Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Why would you want to study rocks?" Part 3: Variety

I've always found this comic by xkcd rather amusing.  To a geologist, the whole 'purity' argument that goes on amongst certain subsets of scientists seems so...wrongheaded.  We pride ourselves on research methods and areas of study that are derived from a large number of more basic fields and don't give a damn about how 'pure' our field is.

This lack of purity is one of the reasons I love geology.  Contrary to the common stereotype that geology is merely looking at rock samples and classifying them--much like the stereotype that paleontology is merely sorting and describing fossils--geology covers a very wide area, from studying the evolution of rocks to that of rivers.  And it doesn't limit itself to this planet, alone, either!  Geologists apply astronomy, biology, chemistry, mathematics*, physics, even archaeology and mythology!  If you follow the links, you'll notice that this wide range of knowledge is applied without even factoring in economic and environmental geology, or other applied fields.  I also left out a large chunk of the basic fields encompassed by geology.  (I.E.: Structure/plate tectonics, sedimentary geology, and geochronology, among others.)**  Some geologists even do extensive studies upon cats, or the medicinal effects of ethanol.  The variety that geology offers is simply astounding.

*I didn't list a specific field here because every area of geology that I know of involves mathematics to some degree or another.

**On that note, I apologize to any geochemists or geophysicists who feel left out.  I was aiming for less somewhat less obvious choices when selecting fields influenced by physics and chemistry.  I also apologize to any geologists involved in longitudinal studies of dogs who feel left out...but cats are better!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

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