Field of Science

Flat Earth Geology

After decades of neglect, fortunately, the Flat Earth Theory has gained traction again in recent years. Pioneered by 19th and 20th century Christian fundamentalism, in an effort to prove the literal truth of the Bible, unfortunately, in 1996 the archive of the International Flat Earth Research Society was lost in a fire. But like a phoenix from the ashes, the Flat Earth remerged on the internet, with dedicated social network pages, youtube videos and self-published books by independent researchers. Flat Earthers know that the Earth is actually a flat disk and not a globe, a lie perpetuated by the Illuminati, the church, the government and the scientific elite (especially NASA). 

Among the most obvious evidence for a flat earth, is the water level. One may wonder how plate tectonics, connected with volcanoes and earthquakes, may work on a Flat Earth. Of course, assuming volcanoes are real. Also, continental drift was considered for a long time pseudoscience when people believed for a long time in Flat Earth.

Australian geologist S. Warren Carey (1912-2002) developed a model of Earth including mid-ocean ridges and transform faults, but denied categorically subduction zones. As "subduction is a mythos!" Flat Earth simply expands until pushing against Antarctica's Ice Walls. Resulting wrinkles in the surface of the Flat Earth are mountains.

How WWI Bombs Shattered Bedrock And Changed Geological History

The war in Europe began as a battle between infantry and cavalry, like in old times, and was believed to be quickly over. However, new weapons, like the machine-gun or heavy artillery, made direct attacks almost impossible as soldiers were killed in their thousands. The war quickly became a war of attrition as both sides dug in in a network of trenches and tunnels separated by the “No Man’s Land.” One hundred years after the end of World War I traces can be still found in the landscape.

Alpine Tsunami

Strange as it may seem,  also high in the mountains there is a tsunami risk.

In the Alps, various event can trigger a tsunami, like earthquakes, landslides or glacial lake outbursts. The 1806 tsunami of Lake Lauerzer (Switzerland) was caused by a large landslide and killed almost 500 people. 

Painting of the 1806 tsunami of Lake Lauerz made by David Alois Schmid, who observed the disaster from his hometown Schwyz.

In September 1601 an earthquake hit the area of Lake Lucerne. The 5.9 magnitude earthquake triggered both an underwater landslide as a rockfall from the nearby Bürgenstock mountain. The resulting wave was almost four meters high and inundated  "a thousand steps" (50 to 100 meters) broad area around the lake. Eight people were killed.  In 1867 a second wave caused widespread destruction.  As no earthquake was recorded before the tsunami, experts believe that the collapse of lake sediments and an underwater landslide caused the wave. 

In October 1963 the entire slope of Mount Toc in the Italian Dolomites collapsed. Within 30 to 40 seconds estimated 240 to 270 million cubic meters of rock plunged into the reservoir of Vajont, filling the 400 meters deep gorge behind the dam. The wave generated by the impact of the landslide traveled 140 meters up on the opposite shore, reaching some buildings of the village of Erto. At the moment of the impact,the reservoir contained 115 million cubic meters of water. The landslide pushed part of the water out of the lake, producing a wave with a maximal height of 230 to 240 meters. 

A 100 to 150 meters high wave rushed into the gorge of the Vajont, in direction of the larger and inhabited Piave valley. There the wave destroyed the villages of Longarone, Pirago, Villanova, Rivalta and Fae, and in less than 15 minutes more than 2,000 people were killed.

Glacier outburst floods (GOF) refer to the rapid and sudden discharge of water from within a glacier or from an ice-dammed lake. In the Alps and Cascades most outburst floods occur in the summer, when the melting glaciers provide large quantities of water. In the Andes and the Himalaya also another type of floods is common, outbursts from moraine-dammed lakes, referred to as glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF). Floods resulting from moraine-dam failure have been increasing in frequency in the Himalaya over the past 70 years. One of the best-documented examples happened in August 1985, when the terminus of the Langmoche Glacier in the Khumbu Himal collapsed into the Dig Tsho glacial lake, triggering a wave overflowing the moraine. The wave destroyed a power plant and five people were killed.

Laguna Paron (Cordillera Blanca, Peru) in 2009, a lake dammed by the glacier Hatunraju with a capacity of 75 million cubic meters. The lake is surrounded by a 250 meters high moraine.  If this dam fails an outburst of around 50 million cubic meters could flood the valleys downstream.
The worst glacial lake outburst in historic time was caused by the failure of such a moraine-dam in Peru, when in December 1941 the town of Huaraz was partially destroyed by a flood, 60.000 people were killed.

