Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Why would you want to study rocks?" Part 4: History

I've long been fascinated by history.  In spite of my strong leaning toward the sciences when I was trying to find my path through life I seriously considered majoring in classical studies for a time.  I dreamt of spending my life studying Greece, Rome and other ancient civilizations in their prime, of reading and translating the great dramatists, philosophers, and poets and sharing their gifts with the world.  Given that I do not have a gift for languages my near decision to enter that career path is quite significant.

It also explains what drew me to geology.  Deep time is the overarching concept that binds the earth sciences together the way that evolution binds the disparate fields of biology.  The field of geology is intrinsically tied to history, and what a history it is!  Using hand samples, landscapes, minerals, and tools to measure and analyze these things we can stare into the face of history and look back thousands, millions, even billions of years.

We can look back through time and see the world as it was long before humans, mammals, or any life form existed.  We can move forward through time and see traces of how the geological environment interacted with the biological life forms as they developed.  We can find mountains where there are now only flat-lying plains.  We can find deserts in the midst of green lands.  We can discover oceans hidden in deserts.  We can tell when and where the various continents were located, and why.  We can look upon a landscape and see an entirely different yet no less real landscape located elsewhere in time when we learn how to read the rocks.  We can see where the oceans were, beaches, sand dunes, trees, volcanoes!  We can read the rocks and find out if a river flowed through a landscape and find out what direction it was flowing in.  And this is just the beginning.

If I was only allowed to give one reason for why I want to study rocks, I would emphatically respond: History!

[NOTE: This is my final post in this series]

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

1 comment:

  1. A very eloquent-actually probably the best argument I have heard for studying geology.

    With the passion that you have for the study, you will never be bored with it.

    It is inspirational to me and I am sure to others as well.