# Woo yeah perfect: hacking in Salt Lake City

Thirty geoscientist-coders swarmed into Salt Lake City this past weekend to hack at Church & State, a co-working space in a converted church. There, we spent two days appealing to the almighty power of machine learning.

Nine teams worked on the usual rich variety of projects around the theme. Projects included AIs that pick unconformities, natural language processing to describe stratigraphy, and designing an open data platform in service of machine learning.

I'll do a run-down of the projects soon, but if you can't wait until then for my summary, you can watch the demos here; the first presentation starts at the 38 minute mark of the video. And you can check out some pictures from the event:

Pictures can say a lot but a few simple words, chosen at the right time, can speak volumes too. Shortly before we launched the demos, we asked the participants to choose words that best described how they were feeling. Here's what we got:

Each participant was able to submit three responses, and although we aren't able to tell who said what, we were able to scrape the data and look at each person's chosen triplet of words. A couple of noteworthy ones were: educated, naptimeinspired and the expressive woo, yeah, perfect. But my personal favorite, by far, has to be the combination of: dead, defeated, inspired.

The creative process can be a rollercoaster of emotions. It's not easy. It's not always comfortable. Things don't always work out. But that's entirely ok. Indeed, facing up to this discomfort, as individuals and as organizations, is a necesary step in the path to digital transformation.

Enough Zen! To all the participants who put in the hard work this weekend, and to our wonderful sponsors who brought all kinds of support, I thank you and I salute you.

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# A new blog, and a new course

There's a great new geoscience blog on the Internet — I urge you to add it to your blog-reading app or news reader or list of links or whatever it is you use to keep track of these things. It's called Geology and Python, and it contains exactly what you'd expect it to contain!

The author, Bruno Ruas de Pinho, has nine posts up so far, all excellent. The range of topics is quite broad:

In each post, Bruno takes some geoscience challenge — nothing too huge, but the problems aren't trivial either — and then methodically steps through solving the problem in Python. He's clearly got a good quantitative brain, having recently graduated in geological engineering from the Federal University of Pelotas, aka UFPel, Brazil, and he is now available for hire. (He seems to be pretty sharp, so if you're doing anything with computers and geoscience, you should snag him.)

# A new course for Calgary

We've run lots of Introduction to Python courses before, usually with the name Creative Geocomputing. Now we're adding a new dimension, combining a crash introduction to Python with a crash introduction to machine learning. It's ambitious, for sure, but the idea is not to turn you into a programmer. We aim to:

• Verse you in the basics of Python and machine learning so you can start to explore.
• Set you off with ideas and things to figure out for that pet project you've always wanted to code up.
• Introduce you to other Calgarians who love playing with code and rocks.

We do all this wielding geoscientific data — it's all well logs and maps and seismic data. There are no silly examples, and we don't shy away from so-called advanced things — what's the point in computers if you can't do some things that are really, really hard to do in your head?

### Matt Hall

Matt is a geoscientist in Nova Scotia, Canada. Founder of Agile Scientific, co-founder of The HUB South Shore. Matt is into geology, geophysics, and machine learning.

# First appearance datum at Green Point

Armed with the Geologic Field Guide of Newfoundland, last week I ventured to one of the most intensely scrutinized outcrops in the world. Green Point in Gros Morne National Park provides continuous exposure to more than 30 million years of sediment accumulation in the Iapetus ocean. The rocks formed in deep water near the base of the ancient continental slope. It was awesome and humbling.

In January 2000, the International Union of Geological Sciences designated Green Point as a Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP). That's an official international reference point for the geologic time scale. I learned after the fact that there are only a handful of these in North America.

Researchers and students at Memorial University and elsewhere studied more than 10,000 fossils from Green Point, using tiny conodonts and delicate graptolites to locate the boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician periods, 488 Ma in the past. They have narrowed it down to a single layer, Bed 23, that contains the first appearance of the conodant species, Iapetognathus fluctivagus.

To the best of my estimatation, I have indicated the location of Bed 23 with the white dashed line in the figure to the right, and with the pointing figure of my *ahem* geologic scale marker in the photograph below.

### Snapshots from the Outcrop

Being the massive natural exhibition that it is, there are likely volumes of things to observe and measure at Green Point. I had no agenda whatsoever, but here are four observations that caught my interest:

1. Cavities from core plugs at regularly spaced intervals. Each piece taken and studied as part of an international scientific experiment, aimed at accurately identifying major turning points in earth's history.
2. Small scale fault with some antithetic joints reminiscent of some artifacts I have seen on seismic.
3. and 4. A faulted limestone conglomerate bed. Shown from two different points of view. I am increasingly curious about the nature of the aperture of deformation zones. Such formidable forces, such a narrow region of strain.

I left with a feeling that I am sure is felt by most geologists leaving a site of extreme interest. Did I make enough observations? Did I collect enough data? I wish I had a GigaPan, or maybe portable LiDAR station. I feel reconnected to the vastness of scales over which earth processes occur, and the heterogeneity caused by well-understood systems playing out over inconceivable expanses of time.

I'd like to flip the outcrop 120° counterclockwise, and build another stupid seismic model. What could mathematicians, programmers, and geoscientists do at this outcrop? A digital playground for integration awaits.

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# 10 days on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

I have just returned from a 10-day holiday in Iceland, an anomalous above-sea-level bump in the North Atlantic's mid-ocean ridge. It sits over a mantle hotspot at the junction of the ridge and the WNW–ESE volcanic province stretching from the Greenland to the Faroes.

Meteorologically, culinarily, fincancially, Iceland does not score especially highly. But geologically—the only way that really matters—it's the most amazing place I've ever been. And we only visited a few spots (right). Here are some highlights...

Reykjanes. My favourite geological locality was the first place we went, and the most desolate. Barely half-an-hour's drive from the airport, you can go and see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge rise out of the North Atlantic, and start its romp across the country. Reykjanes looks much like you'd expect newborn crust to look: a brutal but pristine landscape of lava, interrupted by clusters of small volcanic cones, elongate fissures, and small grabens.

Þingvellir. The archetypal rift valley is Þingvellir (Thingvellir), which almost defies description. On top of the textbook geology is a layer of almost magical history — mythical in character, but completely real. For example, you can stand next to the drekkingarhylur (drowning pool), where deviants were executed by drowning, and diligently documented, from about 930 CE onwards. Explorationists know that early rifting is often associated with lacustrine deposits, rapid subsidence, and source rocks. And Iceland's largest lake sits happily in a new (relatively) rift valley, subsiding dutifully since records began.

Ice. The other thing Iceland has plenty of, apart from lava, is ice. I've seen plenty of glaciers before, and climbed around on a few, but I've never seen them calving icebergs. And I've never seen the products of subglacial eruptions: massive plains of sand dumped by jökulhlaups, and distinctively elongate or flat-topped volcanos.

We vowed to return when our youngest, who is only 3 now, is old enough to remember some of it. We mostly stayed in guesthouses, but we decided a camper van is the way to go — there's so much to see. I also realized I need a lot more photographic equipment! And skill.