The digital subsurface water-cooler

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Back in August 2016 I told you about the Software Underground, an informal, grass-roots community of people who are into rocks and computers. At its heart is a public Slack group (Slack is a bit like Yammer or Skype but much more awesome). At the time, the Underground had 130 members. This morning, we hit ten times that number: there are now 1300 enthusiasts in the Underground!

If you’re one of them, you already know that it’s easily the best place there is to find and chat to people who are involved in researching and applying machine learning in the subsurface — in geoscience, reservoir engineering, and enything else to do with the hard parts of the earth. And it’s not just about AI… it’s about data management, visualization, Python, and web applications. Here are some things that have been shared in the last 7 days:

  • News about the upcoming Software Underground hackathon in London.

  • A new Udacity course on TensorFlow.

  • Questions to ask when reviewing machine learning projects.

  • A Dockerfile to make installing Seismic Unix a snap.

  • Mark Zoback’s new geomechanics course.

It gets better. One of the most interesting conversations recently has been about starting a new online-only, open-access journal for the geeky side of geo. Look for the #journal channel.

Another emerging feature is the ‘real life’ meetup. Several social+science gatherings have happened recently in Aberdeen, Houston, and Calgary… and more are planned, check #meetups for details. If you’d like to organize a meetup where you live, Software Underground will support it financially.

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We’ve also gained a website, softwareunderground.org, where you’ll find a link to sign-up in the Slack group, some recommended reading, and fantastic Software Underground T-shirts and mugs! There are also other ways to support the community with a subscription or sponsorship.

If you’ve been looking for the geeks, data-heads, coders and makers in geoscience and engineering, you’ve found them. It’s free to sign up — I hope we see you in there soon!


Slack has nice desktop, web and mobile clients. Check out all the channels — they are listed on the left:

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2018 retrospective

It’s almost the end of another trip around the sun. I hope it’s been kind to you. I mean, I know it’s sometimes hard to see the kindness for all the nonsense and nefariousness in <ahem> certain parts of the world, but I hope 2018 at least didn’t poke its finger in your eye, or set fire to any of your belongings. If it did — may 2019 bring you some eye drops and a fire extinguisher.

Anyway, at this time of year, I like to take a quick look over my shoulder at the past 12 months. Since I’m the over-sharing type, I like to write down what I see and put it on the Internet. I apologize, and/or you’re welcome.

Top of the posts

We’ve been busier than ever this year, and the blog has taken a bit of a hit. In spite of the reduced activity (only 45 posts, compared to 53 last year), traffic continues to grow and currently averages 9000 unique visitors per month. These were the most visited posts in 2018:

Last December’s post, No more rainbows, got more traffic this year than any of these posts. And, yet again, k is for wavenumber got more than any. What is it with that post??

Where in the world?

Every year I take a look at where our people are reading the blog from (according to Google). We’ve travelled more than usual this year too, so I’ve added our various destinations to the map… it makes me realize we’re still missing most of you.

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  1. Houston (number 1 last year)

  2. London (up from 3)

  3. Calgary (down from 2)

  4. Stavanger (6)

  5. Paris (9)

  6. New York (—)

  7. Perth (4)

  8. Bangalore (—)

  9. Jakarta (—)

  10. Kuala Lumpur (8)

Together these cities capture at least 15% of our readship. New York might be an anomaly related to the location of cloud infrastructure there. (Boardman, Oregon, shows up for the same reason.) But who knows what any of these numbers mean…

Work

People often ask us how we earn a living, and sometime I wonder myself. But not this year: there was a clear role for us to play in 2018 — training the next wave of digital scientists and engineers in subsurface.

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  • We continued the machine learning project on GPR interpretation that we started last year.

  • We revived Pick This and have it running on a private corporate cloud at a major oil company, as well as on the Internet.

  • We have spent 63 days in the classroom this year, and taught 325 geoscientists the fundamentals of Python and machine learning.

  • Apart from the 6 events of our own that we organized, we were involved in 3 other public hackathons and 2 in-house hackathons.

  • We hired awesome digital geologist Robert Leckenby (right) full time. 

The large number of people we’re training at the moment is especially exciting, because of what it means for the community. We spent 18 days in the classroom and trained 139 scientists in the previous four years combined — so it’s clear that digital geoscience is important to people today. I cannot wait to see what these new coders do in 2019 and beyond!

The hackathon trend is similar: we hosted 310 scientists and engineers this year, compared to 183 in the four years from 2013 to 2017. Numbers are only numbers of course, but the reality is that we’re seeing more mature projects, and more capable coders, at every event. I know it’s corny to say so, but I feel so lucky to be a scientist today, there is just so much to do.

Cheers to you

Agile is, as they say, only wee. And we all live in far-flung places. But the Intertubes are a marvellous thing, and every week we meet new people and have new conversations via this blog, and on Twitter, and the Software Underground. We love our community, and are grateful to be part of it. So thank you for seeking us out, cheering us on, hiring us, and just generally being a good sport about things.

From all of us at Agile, have a fantastic festive season — and may the new year bring you peace and happiness.

The Scottish hackathon

On 16−18 November the UK Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) hosted its first hackathon, with Agile providing the format and technical support. This followed a week of training the OGA provided — again, through Agile — back in September. The theme for the hackathon was ‘machine learning’, and I’m pretty sure it was the first ever geoscience hackathon in the UK.

Thirty-seven digital geoscientists participated in the event at Robert Gordon University; most of them appear below. Many of them had not coded at all before the bootcamp on Friday, so a lot of people were well outside their comfort zones when we sat down on Saturday. Kudos to everyone!

The projects included the usual mix of seismic-based tasks, automated well log picking, a bit of natural language processing, some geospatial processing, and seals (of the mammalian variety). Here’s a rundown of what people got up to:


Counting seals on Scottish islands

Seal Team 6: Julien Moreau, James Mullins, Alex Schaaf, Balazs Kertesz, Hassan Tolba, Tom Buckley.

Project: Julien arrived with a cool dataset: over 6000 seals located on two large TIFFs images of Linga Holm, an island off Stronsay in the Orkneys. The challenge: locate the seals automatically. The team came up with a pipeline to generate HOG descriptors, train a support vector machine on about 20,000 labelled image tiles, then scan the large TIFFs to try to identify seals. Shown here is the output of one such scan, with a few false positive and false negatives. GitHub repo.

This project won the Most Impact award.

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Automatic classification of seismic sections

Team Seis Class: Jo Bagguley, Laura Bardsley, Chio Martinez, Peter Rowbotham, Mike Atkins, Niall Rowantree, James Beckwith.

Project: Can you tell if a section has been spectrally whitened? Or AGC’d? This team set out to attempt to teach a neural network the difference. As a first step, they reduced it to a binary classification problem, and showed 110 ‘final’ and 110 ‘raw’ lines from the OGA ESP 2D 2016 dataset to a convolutional neural net. The AI achieved an accuracy of 98% on this task. GitHub repro.

This project won recognition for a Job Well Done.


Why do get blocks relinquished?

Team Relinquishment Surprise: Tanya Knowles, Obiamaka Agbaneje, Kachalla Aliyuda, Daniel Camacho, David Wilkinson (not pictured).

Project: Recognizing the vast trove of latent information locked up in the several thousand reports submitted to the OGA. Despite focusing on relinquishment, they quickly discovered that most of the task is to cope with the heterogeneity of the dataset, but they did manage to extract term frequencies from the various Conclusions sections, and made an ArcGIS web app to map them.

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Recognizing reflection styles on seismic

Team What’s My Seismic? Quentin Corlay, Tony Hallam, Ramy Abdallah, Zhihua Cui, Elia Gubbala, Amechi Halim.

Project: The team wanted to detect the presence of various seismic facies in a small segment of seismic data (with a view to later interpreting entire datasets). They quickly generated a training dataset, then explored three classifiers: XGBoost, Google’s AutoML, and a CNN. All of the methods gave reasonable results and were promising enough that the team vowed to continue investigating the problem. Project website. GitHub repo.

This project won the Best Execution award.

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Stretchy-squeezey well log correlation

Team Dynamic Depth Warping: Jacqueline Booth, Sarah Weihmann, Khaled Muhammad, Sadiq Sani, Rahman Mukras, Trent Piaralall, Julio Rodriguez.

Project: Making picks and correlations in wireline data is hard, partly because the stratigraphic signal changes spatially — thinning and thickening, and with missing or extra sections. To try to cope with this, the team applied a dynamic time (well, depth) warping algorithm to the logs, then looking for similar sections in adjacent wells. The image shows a target GR log (left) with the 5 most similar sections. Two, maybe four, of them seem reasonable. Next the team planned to incorporate more logs, and attach probabilities to the correlations. Early results looked promising. GitHub repo.


Making lithostrat picks

Team Marker Maker: Nick Hayward, Frédéric Ramon, Can Yang, Peter Crafts, Malcolm Gall

Project: The team took on the task of sorting out lithostratigraphic well tops in a mature basin. But there are speedbumps on the road to glory, e.g. recognizing which picks are lithological (as opposed to chronological), and which pick names are equivalent. The team spent time on various subproblems, but there’s a long road ahead.

This project won recognition for a Job Well Done.

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Alongside these projects, Rob and I floated around trying to help, and James Beckwith hacked on a cool project of his own for a while — Paint By Seismic, a look at unsupervised classification on seismic sections. In between generating attributes and clustering, he somehow managed to help and mentor most of the other teams — thanks James!

Thank you!

Thank you to The OGA for these events, and in particular to Jo Bagguley, whose organizational skills I much appreciated over the last few weeks (as my own skills gradually fell apart). The OGA’s own Nick Richardson, the OGTC’s Gillian White, and Robert Gordon Universty’s Eyad Elyan acted as judges.

These organizations contributed to the success of these events — please say Thank You to them when you can!

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I’ll leave you with some more photos from the event. Enjoy!

TRANSFORM 2019

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Yesterday I announced that we’re hatching a new plan. The next thing. Today I want to tell you about it.

The project has the codename TRANSFORM. I like the notion of transforms: functions that move you from one domain to another. Fourier transforms. Wavelet transforms. Digital subsurface transforms. Examples:

  • The transformative effect of open source software on subsurface science. Open source accelerates our work!

  • The transformative effect of collaborative, participatory events on the community. We can make new things!

  • The transformative effect of training on ourselves and our peers. Lots of us have new superpowers!

Together, we’ve built the foundation for a new, open software platform.

A domain shift

We think it’s time to refocus the hackathons as sprints — purposefully producing a sustainable, long-lasting, high quality, open source software stack that we can all use and combine into new tools, whether open or proprietary, free or commercial.

We think it’s time to bring a full-featured unconference into the mix. The half-day ‘unsessions’ open too many paths, and leave too few explored. We need more time — to share research, plan software projects, and write code.

Together, we can launch a new era in scientific computing for the subsurface.

At the core of this new era core is a new open-source software stack, created, maintained, and implemented by a community of scientists and organizations passionate about its potential.

Sign up!

Here’s the plan. We’re hosting an unconference from 5 to 11 May 2019, with full days from Monday to Friday. The event will take place at the Château de Rosay, near Rouen, France. It will be fully residential and fully catered. We have room for about 45 participants.

The goal is to lay down a road map for designing, funding, and building an open source software stack for subsurface. In the coming days and weeks, we will formulate the plan for the week, with input from the Software Underground. We want to hear from you. Propose a session! Host a sprint! Offer a bounty! There are lots of ways to get involved.

Map data: GeoBasis-DE / BKG / Google, photo: Chateauform. Click to enlarge.

If you want to be part of this effort, as a developer, an end-user, or a sponsor, then we invite you to join us.

The unconference fee will be EUR 1000, and accommodation and food will be EUR 1500. The student fees will be EUR 240 and EUR 360. There will be at least 5 bursaries of EUR 1000 available.

For the time being, we will be accepting early commitments, with a deposit of EUR 400 to secure a place (students wishing to register now should get in touch). Soon, you will be able to sign up online… we are working on a smooth process. In the meantime, click here to register your interest, share ideas for content, or sign up by paying a deposit.

Thanks for reading. We look forward to figuring this out together.


I’m delighted to be able to announce that we already have support from Dell EMC. Thanks as ever to David Holmes for his willingness to fund experiments!


In the US or Canada? Don’t despair! There will be a North American edition in Quebec in late September.

