Feb. 29th, 2012

Musings

Feb. 29th, 2012 10:07 pm
lace_agate: (stories)
I spent a week out in the Wairarapa mapping sedimentary sequences a little while ago. Had some good fun, collected some cool fossils, and pondered the differences between archaeology and geology as presented in fiction. The Adventurer Archaeologist is a very common character in many storytelling media. On the other hand, Adventurer Geologists are rare to nonexistent (the only character I can think of is Nasreen from those two Doctor Who episodes, although Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan probably had at least some basic geology training). And yet field geology is an adventure! I've only done a few fairly tame undergrad field trips, but I've seen some spectacular scenery, waded through rivers (you do A LOT of this in geology, as rivers tend to have the best outcrops), collected fossils, mapped faults, fallen in love, had my boots fall apart, drunk lots of beer (geologists are great beer drinkers!) and all sorts of other things. Now consider the geologists who climb active volcanoes, or spend months in Antarctica's Dry Valleys, or the geologists who accompanied Scott on his ill-fated trip to the South Pole. How about some scifi - geologists exploring and mapping other planets and moons? Actually, I may write some of that myself...
A search for "Fictional geologists" on Wikipedia led me to this article, so Sarah Andrews's books are now on my to-read list. She also has an intriguing essay on the geologist as detective.

I recently downloaded Carl Sagan's Cosmos TV series and am thoroughly enjoying it. It's quite old but most of the science still stands up. The second episode has some really fascinating speculation of the sorts of lifeforms that could survive in the atmosphere of a gas giant (GIANT FLOATING JELLYFISH THE SIZE OF CITIES!) and there's also some cool stuff on the history of various scientific ideas. Highly recommended.

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