Oh yes, the blog is still alive and kicking despite lack of posts. Just got loads of stuff to do at the moment. Ill be back with posts real soon!

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Sometimes it takes a geologist to point out the difference between habitable planet and habitable zone when the big minds get carried away... 🙂

Posted in Exogeology & astronomy, Petrology | 1 Comment

The more I learn about astrobiology…

I am quite aware of the fact that bashing other academic fields is quite unpopular to some people – and you probably can make a lot of enemies that way, or at least lose friends. But I dont care, I must give my two cents on this debacle that Pharyngula has written more about. I hope that more sensitive ppl can take it. And if not… then fine.. see you later.

I am also quite aware of the fact that one scientific magazines dubious behaviour is not the same as the behavoiur of an entire academic discipline – so dont give too much remark to that connection – it was simply the inspiration for this post. I know for a fact that there are a lot of astrobiologist out there who are just as good scientists as anyone else. But still, it doesnt surprise me that the connection between astrobiology and a poor peer-review is on the table.

Anyway – I have noticed that it seems like astrobiologist in general try to form their own discipline, despite being a multidisciplinary field of geology, biology and astronomy from the beginning.

I have no problem with the notion of a new perspective on lets say the geology of Mars. They could very well find new things in the geology pointing to life that traditional geologists would have missed. But at the same time, there is a huge potential problem in this.

Astrobiologist very often interpet geological material on other planets as far as I have seen when looking at their papers – despite often not being schooled in geology beyond basic levels. Most astrobiologists are astronomers or astrophysicists as I have understood it all. Sure, they can bring fresh new ideas from their backgrounds, but they will miss out on a lot of geological facts.

I have a friend, and perhaps he reads this post now and no longer considers me a friend 😛 , but from the beginning I have been very sceptical of the thesis he wrote (not seeing it in full! I could be totaly wrong now) – for the simple reason that it discuss satelite photos of Mars surface, and features on the surface, without consulting proper geologists. I mean, we are talking about sand dunes and the black spots that sometimes are visible on these on Mars.

Fig. Black spots on dunes on Mars. DDS also called. Many theories exist on their origin. But as I see it, nomatter what theory you prefer, you must consult a sedimentologist or at least their knowledge when discussin sedimentology, right?

So the very first person I would have asked for an opinion on what this could have been is a geologist, a sedimentologist preferably since they are the experts on dunes and sediments. But no, they skipped that part for reasons I didnt understand. His call of course, but I dont like it in a strict scientific approach. They made a separate theory instead, based on Co2-movement in the sand I believe. Certainly plausible and possible – but without the insights from the real experts on sand dunes, on Mars or Earth, I wouldnt have approved it – no matter how good it was.

What do you guys think. Is it ok to approve and/or accept papers/thesis on topics without consulting experts of that field? Is that really good science to just ignore the existing fields on the matter? Too me it sounds that at best, the only thing you will produce is a contextual proof/theory of something, not a real proof/theory.

I asked him if he had talked with any sedimentologists on the dunes of Mars, but it seemed like he didnt at that time. I think its because he perhaps didnt know that he had stepped in to the world of geology when discussing dunes. For me that is obvious, but for many ppl its is so that geologists deal with rocks, and nothing but rocks with the pick-axe and such… Sand and how that behave is something else. 😛

And no, this is not the only reason that I have difficulties accepting astrobiology – I have also learned that they actually also discuss the formation and construction of planets – without geologists. They say: “We look at the dynamics when a planet is formed and how it wors from a strict physics point of view” (since they are astrophysicists in general). They actually dont understand that geologists work with large scale functions of planets as well and that not understanding petrology will make any theory on the large scale of planet dynamics as useless as not understanding thermodynamics.You cannot explain how a planet works with magnetic fields and not understanding how and why we have hot spots, subduction zones and so on. Planets are geology.

It might seem like I place geologists on a ivory throne now, that only we must be asked on matters of sediments and stone and noone else, but Im not, I AM open to alternative points of view. I would like to see much more multidisciplinary science. But with one condition: That they always make sure that the leading experts of every sub field is consulted.

