Evelyn and the Earthquakes
Hi, my name is Evelyn. I am sure that only a small percentage of Skepchick readers know me. This is because my last post was on August 3rd, 2009… about seven months ago. Those of you who have heard of me before probably know me more from my random appearances at Rebecca-organized parties than from my posts here. I am a truly abysmal Skepchick blogger, at least in terms of frequency of posting. During my first year of graduate school (before the insanity of general exams and thesis proposals and such), I posted regularly. During years two and three of graduate school, I posted sporadically. I have yet to post as a (gulp) fourth year graduate student. A couple of recent happenings have made me think again about posting on Skepchick. First, I had a conversation with my good friend Rebecca, who inspired me to post again. Second, there have been two exciting large earthquakes! There is much to post about.
In defense of my lack of posting, I am a geologist. And, geologically speaking, my last post was only an instant ago. The Earth is ~4.5 billion years old. I’m a scientist, so what the heck let’s do some quick math:
4.5 billion years * (10^9 years / 1 billion years) * (12 months / year) = 54000000000 months.
That’s a lot of months. In geologic time, 7 months is hardly significant- it’s an instant really!
7 months / 54000000000 months = 0.00000000013 or 0.000000013%
To put this in terms we short-lived humans can understand, if all of geologic time were a day (24 hours), my last post would have been a mere 0.0000112 seconds ago. Hardly a long time, right? Even if I were to not post for 7 years or 7 million years, this would hardly represent a significant amount of the vast expanses of geologic time. By the way, never loan a geologist money. Just in case they intend to pay you back “right away” on a geologic timescale.
Flimsy geologically-themed excuses aside, I suppose that most of you have no clue who I am, so I should briefly introduce myself.
Hi, my name is Evelyn. I am lucky enough to be friends with Rebecca, one of the coolest chicks I know. I like rocks. I’ve always liked rocks, ever since I was a child. To the surprise and delight of my worried parents, I have managed to find people who are willing to pay me to play with rocks. Cool, huh? I think so. I just have a graduate student stipend, but it pays the bills. I am also fortunate in that my research requires me to travel to some exciting places- places I would never be able to visit on my own dime. I will graduate (hopefully) sometime in the next year or two. I then plan to take some time off, travel, perhaps write a book about surviving differential equations at MIT (a life-changing experience, let me tell you!), and then maybe get a real job once I’m bored of sitting on the beach and using my brain as little as possible. Or maybe I’ll skip getting a real job and return to the magical bubble of academic research- I haven’t decided yet. What I do know for sure is that I intend to continue my scam of being paid to play with rocks and travel. It’s a great life.
Okay, now that I’ve re-introduced myself to Skepchick readers, I’d like to talk a little about the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. I am a geochemist, not a geophysicist- so I am not an expert on earthquakes. Regardless, I’ve been following the two recent quakes with interest.
When I heard about the recent quakes, I am sad to say that I reacted in approximately the following manner:
“There was a what magnitude earthquake? Cool! Why was there such a large earthquake there? What plates were moving? How much slip was there? How much energy was released? Where was the epicenter? How frequently do earthquakes like these occur? What effect did this earthquake have on the moving plates? Where else might we have an earthquake like this? Oh, and how many people died and buildings were destroyed?”
I suppose I might have reacted differently had I been living in Port-au-Prince or Santiago. I am actually ashamed of the way I react to geologic disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, mudslides, floods, etc.)- I love these events. They fascinate me, and I want to know all about why they occur. I am excited and happy when geologic disasters occur. I even have an extensive collection of geology disaster movies, which I watch with morbid glee. Usually, when I hear about a geologic disaster, it takes me a few minutes to consider the effect of the grand geologic event on the people and places involved. After awhile, I do remember and am sad that destruction and death has occurred as a result of geology. I find these disasters humbling- Planet Earth really is in charge with her tectonic network of sliding, squishing, slipping, subducting plates. However, I suppose the more we learn about Planet Earth, her plates, and her geologic disasters, the more we can do to prevent people and buildings from being destroyed as a result of them. So I suppose I shouldn’t feel *too* guilty about being excited and fascinated by the geology of geologic disaster.
If you, too, are curious about the recent earthquakes, I recommend these two popular science articles. They are both good reads!
Okay, back to my thesis now. I’ll post again soon (hopefully I mean “soon” on the human timescale, not the geologic timescale… time will tell!).