Thursday, October 10, 2013

The narrow gate

Visited my daughter Mo in New York last weekend. She gave us a tour of the core repository at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades, New York. We had a tour many years ago when Mo was a graduate student. Now she is Director of the Core Repository and a Research Professor at Columbia. It's an impressive collection: many thousands of long sediment cores from the world's ocean floors. You can see a video about the repository here.

While we were there, Mo pulled out a representative core (in three pieces) drilled up from the floor of the Mediterranean. She talked us down through tens of thousands of years of sediments, reading the story of climate in the Mediterranean Basin, a story that included a massive volcanic eruption. It's all there in the muck, written as plain as day, millions of years of Earth history, And it's a consistent story, from ocean to ocean, age-calibrated in a dozen ways. And here, right here near the top of the column of sediments, is the putative Garden of Eden. All the rest, those thousands of cores reaching down into the past, are dismissed by nearly half of Americans as -- as what? A scientific hoax? A planet created by God with millions of years of sediments already in place?

Of course, learning to read the sediments -- geology, mineralology, chemistry, isotopic ratios, fossils, magnetism etc. -- Is more difficult than reading Genesis. Be grateful for the bright young graduate students who come to Lamont to read in the Earth's own library.

(Jodi and Steve in the photo with Mo.)