Aaand, the rest of AGU

The local seismologists have been holding non-stop post-AGU mini-conferences, over this weekend and continuing through Wednesday. While it may be convenient for people’s travel plans to shove all the conferences into the same period of time, I do not understand how they expect to learn anything – my brain was full after a mere four days of conference action, and even though it was exciting, I have just barely recovered. Thankfully, I’m not a seismologist, so I don’t have to participate in any such nonsense.

  • My talk went well, I think. It didn’t spark much scientific conversation, at least not that I was aware of – and I was disappointed that I never had the chance to get into a good drawn-out argument over some beers with the guy who has the opposite theory from mine. However, I got a bit of media attention (which also went well), and I am looking forward to the luxurious lifestyle of international science radio superstardom.
  • I think I am finally starting to figure out how schmoozing networking works. Except I still need to be better about sending follow-up emails.
  • Lithospheric foundering – where the bottom half of a mountain range just gives up and falls down, back into the mantle, where it is warm and cozy – is officially trendy.
  • I was surprised at the paucity of graph-paper shirts.
  • It’s nice to walk through the education posters – not only are there usually interesting projects, the posters are much more likely to do something to actively engage their audience. There are always toys on display, and sometimes the posters themselves have a participatory element. One poster asked us to write down why we haven’t reduced our carbon footprint; it felt good to troll a little bit by writing “I blame society”, and turned out to be a great conversation-starter. I wish the “straight” science sessions would depart from the standard formats now and then, too.
  • Attempting to absorb too much information in a short period of time makes people a bit punchy. Midafternoons in the later part of the week are kind of like being back at Caltech, only much less so. Anyway, on Wednesday at about beer o’clock I joined a roving pack of grad students and descended on the Thermo Scientific booth to sort through the display of element trading cards. You can request a free pack for yourself, just tell them that you do some kind of mass spectrometry in your spare time.
  • Speaking of being punchy, when we were done arguing about who got to be argon-argon dating each other with the element trading cards, we decided this would be a good idea:

    You have 13 hours to order if you want it by Christmas. If tasteless geology pun underwear turns out to be an actual niche market, I’ll work up an “accretionary wedgie” cartoon. And maybe something about back-arc spreading.


  1. Kim wrote:

    Is lithospheric foundering essentially the same thing as lithospheric delamination? (When I’ve seen talks discussing one or the other, I tend to equate them, but maybe I shouldn’t.)

  2. Andrew Alden wrote:

    Yes, they’re the same process. The lithosphere has to delaminate first before it can founder, though.

  3. yami wrote:

    I always think of foundering as the generic process of falling off, and delamination as a particular way of doing it where the lower lithosphere peels off as a coherent sheet – which is different from, say, foundering via Rayleigh-Taylor instability (“deblobbing”). I think some people also use delamination as a generic term, but I am so fond of the word “deblobbing” that I prefer to maintain the distinction.

  4. Lab Lemming wrote:

    I thought delamination was the loss of strength in between the two layers, and foundering was the sinking that happens once the lower one realizes that nothing is holding it up anymore (a.k.a. Wile E. Coyote)

  5. Andy Frassetto wrote:

    We like to think of delamination as a more brittle or seismogenic process (e.g. the deep crustal earthquakes under the western Sierra foothills or the Vrancea zone in Romania). An R-T instability, in addition to having different morphology criteria for initiation, is considered a lot more ductile.

    I like this blog!

  6. Beatrice wrote:

    Does foundering have anything to do with the discovery of kippers in the ocean off the coast of the W USA near the Sierra Nevada?

  7. Belize wrote:

    No, nothing to do with Kippers Beatrice. Andy has the right idea above. I’ve heard he is a world expert on this stuff.

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