Field of Science

Accretionary Wedge #26: The role of the Geoblogosphere

Prologue: Deep in the forest a man sitting on a large stone heard a voice. “Do you want to hear a story?” The man looked up, and wondered, because nobody was there. “Do you want to hear a story?” repeated the voice. Then the man realized that the voice was coming from the stone, where he was sitting on. “What are stories?” questioned the man. “Stories happened long time ago, my stories are like stars, they never fade away.” And then the stone narrated one story after another, until the sun reached the horizon. ”Enough for today, come tomorrow, and take with you the other people of your village.” The next day, they came, and again the stone narrated stories until sunset.” This are all my stories, remember them, and tell them to your children, so they can tell them to their children and so on.” So all stories of humankind came into being."
Legend of the Seneca-Indians (Toronto, Canada)

Just approximately a month ago, after a post about some impressions of the French Auvergne and research on the (maybe) extinct volcanoes, I was contacted by Dr. Michael Welland, and after some additional e-mails the idea for this month topic of the Accretionary Wedge was born.

“The Geoblogosphere comprises and gathers ever
y day the newest articles from more then 200 blogs (and still counting) dealing with the most various earth related themes, ranging from geological excursions, sharing field experiences, philosophizing about earth sciences, life and art, media coverage and daily rock encounters to discussion of the newest scientific discoveries on this planet and others.
So philosophizing a
round (geo)blogging with Dr. Welland many questions raised: - like how bloggeology can “impact” society and “real geology,” should and can we promote the “geoblogosphere,” and are blogs private “business” or public affairs, and institutions underevaluating the possibilities given by this new method of communication?"

"Taking the liberty of p
araphrasing, I interpret this to be asking what role the geoblogosphere should play going forward. Should it have a role in disseminating research? Should geoblogging be factored into academic- or business- employees’ evaluations? Can, and how should, the expertise and enthusiasm of geobloggers be harnessed to effectively reach and educate the broader public? In short (again, as I interpret the issue), what do you see as the purpose of geoblogging and the geoblogosphere?”

It happens by changes that the
decision to choose such a topic and the Blog exodus by Sb coincide, but nevertheless it shows how actual such considerations are (you can also affirm that there are no such things as coincidences).

The topic was formulated a b
it vaguely and general (in part deliberate, in part as necessity), nevertheless the blogs that responded to the call were a lot and the answers to the raised questions were various and very informative.

Most bloggers
have subdivided the response into various "points", dealing with different aspects of blogging and its impact on personal and public life. Many discussed aspects that are emerging are very similar, confirming that even if blogs are as various as are the authors behind them, there is a common theme that joins (I’m not referring only to links) together bloggers.

So to not repeat myself to much, and also to invite the reader to visit the original posts, I choose from every post one poin
t to discuss. These points shared and valued by all (geo)bloggers in a certain manner represent the “principles of geoblogeology” - in a certain manner define a science blog and it’s role in one’s personal and public daily life.

Maitri from "MAITRI'S VATULBLOG" presents a very im
portant aspect of blogging about geological and (as important) non-geological themes that to easily will be taken for granted: That we even can blog and (sometimes) nag around on the most various themes. To preserve this freedom we should not try to achieve a monitored “only geoblogs sphere”, but enforce to be a community (also in the Sb case many bloggers criticized the failures in this aspect and the top-down management):

“What is the geoblogosphere? Blogging is an extremely democratic medium in that anyone can have a blog and write on any t
opic of their choosing sans an editor(ial board), a publisher and a significant budget. A blogger doesn’t need the validation of a group of peers as long as he or she has studied the topic, has credibility in the area and is open to discuss and debate any claims made in the blog at hand. The democracy of blogs is furthered in that consumers, for the most part, do not have to penetrate a group or buy into a subscription in order to gain information on any given subject. Therefore, in my mind, the ideal geoblogosphere is not about circling (sphering) the blog wagons and creating an echo chamber in which only the bloggers largely recognize and understand one another. In fact, it’s not about a sphere at all. A conscientious community of online geoscientists understands that geology must be accessible to all and in as many ways and forms as possible.”

alking about blogs as democratic tools it’s appropriate also to consider the personal component of blogs. Silver Fox from "Looking For Detachment" emphasises the role that blogging can have in promoting or accommodating personal curiosity and raise interest on topics often neglected by the mainstream media, like the role of woman in geosciences:

“First off, when I speak of the Ge
oblogosphere, I include geologists, geophysicists, and other geoscientists who are blogging. Some of the bloggers in this larger Geoblogospheric group don't always blog about geology or geosciences, some do all or most of the time, some do occasionally to even rarely. This wide range of types of blogging — informal, formal, science-related, more personal — is really one of the things I like and enjoy about the Geoblogosphere as it is today and as it has been over the past couple-few years that I've been reading and blogging. I personally derive value from reading from a wide range of topics, and also in knowing — and sometimes even meeting — bloggers from many backgrounds, regions, and countries. For good summaries of geoblogging and the geoblogosphere see Active Margin, Clastic Detritus and Research at a Snail's Pace. I would also like to point out that Kim Hannula, Anne Jefferson, Suzanne Franks, and Pat Campbell studied women-in-science blogs (this blog is part of the Geoblogosphere and is also one of the many women-in-science blogs), and found that a diversity of blog types and topics is valuable to women. Their results were presented as a paper at the 2009 GSA Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, and are reported online here.”

Addendum (06.08.2010): Filipe M. Rosas as "The Lisbon Structural Geologist" describes the feeling to have discovered:

"A world where one can find Earth-scientists from many different countries, motivated by their passion for what they do geo-related, regardless if it is geochemistry, volcanology, sedimentology, structural geology, seismology, or whatever more."

Pascal from "Research at a snail's pace" summarizes the motivation behind maintaining a blog in a simple way “If I want to read a good post, I act
ually wrote one”. He emphasizes the online presence as a possibility of the specialist to propose ideas and come in touch with other specialists (because even Google is not all-knowing):

hen I started my PhD, I did like any turn-of-the-century grad student did. I searched "teh google" for topics related to my research topic. Not finding much about them on the general web, I though - if I was looking for stuff and didn't find much, I bet there might be at least one other person who's doing the same thing (finding nothing on the internet). Good general information web content often links to the more scholarly work that it was based from. And so, I started blogging so that others might stumble upon my interests and point me in the direction of useful information/people or I may help others find said information/people.

Ian G. Stimp
son from "Hypo-theses" proposes to combine the fun with the useful, the fun to write a entry for his own blog, but also the fun of a reader who came across the Blog:

“Just because I blog for fun, doesn’t mean that I, or any one else can’t make an impact on society. There are two current geoblog themes that have great
potential for impact on society. The first is Dave Petley’s remote monitoring of the dam breach at Attabad, which appears to be the main means by which technical information is getting to the general affected population. The other is Garry Hayes’ crusade to stop lawyers in California allegedly starting a lucrative litigation gravy train by sneaking a defenestration of serpentine’s status as state rock into a bill on compost. I do hope Garry succeeds, but even if he and others don’t they will have contributed to society in increasing public understanding and awareness of geology.”

Addendum (05.08.2010): Ole Nielsen from "olelog What on earth" agrees with Hypo-theses, and considers the various write-up and references done by various geobloggers of other geobloggers..mmhhh.

Regarding this particular principle, I have to post the commentary of Lockwood from "Outside the Interzone":

“My goal at the outset was to share things I found interesting or amusing, and t
here’s a lot of geology that fits that description. I have kind of hoped that people who visit my blog for the comics stumble across the geology, and to an extent, that has been the case. I agree that there’s a risk of becoming exclusionary, but I’m not seeing evidence that that is happening in the geoblogosphere broadly.”

Of course the
only true answer is 42… no wait, it’s the common interest that joins blog authors, commenter, reader and visitors, and it’s Geology, as Lockwood states in his "official" contribution:

“All that said, why should I even bothe
r trying to address the admittedly nebulous question? Geology is important. And it's woefully undervalued and ignored in our society. When I created this blog, it was mostly for my own entertainment; an online archive, scrapbook, what have you, of things that captured my attention for a while. As it turns out, about 3 in 20 of those things are geology related. That's certainly a higher ratio than it would be for a typical person. I think I came to geology for the beauty and stayed for the awesome- and I mean awesome in the old, now somewhat archaic, sense of conferring a sense of awe. Of being somewhat paralyzed by the spectacle, by the connections, by the implications of something I've learned or seen. Even a little fearful, perhaps. As regular readers know, I'm quite fearful for the fate of our species in light of what we know of the past, and what our collective decision making is like in the present. The earth, and some fraction of its biota, will abide. Humanity, if it cannot learn from its environment, will not.”

GeoGirl from "Eat. Sleep. Geology" is fascinated
by the technology and the connection possibilities of such various elements and platforms to form a complicated system that is the geosphere. Isn't it a little like earth - with his infinite relationships between litho-, hydro-, atmo- and biosphere?

“So w
hat constitutes the geoblogosphere? I define it as the collective geoscience communication network developed via various internet-based utilities, be they formal blogs, social micro-blogs such as Twitter or Facebook, or other academia, industry, or research-based websites. Just as the many specialties in geology diverge and converge, so do the ways in which geology can be communicated. Members of the geoblogosphere constitute individuals - professionals, students, interested non-professionals, educators, policy makers - as well as corporations, government entities, industry societies, and research groups.”

Ron Schott, the father of the Geoblogosphere, combines with his "Ron Schott's Geology Home Companion Blog" geological education with one of the most impressive visualizing technology in the internet - the GigaPan. It's an excellent example how photo skills and improved soft- /hardware use can expand the possibilities of students to learn, and teachers to show geological places and phenomena otherwise inaccessible for the rest of us.

“The internet has revolutionized communicati
ons and it is disrupting many established institutions. Is there a place in this revolution for geologists? Is the science of geology susceptible to these disruptions? If so, don’t you want to be ahead of the changes rather than lagging behind? In the midst of the revolution, are there opportunities to advance the subject of geology that weren’t possible before? These questions have a scope that extends well beyond geoblogging, but I think there is just a thin layer of alluvium between this month’s Accretionary Wedge and these bedrock issues.”

All bloggers, as I see, do agree that even if blogs are not the medium to present in every detail ongoing research or to publish results
, they are at least a possibility to reach in an easy way a lot of people, from the specialist to the layman, and to discuss science in an informal gathering. Brian Romans from "Clastic Detritus" shares his very positive experience, but also the comments focuses on a negative aspect - writing and publishing post is time consuming work, not every researcher can afford or is willing to invest time and energy in a project with insecure results:

“Blogs shouldn’t replace publi
shing in peer-reviewed journals. But I do think that blogs can be a great venue for discussing research that has been published in a journal. I think that has been successful in highlighting at least one pathway towards future online interaction related to published work. While the journals themselves could host online discussions related to a specific paper they publish, this model seems like it might be quite cumbersome for the journals I read.”

Considering blogs and g
eneral journalism, and also the media presence of public institutions, there is often a sort of aversion, Michael Welland from "Trough the Sandglass" briefly considers the relationships between blogs and journalism (Michael promised to deepen in the topic after he is back from Sand Francisco):

“There is, after all, much discussion (much of it vacuous) about the role of the blogosphere, and I've been doing a
little probing around some of the (non-vacuous) examples of this. One of the "debates" is whether blogging is journalism - in my view, this question, as such, doesn't mean much since both blogging and journalism cover such a multitude of sins. But the question is interesting in terms of the relationship between blogging and journalism, within which lies a possible future vector for the responsible blogosphere. Read, for example, the piece (and the comments) on the BBC College of Journalism blog, titled "Blogs are not real journalism."

I also would emphasize this comment by Jules on the
post, which I find very promising:

“As a layman with a fervent interest in the physic
al and biological sciences, I greatly appreciate the knowledge and time that professional scientists like Michael and others put into their blogs. Whether it is called journalism or not, the point is that these efforts are communicating diverse facts and insights usually from people with real expertise inside their respective scientific disciplines. This is part of the beauty of the internet which has provided the explosion of information at our fingertips. I often find additional information to explore from the commenters also who provide feedback and additional insight that the bloggers may have not considered or were aware of.”

I myself on "History of Geology" rambled around the speed of communication
that different systems can offer, and it is clear from a short historic review that blogs are one of the most fastest until now, and also sometimes they can provide in real-time corrections of misleading general media news:

“New and fast data lines have trigg
ered an unprecedented interactivity, most sites include text, images, animations and videos, also the common WYSIWG -editors enable even noobs like me to create quick and cheap an online presence in form of a Blog and related posts. The online blogs, the motivation behind it and the scientific "quality" are as diverse as diverse are the blogger personalities. Nevertheless most science dedicated posts are of significant quality, often more technical than you might read in a common newspaper and mainstream media (MSM).”

