Friday 11 February 2011

Minor Faulting

The Geological Society of London, has an ‘ask a geologist'; page, which allows members of the public to ask a geologist (As the name suggests) any geological question they like, and will receive an answer – it’s a brilliant idea, 
but it sort of falls in practice:

So, one of the questions asked was:

Q: Why do most peninsulas on the globe point south?  From the southern continents to Scandinavia, Italy, Iberia, all seem to point in a southerly direction.  Is there a geological explanation of this striking fact?

Nice Simple question, one which I can imagine myself being asked, so a nice simple answer? Errr.. not quite.
The answer is straightforward(ish), Godwanaland is introduced with no real introduction and then Gondwana is used instead, while ‘intersecting courses’ was used.... without any real meaning, surely ‘pre-existing fractures’ would be a better term to use, courses could mean water, education or anything else... the article then decides to, with scientific logic break down the writers ideas, which is only going to alienate him, the best teachers are those who engage, not break away.

A further question on the growth of ice on Antarctica:

Yields more curious terms, foraminifera, Pliocene/Quaternary, oscillations in sea level... to a non geologist these don’t mean a lot. So why use them? maybe ‘tiny microscopic sea creatures’ or around 1.8 million years ago....

Or a question on seismicity in London:

Which indicates that earthquakes in the UK are derived from ‘reactivation of ancient structures in response to the current stress regime’; what’s reactivation? And ancient structures? And the current stress regime? Non geologists don’t know these terms (as a quick call to my girlfriend and father confirmed).  Also don’t introduce structures without some more discussion, I know what the North Artois Shear Zone is, because I have an interest in SE English Geology, but even amongst geologist’s its hardly the San-Andreas!

How many times have you been confused by insanely confusing instructions? With terms, you do not understand. Or watched a film from half way through and been confused where these characters keep coming from and why everyone else seems to know what’s going on? That is what this is doing!

Both articles give over the information, but, and it pains me to say this in case of insulting the people who wrote in, but maybe a little simpler manner of writing, use a definition of a word instead of that word, use something people can relate to, not just names geologists know.

Now I must just stop myself, and say – lots of these articles are great and I have cherry-picked  things to moan about, so thank you Geological Society of London (and authors) and please don’t revoke my membership!

Social Revolution

Social Media, the biggest revolution in communication since the invention of the internet has managed to cement itself into the lives of people worldwide; a variety of organisations and people have utilised the services to either bring people together or spread news and information across the world in a click.
Most organisations have a Facebook or Twitter page/feed, but how useful are they in geoscience communication?

Well, firstly let’s look at numbers;
The British Geological Survey has 2,325 ‘likes’ whereby ‘likers’ receive various stories from the BGS, that is only 2300 people on earth with an interest in the work of the UK’s Geological Survey; and how many of those people are geologists simply having a look, and how many the general public investigating the geosciences?

It’s difficult to say, but from the few people I stalked/examined who are ‘likers’ they mostly have their profiles set to private (so digging continued) with about 2/5 of followers geologists, and 3/5 of people aren’t. Which roughly means that 1400 members of the public (or 1 out of every 26,000 people in the UK) can receive various newsworthy events from the BGS..., which are less about communicating geosciences, more about showing the new stuff from the organisation.

Looking across the pond to the USGS, this has 3,185 followers, for a geologic survey in a country with a population of 300 million. Even if all those where interested members of the public from the US – thats still only one ‘like’ per a 100,000 of population – assuming only American’s join the group (which they don’t).  Also, updates from both surveys don’t always appear in a users feed – even if they are interested, so in reality the numbers of people who actually see the links put up there could be very very limited. Therefore as a method of communicating geosciences using Facebook for social networking isn’t all that social.

Twitter is another incredible popular (and slightly addicting) service, which restricts messages to 140 characters, but allows links and internal search terms. On there, the USGS has an impressive following of 72,407 followers; and fairly regularly passes over information – the balance of information is fairly spread: much of it is unlikely to be of public interest (minor earthquake notification, job postings) while there are a good few links to pages on the USGS website which explain problems and solutions in pleasant ways, even answering fellow twitterers questions.  The followers of the USGS appear to be mixed between geoscientists and ‘the public’ – this is successful social media. A following of 70,000 people, with questions asked and answered and a huge sector or people open to the messages from a worldwide esteemed organisation- for a very low price.

So, is social media worthwile? It costs nothing to join, update and use. It has a reach of (theoretically) millions of interested people, it’s just whether the people are wanting to be reached.