The next thing

Over the last several years, Agile has been testing some of the new ways of collaborating, centered on digital connections:

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  • It all started with this blog, which started in 2010 with my move from Calgary to Nova Scotia. It’s become a central part of my professional life, but we’re all about collaboration and blogs are almost entirely one-way, so…

  • In 2011 we launched SubSurfWiki. It didn’t really catch on, although it was a good basis for some other experiments and I still use it sometimes. Still, we realized we had to do more to connect the community, so…

  • In 2012 we launched our 52 Things collaborative, open access book series. There are well over 5000 of these out in the wild now, but it made us crave a real-life, face-to-face collaboration, so…

  • In 2013 we held the first ‘unsession’, a mini-unconference, at the Canada GeoConvention. Over 50 people came to chat about unsolved problems. We realized we needed a way to actually work on problems, so…

  • Later that year, we followed up with the first geoscience hackathon. Around 15 or so of us gathered in Houston for a weekend of coding and tacos. We realized that the community needed more coding skills, so…

  • In 2014 we started teaching a one-day Python course aimed squarely at geoscientists. We only teach with subsurface data and algorithms, and the course is now 5 days long. We now needed a way to connect all these new hackers and coders, so…

  • In 2014, together with Duncan Child, we also launched Software Underground, a chat room for discussing topics related to the earth and computers. Initially it was a Google Group but in 2015 we relaunched it as an open Slack team. We wanted to double down on scientific computing, so…

  • In 2015 and 2016 we launched a new web app, Pick This (returning soon!), and grew our bruges and welly open source Python projects. We also started building more machine learning projects, and getting really good at it.

Growing and honing

We have spent the recent years growing and honing these projects. The blog gets about 10,000 readers a month. The sixth 52 Things book is on its way. We held two public unsessions this year. The hackathons have now grown to 60 or so hackers, and have had about 400 participants in total, and five of them this year already (plus three to come!). We have also taught Python to 400 geoscientists, including 250 this year alone. And the Software Underground has over 1000 members.

In short, geoscience has gone digital, and we at Agile are grateful and excited to be part of it. At no point in my career have I been more optimistic and energized than I am right now.

So it’s time for the next thing.

The next thing is starting with a new kind of event. The first one is 5 to 11 May 2019, and it’s happening in France. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Café con leche

At the weekend, 28 digital geoscientists gathered at MAZ Café in Santa Ana, California, to sprint on some open geophysics software projects. Teams and individuals pushed pull requests — code contributions to open source projects — left, right, and centre. Meanwhile, Senah and her team at MAZ kept us plied with coffee and horchata, with fantastic food on the side.

Because people were helping each other and contributing where they could, I found it a bit hard to stay on top of what everyone was working on. But here are some of the things I heard at the project breakdown on Sunday afternoon:

Gerard Gorman, Navjot Kukreja, Fabio Luporini, Mathias Louboutin, and Philipp Witte, all from the devito project, continued their work to bring Kubernetes cluster management to devito. Trying to balance ease of use and unlimited compute turns out to be A Hard Problem! They also supported the other teams hacking on devito.

Thibaut Astic (UBC) worked on implementing DC resistivity models in devito. He said he enjoyed the expressiveness of devito’s symbolic equation definitions, but that there were some challenges with implementing the grad, div, and curl operator matrices for EM.

Vitor Mickus and Lucas Cavalcante (Campinas) continued their work implementing a CUDA framework for devito. Again, all part of the devito project trying to give scientists easy ways to scale to production-scale datasets.

That wasn’t all for devito. Alongside all these projects, Stephen Alwon worked on adapting segyio to read shot records, Robert Walker worked on poro-elastic models for devito, and Mohammed Yadecuri and Justin Clark (California Resources) contributed too. On the second day, the devito team was joined by Felix Hermann (now Georgia Tech), with Mengmeng Yang, and Ali Siakoohi (both UBC). Clearly there’s something to this technology!

Brendon Hall and Ben Lasscock (Enthought) hacked on an open data portal concept, based on the UCI Machine Learning Repository, coincidentally based just down the road from our location. The team successfully got some examples of open data and code snippets working.

Jesper Dramsch (Heriot-Watt), Matteo Niccoli (MyCarta), Yuriy Ivanov (NTNU) and Adriana Gordon and Volodymyr Vragov (U Calgary), hacked on bruges for the weekend, mostly on its documentation and the example notebooks in the in-bruges project. Yuriy got started on a ray-tracing code for us.

Nathan Jones (California Resources) and Vegard Hagen (NTNU) did some great hacking on an interactive plotting framework for geoscience data, based on Altair. What they did looked really polished and will definitely come in useful at future hackathons.