It’s sedimentary, my dear Watson

February 20, 1949 Mrs. Henrietta Helen Olivia Roberts Durand-Deacon, a wealthy widow, disappeared from the Onslow Court Hotel located in South Kensington, London. The police interviewed the residents and soon John George Haigh became a suspect, as he was the last person to have be seen together with the woman. He led the police to an old storeroom on Leopold Road in Sussex, where they discovered strange and suspicious tools – a revolver, some rubber protective clothing and three containers filled with sulphuric acid.

During the interrogation Haigh suddenly confessed to an incredible crime, “Mrs. Durand-Deacon no longer exists. She has disappeared completely, and no trace of her can ever be found again. I have destroyed her with acid. You will find the sludge which remains on Leopold Road. But you can’t prove murder without a body.” 

Fortunately, Haigh ignored one important fact in his euphoria: the law doesn’t require a body to incriminate him – it requires a corpus delicti - the evidence that a murder happened. Forensic pathologist Keith Simpson examined carefully the ground at the supposed crime scene. He noted something unusual, a small pebble which he described as follows: “It was about the size of a cherry, and looked very much like the other stones, except it had polished facets.“ Simpson realized that he had found the evidence to prove the murder. The pebble was a gallstone from poor Mrs. Durand-Deacon. Gallstone can form from calcium-salts and organic substances in the gallbladder. A thin layer of organic matter protected the pebbles from being dissolved in the acid. John George Haigh, who was ultimately suspected of committing an entire series of murders, was sentenced later to death.

This forensic case was an unusual example of how rocks can help solve a crime. However already in the mid of the 19th century people realized that rocks, soils and the science of geology could be used to reconstruct a crime and provide circumstantial evidence to connect a suspect with the crime scene. An 1856 one issue of the magazine “Scientific American” reported the “Curious Use of the Microscope” to help clarify a case of thievery:

Recently, on one of the Prussian railroads, a barrel which should have contained silver coin, was found, on arrival at its destination, to have been emptied of its precious contents, and refilled with sand. On Professor Ehrenberg, of Berlin [1795-1896, famous zoologist and geologist] from Leipzig in, being consulted on the subject, he sent for samples of sand from all the stations along the different lines of railway that the specie had passed, and by means of his microscope, identified the station from which the interpolated sand must have been taken. The station once fixed upon, it was not difficult to hit upon the culprit in the small number of employees on duty there.

Influenced by the rapid development of science, the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced in 1887 a new kind of detective, who based his crime solving abilities on the scientific and forensic clues that everybody acquired or left behind by touching objects, or simply walking on muddy ground: “Knowledge of Geology. – Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them."

About at the same time as Doyle published his fictional adventures, the Austrian professor of criminology Hans Gross (1847-1915) published various textbooks dealing with forensic investigations methods. In his “System der Kriminalistik” (Criminal Investigation, published in 1891) he proposed that the police should carefully study geomorphological maps, to infer possible sites where criminals could commit crimes or hide bodies – like forests, ponds, streams or sites with a well. In 1893 Gross published his “Handbuch für Untersuchungsrichter” (Handbook for Examining Magistrates), where he explained how the petrographic composition of dirt found on shoes could indicate where a suspect went previously. Based on these ideas, in 1910 the French physician Edmund Locard (1877-1966) established the basic exchange principle of environmental profiling:
Whenever two objects come into contact, there is always a transfer of material. The methods of detection may not be sensitive enough to demonstrate this, or the decay rate may be so rapid that all evidence of transfer has vanished after a given time. Nonetheless, the transfer has taken place.

The German chemist Georg Popp (1867-1928) was the first investigator to solve a murder case by adopting the principles of Gross and Locard and considering soil as reliable evidence. In the spring of 1908 Margarethe Filbert was murdered near Rockenhausen in Bavaria. The local attorney had read Hans Gross’s handbook and know Popp from an earlier case, where Popp connected a strangled woman to the suspect by mineral grains of hornblende found in the mucus of the victim’s nose and under the fingernails of the suspect.
In the Filbert case a local factory worker named Andreas Schlicher was suspected, however he claimed that on the day of the murder he was working in the fields.
Popp reconstructed the movements of the suspect by analyzing the dirt found on his shoes. The uppermost layer, thus the oldest, contained goose droppings and earth from the courtyard of the suspect’s home. A second layer contained red sandstone fragments and other particles of a soil found also where the body of the victim was discovered. The last layer contained brick fragments, coal dust, cement and a whole series of other materials also found on the site where the suspect’s gun and clothing had been found. However, there were no mineral grains – fragments of porphyry, quartz and mica- on the shoes. Since these were found in the soils of the field where Schlicher supposedly worked the very same day, he was obviously lying.