Julia on her "Stages of succession" reflects on the educational purpose and the insights in
the scientific method that blogs can offer, not only for the common “googler”, but also for the student, and also (we often forget about that) the educator:

“Firstly, it's a resource for me. Sometimes I find myself teaching outside my comfort zone. I'm very happy teaching anatomy and physiology, and ecstatic teaching ecology and evolution. But
there are aspects of climate change, soil science and plate tectonics where sometimes it's nice to have a refresher. Just after Easter, when many of my students were stuck overseas due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, I was able to get maps, diagrams and some awesome images via the geoblogosphere (especially these awesome sunset photos from Highly Allochthonous) to show the students and explain a bit about why there was a volcano in the middle of Iceland.”

Jessica Ball (AKA Tuff Cookie) from "Magma Cum Laude" offers us for FREE an entire post!
Joke aside, I think It’s an important consideration that not all of us have the possibility to access peer reviewed literature, posts on a scientific problem or discussion and presentation of the contents of a paper (in the limits of copyright of course) by a dedicated blo
gger can provide a legal access to the information’s in it and give students, interested people and educators access to the material:

“The geoblogosphere is a fantastic way for a person who doesn't have access t
o continuing education, or who never had an opportunity to take a geology class in high school or college, to learn a little bit about the Earth. Not only do they get to read what we as geologists find interesting, but they can ask us to talk about what they find interesting - through emails, comments, requests for posts, etc. It's a step toward breaking down the idea that scientists are somehow elitist and removed from society. I don't want people to think of us like that; we're not from another planet, after all, even if we sometimes study them.”

Earth history is a wonderful and very, very, very long tale finds Garry Hayes on "Geotripper", and what begun around a campfire will adapt to the technological development and proceed around the digital fireplace. Methods change, but the idea of context of stories to explain the world not:

“Geologists are story-tellers. Sometimes those stories take the form of peer-reviewed research, sometimes it is in the form of a classroom lecture, and sometimes it is
a story told around a campfire, or over a round of beers. The geoblogosphere is a wonderful new forum for geologists and teachers to tell their stories.”

Can blogs have immediate effects not only by educating and providing slowly but steadily scie
nce, but actually by calling for action now? YES says Jim Repka from "Active Margin" and he calls for Activism by presenting a long list of wrongdoing of politicians and decision makers that were gathered, compiled and debunked by (you guessed it) various other bloggers:

“Last year Kim at All My Faults was a prime mover in promoting the highly successful Donors Choose/Giving Kids the Earth program. This week Jessica at Tuff Cookie is promoting the International Volcano Monitoring Fund (please give, if only to spite Bobby Jindal). Out here in the west, the big (non-budget related) story has been the attempt to strip serpentine of its designation as California’s state rock. Among those trying to make sure that politicians make decisions based on solid science are Garry Hayes, Andrew Alden, Brian Romans (also @perrykid and @cbdawson in the twitterverse). It remains to be seen whether we win this, but this previously ignored bill is now drawing attention of major media outlets across the state as well as inside and outside the country, and supporting editorials in major newspapers.”

The joined effort of Anne Jefferson and Chris - the "Highly Allochthonous" bloggers- focuses on the community and it’s grow beyond a simple collection of geological facts. Like in real live the key is diversity, adaption and evolution.

“But, as Geo Girl goes on to say, “the value of the geoblogosphere is greatly unrealized by those who are not a part of it.” One way to share the value of the geoblogosphere is to proselytize to anyone will listen about how their life would be so much richer if they just took up twitter and blogging….but I don’t think that’s necessarily the most effective way to expand our reach. Instead, I see ways that we can expand what we are doing, to make our community bolder, more inclusive, and more outwardly focused. Building that sort of community allows us not just to provide camaraderie and support for one another, but also to act as agents of change beyond the borders of the internet.”