All in all, an amazing array of projects!

This event was low-key compared to recent hackathons, and I enjoyed the slightly more relaxed atmosphere. The venue was also incredibly supportive, making my life very easy.

A big thank you as always to our sponsors, Dell EMC and Enthought. The presence of the irrepressible David Holmes and Chris Lenzsch (both Dell EMC), and Enthought’s new VP of Energy, Charlie Cosad, was greatly appreciated.

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We will definitely be revisiting the sprint concept in the future einmal ist keinmal, as they say. Devito and bruges both got a boost from the weekend, and I think all the developers did too. So stay tuned for the next edition!

Volve: not open after all

Back in June, Equinor made the bold and exciting decision to release all its data from the decommissioned Volve oil field in the North Sea. Although the intent of the release seemed clear, the dataset did not carry a license of any kind. Since you cannot use unlicensed content without permission, this was a problem. I wrote about this at the time.

To its credit, Equinor listened to the concerns from me and others, and considered its options. Sensibly, it chose an off-the-shelf license. It announced its decision a few days ago, and the dataset now carries a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

Unfortunately, this license is not ‘open’ by any reasonable definition. The non-commercial stipulation means that a lot of people, perhaps most people, will not be able to legally use the data (which is why non-commercial licenses are not open licenses). And the ShareAlike part means that we’re in for some interesting discussion about what derived products are, because any work based on Volve will have to carry the CC BY-NC-SA license too.

Non-commercial licenses are not open

Here are some of the problems with the non-commercial clause:

NC licenses come at a high societal cost: they provide a broad protection for the copyright owner, but strongly limit the potential for re-use, collaboration and sharing in ways unexpected by many users

  • NC licenses are incompatible with CC-BY-SA. This means that the data cannot be used on Wikipedia, SEG Wiki, or AAPG Wiki, or in any openly licensed work carrying that license.

  • NC-licensed data cannot be used commercially. This is obvious, but far-reaching. It means, for example, that nobody can use the data in a course or event for which they charge a fee. It means nobody can use the data as a demo or training data in commercial software. It means nobody can use the data in a book that they sell.

  • The boundaries of the license are unclear. It's arguable whether any business can use the data for any purpose at all, because many of the boundaries of the scope have not been tested legally. What about a course run by AAPG or SEG? What about a private university? What about a government, if it stands to realize monetary gain from, say, a land sale? All of these uses would be illiegal, because it’s the use that matters, not the commercial status of the user.

Now, it seems likely, given the language around the release, that Equinor will not sue people for most of these use cases. They may even say this. Goodness knows, we have enough nudge-nudge-wink-wink agreements like that already in the world of subsurface data. But these arrangements just shift the onus onto the end use and, as we’ve seen with GSI, things can change and one day you wake up with lawsuits.

ShareAlike means you must share too

Creative Commons licenses are, as the name suggests, intended for works of creativity. Indeed, the whole concept of copyright, depends on creativity: copyright protects works of creative expression. If there’s no creativity, there’s no basis for copyright. So for example, a gamma-ray log is unlikely to be copyrightable, but seismic data is (follow the GSI link above to find out why). Non-copyrightable works are not covered by Creative Commons licenses.

All of which is just to help explain some of the language in the CC BY-NC-SA license agreement, which you should read. But the key part is in paragraph 4(b):

You may distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform a Derivative Work only under the terms of this License

What’s a ‘derivative work’? It’s anything ‘based upon’ the licensed material, which is pretty vague and therefore all-encompassing. In short, if you use or show Volve data in your work, no matter how non-commercial it is, then you must attach a CC BY-NC-SA license to your work. This is why SA licenses are sometimes called ‘viral’.

By the way, the much-loved F3 and Penobscot datasets also carry the ShareAlike clause, so any work (e.g. a scientific paper) that uses them is open-access and carries the CC BY-SA license, whether the author of that work likes it or not. I’m pretty sure no-one in academic publishing knows this.

By the way again, everything in Wikipedia is CC BY-SA too. Maybe go and check your papers and presentations now :)

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What should Equinor do?

My impression is that Equinor is trying to satisfy some business partner or legal edge case, but they are forgetting that they have orders of magnitude more capacity to deal with edge cases than the potential users of the dataset do. The principle at work here should be “Don’t solve problems you don’t have”.

