Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dispatches From The Crust

I recently mentioned that I have moments of doubt while writing. Not many, and not often, but more often than I used to. Some of the stuff I've learned hasn't stayed learnt.  I wrote a sentence the other day with about fourteen more clauses in it than anyone really needs, and by the time I got to the end of it I was just shoveling in pronouns with no confidence that they were the right ones. In those cases, I get a machete and whack at my sentence until I get control of it again. But it would be nice to be certain. It's humbling to feel at sea in my native language.

It's not just language, though. Thanks to the social media, I'm much more likely to weigh in on other issues. I'll stick my opinions out there like I'm planting flags on conquered territory--fervently, righteously. There are so many people who need correcting, and I'm just the one to do it. It's easy to let fly without lining up your shot first.

There are times I'm sure I'm right but can't say exactly why, and there are times I'm not sure I'm right at all. Humility can be a good thing. It's a big wide world out there, and I haven't learned everything about it yet, and unlike some people I won't name but didn't vote for, I know how complicated it actually is.

So I came across a thread about all the natural disasters that are happening all over the world, and someone said climate change was exacerbating the earthquakes, and as much as I like to sound the alarm about global warming, I don't like to attribute things to it promiscuously. There's enough misinformation out there already, and I didn't want to see someone set up a straw man that some Denier could knock down. Far be it from me to suggest we're not screwed, I typed, or words to that effect, but that's not how earthquakes work.

Because, you know, I'm all science-y like that.

Tectonic events are shaped by things that are beneath us, not to put on airs. Heat within the earth, friction and pressure, that sort of thing. This guy contending that we're getting earthquakes now because the crust is heating up? I suspected him of also having the inside skinny on The Rapture. So I just made my comment and flang it out there.

And there it dangled, nice and slow, so I could get a look at it. And doubt crept in. Was there something I hadn't read about? Some new discoveries? Did I go off half-cocked? And what does half-cocked mean, anyway? How much else don't I know?

Lots, as it turns out! Yes indeedy, score another one for humility--global warming is affecting earthquakes. It's not going to create one that isn't all cooked up and ready to go, but it can trigger them in a number of ways. A fault ready to slip can go off if the weight of the atmosphere eases up on it because of a good low-pressure typhoon. Rainfall can result in landslides massive enough to release strain on a fault. Ice sheets maintain a load on the crust, but when they melt, the crust levitates. The surface of Iceland is rising fast as glaciers disappear, and it's expected this release of tension will pull in more magma below. Et cetera, et cetera.

I lie in bed and think about it. Do I believe it? Our cat Tater weighs a thousand pounds when she lies on my feet. I'm trapped. There will be no rolling over until she gets up. And when she finally does, limbs are gonna fly.

I believe it.

34 comments:

  1. One of the most difficult things to come to grips with is The End. That someday, whether alone or collectively, we will be lying on a slab with a tag around our toe. Or at the bottom of a crevasse that has just opened up in front of us. Or in a car wreck that has been caused by someone who just can't get the fuck off his smartphone. But someday, we will be dead. I fervently hope that we will not all go together in one big blast of atomic power. I'd like to think that there are creatures who will survive us and evolve to take our place on this planet. God knows we've fucked it up. But I don't understand how the human race can go on much longer at this point. I hope I'm wrong.

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    1. You reminded me, I want to add "Love's Executioner" to my request list at the library. While there's still time.

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    2. Well shoot, now I don't want to read "Love's Executioner." I want to read P. G. Wodehouse instead. Mimianderly, I think you're right. As far as coming to grips with one's individual demise (as opposed to the whole biosphere's), it's getting easier all the time. I think you sort of get some practice runs at it.