Even if geology and earth-related blogs are a minority compared to other fields of research (consider biology), the number of blogs with geo-related content grows steadily, so there is the danger that “smaller” blogs get “lost” or overlooked.
Even if aggregators can help, to promote good posts an important factor is still the cross-linking by the single bloggers inside the community and sometimes the resulting friendships between them:

“Now, things are substantially different. Now there must be considerably more than a hundred active geology blogs in the allgeo feed, and their combined output has turned it into a bit of a firehose, which is itself only a fraction of the wider geoblogosphere. While it’s wonderful that new voices are continually being added to geological conversations online, I worry that perhaps they are getting a little lost in the background chatter, and not getting the attention and encouragement that they need, and deserve. It’s a good problem to be grappling with, but it is a problem nonetheless.“


Wow, that was an intense Accretionary Wedge, I’ m overwhelmed by the thoughts that bloggers from around earth brought to our attention - thank you for sharing you posts and blogs !
The call of the Accretionary Wedge itself proves many presented considerations, to an anonymous post on a obscure blog people all over the planet responded, presented they ideas to discuss in the public, willingly to teach, but also to learn.

They all agree that blogs are a simply, but useful additional, not exclusive, free tool to have fun and share news or ideas. Sometimes blogs can have an impact on his personal live by bringing people in contact; sometimes they have an impact in the public by promoting good science or debunking incorrect political decisions. There are not such things as “strictly geoblogs”, and the proposed principles will improve every kind of online presentation, without (to much) publicizing it, because a good post will find his interested readers.

We should not forget that when referring to blogs, we are only referring to a tool, and it depends from the author, so from us, what we make of these tools.

And what about the future of (geo)blogging ? I like to copy-past – äh… cite the concluding remarks of Lockwood as one of the host of the original AW-blog:

“In short, as with the diversity of life, I think the diversity of geobloggers will surprise and delight me by their unpredictability. They will surpass my imagination. Some will be astonishing successes, some, sadly, will not. As I said earlier, I suspect the majority of us do this with free-choice learning at least in the back of our minds, but let's be honest: the main reason is that we love this stuff, and we think others should too. That they don't can only be due to a lack of opportunity, in our minds.”

Or, the abstract version by Silver Fox: "Into the future!"

Regarding the future, remember that the Accretionary Wedge is always on the scout for hosts – if YOU are interested to host the future (maybe even the August) AW simply post a reply on –where else- the Accretionary Wedge blog.

P.S. (18.08.2010) There is an intense discussion and project development ongoing on the role that blogs can have between Society and Geology:

The dawn of Scientopia and the evolving science blogging ecosystem

Podcast: Current Issues in the Geoblogosphere – Episode #1

Archaeologists discover the “frozen” HMS Investigator

In February of 1845 the British admiralty elected the former governor of Tasmania, the British explorer Sir John Franklin which had leaded two previously expedition in the Arctic (1819-1822 and 1825-1827), to the leader of one of the most ambitious projects of the time: to find the legendary northwest passage.
For centuries sailors searched a way trough the ice of the Arctic, and finally it seemed that technology, ships with steam engines and a bow enforced with steel, could realize that dream.

On May 19. 1845 the two expedition’s ships, the "Terror" and "Erebus", left Britain, two years later the expedition was declared lost.
en 1847 and 1850 different search and rescue missions were organized, but they found only some graves and pieces of the equipment, all 130 men of the expedition crew died.

Canadian archaeologists have announced now that they found one of the ships used in one of these rescue missions, that got lost itself during the search: the "HMS Investigator".

Fig.1. The HMS Investigator, Baring Island, 1851 in a contemporary painting, figure from Wikipedia.

In 1850 the ship under the command of Captain Robert McLure got entrapped in the pack ice. The crew had to wait for three years for help; the Investigator was left back in the Mercy Bay and sunk later.
The cold water preserved almost the complete ship, only the masts of the upright standing ship were destroyed by the drifting ice.

Mars Map: The Red Planet as you have never seen it before

8 years work, 21.000 single photogram's, NASA has announced the release of the most detailed map of Mars, the THEMIS Day IR 100m Global Mosaic.
The data collected by the "Mars Odyssey" probe in the infrared and visible spectrum shows almost the entire surface with a resolution of some hundred meters.

Fig.1. Picture of Galle crater on Mars by the Viking Orbiter (1976), figure from Wikipedia.

