remind ourselves that Christianity doesn’t value all life as equal:

`As for your male and female slaves whom you may have--you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.’ Leviticus 25:44- New American Standard Version (1995).

Plenty of Christians in argument to this little passage will instantly respond ‘It’s the Old Testament, so therefore it doesn’t count’ or something to that manner. Well, that’s handy since one of the big problems with Science and Religion seems to be right at the very beginning.  Yes, it’s time to get the shoe horn out, since for Geology we need to look for some Answers in Genesis.

Most geologists know the idea of creationism; essentially that the ‘mainstream’ scientific theories about the formation of the earth and associated life are incorrect and the story of genesis, as portrayed within the Bible is correct. Evolution is simply a ‘theory’ as is plate tectonics. This would be fine if it wasn’t for the widespread belief of this within the American (and other areas of the Globe). There are some frightening statistics;

Essentially only 16% of the American Population ‘believe’ that humans evolved. Thankfully the seven day creationist view is down (presumably because there is an increase in ‘intelligent design’). It would be tempting to apply this disbelief in evolution as to ignorance about the existence of the process. However further stats prove otherwise:  

How familiar would you say you are with each of the following explanations about the origin and development of life on earth -- very familiar, somewhat familiar, not too familiar, or not at all familiar? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?
2005 Aug 5-7
Not too
Not at all
Intelligent design

Despite the familiarity with evolution (45% and 37%), ‘belief’ in it is only sits at 16% (or 13% when the table above was produced), meanwhile creationist has a similar idea (presumably due to the integral links with the ‘theory’ and Christianity).

 The question is then, why is there such a familiarity with evolution but such a low ‘uptake’? Is it that people have made a decision to not accept evolution based on the evidence – or simply their faith is o great to allow science to erode it.
Therefore how does mainstream (or secular) geology act in the face of theistic interpretations about the worlds’ and life’s’ origins?

Looking at the USGS’s tagline: ‘Science for a changing world’. There is a strong implication that evolution would be present, and given that Darwin’s, Wegners and others principles are integral to comprehending the geological record there should be a fair amount in support of the theory. Not so, searches for ‘evolution man’ and ‘evolution fossil’ returned no results describing the process. Creationism was barely represented; quite rightly. It seems very odd that the geological survey, the public body which gives such exceptional resources for tectonics and seismology does not seem to promote evolution. The theory is taught in (most) American schools but resources are lacking from the government body which has such a great opportunity to provide exciting and stimulating resources into evolution.  The British Geological Survey Follows a similar pattern

NHM: The Natural history Museum; is funded primarily from Government sources, both for research and outreach. It is staunchly non-thiestic. From ‘The Darwin Centre’ and plenty of resources on Evolution, there is no provision for creationism; with searches into it revealing purely scientific material. Is this beneficia? A comparison of the two theories would allow a large proportion of the non-evolutionary believing population to grasp the theory and improve their knowledge, simply discounting something that is fundamental to a large group of people’s beliefs is only going to alienate them; potentially not allowing a full comprehension of evolution.

A clear statement on evolution ‘The Geological Society of America strongly supports teaching evolution and the directly related concept of deep time as part of science curricula. GSA opposes teaching creationism alongside evolution in any science classroom’. Although vocal in its opposition the GSA takes an admirable line, it gives sites for both theories, which allows people to make up their own mind – but with an esteemed and world renowned organisations view in tow. The site provides a wealth of fairly neutral resources, including an interesting debate of both: It is then, a pity that organisations with more prominence (the USGS and NHM) take such polar lines in discussing the controversy surrounding our existence.

Finally; Conservapedia

If you think you’ve seen some rubbish on Wikipedia, well you haven’t seen anything yet. Conservapeida is a ‘wiki’ based on a right wing viewpoints. Having been banned from it hundreds of time (one time for having a ‘provocative’ name featuring the word ‘geology) I can without doubt say that modern, progressive, peer reviewed geology has no place there; evolution is poorly represented and creationism held as truth. It’s a lost cause and an appalling example of geosciences communication.

So, in conclusion. Where can geosciences communication place itself on the creation/evolution debate? Should it sit on the fence and take both into account before promoting the more accepted, peer reviewed theory? Or should it ignore all creationism and not give it the time of day – simply ignoring a theistical interpretation of our earth’s origins? Although I have no faith, I feel that it would be foolish to ignore many people’s beliefs, it is better to co-operate, give people a reference point from where they can learn more but in a more pleasant manner than simply steamrolling over long held beliefs

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Magic Show - Discussion with a Creationist.

During my second year at University, I had sufficient time to engage in a couple of email debates with a friendly creationist under the name Dr Dino (yes the irony is outstanding). Since this blog is on communicating geosciences and creationists need some talking too I’ve popped this on here, the communication is about two years old, but still gives a good review of emailing a creationist and discussing ideas with them. If you have a lot of time on your hands then this could be entertaining.

I am not trying to insult anyone, simply being curious.  It's a bit text heavy, so I've added some nice pictures. 


Right, well as a geologists I view creationism, as complete rubbish; I would like to present why I think you and other people like you are holding onto creationism with such a strong hold.

essentially you don't want to see the bible being eroded away by fact, you view that evolution should be 100% complete and have no holes in it, I'll admit there are holes in it, we haven't found every missing link for example. the bible to you, is the word of God, no problem there (should point out I'm strongly atheist) your bible is, to you 100% accurate, if there are any holes in it people might stop believing etc etc.

Never mind it was written 2000 years ago, borrowing stories from around the region blended delicately with whatever the author thought sounded good; I'm not saying the bible is all wrong,I live a fairly moral life, which I would think has borrowed aspects of the bible (I live in the Uk and our law is based on Christianity) but it is just a story book, that people believed, I'm sure you laugh at Scientology and their wacky story of creation, that too is a story; what if 2000 years from now Scientology and its Zenon God of whatever somehow makes it into the 'mainstream' will people like you try to teach it to children?

There is bugger all evidence for Creationsism that cannot be explained with correct science which has been presented and reviewed. Creationsists point to the Grand Canyon being formed in a weekend, by a raging torrent, never mind theere is 500ft of Granite and basalt which almost unlimited water couldn't shift in a weekend (need chemical reactions to change the feldspar in the granite and basalt into clay minerals which are then carried away in water, once the feldspar has gone the granite breaks down); there are a million and one examples which nicely break away your arguemnts,

I look forward to hearing from you for intelligent debate about Creationism and its flaws (I'll take evolution too!)



Dear Jack,

It is your right to stand against good science if you so choose .... until you die and then answer to God.

Well, either "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" or ... there can be "something from nothing for no reason."

Take a look at our Debate Series:

Creationists contend that we are the ones siding with science. We do not need "hocus pocus" like the Big Bang theory to presume something from nothing for no reason.

After all, which is the bigger miracle, that God created the universe from outside of it, or that nothing (defying the laws of science) created the universe?

Evolutionists like to contend that creationists are the ones resorting to miracles. And they further contend that they side with science. And yet how, under their theory, did molecules - all by themselves - decide to become more and more complex? Was gravity (by accident) present at the Big Bang, or did it evolve itself into existence later? Was it everywhere at once, or did it start in one place and then spread itself out (for no reason)? Is the same true for angular momentum? Was all of the light spectrum originally in existence, or did it "evolve" over time? Why are the laws of science consistent today (given evolution?s belief in magic in the past)?

If you put an empty box into an attic and left it there for 50 years, what are the chances - scientifically speaking - that a "Little Bang" would happen inside during that 50 years? Such a belief is not scientific, but rather religious in origin. 

Sincerely, Paul Abramson


Dear Paul,

Thankyou for informing me of what will happen when I die, its nice to know that you subscribe fully to scientific beliefs, with a friendly metaphysical being there to reprimand me for using free thought which I was blessed with, damn, hats bad. I love the way you wish to present yourself as a scientist; yet hold onto a metaphysical belief system handed down from 2000 years ago – and good science? What good science? Reading a 2000 year old text that scouring the globe to desperately find details for it; ignoring all modern ideas (or twisting them so far they are unrecognisable) just because you do not want to see your faith eroded. I fail to see a single peer reviewed creationist study anywhere. Remember that many scientists are Christians too, but they can accept facts of science and not teachings from the Bible.

