Monday, 4 July 2022

New BGS Geology Viewer

New BGS Geology Viewer 

The geological survey has released a NEW VERSION OF ITS GEOLOGY VIEWER. There is an introduction to it HERE

It seems pretty good. The screen grabs below show how it looks. There is a legend at the left side but is not very useful. To find the rock type you are best to click on the map and the rock name, age and very short description pops up. Click on "More Information" and the BGS Lexicon appears giving you all you could possibly want to know - probably.

Friday, 1 July 2022

A New Landscape and Geological Guide to Our Area

A New Landscape and Geological Guide to Our Area 

Dave Green, well known to geologists throughout the West of England, has produced a guide book which came into my hands today. It is entitled "The Quantocks and North Somerset Coast". It is published by The Crowood Press. The Book Number is ISBN 978 0 7198 4043 2. You can, no doubt, get it from all good bookshops for £20.10. It is also available from Amazon. has it for £15.79.

I will write some more about the book shortly.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Is Cyanide the Secret of Life?

Is Cyanide the Secret of Life? 

A correspondent has brought THIS ARTICLE/PODCAST to my notice.

It is mainly a podcast but the transcript is also on the page. In it, the interlocuter talks to two researchers about the origin of life. The first speaker suggests that cyanide is a precursor of RNA.

His approach is to try to build molecules necessary for life from simple beginnings.

In contrast the second speaker looks at modern molecules and tries to decipher the simpler molecules from which they may have come.

For a geologist who thinks of finding the origin of life through fossils, it is intriguing to think of the search looking at the molecules which preceded the fossil!

I do not pretend to understand all that they are doing, but I am glad someone is doing it - as long as it is not me!

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Why was the end-Permian Extinction So Bad?

Why was the end-Permian Extinction So Bad? 

THIS ARTICLE discusses why the recovery from the end-Permian mass extinction was very slow. For almost 5 million years the earth was almost sterile. Recovery from other extinctions was much more rapid. It is thought that the end-Permian, like other extinctions, was caused by lots of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The absence of vegetation removes one source of carbon capture, but that is not the only means of carbon capture. Silicate weathering can also lead to capture of carbon. (As an aside, THIS PODCAST gives an easy introduction to carbon capture.)

But at the start of the Triassic, this did not happen. And this was because the diatoms and radiolaria necessary for this to happen had, along with all life forms, been badly affected by the global warming. It took the Earth a long time to get out of this disastrous cycle.

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

How Do Planets Form?

How Do Planets Form? 

This blog concerns THE SECOND LINK to Quanta Magazine which a correspondent sent to me. The blog about the first link can be found HERE

The article from Quanta is very long and covers a lot of research into planet formation. Much of the data comes from an observatory in the Atacama Desert of Chile - The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). 

It has been discovered that all the planetary systems discovered so far are nothing like our Solar System. The first exo-planet was discovered in 1995; since then the number of "hot Jupiters" and "sub-Neptunes" has increased greatly. But nothing has been found resembling our complement of four rocky worlds and four gas giants.

To explain our situation planet moving theories have to be invoked and these are discussed in the article. As you might expect there are countless controversies and no cast iron conclusions. Read the article to get a flavour of what is going on in the cosmological world. 

Meandering Amazon Leads to Bird Diversity

Meandering Amazon Leads to Bird Diversity 

A correspondent has sent me a couple of links from Quanta Magazine which, while not very geological, are very interesting. THIS IS THE FIRST LINK and THIS,THE SECOND. The first link is introduced in this post, the second on a NEIGHBOURING POST

Quanta Magazine produces many interesting articles and I have subscribed to their NEWSLETTER


The author of THIS ARTICLE refers to THIS ACADEMIC PAPER. The thesis is that birds which are weak fliers will find the wide rivers of the Amazon Basin a formidable barrier. So it is very probable that a change in the rivers course will lead to bird populations becoming isolated. And isolation leads to genetic divergence.

But meandering rivers being what they are, isolated areas can come back together. The diverged birds of a single species may have changed so much that they cannot interbreed - new species have been formed. But mostly they can interbreed and the species diversity has been increased.

In the academic paper this is examined in exhaustive detail- detail which I find incomprehensible but which looks convincing. 

This may be one more reason for the Amazon having such great species diversity.

A satellite image of the Amazon lowlands shows the immense complexity of the constantly changing network of rivers carving their way through the forest landscape.

NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Down to Earth Extra June 2022

Down to Earth Extra June 2022 

The June 2022 edition of Down to Earth Extra has been published. You can get it HERE. Or you can read it below.