Friday, May 30, 2014

Geophysics Field Camp Week Three: I Like Processing Things

Out in the field, I had geophysics dreams.

I was walking along the survey line taking measurements with the magnetometer. I wasn’t the only one who had geophysics dreams out in the field. Our professor and field camp coordinator Andrei (more affectionately known as "Swiddy" or "Dr. Drei.") said he had dreams about driving around in his truck, making sure everything was going well. My classmate Roy said he had a dream about a geophysics survey as well.

Back in Golden in front of a computer, the hours are less intense than when we were out in the field. Geophysics doesn’t take over our entire lives…well, at least we get weekends back here.

But geophysics still takes over my dreams.

I’m part of a two-woman team that is processing the gravity data from our geophysical surveys down near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Gravity processing is fairly uncomplicated, and as a result, we have been able to get things done relatively quickly. First we had to apply some corrections to the data, since gravity measurements are sensitive to elevation, latitude, and terrain/topography. Then came the fun part of creating a model for our data. This consists of drawing a geologic model of the subsurface in a program. The program tells us how well our model matches our data, and we tweak the model to reduce error but at the same time to agree with the interpretations that our classmates in other methods are producing. The past couple of days have mostly consisted of forward modeling for us.

Our working forward model of the subsurface created in GMSYS. It fits the data pretty well.

All this gravity gets into my head I think, because I had a dream that the Gravity and Magnetics team was racing to get everything done before everyone else. Which is weird because in real life, we really don’t need to race.

At any rate, I'm enjoying the computers part much more than the exhausting part. It’s not as fun in some ways of course, but I love the fact that my team is on track and that we don’t have to do geophysics stuff from 7AM until 6PM anymore. Our classmates in charge play funky music. Sometimes there are donuts. One day I ate two donuts. It's a good environment for geophysics. 

Out in the field, I would shovel my lunch into my mouth and be done in ten minutes.
Back in the lab, I go make myself a nice sandwich and savor the hour lunch break we get to take.
Out in the field, time would fly in the flurry of activity that geophysical surveying is.
Back in the lab, it’s more relaxed, at least in this third week. We get time to process processing.

I like processing things…I like being able to think about something and understand it. I have also had time to mentally process the field part of field camp and catch up on sleep. As one of my friends in the GP class of 2014 said, "It's the most fun you never want to have again." So true. 

I had another dream. I was helping the EM team (electromagnetics) write their report while they did some processing stuff. That dream was way too realistic, because it ended up happening. To add to the list of realistic geophysics dreams, Roy said he had a dream that he was processing the EM data. This also continued to happen. My classmate Tiffany had a dream about a bear, which makes sense because we saw a bear almost every day out in the field, but the part where the bear attacked did not come true.

I wonder if I will ever have ordinary dreams again, such as the ones I used to have a a kid; dreams containing tornadoes, tsunamis, and giant earthquakes that are geophysically inaccurate. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Geophysics Field Camp Week One

Geophysics knows no weekends.

I completely forgot it was Saturday in the midst of surveying. We're working for eleven days straight of data collecting without weekends. Whatever. One week down, one more week in the field, and then two more back in Golden. It's gone by pretty quickly, mostly because we're constantly busy. I'm also extremely exhausted. My feet hurt. Quiet or alone time is hard to come by. The food's okay.

Alright. I think I have my complaining out of my system. Field Camp is mostly cool, a lot of hard work, and some parts awesomely weird. I wake up at 6:15AM angry at the world and myself for not getting to bed sooner. When I have my coffee at 7, I'm extremely happy and cheerful, sitting down at our morning meeting saying, "Good morning, Terry! Good morning, Andrei! How's it going, class mates?" and such. Depending on what's being talked about, around 8 I feel meh. Then we get out in the field after driving for a half hour, and then I'm like, "Yay, Geophysics!" until 4. Then we go back to our meeting place and then I start getting frustrated, especially if the data takes a long time to download. I become extremely hungry and moody until 6, and then I'm happy but exhausted. At around 9 I stop being tired and then don't get to bed around 11 or 11:30 because I don't think I need to. But then I wake up at 6:15 again the next day.