Life was not formed from 'nothing' you need the 'building' blocks – protein molecules, which are fairly easy to make, it did not happen over a weekend, I'm sure you've heard of the saying 'enough monkeys and enough typewriters they will write Shakespeare' – well, something like that. There was enough monkeys (geological evidence of widespread water from 4 billion years ago) and plenty of typewriters (a couple of billion years, there is evidence for; that's 1000 million years, or 1,000,000,000 years) it does sort fo blow your mind that time. So perhaps it is better to avoid it and have the age of the Earth based on some Irish Bishop and a 2000 year old book, much much better science.

I fail to see how you can describe the Big Bang theory as 'hocus pocus' contrasting with what? A metaphysical being (who left no evidence of his existence) creating the world in 6 days (the heavens in 1 or 2) then making mankind from dust and womankind from a rib. The big Bang theory is produced from observations and calculations. Your theory is from a book, a very old book with no evidence for it. I regret I have not been able to view the 'debate series' due to a page load error, but I will try another time.

In science, miracle do not exist, everything can be explained. Molecules did not decide, they just did under the laws of physics, that's like saying 'the wind decided to knock down a fence'. I'll be honest I do not understand everything (very few people do) have a look on Wikipedia, that'll probably explain what you need to know. Angular momentum is simply explained under Newton's second law 'The rate of change of momentum of a body is proportional to the resultant force acting on the body and is in the same direction' so for example a flywheel will continue to spin, if noting there is to stop it, its not free energy, but energy is being conserved. Evolution is not based on magic, it is based on fact. For example the Meller Urey Experiment, performed by Stanley Miller, ( there was enough time for millions of these 'experiments' going on simultaneously. II invite you do check some fo the more famous scientific reports and thesis's for more information, since I do not know everything.

No-one is saying fi you put a box in the attic anything much would happen whatever beliefs you wish to use; what your belief is saying however is that if you are good (or subscribe to beliefs presented in a 2000 year old book with no evidence) you go to a land of milk and honey, if your not you burn in hell... nice to know that science is not dead.


Hutton's Unconformity at Siccar Point


Dear Jack,
I already gave you good answers. Hide if you want to. That is your temporary right.
Jesus went around the false religious teachers of His day. He went directly to the people instead, and eventually made the Pharisees come to Him. Today's dominant false religion, evolution (the belief that God was not needed for our origins, or that He is weak, etc.), is similar. Its high priests determine "truth" by consensus, ignoring the scientific evidence - while claiming to have real evidence to support their beliefs.
We mostly go around evolution's priests today, teaching the people. They will deceive many. We cannot stop them from working their evil. 
Dr. Kent Hovind has done about 100 public debates. 20 of them are on DVDs - so all can see what the science really shows. But they want us mired down, answering lots of trivial questions, casting pearls in their direction. We do not want to do that.
There are so many of these debates going on. Praise the Lord! ...But we have to decline. It takes a lot of time and effort, but without much positive results (compared to other ways of teaching folks).
Almost all of the one-on-one (private, Internet) debates are not fruitful. 
Somewhere out in cyberspace some devout skeptic wants to keep evolution as "true" since a "mental hiding place" from God is needed. Evolution provides such a hiding place. They want to argue, but then don't listen as evolution is shown to be untrue. --So the debate helps no one and it just wastes the creationist's time.
Dr. Hovind's seminars start with the true age of Planet Earth. Once we show that the Earth is young, there was no time for evolution to have supposedly happened. For a person with an open mind, the main problem of considering creation theory is solved.
Please take a look at a few of the 20 debates in the current DVD series. He keeps winning. Again, we can't really devote resources to the one-on-one (with no/small audience) debates or the one-sided anti-science pro-evolution web sites that stand against normalcy. 
Here are two sets of illustrations, FREE to download and use in classes: -and-

Paul Abramson

(seems to like the ENTER key; so I shortened it)


Dear Paul

I fail to see why you want to be taken seriously by the science community but wish to also spout hard line right winger christian theology; the two are opposite, you know at first I thought you might be someone who doesn't just look in the bible and then re spout it to people who do not follow YOUR beliefs. I know it is Easter time, so I'd like to ask you; did Jesus even exist? there is no record of him before the 3rd century AD; I fail to see what he has to do with a debate (or so called) on the earth, I thought this would be about science, not religion, or is creationism basically that?

