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11 January 2023

Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver

Now here’s an interesting book: a retelling of David Copperfield (by Charles Dickens) but set in modern-day Appalachia, specifically Lee County, in the furthest-west tip of Virginia, where it makes a triangular insert between Kentucky and Tennessee. The arc of the original bildungsroman is a rags-to-riches tale set in Victorian England. Because of the physical and temporal distance between my current point in space-time and that of Copperfield, much of …


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21 April 2017

Friday (coal)d

Often I feature a fold photo here on Friday, but today I give you a folded coal, so therefore a “coald” – this is from the Pennsylvanian Conemaugh Formation on the Alleghany Plateau in West Virginia, near Bismarck. Photo by Sebastian Andres Kaempfe Droguett.


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14 August 2015

Paleoslump features and fluvial incision in the Conemaugh Group, West Virginia

The answer to this week’s geological interpretation contest is revealed, sort of. Annotations, GigaPans, and outcrop detail photos reveal the story of equatorial fluvial incision and ancient slumping during the Carboniferous ice ages.


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21 May 2015

Soft sediment deformation in sandstone and shale, Bolt Mountain

Two nice new examples of soft sediment deformation structures in Pennsylvanian-aged clastic sedimentary rocks from West Virginia.


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20 May 2015

Liesegang banding in Pennsylvanian sandstones, Bolt Mountain, West Virginia

While out at the eastern section of NAGT’s annual meeting last weekend in West Virginia, I participated in a field trip to look at the stratigraphy of the Bolt Mountain section of Pottsville Group strata. One thing that was particularly eye-catching about the sandstones we saw was that many of them had been stained by rusty groundwater, producing the lovely stripey pattern known as Liesegang banding. Here are five examples: …


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2 May 2014

Friday fauxld: Pennsylvanian plant fossil

Have a gander at this: Given that this is a Friday on Mountain Beltway,  you might expect to see a fold here, and indeed, there’s something wavy and high-contrast running through the center of this sample. But that’s no fold. It’s a fossil plant! A “reed” of some kind, I guess. You can also see a small fern frond in the lower right. This is a sample of the Pennsylvanian-aged …


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29 April 2014

A second look at the mass transport deposit on Corridor H

Remember this past winter when Alan Pitts and I found what we interpreted to be a mass transport deposit (a submarine landslide/slump) along the new section of Corridor H leading up the Allegheny front? Well, I was back out there yesterday, with Dan Doctor (USGS Reston) and Jay Kaufman (University of Maryland). One new thing we found was lots of weathered-out “ploudins” (pillows/boudins), many of which had a “sleigh” shape …


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18 March 2014

On ignorance, bias, data, and the tentative nature of (scientific) interpretations

A young-Earth creationist reinterprets one of Callan’s blog posts in light of a Biblical flood. Callan responds with a demonstration of how new information can change a true scientist’s mind, but no amount of data can convince someone whose conclusions are based on faith rather than empirical data.


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17 February 2014

A marine incursion in the Hampshire Formation?

I went out last Tuesday to Corridor H, the exemplary new highway cutting through the Valley and Ridge province of eastern West Virginia. Joining me was former student Alan Pitts, a devotee of Corridor H from way back in the early days when we just called it “New Route 55.” The boondoggle highway is now open all the way west to the Allegheny Front, practically into the Canaan Valley. On Tuesday, …


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29 November 2012

Living in the Appalachian Forest, by Chris Bolgiano

Last week, I finished reading Living in the Appalachian Forest: True Tales of Sustainable Forestry, by Chris Bolgiano. It’s a grab-bag of stories from the forested mountains of the south-central Appalachians, ranging from Pennsylvania down to Kentucky and maybe Georgia, too. West Virginia and Virginia get the most attention. The driving question behind the book is: How should I manage my land? Since this is a key question in my …


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