Friday, March 02, 2007

The Dabbler is Dabbling

For the moment, I've found a dabbling that is sticking. Opera and classical music would have continued to stick, I think, but I could no longer find the time to do the necessary focused listening. I'll get back to that eventually. (Especially because I want to do the books, Jazz 101 and Ballet 101). So, not surprisingly, I'm still in the middle of Annals of the Former World. John McPhee, of course, did not write it as a textbook. And so you find a lot of terms and jargon undefined. And he does immerse you in terms and jargon. It's like a geology immersion course where you're just inundated with information and material, scenarios and biographies, human characters and ancient landscapes. He finds beauty in the language of geology and is amused by what he calls the "verbal deposits."
Someone developed enough effrontery to call a piece of our earth an epieugeosyncline. There were those who said interfluve when they meant between two streams, and a perfectly good word like mesopotamian would do. A cactolith, according to the American Geological Institute's Glossary of Geology and Related Sciences, was 'a quasi-horizontal chonolith composed of anastomosing ductoliths, whose distal ends curl like a harpolith, thin like a sphenolith, or bulge discordantly like an akmolith or ethmolith.' The same class of people who called one rock serpentine called another jacupirangite. Clinoptilolite, eclogite, migmatite, tincalconite, szaibelyite, pumpelyite. Meyerhofferite. The same class of people who called one rock paracelsian called another despujolsite. Metakirchheimerite, phlogopite, katzenbuckelite, mboziite, noselite, neighborite, samsonite, pigeonite, muskoxite, pabstite, aenigmatite. Joesmithite.

Like I said, you kind of just have to let it wash over you and absorb it. I thought about taking notes and stopping to look up some of the terms, but I decided just to keep enjoyably reading and let sink in what will. Also, since it's a collection of five previously published works, some of the information is repeated from work to work, and that, obviously, helps me learn. For instance, I now know that the Appalachians are deformed and that before them stood other mountain ranges in the same place-the Taconic Orogeny, the Acadian Orogeny, and then the Alleghenian Orogeny. All rose up and fell in turn before the current Appalachians.

What I don't get is how the equator moved around. At different points in time it was in different places. Like at one point it was crossing about where the boundary of Alaska and Canada are. And other times, it crossed through where the U.S. is now. I don't get that.

Anyway, I'm very excited to see the new Discovery Channel series Planet Earth, premiering Sunday March 25 at 8 pm. It's an 11-part series that will play every Sunday night.

And lastly, a visit to Barnes & Noble yielded a copy of The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2006, edited by Brian Greene. (I always used to buy The Best American Essays.) But B&N just doesn't seem to have the best selection of titles once you go outside the realm of bestseller and popular fiction. I wasn't too impressed with their popular science section. So I ended up at Borders last night and, as I think I've said before, they have a deeper selection of nonfiction. So there I got The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester and Teach Yourself Geology. I'm not sure how good that latter book will be, but if it turns out to be accurate and fun to read, I'll probably look into that series more for my future dabblings.


Blogger nomadshan said...

Re: the equator. Here's my logic: the equator is related to Earth's axis (around which it spins or revolves). The equator seems to be perpendicular to Earth's axis. Right now, that axis extends between north + south poles, right? But, imagine that eons ago, Earth was oriented so that it revolved around an axis that ran between Thailand and Spain (roughly - I don't have a globe here - and continents have shifted, blah blah blah). That would mean the equator (perpendicular to the Thailand-Spain line) could have extended along the border of Alaska/Canada.

Basically, if Earth is a ball sitting on the floor, you can give it a quarter-roll, and have a new axis + equator.

Maybe I'll blog this with photos, and see what the science-types think...

1:23 PM  
Blogger Liesl said...

Actually, that makes sense - it may be the continents that moved, not the equator. But don't quote me on that - I'm a chemist, not a

And don't worry, I'm not blogging today, just hanging out and reading :)

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Lesley said...

That sounds like such an interesting book! And just ... wow on all those geological words.

Thanks for mentioning the Planet Earth series - I'm going to tivo that.

10:05 PM  

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