An Introduction to Geology: 2014

Week 9. Fossils.

How to tell bone from stone: Smithsonian magazine article by Brian Switek.

The Fossil Record of Cricket (an article I wrote for ESPN Cricinfo). I later wrote another on the evolution of fast throwing.

 

Weeks 6. & 7. TECTONICS

The day the Earth moved – very interesting article in Cosmos magazine describing the revolutionary times of 1963, when tectonic theory came to the fore.

The Moho (or, more properly, the Mohorovičić Discontinuity) is the boundary between the crust and the mantle. It is not the same as the boundary between the lithosphere and aesthenosphere, because the lithosphere includes the solid upper mantle.

Much of the lower mantle is thought to be composed of a (newly named) mineral called bridgmanite.

There is also new evidence, including a recently discovered terrestrial sample of a mineral called ringwoodite, that the lower mantle (410 to 660 km below the surface) has considerable volumes of water trapped in it.

Both bridgmanite and ringwoodite are varieties of olivine, as explained in this helpful article.

 

Week 5. A BIT MORE TIME

Faunal correlation (from Wikimedia Commons)

Here are a few 2014 additions to all the existing ‘IntroGeol’ files already on the site, as follows:

Lecture notes for Class 5 “A Bit More Time”

2014_IntroGeol_Lect5 (PowerPoint)

The Rock Cycle

An excellent, rather more detailed version of the rock cycle, illustrating the subdivisions of the different sections, can be seen on the Geology Cafe website here.

Stratigraphy

The 2014 edition of the geological time scale, produced by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) can be downloaded here.

If you want details of where in the world any of the Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points (GSSPs) are, Wikipedia provides a pretty comprehensive list here. It is based on the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s list, which can be found here.

For more information on clay minerals, also known as sheet silicates, also known as phyllosilicates (literally ‘leaf silicates’, deriving from the same Greek origin as ‘filo’ pastry), these course notes by Prof. Stephen Nelson of Tulane University are very helpful.

An excellent Conversation article on why the discovery of clay minerals on Mars is rather important.

Powered By Rock – Week 8

REVIEWING THE OPTIONS

Flower power (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture notes – 2014_PoweredbyRock_lect8_summary_SML (PowerPoint)

An Excel spreadsheet showing the full list of UK power stations (location, type, capacity) from the DUKES website.

Energy predictability

Every year, the International Energy Agency gives an overview of the World Energy Outlook. The 2013 edition can be found here.

However, according to Energy Post, the IEA World Energy Outlook consistently underestimates wind/solar growth.

Energy challenges

How do we make gas supply networks more resilient? This study argues that we need a fair distribution strategy.

Should we build more large dams? This study by Oxford University investigates the real costs of mega-hydropower.

Back to coal? German efforts to go green prove complex (New York Times article).

Environmental impacts

A paper by Evans et al. (2009), comparing the sustainability of different forms of renewable energy: Evans_etal2009_sustainability_renewable_energy.

A paper by Pacca & Horvath (2002) looking at the whole-life greenhouse gas emissions of different types of power station: Pacca_Horvath2002_GHG_Colorado_power_plants

A paper by Pihl et al. (2012) comparing the raw materials required to construct different types of Concentrated Solar Power station: Pihl_etal2012_ConcSolarPower_materials

The new Ivanpah CSP scheme is a “$2.2bn solar-powered bird-scorching project” (according to the Wall Street Journal).

Apparently, mammals such as reindeer avoid power lines because they see them in UV.

The Future

What do you think Britain’s power usage and sources should be in 2050? Try the DECC 2050 Pathways calculator to test your ideas!

 

Powered By Rock – Week 7

WIND & SUN

Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, USA (from Wikimedia Commons)

LECTURE NOTES2014_PoweredbyRock_lect7_solar_wind_SML (PowerPoint)

Renewable Energy Statistics for the UK (from DECC website).

Renewables map of the UK (from DECC website)

Wind power

UK Wind Energy database (from Renewable UK website)

Neither rare nor earths (Article about our dependence on rare earth elements, from BBC News)

Developing cheaper, greener magnets (article from Ames Lab, US Dept of Energy)

Could the Dogger Bank Offshore Wind Farm provide 7.2 GW of power? (Article from Forewind project website)

UK Offshore Wind Power Programme (article by Toke (2011 on Science Direct).

Solar power

Types of solar power (from the IEA website)

The geology of photovoltaic solar power (from Bryn Mawr College).

Abengoa Solar projects, Spain (company website).

The Imperial College Solar Network.

The UK solar roadmap (DECC article from October 2013)

Nottinghamshire solar farm built in 6 weeks (BBC News article from 2011).

Perovskites – the future of solar power? (article from the Guardian).

New solar material shows its potential (article from MIT)

Perovskite is calcium titanium oxide (CaTiO3), although the term is used to describe any mineral with perovskite-type structure, so it does not have to have that chemical formula.

Could copper iodide perovskites make cheaper solar cells? (article from Phys.org)

 

Powered By Rock – Week 6

THE POWER OF WATER

Cruachan Dam, nr Oban, Scotland (from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture notes – 2014_PoweredbyRock_lect6_hydro_SML (PowerPoint).

Harnessing hydroelectric power (DECC website information).

Micro-scale run-of-river projects “take off in the UK” (news article from 2011).

Cruachan

Scotland’s power mountain (article on The Register).

The Hollow Mountain (information film from 1966).

Visit Cruachan (official website).

Cruachan site (Scottish Power summary).

Dinorwig, North Wales

The Electric Mountain (official website)

Glendoe, Scotland

Began operating late 2008, closed in August 2009 due to rock fall, reopened in 2012 (article on Hydroworld).

