A rock and a hard place

I am well into Book 2: Earth and Space now. Chapters 3 and 4 talked about earthquakes and volcanoes; I used to love physical geography at school, so I was gratified to find that I remembered much of these subjects.

Fabulously, we had to take a look at a seismology website: the British Geological Society, in order to take a look at seismic activity around the UK in the last 30 days. Which can be found here. FYI, the most recent earthquake was in the Norweigan Sea on February 26, occurred at a depth of 37.4km and measured magnitude 3.6 on the Richter scale. So, just a tiny one then.

This seemed quite topical, considering the disaster that has befallen Christchurch in New Zealand. It’s so unusual to see that kind of devastation in a modern, Western country – 200+ lives lost doesn’t sound like many when compared to Pakistan’s 2005 quake, which killed 54,000 people. That quake triggered landslides; and of course, people live in much poorer buildings in very close proximity.

That’s why the scale of destruction in New Zealand is so shocking. There is a modern city, built to withstand the earthquakes that happen there on a regular basis. So why was it so destructive? The people of Christchurch had only just recovered from September’s magnitude 7.2 quake – a monster, but one that killed nobody. There was damage, but not devastation. Last week’s earthquake was a mere 6.3.

Well, it happened at a much shallower depth. And it caused liquefaction of the land Christchurch stands upon. Basically, it turned the soil to soaking wet mud by releasing an awful lot of water from the soil and bedrock. Double whammy…

People of Christchurch, my thoughts are with you. I wish you the very best of luck with rebuilding your city – and some respite from Earth movements.

Rock samples

Chapter 5 began with a foray into the box of goodies sent by the Open University before Christmas. There are six rock samples in there: a (really rather good) quartz crystal, sandstone, limestone (containing crinoid fossils), schist (I love that word), basalt and granite.

I might have to do some hippy-trippy stuff with the crystal at some point. And there are garnet grains within the schist. Probably not enough to make a gemstone, but you never know…

So that was practical exercise number two. It was a little time-consuming, but pretty interesting. The course gets you to see things that you wouldn’t otherwise notice – and I had taken a close look at the rock samples before today.

I didn’t do the Acid Test, however; we have no vinegar. This is a shame, and is testament to the fact that we rarely eat chips. I now want chips. Bit of a fail all round, really.

The course is going really well. I’m a couple of days behind, but I think this is because I start my weeks on a Monday, and the course guidelines start it on a Saturday. Which is clearly wrong. So I’m on the right track, and enjoying it immensely!

The only slight niggle I have is that I haven’t received my results for TMA01 – the first tutor-marked assignment I completed. I handed it in a couple of days ahead of the deadline, and now I’m champing at the bit to find out how I did. I think I probably did quite well – but it’s entirely possible I misunderstood a question or three. Apart from the one that is worded by a monkey that speaks English as a second language…

Stand by. Results will be posted when I have them, along with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Or clinking of glasses.


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