Scales Are Not Just For Fish: A Blog Series about Time and Space in Geology

Blog Series Installment #1: Introduction

One of the joys of geology is that we study really big things like mountains and really tiny things like atoms.  We study really fast things like earthquakes and really slow things like the growth of mountains.  This is also a major challenge in geology: we have to understand and work with many different sizes of things and with processes that happen over different durations.  Some microfossils are the same width across as one of your hairs.  Mineral grains come in many sizes, but most are pretty small.   Mountains are made of rocks, which are made of minerals (and sometimes microfossils, too).  A 10,000-ft (3,000m) high mountain is about 50,000,000 times higher than each of its constituent mineral grains measure across.  An organism might live 10 years, but the mountain could exist for 10 million times as long.

Not all geologists work in the same timescale and length-scales. For some, a million years is a really short time.  These geologists might study very old rocks or very slow processes.  For some, a meter is a really long distance.  These geologists might study tiny fossils the size of your hair.  In a series of blog posts, I’ll explore how the geologists on board the JOIDES Resolution on Expedition 362 wrap their minds around these numbers.