Glendoe has the biggest head in the UK, a 600m drop from reservoir to turbine (SSE project website).

Deep beneath the Highlands (British Geological Survey poster about Glendoe).

Seismic monitoring of reservoir inundation at Glendoe (BGS research)

Induced seismicity

Earthquakes triggered by dams (article on International Rivers).

80,000 people killed by reservoir-induced earthquake in Sichuan, China.

Tidal & Wave Power:

“The UK is currently the undisputed global leader in marine energy, with more wave and tidal stream devices installed than the rest of the world combined,” according to Renewable UK.

The Pentland Firth could provide 1.9 GW of tidal energy, or 43% of Scotland’s electricity consumption (BBC article).

4.2 GW of power could be extracted, but challenges of efficiency are likely to reduce this figure, according to Draper et al. (2014).

The Severn Barrage (from the Severn Estuary Partnership).

Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay (project website).

The UK Wave & Tidal Knowledge Network (run by The Crown Estate)

 

A Very Short History of the Earth

Time Spiral (from Wikimedia Commons)

ChronoZoom – an interactive time scale showing the age of life, the universe and everything (if your computer has the right browser!).

Stratigraphy

ICS – The International Commission on Stratigraphy (the latest geological timescale can be found here).

William Smith and biostratigraphy (part of a University of California Berkeley series on the history of evolutionary thought).

John Phillips – the Time Lord of York (my article for York Mix).

Absolute dating

A quick introduction to radiometric dating (University of California Berkeley).

How to calculate the age of meteorites (or anything else for that matter).

Rock Around The Clock (Daily Telegraph article on the 4.4 billion year-old zircon crystal from Australia). The scientific paper can be found here.

Fossils & Extinction

From soup to cells (Berkeley introduction to the origins of life on Earth).

Solving Darwin’s Dilemma – Precambrian rocks really do contain abundant fossils (report of 2009 study by scientists at Oxford University).

First Life – David Attenborough tackles the origins of life, including the Precambrian fossils found near his childhood home in Leicester.

Mass extinctions (NHM guide to the “Big Five”). If you fancy a “Big Five” walking tour of London, you can follow my not entirely serious guide.

Prehistoric fossil collectors (article from the Geological Society).

How will humans go extinct? (article on BBC News, 24 April 2013).

Hidden Horizons website (Scarborough-based company run by Will Watts, offering Geology & Natural History Education and Events. Look out for information on the upcoming Yorkshire Fossil Festival).

 

Powered by Rock – Week 5

GEOTHERMAL

The oldest geothermal pool, in China (from Wikimedia)

Lecture notes (as a pdf) – 2014_PoweredbyRock_lect5_geotherm

Lecture notes (as a PowerPoint file) – 2014_PoweredbyRock_lect5_geotherm_SML

(With sincere thanks to Dr Charlotte Adams of BritGeothermal, Durham University, for providing much of the information)

US Geothermal energy (from US Energy Information Administration)

Geothermal Technologies Office, US Dept of Energy.

Geothermal energy (British Geological Survey)

The BritGeothermal project (BGS, Glasgow, Durham, Newcastle)

Heat energy beneath Glasgow (BGS)

IDDP – Icelandic Deep Drilling Project, which drilled into a magma chamber!

 

Powered by Rock – Week 4

NUCLEAR

Church Rock uranium mill, USA (from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture notes (PowerPoint) – 2014_PoweredbyRock_lect4_nuclear_SML

What is uranium and how does it provide energy? (World Nuclear Association)

The geology of uranium (World Nuclear Association)

Uranium in a nutshell (About.com)

Did the Fukushima accident cause increased thyroid cancer in children? (article in the Guardian, Mar. 2014)

Radioactive waste management in the UK (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority)

Sellafield geological storage site selection process ‘fixed’ (Guardian, Jan. 2014)

The Onkalo geological storage site, Finland (Posiva company website)

Could Jurassic shales be the answer? How France is disposing of its nuclear waste (BBC News story)

Yucca Mountain factsheet (US Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

Nuclear fusion technology hits milestone (CBC, Canada) – article based on the Nature paper by Hurricane et al. (2014).

What is nuclear fusion? (Culham Centre for Fusion Energy)

 

 

Powered by Rock – Week 2

COAL

Coal consumption 1980-2011 (from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture notes (pdf): 2014_PoweredbyRock_lect2_coal_mini

Lecture notes (PowerPoint): 2014_PoweredbyRock_lect2_coal

Energy from fossil fuels – a short explanation of the chemical reactions that allow us to extract energy from hydrocarbons, by Western Oregon University.

Coal – guide from the Minerals UK section of the British Geological Survey.

Coal statistics from the UK Government.

World coal statistics from UK Coal.

Coal mining statistics from the National Coal Mining Museum.

 

Powered by Rock – Week 1

Earth’s Energy Systems – Introduction

(updated Thurs. Jan 23rd)

Nuclear power station, France (from Wikimedia Commons)

Lecture slides from Week 1:

2014_PoweredbyRock_lect1_intro (PowerPoint file)

2014_PoweredbyRock_lect1_intro (PDF)

Generally useful online energy resources:

Prof. David MacKay’s book ‘Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air’ can be downloaded free from his website here.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) website can be found here.

The UK Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) website is here. Its DUKES (Digest of UK Energy Statistics) is particularly useful, and can be found here.

Gridwatch (live data of UK National Grid power sources) can be found here.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) website has lots of energy information here. Various free publications are provided courtesy of the NERC Open Research Archive (NORA) which can be found here.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Energy Resources Program also provides lots of data. It can be found here.

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides significant information on the health impacts of different fuel sources, in its Fuel For Life publication. It can be found here.

Durham University also provides some information via the CeREES Geoenergy website here, and the Durham Energy Institute website here.