Field camp is also awesomely weird. Our class is weird. Our professors know so, even if they are weird themselves with their own quirks. Geophysics people in general have this awesome weirdness about them. We're the weirdest thing to happen to the small town of Pagosa Springs in...well, a year.

I hope to blog every week, but here are a few quotes from last week so far. I have been taking notes in my field notebook, but the TA didn't give it back to me tonight.

"Last one in the vans is a geologist!"

"There are more buttons in this truck than the MT equipment!" Andrei

"Do these trucks automatically downshift? Because mine just did." - Andrei

"Look! Geology IS useful!" - Batzle, after propping a door with a rock.

"Geophysics girls get frisky." Craig the TA, who might have been joking around.

"That DC inversion was beautiful." "And it's not even smoothed yet, just raw beauty." "No makeup and still a ten."

"Geophysicist uses's not very effective." Roy

"I'd rather grades you all's tests than listen to Rod Stewart." Rich, who hates grading exams

"We can fill up at the Flowing Well." - Shane, on this oil seep in a field (we almost ran out of gas).

But yeah. The highlights of my day include hanging out with professors on the line, in the car, and elsewhere, watching a pickup truck accidentally roll into our headquarters building, getting malts at the malt shoppe while the boys got girly temporary tattoos, having way too much fun on the walkie talkies, getting called an idiot after I asked my professor Rich to (it's an honor, believe me), having Dr. Bob call our geologic cross section "elegant", our department head's sense of humor, and joking around with the TAs.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday left for data acquisition. I will make it to the weekend after the longest week of my life.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Thoughts Running Through My Head During the Continuum Mechanics Final

Jeff, our professor, begins passing our tests out. Gosh, Jeff. What the heck, this test is huge! There are so many words! Uhh..let's see, do I have an equation for this problem? No? Crap crap crap crap crap. Test: "What is the word for the temperature gradient in the mantle?" Hot? Uhh...let's look at the quantitative stuff.  Better plug some numbers into my calculator and pretend I know what I'm doing.  I have literally never seen this type of problem before. Maybe I can figure it out. My brain hurts. Let's write down an equation and move on to the next problem. Test: "Explain in words..." No words, just math--wait I can't even do that so never mind. 

Well, it's been an hour and I'm getting nowhere. I'm kind of hungry. I wonder if everyone else thinks this test is terrible too. Emily sure is writing down a lot of stuff. Hmm, I bet Jeff thinks I'm stupid. Maybe taking his Planetary Geophysics class next Fall isn't a good idea for me. Hmm. Jeff: "One hour and 27 cupcakes left." Jake gets up. "Jake can you grab me a cupcake too?" I ask. "Thanks." Stuffing my face is the only good thing about this test right now. I hope I can still get into grad school after this test. Why am I in Geophysics again? Is it too late to switch majors? Yeah, it's pretty late. Maybe I should become a writer.  I bet English majors can BS their entire tests. I bet they hardly ever have moments where they are thinking, "I have no idea what to do right now and we never learned this before!" Maybe if I write an essay or story on this test, Jeff will be appeased. I'm getting really hungry now. Only had a sip of coffee for breakfast. 

Dimensional analysis...wait, okay so Pascals are Newtons over meters squared. But what's a Newton again? Oh God, oh God, I can't believe I forgot what a Newton is. How the heck am I supposed to figure this out?? I should have written it down on my equation sheet, dang it. [a few minutes later] Oh! I can just do F=ma. Bam! Better check and make sure...three times. I'm getting really hungry now. I wonder if people will want to go out to eat. BUZZZZZ. Oh crap, there's the alarm again. We have 25 minutes. In just 25 minutes, it'll all be over!! Maybe I should just turn in my test now...naw, I better battle it out. I wonder if I'll get partial credit if I write "42" on everything? BUZZZZ. Okay, fifteen more minutes. Better write down any relevant equations. Maybe I should write "I'm sorry" on the test? Why, Jeff, why? 

Jeff: "Alright, time to turn in your tests." It's all's finally all over!