Evolution is not criminal, it is simply a differing theory to yours, that doesn't mean people who 'follow' it are evil or sinners; these trivial questions, I'm confused, are these questions YOU can't answer? questions that can't be answered by looking in the bible. you haven't answered any of my questions in my last email, just sent me on a wild goose chase of links, is it just that you can't think of anything solid to say, and have to send me off to other besites which using a scrap of evidence try to compete with a flood (yes, I used it intentionally) of well researched GOOD SCIENCE.

Are you against 1 on 1 'debates' because I can find evidence to the contary quickly and easily, which I could not do in an open talk? I feel that 1 on 1 debates work well, for they can be recorded and I can (attepmt to) address all the points you provide.

Please can we talk science; I am a scientist, I'm not a theologist or a thiest, you wish to dress yourself up as something serious, but all it appears as you can provide for me is fundermentalist thought, stop telling me I'll answer to 'The Lord'; I don't believe that ( no evidence) and deal with some solid cold science. I must thankyou for replying and hope your next responce will deal with something solid.

The Blue Marble; work of God?

Dear Jack,

Still here!
Still answering questions!
But ... I just cannot do Email debates.
Sorry. -Know too much. Can't go back to darkness.
Please ... watch some of Dr. Hovind's seminars and/or debates.
Best Wishes, Paul

Why can't you do email debates? Is it that I can respond with correct facts faster than you can find 'true' ones?

I'd be willing to talk over Skype... but due to time differences it may be a little challenging.

It seems odd that at the beginning of out 'debate' you were happy to reply quickly and efficently, but now you've realised that I can answer your points (and I don't view the Bible as, excusing the pun, gospel are you to give up? good scientists don't tend to give up.

I would watch Dr Hovids seminars, but I find it diffuclt to hear 'science' from someone who has no more qualifications than three degrees from unaccredated organsations... he could at least try.

I await your reply, but fear that you may not be man enough to continue with me

thankyou for your time


Drain the Oceans – fill the minds?

Transmitted on the British Channel 4 and the American National Geographic (and potentially other services across the globe – such as YouTube), ‘Drain the Oceans’ bills itself as a ‘ a virtual scientific expedition to the deep as we explore one of Earth's last great frontiers - the ocean’. Moving stuff. So how well does it do this in terms of communicating geosciences?

Well, the first problem the program makers possibly hit upon was the difficulty of conveying the size of stuff in the oceans, the program very rarely utilised quantifiable figures (excluding in heights) so areas of the seafloor became ‘the size of New Hampshire’ or ‘the size of all the dry land on earth’. Both of which are much more tangible thing to get ones head around (admittedly I didn’t know how big New Hampshire was, but old Hampshire is fairly sizeable). Geographically the locations chosen are likely to be known by potential viewers (I’m going by the assumption that this programme was developed in the USA), with the Bahamas, offshore California and Hawaii used as examples.

General language of the programme too was fairly pleasant to a non geologist, given that most of the oceans have a fairly dull petrological component (basalt) there wasn’t much room for error, expert geologists were used widely and occasionally their language was bit technical, but still fairly comprehendible by a non-geologist.

Volcanoes focussed heavily, of course, big bangy things are guaranteed to interest people;. Unfortunately the programme managed to perform my pet hate; utilising footage of a felsic volcano to describe mafic volcanism. Which, although usually preserved until first year university lectures, seems to be a prominent thing within geological TV – please stop doing it! There are other technical things, such as pressure and gas bubbles at depth below the ocean, but I do not own an anorak so they can be forgiven.