Encumbering this amazing dataset with such tight restrictions effectively kills it. It more or less guarantees it cannot have the impact I assume they were looking for. I hope they reconsider their options. The best choice for any open data is CC-BY.

Machine learning goes mainstream

At our first machine-learning-themed hackathon, in New Orleans in 2015, we had fifteen hackers. TImes were hard in the industry. Few were willing or able to compe out and play. Well, it’s now clear that times have changed! After two epic ML hacks last year (in Paris and Houston), at which we hosted about 115 scientists, it’s clear this year is continuing the trend. Indeed, by the end of 2018 we expect to have welcomed at least 240 more digital scientists to hackathons in the US and Europe.

Conclusion: something remarkable is happening in our field.

The FORCE hackathon

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Agile co-organized the FORCE Machine Learning Hackathon in Stavanger, Norway. FORCE is a cross-industry geoscience organization, coordinating meetings and research in subsurface. The event preceeded a 1-day symposium on the same theme: machine learning in geoscience. And it was spectacular.

Get a flavour of the spectacularness in Alessandro Amato’s beautiful photographs:

Fifty geoscientists and engineers spent two days at the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) in Stavanger. Our hosts were welcoming, accommodating, and generous with the waffles. As usual, we gently nudged the participants into teams, and encouraged them to define projects and find data to work on. It always amazes me how smoothly this potentially daunting task goes; I think this says something about the purposefulness and resourcefulness of our community.

Here’s a quick run-down of the projects:

  • Biostrat! Geological ages from species counts.

  • Lost in 4D Space. Pressure drawdown prediction.

  • Virtual Metering. Predicting wellhead pressure in real time.

  • 300 Wells. Extracting shows and uncertainty from well reports.

  • AVO ML. Unsupervised machine learning for more geological AVO.

  • Core Images. Grain size and lithology from core photos.

  • 4D Layers. Classification engine for 4D seismic data.

  • Gully Attack. Strat trap picking with deep reinforcement learning.

  • sketch2seis. Turning geological cartoons into seismic with pix2pix.

I will do a complete review of the projects in the coming few days, but notice the diversity here. Five of the projects straddle geological topics, and five are geophysical. Two or three involve petroleum engineering issues, while two or three move into sed/strat. We saw natural language processing. We saw random forests. We saw GANs, VAEs, and deep reinforcement learning. In terms of input data, we saw core photos, PDF reports, synthetic seismograms, real-time production data, and hastily assembled label sets. In short — we saw everything.

Takk skal du ha

Many thanks to everyone that helped the event come together:

  • Peter Bormann, the mastermind behind the symposium, was instrumental in making the hackathon happen.

  • Grete Block Vargle (AkerBP) and Pernille Hammernes (Equinor) kept everyone organized and inspired.

  • Tone Helene Mydland (NPD) and Soelvi Amundrud (NPD) made sure everything was logistically honed.

  • Eva Halland (NPD) supported the event throughout and helped with the judging.

  • Alessandro Amato del Monte (Eni) took some fantastic photos — as seen in this post.

  • Diego Castaneda and Rob Leckenby helped me on the Agile side of things, and helped several teams.

And a huge thank you to the sponsors of the event — too many to name, but here they all are:

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There’s more to come!

If you’re reading this thinking, “I’d love to go to a geoscience hackathon”, and you happen to live in or near the UK, you’re in luck! There are two machine learning geoscience hackathons coming up this fall:

Don’t miss out! Get signed up and we’ll see you there.

Are there benefits to pseudoscience?

No, of course there aren't. 

Balance! The scourge of modern news. CC-BY by SkepticalScience.com

Balance! The scourge of modern news. CC-BY by SkepticalScience.com

Unless... unless you're a journalist, perhaps. Then a bit of pseudoscience can provide some much-needed balance — just to be fair! — to the monotonic barrage of boring old scientific consensus. Now you can write stories about flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, homeopathy, or the benefits of climate change!*

So far, so good. It's fun to pillory the dimwits who think the moon landings were filmed in a studio in Utah, or that humans have had no impact on Earth's climate. The important thing is for the journalist to have a clear and unequivocal opinion about it. If an article doesn't make it clear that the deluded people at the flat-earth convention ("Hey, everyone thought Copernicus was mad!") have formed their opinions in spite of, not because of, the overwhelming evidence before them, then readers might think the journalist — and the publisher — agree with them.

