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6 August 2018

The Invention of Air, by Steven Johnson

This is an interesting book – simultaneously about Enlightenment science, energy flows driving human history, and the boundary-less conception of politics, religion, and science that was embraced by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and the book’s principal protagonist, Joseph Priestley (and to a lesser, or at least less-well-documented, degree by John Adams).  The discussion begins in the coffeehouses of 1760’s London, where conversation roamed freely and exuberantly  between intellectuals and amateur …

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15 August 2016

The Paps of Jura, with a nice example of orographic effect (plus a seal)

The isle of Jura in Scotland is where George Orwell wrote 1984. It’s just across a narrow channel from the eastern side of Islay, where I spent four lovely days geologizing this summer. Looking across the gap, you can see a cluster of prominent mountains on Jura. These are the “Paps” of Jura, and they are held up by quartzite. I took these photos when driving home after an afternoon …

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16 June 2013

Sunset serenade

We had a lovely sunset last Thursday night:

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29 April 2011

Friday fold: quirky quartz vein

This is a sample from the teaching collection at George Mason University: The swirly folds exhibited by this quartz vein reminds me of von Karman vortices. Happy Friday! For me, it’s the last day of classes of the spring semester at NOVA, though GMU is still in session for a couple more weeks. I’m grateful at the advent of warm weather, the sun, the promise of travel to western lands …

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13 April 2011

The tricky business of SRM

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill to attend a briefing arranged by the American Meteorological Society on the topic of geoengineering as a response to climate change. The two speakers, Ken Caldeira and David Keith, argued that the U.S. should invest heavily in geoengineering research, so we can figure out what’s safe and what’s irresponsible before we actually make any decisions about which …

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6 April 2010

Suess effect II: corals sing an isotopic song

Almost a year ago, on my old blog, I brought up the issue of the Suess effect. Go read that post if you don’t remember what the Suess effect is. If you want an executive summary, digest this: The burning of low-14C fossil fuels (because the fuels are old and the 14C has all decayed), lowers the total atmospheric ratio of 14C relative to other isotopes of carbon. The carbon …

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