Category: Uncategorized

Diving the tropical reefs of Winterfell – 300 Mya

Westeros 300 million years ago. Click to enlarge.

Long ago, the territory surrounding Winterfell was not prowled by direwolves, but rather by corals, fish, and perhaps the occasional reef shark.  While we know that Winterfell’s protective walls are made of granite, the grey hue of the majority of the fortress suggests a different building material, which we interpret as limestone (a common building material during the middle ages on Earth).  And limestone, if you have not already surmised, is formed by large “carbonate factories” typically associated with shallow seas and reefs.  The evidence for limestone is indirect but compelling, and requires a step back to survey the territory surrounding Winterfell more broadly.  To the southwest of Winterfell lie the Flint Cliffs (which we choose to interpret literally).  Flint is a form of chert, a siliceous rock that forms on the shallow ocean floor.  The proximity of shallow ocean rocks to Winterfell suggests an oceanic origin to the stones used to build the castle.  The presence of caves used as crypts by the family Stark suggests karst topography, which is indicative of limestone and the “swiss cheese” geology associated with subsurface water eroding complex cave systems (think, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, USA, or Waitomo Caves in New Zealand).  The rapidly flowing subsurface water would also help explain the Green Fork River, originating near The Twins.  The rivers that pass through The Twins are somewhat problematic given that the vast majority (~99.9%) of rivers on Earth begin in areas of higher elevation (like mountain ranges).  Yet these rivers seem to simply appear, much like the Warlocks.  We propose that these rivers originate from complex subsurface water pathways making their way to the surface through the chert and limestone, emerging as springs.  Again, while indirect, the combined observations of grey building stones, flint, karst topography, and the Green Fork River strongly suggest that Winterfell sits near large limestone deposits.

Life in a carbonate factory. The hours kind of suck, but you do get to work outside. (via Wikipedia Commons)

Dating the Winterfell limestone is more complicated, but not impossible.  Reefs on Earth only appear within a narrow range of latitudes, approximately 30° north to 30° south (at least in the modern climate – during warmer greenhouse conditions, the latitudinal range is much broader).  Currently, Winterfell sits at near 60° north, far too cold for coral reefs, even during greenhouse conditions.  This suggests that Winterfell, and indeed the entire continent, has moved over the eons, further supporting our early assertion of active tectonics.  Earlier, we concluded that the limestone was likely uplifted during the Moon Orogeny, 80-100 Mya.  Therefore, we know that the Winterfell limestone is older than 100 million years. More exact dating requires comparison to similar rocks on Earth: the Carboniferous Limestone of Great Britain and Ireland.  The Carboniferous Limestone currently sits at similar (within 5°) latitude as Winterfell, and like the Winterfell Limestone, formed as ocean sediments much closer to the equator.  The Carboniferous Limestone is approximately 350 million years old, and required an elongate and curvilinear journey to move from the tropics to its current location.  We assume a more direct path for the Winterfell Limestone, and therefore place an approximate age of 280-300 million years.

(previous) <– As the Moon rose, so did the Lannisters

(next) The sand ran red –>

The future of cars

Today, we discuss the future of the automobile and all of its possibilities with Sven Beiker.  Sven discusses car specialization and why the “Swiss Army Knife” car just won’t work.  We also talk about changing driver patterns, connecting your car to the internet, how changing cars might change our roads as well, along with a brief exploration of how the idea of our cars as a symbol of freedom might be shifting.  We also take a second to figure out how to say the plural of the Toyota Prius.


Download Episode (Right-click and select Save Link As…) READ MORE

Science…Sort Of & GenAnthro: Where the wild things aren’t

On today’s episode, our friend and co-creator of the wildly popular Science…Sort Of podcast, Ryan Haupt, joins us to talk about Pleistocene re-wilding.  If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry!  Follow along as we try to figure it out too.  Along the way, Ryan touches on the science of Iron Man, African elephant birth control, running zebras in the Kentucky Derby, and the worst safari ever.


Download Episode (Right-click and select Save Link As…) READ MORE

How farmers are adapting to climate change

Fran Moore talks about various ways that farmers in Europe have adjusted to higher temperatures in recent years, and sheds light on the difficulty of singling out the effect of climate change on farmers’ decision-making. She also discusses how differently climate scientists and economists view adaptation. For her masters research, Fran studied the way climate adaptation policy is put together during international negotiations, and she explains why there isn’t a clear definition of what counts as “successful” adaptation.


Download Episode (Right-click and select Save Link As…) READ MORE

Hanging out in a rambunctious garden

Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, believes that in the Anthropocene we should widen our repertoire of conservation strategies, rather than exclusively relying on traditional conservation methods that “look backwards.” Emma also shares how her own relationship with nature has changed over the years, and suggests that we can learn to appreciate all forms of nature, from weeds growing in sidewalk cracks to grand mountain landscapes.


Download Episode (Right-click and select Save Link As…) READ MORE

Because It’s There: Exploration in the Anthropocene [part 2]

In the second half of his interview with Gen Anthro, Hari Mix talks about his experiences this past spring in the Himalaya and his summit bid for Lhotse without oxygen. He also sheds some light on the costs of mountaineering, respecting weather conditions on the mountain, and what he learned about his own physical ability and about the way rescue decisions are made on mountains. Finally, Hari shares some of his ideas for potential directions he might take his mountaineering in the future. If you missed the first half of Hari’s interview, you can listen to it here.


Download Episode (Right-click and select Save Link As…) READ MORE

Because It’s There: Exploration in the Anthropocene [part 1]

Today’s episode is the first part of Generation Anthropocene’s interview with Hari Mix, a mountaineer, PhD student, and friend of the producers. In this first half, Hari talks about how he got into mountaineering, and some of his experiences climbing mountains in Colorado and Kazakhstan. He also reflects on a close shave with a collapsed ice bridge in Tajikistan, and on the role of risk in mountaineering. Check back on Friday for part 2 of Hari’s interview, in which he talks about his experience climbing Mt. Lhotse this past spring.


Download Episode (Right-click and select Save Link As…) READ MORE

Media, nature, and the zeitgeist

Today, we take a little bit of break from talking about science to instead talk about how media covers science, particularly the reporting on genetically modified organisms (more commonly called GMOs).  It’s a contentious subject, and Keith talks about why people tend to take it so personally, when he got interested in GMOs, and what caused him to become the “crop cop.”


Download Episode (Right-click and select Save Link As…) READ MORE

San Francisco, the island within an island

Rebecca Solnit, a writer and native of the Bay Area, provides a brief history of San Francisco’s transformation from a working class port city to a center of technology after the dot com boom. We discuss foodies, Silicon Valley tech culture, the spike in real estate prices, and the gentrification of the city. Rebecca explains her work with historic maps that depict California as an island, and how that metaphor applies today beyond cartography as California moves from the edge to the center of the world.


Download Episode (Right-click and and select Save Link As…) READ MORE