Would volcanic eruptions under 2 miles of water generate clouds of ash and gas at those pressures? Simply the film makers are trying to give the public a manner to attach themselves onto the story of generation of oceanic crust by utilizing familiar imagery (magma = volcanoes = big clouds of smoke)
The programme comfortably utilised plate tectonics to explain the oceanic features (Emperor sea mount chain, mid ocean ridges and subduction zones) and managed to sit on the fence of the mantle plume debate. Indicating that ‘some’ scientists consider Hawaii to have been generated in this manner – rarely a programme takes the time and opportunity to indicate to the public the open floor that science is.

Oceanic Spreading is of course accounted for and interestingly different spreading modes altering the topography is introduced, although not discussed in detail, this gives plenty of opportunity for curious minds to keep exploring into the geosciences!

Oddly the programme completely ignores Oceanic Core Complexes, Apart from being a personal interest of mine they are pretty incredible structures, with a huge fault taking up 30-40km of extension and slopes of kilometres in height. The programme appeared to brush past them; yes, their geology is not perfectly clear but there is plenty of opportunity to amaze people in size, composition (all that lovely mantle peridotite) why did the programme step around it so?

Unlike a lot of geological programmes (Men of Rock, Earth Story, How the Earth was Made) the various localities are not tied into a form of storyline (i.e. the generation and destruction of oceanic lithosphere) instead discussion jumps between different areas. This seems to give the programme little flow, almost as if someone chose the different parts of the film from a hat and felt they needed to stitch it together but is understandable since the programme is presenting different facts, not showing the evolution of a theory or a search for facts on a particular topic.

So, is this programme a good example of communicating geosciences? Yes, certainly, although there are minor holes these are more than made up for by firstly the production and transmission  of such a programme and secondly, facts are displayed in an interesting, visual way making the most of modern(ish) technology while utilising experts in the field to give a complete and attractive package. 

Friday, 4 March 2011

Making Footsteps

You may recall, some time ago (news travels slowly to my cave) that a large, exciting dinosaur was identified and tag lined with the term ‘Thunder thighs’ or to people with beards ‘Brontomerus’. Dinosaurs are without doubt the most well known thing about paleontology. More people might study ammonites and microfossils but its the big things that get people interested – does new stories reporting a new discovery get people interested?
Now this is a dinosaur ‘discovery’ so it’s going to get lots of people interested, but will it sustain that interest and get people interested in geology. There is plenty of communication out there, but for this post I’m going to examine the effect of a big geosciences story on patterns of search for a variety of geological terms – and see if there is any great increase as a result.

Blue is 'thunder thighs', red is 'Brontomerus' and yellow is 'paleontology'

So the story ‘hit’ on the 20th, resulting in no change in the search volume for ‘Paleontology’ but a sharp peak (oddly a few days later) for the creatures scientific name: Brontomerus’. This seems a little odd, but what about the effect on ‘dinosaurs’. Oddly there is actually a decrease in searches for dinosaurs, with a small ‘hump’ 5 
days later.

Search volume for 'Dinosaur' note the comparison to the blue line in the above chart. 

The search volume for ‘Dinosaur’ way outstrips that of anything on the above chart – and since there is no real change it can be assumed that there is enough background demand for information on dinosaurs to lead a small story to not cause a great deal of ripples.

Search volume for 'Geology' note slight peak around the 20th, second peak around the 28th is likely related to the New Zealand Quake. 

 A similar story is present for ‘geology’ ; although there is a peak which coincides with the story, a second peak coincides with the New Zealand Quake  – whether this is simply a result of a general pattern of as a result of the story is difficult to attain .The background interest in both terms is a great sign – constant interest which for engaging people into geosciences is clearly a good thing! What does it teach us about communicating geosciences? Well that a news story is just that, its a story, it’s been a week and news has moved on – thankfully there is enough interest in this facet of geosciences to maintain a steady stream of minds looking for information allowing educators to easily plan and generate interesting topics and articles.