Pooter power !



Extra-happy happy snaps of the fossil conservation process.

Each photograph is captioned with a brief description of the technique featured, but for a romanticised description and more detail of the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ see the rockdoc article Patients.


In the Formula 1 spirit


Pre-public robot fun enabled by public outreach and science engagement with VSSEC, late March this year. Our team of VSSEC educators made the most of our quiet morning time; before the onset of waves of school kids flushing through the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix’s Innovation Precinct.

And later in the day, when the flood gates opened and the kids found their way to fun…


Sieving the sands of time

Grain size refers to the diameter of individual grains of sediment in ‘clastic’ or sedimentary rocks.

As a rule of thumb, grain size reflects the energy of the environment a rock forms in. Because of this wonderful fact of physics, the proportion of different grain sizes in a fossil-baring rock can help palaeontologists piece together a picture of the environment their fossils formed in. Was it a quiet burial by a lakeside, or a tumultuous end in the pits of a mountainous river channel?

Generally speaking, higher energy water or wind currents are required to move larger grain sizes.

The degree of size-sorting a.k.a. how uniform the size of the grains is, can also indicate the energy of the depositional environment; well-sorted sediments tend to indicate higher energy depositional settings.

Sample e.g. with grain size graphic
A visual example of grain size analysis, with the number of grains (frequency, on the y-axis) in each size category graphed against grain size (x-axis). Peaks in the graph, as well as the splay of grains either side, hold the key for geologists using this technique.

Picture the kinds of environments you might see grains of these sizes laying around, and you’ll be on your way to thinking like a sedimentary geologist:

  • boulders, >256 mm
  • cobbles, 64-256 mm
  • pebbles, 4-64 mm
  • coarse sand, 2-4 mm
  • sand, 1/8-2 mm
  • silt, 1/256-1/8 mm
  • clay <1/256 mm


The Mars Generation

The Mars Generation, released on Netflix this month, is a documentary produced by the not-for-profit organisation of the same name (see here), whose goal is to educate and energise young people about the importance of deep space exploration to humankind. I mean… how cool can you get?

100% worth your time, the nerdy, engaged kids featured in The Mars Generation documentary prove that hands-on STEM education is the way to go.

This documentary features an emotive mash-up of space exploration history, and interviews with expert space nerds–including the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku–alongside their self-declared teenage counterparts participating in Space Camp.

Space Camp, based at the One Tranquility Base in Hunstville, Alabama, offers kids aged 9 to 18 and beyond (big kids a.k.a. adults) fully immersive ‘space training’, including access to robotics and engineering courses, as well as astronaut ‘career’ training that culminates in an extended-duration simulated mission to Mars.

Watch The Mars Generation on Netflix here, and follow @SpaceCampUSA and @TheMarsGen on Twitter.

Set in stone

Unknowingly, we are surrounded by these unlikely natural trademarks, stamped into the concrete facies of our urban streets. Stoically set in stone, they record the fleeting life… of a leaf. At best flimsy in vivo, their traces are afforded a chance to persist through the ages, thanks to none other than us; the human race.

Move over pseudo-fossils, herein are your true modern counterparts.

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