Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The one-armed man!

Green River, Wyoming, has a fairly notable geo-historical claim to fame. It was the launching point for one of the most grueling, dangerous, and all-around craziest projects ever: The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons, undertaken by none other than J.W. Powell. Ol’ Powell and nine other guys, all with limited boating experience, set out in four boats from Green River, and boated through uncharted rapids, climbed mountains, and were nearly drowned and starved many, many, many times (seriously, like once a week, it seemed…). And all in the name of SCIENCE (well, that, and expanding American influence into the southwest…).

But what is important to remember, is that Maj. Powell had only ONE DAMN ARM to do all this with.

The picture above is of an almost ridiculously heroic statue of ol’ Powell in the town of Green River, right outside Sweetwater County Museum, which is actually a surprisingly nice little museum with some nifty stuff on display. Anyway, Powell lost his arm at the battle of Shiloh, in the Civil War. For those unfamiliar with the history of the battle of Shiloh, let me sum it up: it kind of sucked to be at Shiloh.

Anyway, despite getting his arm blasted off, ol Powell went on to a successful career as a geologist, the high point of his career (and the general stamp that earned him the title of “Chief Badass”) being the Colorado expedition. Despite only having one arm, Powell would ramble up and down mountains, climb up cliffs, and carry out successful geological and mapping surveys. He also had numerous brushes with death, and still would write in his diary about what a great time he was having.

I’m sure we’ve all known folks who like to act like they’re Dr. Hardcore in the field, and heck, some of us might even think we’re the damn Delta Force when we’re out there; but, in all honesty, can’t no one hold a candle to Wes Powell. He was one bad motha-

Watch your mouth!

Just bloggin’ about John Wesley Powell…

We can dig it!

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Great Southern California ShakeOut

The best way to celebrate the Fourth is to celebrate the kind of citizen driven public programs that really benefit people. To this end, I give you The Great Southern California ShakeOut!

I recently (~10 minutes ago) found out about The Great Southern California ShakeOut, which is a fantastic initiative designed to educate Californians about earthquake preparedness. Set to run the week of Nov. 12-16, the ShakeOut is a series of events that includes the world’s largest earthquake drill, a conference on earthquake policy, and state-wide emergency response drills. The USGS is participating in the effort, and the whole thing has a slick website with many links, as well as a Blog designed to keep the updates rolling.

In addition to the laudable goal of helping people who live in hazard zones deal with the inevitable clash of geology and civilization (which, at last score, was something like Geology – 109, Civilization – 0), efforts like this could also be used to help folks learn about the science behind these natural systems. As seen in the recent flooding in the mid-west, fundamental misunderstandings regarding Earth system processes still permeate the public mindset (i.e., multiple “500-year floods” within a short period); the first step to adequately preparing for disasters is to understand the processes at work, whether they be fault motions, drainage basin processes, or hurricane dynamics.

To this end, the USGS and the ShakeOut initiative has put up a couple of circulars, including a 300+ page Open File Report detailing the science behind the simulation scenario (a 7.8 magnitude earthquake), and provides some nice, simplified science outreach material. Hopefully, in addition to taking the preparations to heart, people will also start to appreciate how much of an impact fundamental science can have on their lives. Good job, ShakeOut!