In other words, if you report on hogwash, then you had better say that it's hogwash, or you end up looking like one of the washers of the hog.


Fake geoscience?

AAPG found this out recently, when the August issue of its Explorer magazine published an article by Ken Milam called Are there benefits to climate change? Ken was reporting on a talk by AAPG member Greg Wrightstone at URTeC in July. Greg wrote a book called Inconvenient Facts: The Science That Al Gore Doesn't Want You To Know. The gist: no need to be concerned about carbon dioxide because, "The U.S. Navy’s submarines often exceed 8,000 ppm (20 times current levels) and there is no danger to our sailors" — surely some of the least watertight reasoning I've ever encountered. Greg's basic idea is that, since the earth has been warmer before, with higher levels of CO2, there's nothing to worry about today (those Cretaceous conurbations and Silurian civilizations had no trouble adapting!) So he thinks, "the correct policy to address climate change is to have the courage to do nothing".

So far, so good. Except that Ken — in reporting 'just the facts' — didn't mention that Greg's talk was full of half-truths and inaccuracies and that few earth scientists agree with him. He forgot to remark upon the real news story: how worrying it is that URTeC 2018 put on a breakfast promoting Greg and his marginal views. He omitted to point out that this industry needs to grow up and face the future with reponsibility, supporting society with sound geoscience.

So it looked a bit like Explorer and AAPG were contributing to the washing of this particular hog.


Discussion

As you might expect, there was some discussion about the article — both on aapg.org and on Twitter (and probably elsewhere). For example, Mark Tingay (University of Adelaide) called AAPG and SPE out:

So did Brian Romans (Virginia Tech):

And there was further discussion (sort of) involving Greg Wrightstone himself. Trawl through Mark Tingay's timeline, especially his systematic dismantling of Greg's 'evidence', if your curiosity gets the better of you.


Response

Of course AAPG noticed the commotion. The September issue of Explorer contains two statements from AAPG staff. David Curtiss, AAPG Executive Director, said this in his column:

Milam was assigned to report on an invited presentation by Greg Wrightstone, a past president of AAPG’s Eastern Section, based on a recently self-published book on climate change, at the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference in July. Here was an AAPG Member and past section officer speaking about climate change – an issue of interest to many of our members, who had been invited by a group of his geoscience and engineering peers to present at a topical breakfast – not a technical session – at a major conference.

This sounds fine, on the face of it, but details matter. A glance at the book in question should have been enough to indicate that the content of the talk could only have been presented in a non-technical session, with a side of hash browns.

Anyway, David does go on to point out the tension between the petroleum industry's activities and society's environmental concerns. The tension is real, and AAPG and its members, are in the middle of it. We can contribute scientifically to the conversations that need to happen to resolve that tension. But pushing junk science and polemical bluster is definitely not going to help. I believe that most of the officers and members of AAPG agree. 

The editor of Explorer, Brian Ervin, had this to say:

For the record, none of our coverage of any issue or any given perspective on an issue should be taken as an endorsement — explicit or implicit — of that perspective. Also, the EXPLORER is — quite emphatically — not a scientific journal. Our content is not peer-reviewed. [...] No, the EXPLORER exists for an entirely different purpose. We provide news about Earth science, the industry and the Association, so our mission is different and unrelated to that of a scientific publication.

He goes on to say that he knew that Wrightstone's views are not popular and that it would provoke some reaction, but wanted to present it impartially and "give [readers] the opportunity to evaluate his position for themselves".

I just hope Explorer doesn't start doing this with too many other marginal opinions.


I'd have preferred to see AAPG back-pedal a bit more energetically. Publishing this article was a mistake. AAPG needs to think about the purpose, and influence, of its reporting, as well as its stance on climate change (which, according to David Curtiss, hasn't been discussed substantially in more than 10 years). This isn't about pushing agendas, any more than talking about the moon landings is about pushing agendas. It's about being a modern scientific association with high aspirations for itself, its members, and society.

Visualization in Copenhagen, part 2

In Part 1, I wrote about six of the projects teams contributed at the Subsurface Hackathon in Copenhagen in June. Today I want to tell you about the rest of them. 


A data exploration tool

Team GeoClusterFu...n: Dan Stanton (University of Leeds), Filippo Broggini (ETH Zürich), Francois Bonneau (Nancy), Danny Javier Tapiero Luna (Equinor), Sabyasachi Dash (Cairn India), Nnanna Ijioma (geophysicist). 

