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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Scale and Uncertainty

There are at least two words which sometimes cause many never-ending debates among geologists. The first is scale and the second is uncertainty. A third word namely egoism can also be included if necessary. However, egoism does not relate to the so called geological science, it is more to the attitude of each individual therefore it can be discounted as scientific reasons.

Scale in geology is about size in the sense is a geological process part of a bigger and more regional or even crustal process or it is a completely independent process. Take an example from evolution of a rift basin. From a crustal scale point of view, the second rifting in a basin which was originally formed as the last in a series of rift basin, can be assumed as the late-rifting or even post-rift becaue the rifting process is considered only once and involved all basins along the crustal margin.

Another example of how different scale of thinking gives two different interpretations occurs when one tries to interpret sequence stratigraphy from wireline logs and starts talking about how relative sea-level rise and fall so many times in a sediment succession, whereas another person can only talk about one relative sea-level rise and fall for the same succession because this person sees things in seismic scale, which is not as detail as the log scale.

Although all undertand the right scale of a geological process, there is still uncertainties accompanying all natural processes. One never will be 100% confident to assume depositional processes in a river in humid conditions are similar to a river in arid condition, because the climate influences rainfall and eventually the rate of erosion and deposition. There are other things which influence the depositional process which in the end result in different products. Various elements affecting depositional processes create variation in depositional products.

Failure to understand the right scale of a geological process and the uncertainty of natural processes usually result in different opinions in geology. This difference can be worse if egoism of human being get involved because most geologists are weird and proud of themselves...

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