I could do other comparisons as well. Such as when archaeologists and historians dont consult each others theories on the same topic – that is just sad. But this is perhaps even more sad in my opinion since astrobiologists seem to not even know or care that they often work with geological questions where there are geological material and experts available.

The more I learn about astrobiology… the less I wish I knew about it… I hope that this changes for the better.

Posted in Exogeology & astronomy, Pseudoscience | 2 Comments

Pseudoscientific theories on viking religion and earthquakes

Fig. Map mainly showing paleoseismic events. Locality and chronology (yBP). From Mörner 2007.

I hope that David at History of Geology can take some critisism, because he is going to get it now from this former Swedish archaeology student at MA-level (even if he doesnt like it).

I really like his post on viking mythology and ancient seismic events connecting The Fenrir (Fenris) Wolf to earthquakes. I would really like it to be as cool as he (or rather Dr Mörner, the man behind the theory) theorizes. But Im almost completly sure that its impossible because of several facts.

Firstly. The “vikings” didnt exist as a culture or people at the time of any of the seismic events on the map. Absolutly not before 400 AD. They are a product of native iron age culture mixing with south germanic influences during what is called the “Vendel period” in Sweden (550-700 AD) but mainly of course with the Roman Iron age migrational period (400-550 AD) before that. The norse religion is mostly imported and somewhat transformed polyteistic germanic faith (and does not have its origin in the Svitjod/Svearike/Mälardalen area).

People in Scandinavia before the import most likely believed in some form of fertility and solar-religion – but no written sources exist describing it – only artefacts. It was anyway very different from the viking Asa-faith (norse religion), wich was much more focused on command and war just as all Germanic Wotan/Odin-worshiping religions were. Creatures like Fenris is seen all through all germanic religions. They are the thing in the night that scared people – the beowulf monster if you will, that someone must slay. We are talking about people living in dark forests of Northern Europe during the Iron Age – come on – theres no need to create fantastic and complicated theories on the origin of their beasts. Occham ftw! The connection theory is completly unnecessary and therefore unlikely by default.

Secondly – Connection with dated events. Without a seismic event at the time of the Viking age (or closely before it) you will have a problem with even assuming its a plausible idea even. As I said, there are no reasonable connection at all to earlier cultures and their possible experienced events – so thats hardly an argument. And even if Mörner can present paleoseismic events during the viking age – the principle of Occham still wins in my book. Its completly unnecessary to connect Fenris to earthquakes – and therefore complety unlikely.

So thirdly. Who is this Dr Mörner btw? Is the person behind the theory important when discussing it? In this case: Oh yes! He is anything but a respected scientist in Sweden. He is for example (and this is just one of many examples of why he cannot be trusted) working with the (in Sweden) famous troublemaker and pseudoscientist Bob G Lind (a militant nutcase that spawns crazy ideas on most archaeological sites in Sweden). So when Mörner comes up with a theory – all Swedish archaeologists and geologists knows that constant scepticism is required.

Something David of course could not be expected to know about (neither Mörners CV or the true history of Vikings). But I hope that he does now! 😀

Posted in Geoarchaeology, Pseudoscience, Religion | 13 Comments

Alternatives to Mantle Plume theory

I am currently working on a small paper on mantle plumes. Im looking for tips on “the other side” – prominent articles or writers that oppose the theory in perticular or general. I am having trouble locating this since I dont really have any names to go on – if they even exist still today – I dont know!

Any kind of suggestions on this is appreciated.

Posted in Petrology, University & Study | 4 Comments

Politics and geology in Sweden

Some political ranting now.

In Sweden the general political elections for the parliament are coming up this week. We basically have two “blocks” of parties. One center-liberal-conservative of four parties (called the “alliance”) and one socialist-green of three parties (called the “opposition”). A capitalistic and a socialistic option you could say. But as a comparison, our capitalistic option is still more left that lets say the Democratic party of USA. Its not right wing conservative like the Republicans. Oh no. Its difficult to compare the politics of two countries, but its something like this.

