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Geophysicist not really "into" rocks

  1. Jul 5, 2014 #1
    Is it weird for a geophysicist not to be interested in rocks? I'm a rising senior in physics who is planning to go to grad school for seismology. I'm fascinated by the large scale tectonic questions about the earth and feel that seismology is the best approach for exploring most tectonic questions. Unfortunately, I just can't get excited about rocks for the sake of rocks...

    I'm currently doing a solid earth REU and I'm the only physics major. All of the other students are geo and obsessed with rocks. Everywhere we go, they are always identifying rocks and collecting samples. I basically know nothing about rocks beyond what I learned in my intro physical geology course and don't really desire to learn more. I've also taken a planetary geology and plate tectonics course and absolutely loved the tectonics class. In fact, I feel that I have a better grasp on tectonic processes than some of the geo students but not even comparable when it comes to rocks/minerals in hand. Is this normal for a geophysicist? Will I gradually become more interested in rocks in grad school after taking metamorphic/igneous petrology, mineralogy, structural geology, etc? I'm hoping that my lack of interest is due to my lack of familiarity with rocks.
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  3. Jul 6, 2014 #2
    No - people in geophysics will come from different backgrounds. I can't really tell you if you will develop an interest in rocks later on. I spent 1.5 years doing research on volcanoes and I did learn some stuff about rocks during this time. There was some stuff I thought was neat, but I didn't become a massive fan of rocks. :P
  4. Jul 6, 2014 #3


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    You reminded me of a scene from "What's up Doc?", I looked it up but when you can't see the actors it doesn't come across so well in print.
    " HOWARD: No, my igneous rocks; I hope they're not broken! CABBIE: I know how you feel, Mister. I hate it when my igneous rocks are even touched! (full quote)"
  5. Jul 6, 2014 #4


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    Don't let those stamp collectors put you down with their pseudo-knowledge. You're a Physicist. Supreme High Commander of Nature and it's governing dynamics. These "rocks" are merely the result of magnificent physical processes that they can't begin to wrap their tiny little brains around.


    But seriously, those geo majors you've described sound pretty silly the way they behave. And plus, as a physics major I'd bet you're not expected to have the same knowledge of rocks. You're there for different reasons.
  6. Jul 6, 2014 #5
    That is good to hear. Hopefully I will pick more up as I go along with research.

    Those are the conversations that I have been hearing for the past 8 weeks!

    That's the physicist mentality that I'm trying not to have :P
    That's the thing. I can't figure out what is so fascinating to them. Every time they show me a rock I ask how and at what depth it was formed because that is the most interesting thing to me, but they can almost never answer. They can name every mineral that makes up the rock though...

    That's kind of what I'm banking on for graduate school. Lower expectations when it comes to the rocks.
  7. Jul 6, 2014 #6


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    Why not catch up with some geology knowledge? I laughed out loud when I read the title. I'm not sure that's the impression you want to make when you meet someone geo-related and they start yammering about rocks.
  8. Jul 6, 2014 #7
    That is what I will have to do in graduate school, I'm sure; Catch up. But to what extent? How much does a seismologist really need to know about rocks?

    That's partly why I'm a little worried... I have very little desire to learn about rocks/minerals without some type of motivation. For example, I know something about olivine, a mineral prevalent in the mantle, because it causes seismic wave anisotropy providing a way to measure strain beneath the Earth's surface. Whereas the geologists seem to have a passion for rocks for their own sake. Where does the motivation come from if not to learn something about the physical processes that formed the rocks?
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