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  2. My dad is a physicist and my brothers and sisters and I often play a game we call "Put it to Pop." He's almost 91 and still sharp. Recently my husband bought honeybees from out of state. They came in a 3-lb. screen-sided box. When they arrived,some were clinging to the sides, some were resting on the bottom, some were deceased, and many, many were flying around buzzing like mad inside the cage. I had to Put it to Pop: how do they get all the bees to stop flying around and settle down so they can weigh the package? He enjoyed this question a lot, as he patiently explained that they weigh the same whether they are flying around inside the box or clinging to the sides. How can that be? I wondered. The daughter of a physicist should know better. The downward pressure of the air beneath their wings is equal to the weight of their little bodies if they were all sitting quietly in a pile. Oh. Physics. Live and learn. Then try to remember.

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    1. Why, Murr, it seems you have a beekeeping brigade behind you!

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    2. Nothing but the finest here. That's the buzz, anyway.

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  3. Those who agree with you read your comment and feel good about themselves because someone else believes what they believe. Those who disagree with you feel good about themselves because you're one more person to whom they can feel superior. Your opinion matters!

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    Replies
    1. I never thought of it that way!!

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    2. Or, to put it another way, my opinion doesn't matter!

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  4. Think I'll join the movement to stamp out Plate Tectonics. Seems like it's out of control and needs to be banned. Maybe I can join a march for that.

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  5. I love when you use 'flang' in a sentence.

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    Replies
    1. I believe you has mentioned that before.

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  6. Humility is a good thing. In very small doses.

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    1. You get too much humility, you get kinda proud.

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  7. This is one of the most cogent, accurate and understanding posts I've ever read. You are exceptional. Brava!

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  8. Funny you should mention that. Not five minutes before I scrolled onto your post, I read an article speculating on what would happen if a hurricane hit an erupting volcano. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/10/hurricane-vs-volcano/543198/

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  9. I still think an airdrop of latex would go some way to reducing one of the major problems.

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    1. It took me a minute to properly visualize, but I see what you mean, and salute you, madam.

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  10. I'm a firm believer, or maybe not so firm, that the new-fangled "fracking" has a lot to do with what's going on under us. You can't just willy-nilly blow holes in strata millions of years old and not get unexpected reactions somewhere.

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    1. I think you have plenty of science on your side, although I'm not up on it. That might be shallower stuff? Still. There's nothing about fracking that makes any sense except that it's making coal obsolete. That is something, but it's not near enough.

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  11. I'm using "flang" every day. Loved this post as I do all your writing.

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    1. I don't think either "flang" or "flappety" can be overused.

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  12. I love this Murr, and I think that acquiring more and more humility and self-doubt as to what we know to be true is part of becoming more mature, if not all doddery and seniory. This is a fine piece of figgerin' and research here, disguised as a mea culpa. Fracking they're doing here and in W. PA is more than a mile down, and it causes many, many small earthquakes. People who live atop the much-perforated, much-prodded Marcellus Shale know this. I wake up every morning to the growling noise of industry where once there were only birds and crickets. I'm waiting for the tremors to come. Both kinds. And less sure of what I knew to be true, every dang day. xoxoxj

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    1. Jeez, I didn't realize it was that deep. What are they THINKING? By the way, one can be more mature and doddery at one and the same time.

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  13. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, "Where are we going? And why are we in this hand basket?"

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    1. My second-favorite bumpersticker, after "Don't believe everything you think." Which is appropriate for this post.

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  14. "How much ELSE don't I know?" I have had too many occasions to ask myself this question the last few years. And the more I learn, the more I ask it.

    My husband is one of those exasperating people who is always right. When we were "discussing" (ahem) this fact one day, he told me his secret: only say what you absolutely know to be true. If you aren't absolutely sure, keep your thoughts to yourself!

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  15. Ditto to all these great comments. And it's not fracking per se, but the high pressure injection of wastewater (from fracking) into rock strata that aren't supposed to have it there, and they slip. Oklahoma has experienced hundreds of earthquakes because of this.

    My favorite lines: "...as much as I like to sound the alarm about global warming, I don't like to attribute things to it promiscuously... Because, you know, I'm all science-y like that."

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