Accretionary Wedge No.26 post : A shorter history about the Geo(blogo)sphere

The July 2010 Accretionary Wedge (No.26) is dedicated to the Geoblogosphere, focusing of its possibility to educate and promote geosciences. The incoming posts (but there is still time) show an extraordinary diversity and interpretation of the topic itself and offer a lot to discuss on.
I tried to approach the topic from a short historic viewpoint, how changed news r
elease, discussion and education on geosciences trough time?

"The Canterbury munch's faithfully recorded an impact on the moon and the Anasazi people an explosion of a distant star. They saw for us, as we see for them. We see further then they, only because we stand on their shoulders. We build on what they knew; we depend on free enquiry and free access to knowledge."
Carl Sagan in "COSMOS" Episode 13

In the 18th century science was strongly organized in centralized and nationalistic societies and separated by the respective state boundaries. These scientific societies also had a more "descriptive" approach to research. For example the British Geological Society had been founded in 1807 to facilitate the collection and communication of new facts, but surprisingly its politics was against promoting speculations or discussions of new systems and theories.
Nevertheless Charles Lyell, by some fellows considered as an "advocate" for his theoretical approach of geology, regarding the meetings of the Society was full of praise, he reg
ularly told his friends about the "splendid meeting", or even "excellent meeting" and noted enthusiastic "all the best men present". During these meetings new papers were presented, followed (anyway) by discussions. These unscripted and spontaneous debates set the Geological Society apart from its fellow societies, where questions were either submitted in advance or not allowed at all. But still in the tradition of science regarded as an ivory tower and maintaining the myth that scientific achievement were uncontroversial, not only there were no interest by the society to publish the ongoing discussions; it was even forbidden to the members of the society.

ite the restrictive politics of such organizations, the communications between some individual naturalists was impressive. The German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859) in his lifetime wrote 35.000 letters, and received more then 100.000, in some years he spent one tenth of his income for post taxes.
He w
as also one of the first scholars to organize popular lectures about his voyages for the common people - the meetings were great successes in a time were discussion of science outside academia was considered not "respectable".

Fig.1. Alexander von Humboldt is considered one of the last of the universal geniuses, his entire life he collected single facts, but he ever promoted to conclude from them the greater, the entire system. He also was a great promoter of public science: "Geological map of the Earth after Ami Boué and Johnston", figure from HUMBOLDT 1854 masterpiece "Kosmos".

The British naturalist Darwin is known for his extensive correspondence during his lifetime, he sent at least 7.591 letters and received 6.530 letters (OLIVEIRA & BARABASI 2005), corresponding with professional and amateur naturalists from over the world, and collecting as much facts as possible for his book on the origin of species. P.S. Regarding Darwin, his response time for a received letter was ca. 10 days.
One of the most important letters to Darwin was send by Wallace on March 9. 1858 from the post station of the island of Ternate. It was first was shipped to Singapore; from there a post ship of the British P & O Steamship Company, connecting Hong Kong to Suez, brought it to Africa. The letter then was transported on land to Alexandria, where it again was shipped over the Mediterranean Sea to Paris, then Rotterdam, and finally London. So after three months finally the letter arrived timely in the morning to Down House, Bromley, Kent - 26 kilometres southeast of London, and 12.000 kilometres east of New Guinea.

Fig.2. Simultaneously with the "Ternate manuscript" and the letter to Darwin, Wallace sent a letter to Frederick Bates in Leicester, who was delivered in London, as confirmed by the post stamp, on 3. June 1858 (figure from GLAUBRECHT 2008).

The news of eruption of the Krakatau, 25 years later but happening in the same geographical region, p
assed telegraphically from Batavia to Sydney and Singapore, from where it was send to Bombay. And passing from Suez, Malta, Gibraltar to Lisbon it was redirected in Britain to Europe and the United States. In only 24 hours the entire civilized world had heard about the catastrophe, making of Krakatau the first global geological event.

Fig.3. The first journal to bring the news about the eru
ption of the Krakatau was the Dutch "Java Bode" on 27 August 1883, one day after the disaster. Later the English journal "The Illustrated London News" (08.09.1883) published some drawings of the region before the devastation.

Nearly 90 years later, it was this idea of improved communication that between 1970 and 1990 forced the development of the first computer networks. In the last 20 years the original internet has profoundly changed. New and fast data lines have triggered an unprecedented interactivity, most sites include text, images, animations and videos, also the common WYSIWG -editors enable even noobs like me to create quick and cheap an online presence in form of a Blog and related posts.

