Submitting assumptions for meaningful answers

The best talk of the conference was Ran Bachrach's on seismics for unconventionals. He enthusiastically described the physics to his spectators with conviction and duty, and explained why they should care. Isotropic, VTI, and orthorhombic media anisotropy models are used not because they are right, but because they are simple. If the assumptions you bring to the problem are reasonable, the answers can be considered meaningful. If you haven't considered and tested your assumptions, you haven't subscribed to reason. In a sense, you haven't held up your end of the bargain, and there will never be agreement. This talk should be mandatory viewing for anyone working seismic for unconventionals. Advocacy for reason. Too bad it wasn't recorded.

I am both privileged and obliged to celebrate such nuggets of awesomeness. That's a big reason why I blog. And on the contrary, we should call out crappy talks when we see them to raise the bar. Indeed, to quote Zen Faulkes, "...we should start creating more of an expectation that scientific talks will be reviewed and critiqued. And names will be named."

The talk from HEF Petrophysical entitled, Towards modelling three-dimensional oil sands permeability distribution using borehole image logs, drew me in. I was curious enough to show up. But as the talk unfolded, my curiosity was left unsatisfied. A potentially interesting workflow of transforming high-resolution resistivity measurements into flow permeability was obfuscated with a pointless upscaling step. The meat of anything like this is in the transform itself, but it was missing. It's also the most trivial bit; just cross-plot one property with another and show people. So I am guessing they didn't have any permeability data. If that was the case, how can you stand up and talk about permeability? It was a sandwich without the filling. The essential thing that defines a piece of work is the creativity. The thing you add that wasn't there before. I was disappointed. Disappointed that it was accepted, and that no one else piped up. 

I will paraphrase a conversation I had with Ran at the coffee break: Some are not aware, some choose to ignore, and some forget that works of geoscience are problems of extreme complexity. In fact, the only way we can cope with complexity is to make certain assumptions that make our problem solvable. If all you do is say "here is my solution", you suck. But if instead you ask, "Have I convinced you that my assumptions are reasonable?", it entirely changes the conversation. It entirely changes the specialist's role. Only when you understand your assumptions can we talk about whether the results are reasonable. 

Have you ever felt conflicted on whether or not you should say something?