In the last two decades, the significance of forensic geology increased steadily. It is applied not only to connect single suspects to criminal cases, but also to trace the provenience of explosive, drugs or smuggled goods, including wildlife, not to mention the possible applications to detect cases against the environmental law. Forensic geology also proved valuable to reconstruct and uncover modern war crimes.
In 1997 the United Nations International Criminal Tribune for the Former Yugoslavia (UN ICTY) began exhuming five mass graves in north-eastern Bosnia associated with the massacre of civilians in and around the town of Srebrenica in July 1995. Intelligence reports showed that 3 months after the initial executions of civilians, the primary mass graves had been exhumed and the bodies transported over a 1-3 day period to a number of unknown (but at least 19) secondary grave sites. To prosecute the suspects, it was necessary to prove that the now recovered bodies came without doubt from Srebrenica, and that therefore the later dislocation of the graves was intentionally to hide these war crimes. Two grave sites were intensively studied and samples of the grave fills and surrounding soils and bedrock collected. Soil samples can be screened by their content of minerals and rocks, the size and form of single mineral or rock grains, biochemistry of organic substances, microbiology, remains of invertebrates and plants and pollen and spores preserved in it. These various parameters can vary in so many ways, every soil can be regarded as unique. Comparing the parameters between samples recovered from the victim or the suspect and collected at the crime sites it is possible to establish a unique connection between them.
During the investigations in Bosnia a clast of serpentinite found in one of the secondary gravesites proved to be the decisive evidence. This greenish rock connected one secondary grave site with only one primary site – only there an outcrop with a serpentinite dyke could be found. Similarity, the presence or absence of particular clay minerals, depending on the surrounding geology of the primary burial site, connected or excluded the primary to the secondary sites.

The list of fascinating or strange cases solved thanks to forensic geology would surprise even Sherlock Holmes himself.

Books Giveaway III

I'm giving away a bunch of books (here and here) as I need the space and also facing some money issues , voluntary contribution if not specified otherwise, mailing is possible if recipient covers costs of package and mail from Italy - worldwide. If interested in one or more books please contact by e-mail: HistoryGeology"add"

SPINAR, Z.V. (1976): Quando l'uomo non c'era. Hardcover, 228 pages, rich collection of paleoartist's Zdenek Burian paintings.

DA RIO, Piero (1974): Trecento milioni di anni fa – Grande atlante di paleozoologia. Hardcover, 233 pages, rich collection of paleoartist's Eva Hülsmann paintings.

KRUMBIEGEL Günter und Brigitte (2001): Faszination Bernstein. Softcover, 111 pages, various black and white drawings and color photos.

CANFIELD, Michael, R. (2011): Field Notes on Science and Nature. Hardcover, 297 pages, various black and white photos.

RUDWICK, Martin J.S. (1985): The Meaning of Fossils: Episodes in the History of Palaeontology. Softcover, 304 pages, black and white photos.

O'CONNOR Ralph (2007): The Earth on Show -Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856. Hardcover, 542 pages, black and white drawings and photos.

MURRAY, Raymond C. (2011): Evidence from the Earth - Forensic Geology and Criminal Investigation. Softcover, 200 pages, black and white drawings and photos.

BOLLEN Ludger (2008): Der Flug des Archaeopetryx. Hardcover, 272 pages, various color illustrations and photos.

THENIUS Erich (2000): Lebende Fossilien – Oldtimer der Tier und Pflanzenwelt Zeugen der Urzeit. Hardcover, 228 pages. Various black and white drawings, color photos.

DUZER, Chet Van (2015): Seeungeheuer und Monsterfische - Sagenhafte Kreaturen auf alten Karte. Hardcover, 144 pages. Various black and white drawings, color photos.

More books will be added soon or certan topics (mostly geology, history, anthropology, biology in English or German) can be requested per e-mail.

Books Giveaway II

I'm giving away a bunch of books as I need the space and also facing some money issues , voluntary contribution if not specified otherwise, mailing is possible if recipient covers costs of package and mail from Italy - worldwide. If interested in one or more books please contact by e-mail: HistoryGeology"add"

Peter Rothe (2005): Gesteine - Entstehung -Zerstörung -Umbildung. Hardback with 192 pages, color photos and
black and white/color diagrams.

Peter Rothe (2000): Erdgeschichte - Spurensuche im Gestein.  Hardback with 238 pages, color photos and black and white/color diagrams.

Wolf von Engelhardt (2003): Goethe im Gespräch mit der Erde - Landschaft, Gesteine, Mineralien und Erdgeschichte in seinem Leben und Werk. Hardback with 375 pages, black and white figures.

Wicander and Monroe (2000): Historical Geology - Evolution of Earth and Life Through Time. Softcover with 579 pages, black and white/color photos and figures.

Mark Renz (2005): Giants in the Storm. Softcover with 257 pages, black and white photos and figures.
Bayerisches Landesamt für Geologie (2012): Nicht von dieser Welt - Bayerns Meteorite.
Hardback with 128 pages, black and white/color photos and figures, maps.

Brian Switek (2010): Written in Stone - Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature. Softcover with 315 pages, black and white photos and figures.
Turek, Marek und Benes (1991): Fossilien - Handbuch und Führer für den Sammler.
Hardback with 495 pages, color photos and figures.
Duda, Rejl und Slivka (1995): Mineralien - Handbuch und Führer für den Sammler.
Hardback with 520 pages, color photos and figures.

Uwe George (1993): Expedition in die Urwelt - Paläontologie: Die Erforschung der steinernen Zeit. Hardback with 332 pages, color photos and figures.

Miles Barton et al. (2003): Wildes Amerika - Zeugen der Eiszeit. Hardback with 192 pages, color photos and figures.
Time Life Bücher (1993): Der Planet Erde - Edelmetalle. Hardback with 176 pages, black and white/color photos and figures.
Hans Anton Stalder udn Franz Haverkamp (1973): Mineralien - Verborgene Schätze unserer Alpen. Hardback with 175 pages, black and white/color photos and figures.

Books Giveways I.

Books Giveaway

I'm giving away a bunch of books as I need the space and also facing some money issues , voluntary contribution if not specified otherwise, mailing is possible if recipient covers costs of package and mail from Italy - worldwide. If interested in one or more books please contact by e-mail: HistoryGeology"add"

Jane P. Davidson (2008): A History of Paleontology Illustration. Hardback with 217 pages and 89 black & white photos and 8 color photos.

Shelley Emling (2009): The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World. Hardback with 234 pages and black and white photos insert.

Kenneth D. Rose (2006): Beginning of the Age of Mammals. Hardback with 428 pages and black and white photos and drawings [book as new, 100 Euros all included]

Edmund Blair Bolles (1999): The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age. Softcover with 257 pages.

Richard Conniff (2011): The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth. Hardback with 464 pages, black and white drawings.

Cis Van Vuure (2005): Retracting the Aurochs - History, Morphology and Ecology of an extinct Wild Ox. Hardback with 424 pages, numerous black and white and color photos and figures.

R. Dale Guthrie (2005): The Nature of Paleolithic Art. Hardback with 520 pages, 20 halftones and 847 line drawings.

Dennis R. Dean (1999): Gideon Mantell and the Discovery of Dinosaurs. Softcover with 312 pages, various black and white photos and drawings.

Martin J.S. Rudwick (1997): Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes. Softcover with301 pages, with black and white figures.

Steve White (2012): Dinosaur Art - The World's Greatest Paleoart. Hardback with 188 pages, richly illustrated with color paintings.
Wooden build-it-yourself dinosaur skeletons models giveway, various species.

Munich Mineral Show Catalog, various years, 214 pages, color photos.

Johannes Weigelt (1999): Rezente Wirbeltierleichen und ihre paläobiologische Bedeutung. Gebundens Buch mit 288, Unveränderte Neuauflage der 1930 Ausgabe.

Frank Sirocko (2012): Wetter, Klima, Menschheitsentwicklung - Von der Eiszeit bis ins 21. Jahrhundert. Gebundenes Buch, 208 Seiten, zahlreiche Farbabbildungen.

More books will be added soon or certan topics (mostly geology, history, anthropology, biology in English or German) can be requested per e-mail.