Tuesday, October 11, 2011

texture short course, day one

Back at the beginning of the summer I saw an ad for a workshop on texture analysis to be held in Tromsø in October open to students and researchers. It sounded interesting, so I sent them a note asking if it was open to researchers who are between contracts, and they said that it was, and (more importantly given the "between contracts" part, the only course fee would be to cover the copying expenses. When I got the job offer for the position I will start on 1 Nov. I asked if he thought I should attend the workshop, or if my time would be better spent staying home and reading literature directly relevant to the project. After looking over the flyer for the course he said that he thought I should go.

It turns out that the most efficient way to get to Tromsø from Luleå is to drive—they have no train this far north, so one would have to switch to a bus part way there, and flights go south to Stockholm and then west to Oslo or Trondheim before heading back north again. Therefore I checked with a friend of mine who is a graduate student with a flexible schedule, and he thought a road trip sounded like a good idea (besides, going away for a week might actually get him to do some writing). We had a nice drive up on Sunday—left Luleå just after 08:00, and arrived at our B&B (located 15 minute walk from the Uni) just after 18:00. (I, of course, forgot to take out the camera once during the drive, since I was so busy gazing out the window at the lovely mountains once we got close to the Norwegian border).

The course is divided into two sections—the first two days we are learning how to use the programs they use here to convert a series of rotated photos of thin sections into data showing the orientation of the crystallographic axes. The technique works only on uniaxial minerals, such as quartz or calcite (or ice), but since these often occur in units which have been deformed it is a useful tool.

It was very enjoyable to be back in a classroom again after a longish break, though a bit of a challenge to keep up with the exercise—the program we are using runs only on MacOS, and I haven't really needed to use Apple computers since my class in programing Basic on an AppleIIe back in highschool. Apple products have changed a bit since then, and while there are similarities in the handling between Apple and PC there are just enough differences that I found myself pushing the wrong button more than once and then frantically trying to undo that and get back to where I was meant to be before the teacher had gotten so far ahead that I couldn't catch up. Sometimes I managed it, sometimes I was the voice saying "wait, what folder was that?".

Fortunately, she was very patient when we got lost, and would back up and explain the steps we hadn't caught so that we could go on to the next step. I think we all managed to convert the raw data into the correct formats and align the stacks of images properly. Tomorrow we get to actually process that data into the sorts of final images that wind up in publications…

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