The online blogs, the motivation behind it and the scientific "quality" a
re as diverse as diverse are the blogger personalities. Nevertheless most science dedicated posts are of significant quality, often more technical than you might read in a common newspaper and mainstream media (MSM). General science journalism boomed in the 1980s and early 1990s, even if it was considered by the majority of editors simply as "appendix" - useful, but no necessarily profitable.

Fig.4. Even in the middle of nowhere, in this case the village of Ujiji in Africa, information is all, Stanley (on the left) brought Livingstone, for 5 years isolated from the "civilized" world, journals and the last political developments (figure from RADEMACHER 2003).

Internet seemed a valuable and cheap alternative to the print media. The last years have so seen emerge even a discussion if blogs can surpass journalism in science divulgation. After a survey by the journal Nature between 2004 and 2009 the percentage of journalists that used blogs as a source for science related stories grow from 18 to 63%, in the same time the number of blogging journalists raised from 4 to 32% (BRUMFIELD 2009).
One of the obvious advantages of blogs is their short reaction time, the earthquake on Haiti, the eruption of the Icelandic Volcano or the landslide dam triggered an immediate and long lasting response of various bloggers.

Although science blogging did not start off as a business, there were and are attempts to make it one. Since 2006, the publisher of Seed, a magazine about science, has gathered more than 100 science blogs on a wide range of topics, paying bloggers, who where anyway completely free in their decision what to post, and earning profit by advertisement on the blog-pages. This new economy has experienced a serious setback by the meanwhile so denoted "Pepsi-Gate".

Despite this case, professional blogs by professional authors and book projects (proving that books and internet to not exclude each other) are quite a minority, at least from the survey conducted on the geoblogosphere it is clear that most blogs are managed by single or a very small number of individual(s), mostly for private reasons, to share experience or photos, to present new papers or research they came along or to have simply fun.

This blogiversity and the democracy of blogs are their greatest strength, and their greatest weakness. It is often criticized by scientific journals that the source of information's on blogs are elusive, and the presented facts not controlled - everybody can affirm everything. Most bloggers agree that blogs are not the medium for peer-reviewed research, but a possibility to reach in an easy way a lot of people, to discuss science in an informal gathering.
And this personal component may is one factor that until now has limited the traditional professional scientist and institutions to blog:
"Most scientists are not comfortable with blogging," says Myers. "The training we get is to separate opinion from evidence, but blogs blur the difference." (from an interview by BONETTA 2007).
I think it's no coincidence that most blogs and bloggers came from the U.S., here institutions and academia are less affected by obsolete traditions, the performance of teachers and disciples is more appreciated and evaluated and so new approaches are encouraged, not rejected.

Considering this perspective, not much has changed since the days of von Humboldt, nearly 200 years ago.

Lectures, letters and blogs are only tools, and it depends of us what we make of them.


BONETTA, L. (2007): Leading Edge Analysis - Scientists Enter the Blogosphere. Cell 129: 443-445
BRUMFIELD, G. (2009): Science journalism: Supplanting the old media? Nature Vol.458: 274-277

GLAUBRECHT, M. (2008): Alfred Russel Wallace und der Wettlauf um die Evolutionstheorie Teil 2 . Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau 61(8): 403-408
KOUPER, I. (2010): Science blogs and public engagement with science: practices, challenges, and opportunities. Journal of Science Communication - Special Issue on peer-to-peer and user-led science 9(1): 1-9

OLIVEIRA, J.G. & BARABASI, A.-L. (2005): Darwin and Einstein correspondence patterns. Nature Vol 437: 1251
RADEMACHER, C. (2003): Livingstone. GEO 06: 84-100

THACKRAY, J. C. (1998): Charles Lyell and the Geological Society. In: BLUNDELL, D. J. & SCOTT, A. C. (eds) Lyell: the Past is the Key to the Present. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 143: 17-20

Worldwide tree-heights map

Michael Lefsky of the Colorado State University has presented the first worldwide map of tree-heights. For this map the data collected by the satellites "ICESat", "Terra" and "Aqua" were combined. ICESat can measure directly the height with his incorporated LIDAR-instruments; these data were then completed with images obtained by "Terra" and "Aqua".

