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If Feynman was a Geologist by Jun Cowan

  1. Oct 6, 2016 #1


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    I have found this article on the net, which is fun to read.

    At least to all who are interested in Feynman's habits and attitudes.
    In the end it is about the "current state of geology", but it can be read as a reminder on how to do science in general.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/richard-feynman-geologist-jun-cowan [Broken]

    Edit: Feel free to debate the real current state of geology.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2016 #2
    In the article posted, "I believe we geologists don’t go back to first principles enough in mining and exploration" is possibly a reflection of how things are done Down Under and in the end is NOT "about the current state of geology" as stated above. If Feynman would have become a geologist well after he established himself as a physicist, I'd like to think it was because I inspired him with my research, which he checked up on over 4 years during his visits to Stanford. Even as one of the greatest theoretical/mathematical physicists, he never lost sight of the fact that it was, say, a grain of sand that was being analyzed using laws of physics.
  4. Oct 6, 2016 #3
    I guess what I should have done was to ask just what is the current state of geology.
  5. Oct 6, 2016 #4


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    As not being into the field, my first goal was to give a read about Feynman's character since there is no day on PF he isn't mentioned somewhere. In addition I wasn't very pleased by the advertisement Cowan did on his company, which is presumably one of the reasons for his provocative slogan.

    However, you are right. The question about the current state of geology would be an interesting one. Geology is often a bit of an orphan in science. At least it has been at my university, and I remember little about it. And I have the feeling that many people are more concerned about extra-terrestrial geology than ours, which I personally find exciting: the great African rift, the fast movement of Australia, the geological consequences of fracking, burning coal mines everywhere and similar.

    Maybe you'd like to say something about it here from your perspective.

    I'll add an edit to the OP: Feel free to debate the real current state of geology.
  6. Oct 11, 2016 #5
    I stopped reading when I got to this passage: "I believe we geologists don’t go back to first principles enough in mining and exploration."

    The university I attended took a simple view on the matter, set by the Professor. (This was a time and place where there was not the plethora of Professorships within a department that seem more common today, but single all powerful czar.) One did not need to be schooled in Economic Geology. If one understood the principles of (let's call it) academic geology then one could rapidly put these into practice in the economic sphere. As a consequence there were three lectures scheduled on the subject within the body of the four year course, later cut to a single lecture, which I missed by sleeping in.

    I cannot comment, therefore, on the state of geology in the economic sphere, but such publications as I read that have a more academic bent suggest to me geology is in a pretty good place. And the fascination with extra-terrestrial geology has undoubtedly helped that by providing a broader perspective and a search for more underlying principles.

    Now I'll go back and read the rest.
  7. Oct 11, 2016 #6
    The only issue I see in the state of "geology" as I see it, involves what ophiolite stated. Academic geology at the undergraduate level needs to be taught as earth systems. When that is done, the various subdisciplines taught as discrete courses become redundant. We did have an economic geology class, as well as hydrothermal ore deposits and mineral engineering and others directly related to economic geology. It also had a strong professional M.S. program in economic geology. Not all colleges and universities can teach it all, but the students need to come out being solidly literate in "geology". Apart from that, academic geology, with diamond anvil cells, have contributed much to extra-terrestrial geology; seismological and other geophysical tools remain state of the art; and biogeochemical studies aren't lagging. This my perspective being actively involved in those areas.
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