Thursday, 18 February 2010


The theme for this month’s Scientiae Carnival is Continuity. This is an appropriate topic for geologists; the theme appears over and over again in our science. Sedimentary geologists have their unconformities marking places where processes failed to display continuity. Metamorphic petrologist look for clues in the chemical zoning of minerals to see if the changes their rock underwent were from one episode of deformation, or if the region had no continuity and has suffered multiple deformational episodes.

But what does the word mean on a personal level? Particularly for one such as myself who leads an odd sort of nomadic existence (moving every 1 to 3 years to a new location, then staying put for a while before moving again). In some ways one could say that my life lacks continuity—by deliberately changing my home base every few years I am denying myself the sort of stability and continuity that people who spend their entire life in one town take for granted. On the other hand, I am able to bring with me certain things which maintain the level of continuity I require for my own comfort levels. As an avid reader, and re-reader of books my library travels with me. (Sure it is expensive to ship books, but more expensive to replace them!) No matter where I am, at any time I feel the need for emotional comfort I can pick up an old favorite book and be transported to a setting that I know and love, and can watch as the characters once again solve the problems that they face.

Another place I find continuity is in my love of historical reenactment. Having joined a historically themed organization back when I was in highschool I am guaranteed to find friends waiting for almost anywhere I move who share similar interests to my own. After so many years playing that game I find that no matter where I go I have friends in common with new people I meet via that organization.

The third type of continuity in my life is the familiarity of the academic environment. While no two universities are (or should be) the same, still there is an atmosphere in every geology department I’ve ever entered. There is something about hallways filled with displays of rocks and minerals and geologic maps that is inspiring, comforting, and pretty, all at once. I took a number of years off between completing my master’s and starting my PhD program, during which time I worked as a massage therapist, rather than doing science. When I was first considering going back for the PhD I visited the University, and just walking through the hallway, looking at their display made me feel like I’d come home, and I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that academia was where I wanted to be, and that geologic research was what I wanted to be doing.

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