So, I’ve decided that it’s *finally* time to return to blogging for Skepchick on a regular basis. I know, I know… I’ve tried (and failed) to do this before. Many of the faithful Skepchick readers have probably never heard of me because I blog so infrequently.Â My excuse? Graduate school is tough. Obtaining a PhD in science is difficult and, at times, overwhelming. For me, it has been a particularlyÂ challenging experience because I have an advisor curse.Â Seriously. I’m on advisor #3 at the moment.Â I divorced my first advisor for various reasons and was lucky to find a wonderful new advisor who let me concoct a new thesis project.Â The perfect thesis project. My dream thesis project, at my dream graduate school. Just a few months ago, advisor #2 announced that he was leaving Woods Hole /MIT for the University of Wyoming. Yes, Wyoming. I had a choice: stay at Woods Hole/MIT and find a new advisor or buy some cowboy boots (and possibly a horse?)Â and head west. Wyoming offered me a full scholarship to move, but I declined. I didn’t survive Differential Equations and Linear Algebra with human calcuatorÂ MIT undergrads to obtain my degree from Wyoming, a fine educational institution but no MIT.
Fortunately, a third advisor- a woman!- has come to my rescue. This particular woman is a highly-respectedÂ geologist here at Woods Hole . She chaired my general exam and watched me transition from my first advisor to my second. She met with me a couple of months ago and, to my astonishment and delight, offered to become my advisor. We reached a wonderful compromise– I will continue to work on my beloved thesis project but with my new advisor. Advisor #3 will supervise my day-to-day research, which is related to some of her own research,Â while advisor #2 will continue to provide specific expertise on matters of the project which advisor #3 is not familair with. To compensate for all of this advisor swapping, I have also obtained advisors #4 and #5 who (unofficially) will also guide me with parts of the project. Hopefully, advisors #3, #4, and #5 will not be affected by my advisor curse. But, hey, at least I’m increasing my odds. They can’t all leave… or can they?
I was very concerned over the past few months that this complex advisor shuffling would fail, and I would be shopping for sparkly spurs for those cowboy boots. Remarkably, everything seems to be working out. In January I spent four weeks in Oman, my field area for my thesis research. I’llÂ writeÂ some about that trip in future Skepchick posts. Yesterday I submitted my 20-page thesis proposal. I’ll defend this proposal in two weeks time and after that will become a full-fledged PhD candidate. From that point onward, there will be no looking back. I will carry out my thesis research and obtain that PhD!
Alright, excuses and graduate school woes aside, it’s time for the heart of this post: the geology word of the week!
I’m introducing the geology word of the week for a few reasons:
1. If I call it the word of the week, it will remind (force?) me to post on Skepchick at least once a week.
2. One of the biggest gaps between the scientific community and the public at large is the language barrier. Scientists enjoy making up fancy words for everything. Geologists are particularly bad as they have millions of words for different rocks, minerals, and structures. Reading a geology paper is, even for me at times, much like deciphering a complex code full of “-ites” and “-gys” and “-stones”. I speak geology, at least certain dialects of geology. I’d like to help Skepchick readers learn some basic geo lingo.
3. Sometimes, science words are very, very funny. To the point where you wonder if scientists make up these funny words on purpose.Â I hope to present some particularly amusing ones.
4. I’d like to learn, too. If you have suggestions for a word of the week, let me know. I’ll start with geology words but perhaps I can expand to science words in general. Do me a favor and don’t post the words– just email them to Skepchick.
With that long-winded introduction, this week’s “Geology Word of the Week” is: PALINSPASTIC
1. Showing the previous location of geological features, correcting for any intervening crustal movements (wikitionary).
2. An adjective describing former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s scatterbrained mannerisms and speach.
An example from the geology literature:
“This paper presents a new palinspastic restoration of the Eastern Alps for Neogene time and an attempt to reconstruct the Neogene palaeogeology, palaeotopography and palaeohydrography in connection with the structural evolution. The Eastern Alps underwent radical horizontal displacement during the Neogene due to large strike-slip systems and formation of structural windows. Our palinspastic reconstruction considers: (a) the rearrangement of tectonic units dismembered during tectonic extrusion, (b) the tectonic denudation driven by displacement of the crystalline blocks, (c) geochronological arguments, and (d) the sedimentary record of the syn-extrusion basins.”
From: Frisch et al. (1998). Palinspastic reconstruction and topographic evolution of the Eastern Alps during late Tertiary tectonic extrusion. Tectonophysics, Vol. 297, Issues 1-4: 1-15.
I hope you enjoy this week’s word. I look forward to returning to my Skepchick posting duties!