Tech: Plotly Dash. GitHub repo.

Project: The team set out to build an interactive web app — a totally new thing for all of them — to make interactive plots from data in a CSV. They ended up with the basis of a useful tool for exploring geoscience data. Project page.

Four sixths of the GeoClusterFu...n team cluster around a laptop.

Four sixths of the GeoClusterFu...n team cluster around a laptop.


AR outcrop on your phone

Team SmARt_OGs: Brian Burnham (University of Aberdeen), Tala Maria Aabø (Natural History Museum of Denmark), Björn Wieczoreck, Georg Semmler and Johannes Camin (GiGa Infosystems).

Tech: ARKit/ARCore, WebAR, Firebase. GitLab repo. 

Project: Bjørn and his colleagues from GiGa Infosystems have been at all the European hackathons. This time, he knew he wanted to get virtual outcrops on mobiles phones. He found a willing team, and they got it done! Project page.

Three views from the SmartOGs's video.  See the full version.

Three views from the SmartOGs's video. See the full version.


Rock clusters in latent space

The Embedders: Lukas Mosser (Imperial College London), Jesper Dramsch (Technical University of Denmark), Ben Fischer (PricewaterhouseCoopers), Harry McHugh (DUG), Shubhodip Konar (Cairn India), Song Hou (CGG), Peter Bormann (ConocoPhillips).

Tech: Bokeh, scikit-learn, Multicore-TSNE. GitHub repo.

Project: There has been a lot of recent interest in the t-SNE algorithm as a way to reduce the dimensionality of complex data. The team explored its application to subsurface data, and found promising applications. Web page. Project page.

The Embeders built a web app to cluster the data in an LAS file. The clusters (top left) are generated by the t-SNE algorithm.

The Embeders built a web app to cluster the data in an LAS file. The clusters (top left) are generated by the t-SNE algorithm.


Fully mixed reality

Team Hands On GeoLabs: Will Sanger (Western Geco), Chance Sanger (Houston Museum of Fine Arts), Pierre Goutorbe (Total), Fernando Villanueva (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris).

Project: Starting with the ambitious goal of combining the mixed reality of the Meta AR gear with the mixed reality of the Gempy sandbox, the team managed to display and interact with some seismic data in the AR headset, which  allows interaction with simple hand gestures. Project page.

The team demonstrate the Meta AR headset.

The team demonstrate the Meta AR headset.


Huge grids over the web

Team Grid Vizards: Fabian Kampe, Daniel Buse, Jonas Kopcsek, Paul Gabriel (all from GiGa Infosystems)

Tech: three.js. GitHub repo.

Project: Paul and his team wanted to visualize hundreds of millions or billions of grid cells — all in the browser. They ended up with about 20 million points working very smoothly, and impressed everyone. Project page.

grid_vizards.png

Interpreting RGB displays for spec decomp

Team: Florian Smit (Technical University of Denmark), Gijs Straathof (SGS), Thomas Gazzola (Total), Julien Capgras (Total), Steve Purves (Euclidity), Tom Sandison (Shell)

Tech: Python, react.js. GitHub repos: Client. Backend.

Project: Spectral decomposition is still a mostly quantitative tool, especially the interpretation of RGB-blended displays. This team set out to make intuitive, attractive forward models of the spectral response of wells. This should help interpret seismic data, and perhaps make more useful RGB displays too. Intriguing and promising work. Project page.

RGB_log.png

That's it for another year! Twelve new geoscience visualization projects — ten of them open source. And another fun, creative weekend for 63 geoscientists — all of whom left with new connections and new skills. All this compressed into one weekend. If you haven't experienced a hackathon yet, I urge you to seek one out.

I will leave you with two videos — and an apology. We are so focused on creating a memorable experience for everyone in the room, that we tend to neglect the importance of capturing what's happening. Early hackathons only had the resulting blog post as the document of record, but lately we've been trying to livestream the demos at the end. Our success has been, er, mixed... but they were especially wonky this time because we didn't have livestream maestro Gram Ganssle there. So, these videos exist, and are part of the documentation of the event, but they barely begin to convey the awesomeness of the individuals, the teams, or their projects. Enjoy them, but next time — you should be there!