I know a lot of my fellow students who put their vote on the socialist-green position, but I have one very good reason not to: Jobs in the geology sector.

I am sorry, but I am 35 yo and I actually wanna work with geology one day when my masters is done (2012). Its time for me to actually start thinking on whats best for myself. Im not interested in spending several years studying to face yet more unemployment due to the fact that the red-green government does everything it can to prevent things like prospecting and mining just by principles of ideology. And yes – that is what they do. The green party of Sweden called Miljöpartiet (“Party of environment”) is very radical in some aspects. They have a very naive view on economy where they basically wish that everyone would grow their own food and live in cumbaya with nature on a farm. Nice thoughts, but totaly insande when you look at the consequence of such politics on the economy – and in the end then on the social welfare of everyone.

I am sorry, but I cannot really respect geology students who gives their votes to a politic that will lead to unemployment for them and severe economical problems for all. Theres something really wrong if you dont care for your own life and think that the environment can be “saved” in such simple methods as voting for a party that aspires to force green living on everyone. The world will not be a better place simply by stopping mining (which is one of the first things they would start to stop) – and that IS the consequence that the socialist-green option will lead to.

Sweden would have been a third world country if it hadnt been for our history of mining. And that principle still applies. Without industries or rich sources of natural resources no wealth, and without money, no resources for schools, hospitals and research. And that will take us back to a world we long ago struggled to leave. The preindustrial world where the air that you breathed was cleaner, but you died at the age of 40 from a simple cold.

I prefer some pollution and the means to provide welfare from living like a dirt peasant of the middle ages. The glory of the simple life in the country is a luxury that modern ppl can choose to live, not an ideal to shove done everyone throats! If everyone started to live this simple life in cumbaya with nature – there would be no such thing as time for anything else – for anyone else.

I dont love the current ruling alliance-politics, but atleast they are not mentally insane like the opposition is. Its a tactical choise of the mind. Of reason against dreamy emotions.

Thank god that the alliance still is ahead in every poll. 😛

Posted in Economy & politics, University & Study | 3 Comments

Keep your damn religion to your self!

Yesterday I had quite a disturbing experience. Not only was the professors lecture on the solar system quite boring and much too simple  – it was full of strange creationist/design rethoric (wich, since it annoyed me, probably was the only thing preventing me from falling asleep).

Americans are probably used to this happening in class rooms/lectures. But as a Swede im not. And I therefore feel the need to complain about it some as the godless communistic suicidal atheist I am. 😉

When the professor talked about solar system in our masters course on igneous geology the language he used was full of creationistic phrases. He talked about “how smart it was thought out ‘by something’ that Jupiter was located where it was located” in regards to its comet capturing capabilities. And this type of phrases was uses all through the lecture as soon as something was “smart” according to him. Just a little bit too often to just be harmless rethorics.

What bothers me about this is that teaching like this prevents students from getting a sound scientific naturalistic view on the universe. It could perhaps rob students of a basic “feel” and “understanding” on the principles of how things occur in a scientific viewpoint. That instead of an understanding of natural laws, principles leading to events and solutions or even randomness they could get the impression that anything “smart” must have a mind behind it as soon as its complicated or clever according to our little monkey brains.

Thats just plain wrong to teach in any type of science classroom. Perhaps its ok in Texas (no offence! ;P ) but here in Sweden state and religion is separated and should so of course always be. No schools, especially not universities should teach religious viewpoints instead of existing naturalistic viewpoints.

If the teacher/professor believes that there is a god or creator behind the universe instead of natural causes – its his damn responibility to keep that to him self – or apply for a job at a theological seminar/church instead where those kinds of unscientifical thoughts are of interest.

Im going to have this (actually quite famous) professor at more lectures in the future. He can be assured that I will listen to what he says (or preaches) and take some form of action if it continues with the same design rethorics.

Posted in Pseudoscience, Religion, University & Study | 5 Comments