Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The Geology of Georgia - Part Whatever of a Very Occasional Series

Zits by Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman (King Features Syndicate)
While the science of geology has relentlessly made new discoveries and breakthroughs, from plate tectonics to mass extinctions to evidence of ancient climate change, the fundamental concepts that geologists use for these discoveries, such as uniformitarianism (what's happens in the present, like lakes slowly filling up with silt, also happened in the past) and superposition (lower layers of rock are older than the ones above them), have been accepted and remained relatively static since at least the late 19th Century.

So it's not too often that we get new terms in geology that describe the layers of rock (strata) that are subject to uniformitarianism and superposition.  So it's significant, at least within the somewhat insular world of the geoscience community, that a new term has just been proposed - the xenoconformity.

If I've got it right (and chances are good that I don't), a xenoconformity is an interval in the rock strata that represents a fundamental, abrupt, and persistent change in the environmental conditions in which the strata were deposited.

As an example, consider that sediment that was filling the lake.  Imagine that as the layers of sediment were deposited on the lake floor, sulfur from a nearby volcanic eruption acidified the lake water causing the extinction of the fish within.  In this example, the lower layers of sediment would have lots of fish bones (fossils) and the usual minerals that form in normal pH conditions, while the upper layers of sediment would be devoid of fossilized fish and have low-pH minerals. The transition between the two sets of strata would be a xenoconformity.

For the record, the term was introduced by Alan Carroll of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the July 2017 issue of Geology (so it's pretty recent), and seconded, as it were, by Galen Halverson of McGill University in the same issue.

So if you want to appear hip, cool, and oh so au courant, especially among geologists, just casually drop the term into a conversation.  As it's always been our top priority here at Water Dissolves Water that our readers look cool, here are some examples of what you could say to get you started:
"I'm not as worried about our loss of global leadership from pulling out of the Paris Accords as I am how we will explain the inevitable xenoconformity to future generations." 
"Son, if you don't change the filter in that fish tank soon, you'll have a major xenoconformity in the bottom of the aquarium." 
"Any more bourbon in that glass of lemon juice and you won't have a whiskey sour so much as an out-of-control xenoconformity."
We think you're starting to get the hang of it, so we'll let you take if from here.  Happy geologizing!

No comments: