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29 February 2012

Survival geology for the space traveler

For your reading pleasure: a totally frivolous post based off musing I’ve been doing when I actually have time to sit down and watch TV.

Recently I’ve been on a scifi kick (and got sucked into watching episodes of Stargate: Universe online, which is a great way to see a whole series but a massive free-time sink). Interpersonal issues aside, the characters on SGU, who are stuck on an alien spaceship on the other side of the universe, spend a lot of time visiting new planets, looking for resources like food and water. Sometimes the main barrier to this is an alien critter that doesn’t like them much, but often they end up on deserted planets with little more than a “well, you can breathe and it’s not too cold” from the probes they send through first.


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23 August 2011

“How to Build a Volcano”: Followup from Dr. Ed Llewellin

I was lucky enough to get an email from Dr. Ed Llewellin, one of the volcanologists featured in National Geographic’s “How to Build a Volcano”, with commentary on my review of the show. He’s given me permission to post excerpts from his message here, which will clarify a few things that I commented on, as well as expanding on the science presented in the show and correcting a few faulty …


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17 August 2011

“Mount Boom” a bit of a bust: NatGeo’s “How to Build a Volcano”

Last week I happened to be watching the National Geographic Channel and caught their new program, “How to Build a Volcano”. Being somewhat interested in volcano-building processes myself, I sat down with a pad of paper and got ready to take notes for a review.

The show started off with an exciting idea: bring together a special effects team and a group of volcanologists and try to replicate volcanic processes on a large (but controllable scale). Thus, building a volcano. The four volcanologists (Mike Manga and Ben Andrews of UC Berkely, Josef Dufek of Georgia Tech, and Ed Llewellyn of Durham University) worked with special effects expert Max MacDonald to create a 10-meter-high volcano in a Canadian quarry (and we all know from Mythbusters that anything involving an abandoned quarry is also going to involve explosions).


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18 May 2011

National Geographic’s “X-Ray Earth”

On Sunday night, I watched the National Geographic Channel’s new special “X-Ray Earth”. From the commercials advertising it, I thought the show might be interesting; it looked like there would be a significant part devoted to remote sensing techniques that I (and other Earth scientists) are familiar with using – and the show didn’t disappoint me.


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20 January 2011

Earth science (off) the air

After watching Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson talk about traveling to Mars on PBS’s NOVA scienceNOW – which I almost missed last night! – I wanted to see how else I could catch programs on Earth science. More and more programs are being offered online, some very soon after they’re aired, so I thought I’d take a quick look around and see what’s available for a grad student who doesn’t necessarily have the energy to stay up late watching TV.

Here’s a breakdown by provider of some of my favorites (short and long), with summaries from their respective websites. I won’t say that they’re all totally scientifically accurate, but most of them do a pretty good job, and some may be useful for teaching purposes as well as entertainment.


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11 November 2008

Geology reference alert!

House is on, and our favorite misanthropic doctor just made a comment about mineralogy. And what’s even better? One of the other doctors understood it. [Yak yak yak how do we find this tumor if we can’t bring the guy to the hospital and have only limited equipment…]House: “What part of olivine, pyroxene and amphibole don’t you understand?”[Blank stares]Cameron: “They’re indicator minerals. You can’t see diamonds so you look for …


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14 July 2008

Earth: The Biography – Impressive footage, but lacking in substance

Last night I watched an episode of the BBC’s new series Earth: The Biography, which is currently showing on the National Geographic Channel. The series has 5 episodes – “Atmosphere,” “Ocecans,” “Ice,” “Volcanoes,” and “Rare Planet” – and is hosted by Dr. Iain Stewart of the Science Channel’s Hot Rocks. It’s been pretty heavily promoted by NG, and since it’s a BBC production I’m assuming it’s showing on their science …


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