Fig.1. The tree heights map, blue show high trees, red low trees.

According to the map the highest trees can found on the pacific coast of California, with the species Sequoia sempervirens reaching in average a height of 40 to 70m, the forests with the most big trees are located in South-East Asia.

Fig.2. Sequoia sempervirens in the Muir Woods National Monument, California.

Regions in arctic zones, tundra and taiga and areas strongly influenced by humans have on average smaller trees, in the last case a consequence of the centenary logging and clearing of forests.

Online Ressources:

VOILAND, A. (20-07.2010): First-of-its-Kind Map Depicts Global Forest Heights. NASA's Earth Science News Team. Accessed 23.07.2010

A really bad movie: Yor - The Hunter from the Future (1983)

It's Friday, and what better way to pass a rainy evening by watching a good movie (or not?).

Yor: "The blood of your enemies makes you stronger! Drink!"
Pak: "Urgh...I'd rather stay weak!"

YOR - The Hunter from the Future (1983) is a film produced by the Italian company "Daimant Film" under the supervision of the noted B-movie director Antonio Margheriti, and Reb Brown plays the main character called Yor "He's the man!"

Of all the trash films, this masterpiece is surely one of the best of the worst examples, as the film appears in the list of the 100 most terrible movies according to John Wilson, founder of the prestigious "Golden Rapsberry" price.
Here every detail is designed to be trash: the plot is simply stupid, the characters are childish, the costumes are ridiculous, the special effects are pathetic and even the soundtrack (mp3 3.4 MB), contributed by Guido & Maurizio De Angeli, has a trashy charm.

(Warning SPOILER ALERT!) The film begins introducing, as the music suggest, Yor, running through the desert of the Turkish region of Kappadokia. The introduction song can also be regarded as the summary of the entire intellectual content of the movie: Yor is a blond caveman who main occupations are fighting dinosaurs, armed only with a stone axe, and a Dimetrodon (notable the only starring in a movie as I know), killing people and destroying civilizations.
But back to the plot: Yor encounters two other cavemen, the standard caveman Pak and the beautiful Kala, busy hunting a prehistoric pig (with spines attached to it with glue). Suddenly a kind of triceratops attacks, which is promptly killed by Yor, a scene with lots and lots of blood and gore. The combat ends appropriately by Yor drinking the blood of his prey.

Fig.1. No comment.

To thank Yor, Kala and Pak invite him in their village, which is promptly attacked by blue-skinned ape-men trying to kidnap all the women. Yor sets off to find the hideout of the aggressors and after a short encounter with some mummies discovers the cave. The problem now remains how to reach the cave entrance at the top of a cliff. No problem for Yor - with bow and arrow he kills quickly a pterosaur -thing or giant bat (I'm not sure what it should represent), whose carcass is used by Yor to glide into the cave, kicking the guard unconscious, and with the background choir singing "He's the man!" (Seeing is believing mpg 2.5 MB).

Fig.2. Did they even try?

Yor finally enters the cave, kills everyone and everything and returns to a fishing village (after saving his beloved Kala), where he suddenly is told about the secret of a mysterious island in the middle of the sea.
Here the plot changes completely; the peaceful village is suddenly attacked by death -rays. Yor gets onto the island, ruled by a mad dictator with an army of robots that need the genetic material of Yor to procreate. Here he will solve the terrible secret of the resurrected dinosaurs and creatures of the Permian age, and the secret that brought to life the mutant ape-men...

If the plot seems even more confusing and inconsistent as by "Lost", the explanation is simple, the original adventures of Yor were a miniseries of four episodes produced for the Italian television. After the first broadcast the series has been cut into a 90 minute long film for the big screen. There is no considerable difference regarding the plot between the TV version (extremely rare to find on videotape) and the more common movie version - both are illogical, but in the uncensored version the fights between Yor and the prehistoric creatures last longer and there is even more blood and gore!

Conclusion, the film deserves the "fame" that he has won since his "birth" and the end is (Spoiler Warning!) , naturally, trash:

"Yor returns to the primitive tribes on the mainland. He is determined to use his superior knowledge to prevent them making the same mistakes as their forefathers. Will he succeed?"

YOR - The Hunter from the Future (TV Trailer, 1983)

Online Ressources:

Images found on Cool Cinema Trash
The video and music can be also downloaded on BadMovies