A whole new concept on how formations form???

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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby JackW » Oct 8, 2008 8:59 pm

ggpab wrote:They do not actually say that they are assuming that the earthquake is causing new fracturing.


I would seriously doubt that earthquakes in the NMFZ are opening new cracks in the limestone of local caves. Any cracking would be localized IMO; small break-down etc. Massive cracking on the scale of jointing observed now, certainly formed over longer periods and under the larger tectonic forces that shaped things like the Illinois basin or the Ozark Plateau. This would have occurred when the limestone was much deeper then at the surface and at the time that the basin formed. Reactivation of dripping with speleothems is not new and several spelothem in the literature (see Jeff Dorales work on paleoclimate records and speleothems from Crevice Cave for instance) display hiatus in formation and not likely from secondary dissolution. New or reactivated speleothems I think can easily be associated with moderate to large size quakes, yet this may pose a problem with the authors attempts to assign localized seismic activity with the speleothem initiation. If you recall, the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake caused fluctuations in water wells worldwide because of compressional effects from seismic wave on aquifers. Similar effects occur in aquifers more local to smaller quakes, those with magnitude suspected of causing speleothem initiation. Waters feeding speleothem growth are generally perched aquifers and seismic actively likely plays a role in changing flow paths within the fractures of these perched aquifers. Massive but distant earthquake may have the same effect. The check wold be to see if speleothems in say FL display similar growth initiation patterns.

Now then, some of the above might be hyperbole, but as one who likes to think himself as a geologist, I hope that there is at least a kernel of truth. That said...

Phil Winkler wrote:The accuracy of radioisotope dating is a hugely controversial topic and pits the evolutionists against the creationists, among others. However, it is clear that saying calcite was deposited in 1811 is simply ridiculous. :roll:

Just google "How accurate is radioisotope dating?" and have a look.


As a geologist and one that deals with radiometric dating to some degree I agree there is a controversy between rationalist and those that refuse anything but dogma. Otherwise I find this to be a quite shocking statement if you are implying there is "controversy" in the science community. Creationists seem to have a hard time wrapping their minds around the concepts of science and confuse disagreement between scientist as being on par with disagreeing with dogma. Creationist don't just attack the theory of evolution, they by proxy are attacking science at it core: The scientific principle. Scientist, at least good scientists should be ready to abandon what ever ideas they hold. Theories are not precepts. Scientific theories are dynamic and constantly being strengthened as supporting hypotheses are refuted and replaced with stronger ones. Radiometric dating is rock solid. Scientist view radiometric dating techniques as reliable with increasing accuracy as techniques and equipment become better and better. How it works and why it works is not a debate, but if you decide to toss science (I mean real science that sees challenges in the gaps of knowledge, not some sky genie) out the window then you might want to toss your TV, computer and other gear out too. Because the same concepts of physics are the ones employed in radiometric dating underly why those work too. Good luck with your new Luddite existence; don't take up residence in a cave, TYVM.

If I have an event, such as the 1811-12 quakes of the NMSZ and I have a proxy recorder of said event, sand blows are mentioned. I can use a concept such as optical luminescence dating to determine a chronology of when those sandblows formed. Go look up that phrase, OSL is fascinating and operates on the concept that quartz is a natural dosimeter recording the background ionizing radiation. Everything is radioactive to a degree, even you. The trick is that quartz records the total cumulative amount of radiation received as long as it stays dark. Once light hits it it will fluoresce with an intensity proportional to the dose of radiation received. This technique can be use to determine the time since burial of sands, such as that in a sand blow with decadial resolution on centennial timescales. If my analytically determined date is within the error limits of the target date (1811-12). I can say with confidence that it is correct and expect it to not be greeted as "simply ridiculous. :roll:". I don't get why you would claim that as such, Panno and his co authors likely did their science correct (i.e., reproducible observation of a natural phenomenon) developing new concepts along the way. I would hope that you would have dug further then to simply dismiss something that doesn't jive with your world view. Science advances by challenge.

/rant :cavingrocks:
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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby JackW » Oct 8, 2008 9:17 pm

John Lovaas wrote:I don't know squat about geology

Don't sell yourself short John. You know far more then a lot of people that take geology 101. I get to deal with 101 students far to much and am amazed at the lack of what I view as basic concepts. Heck, reading John McPhee's books helped get me into geology gradschool you can start there too.

edited - to complete the last thought
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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby wyandottecaver » Oct 9, 2008 5:00 pm

Both Religion and Science have often proclaimed as absolutely true things that were later proven absolutely false. The problem isn't with religion or science which I believe to both contain truth, but with people who refuse to accept that the current interpretations of each might be wrong.

As for the topic at hand, I find it a stretch to use speleothems in the manner described. While UT dating might be reproducible it's still kinda hard to "ground truth" a dating theory for several thousand years ago. But more than that, the sheer variability inherent in speleothem formation makes any theory that assumes color rings to equal years, or even seasonal cycles, as terribly shaky. Many of those reasons have already been mentioned. one ring might even equal 1 large rain event carrying high loads of dissolved minerals through the limestone early in the formation period. It might be the difference between muddy high water events or slow clear water events... I've found speleothems over 12" long that were less than 40 years old...on a concrete substrate. Everything is relative.
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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby Caverdale » Oct 9, 2008 7:58 pm

wyandottecaver wrote: But more than that, the sheer variability inherent in speleothem formation makes any theory that assumes color rings to equal years, or even seasonal cycles, as terribly shaky. Many of those reasons have already been mentioned. one ring might even equal 1 large rain event carrying high loads of dissolved minerals through the limestone early in the formation period. It might be the difference between muddy high water events or slow clear water events... I've found speleothems over 12" long that were less than 40 years old...on a concrete substrate. Everything is relative.


About 15-20 years ago there was an excellent article in GEO2, the publication of the Geology and Geography Section, by William (Will) White on how speleothems form underneath concrete at an extremely rapid rate. The chemistry of such deposition has little or no relationship to speleothems that form in caves so their rapid formation cannot be used for any comparison. That part of your argument is irrelevant. It will take some digging but I could root out the article if you feel you need a reference.

Also, as I examined and read through explanations of the various photomicrographs of speleothem rings in the links posted by ggpab and I never saw any mention of the simplified counting methods that you outline above. Most of their ring counting was far more complex and, in general, invisible to the naked eye. An individual ring seen by the eye may have hundreds of rings when examined under under a microscope.
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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby wyandottecaver » Oct 9, 2008 8:31 pm

All true. The point was that assigning a discrete time interval to a ring, visible to the eye or not, without having a good baseline for the conditions and mechanisims that were present for that particular event is making very big assumptions.

The concrete example was, as I said, to point out that everything is relative. While the deposition process may be different between concrete and limestone, the deposition process, rates, and mechanisims between caves with differing rock, soil, and water chemistry, water flow, gas concentrations in the air, etc. are also different and likely different through time. So even if we know what the deposition conditions are today, saying what they were 200 or 2000 years ago is another thing entirely.
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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby JackW » Oct 9, 2008 10:11 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:All true. The point was that assigning a discrete time interval to a ring, visible to the eye or not, without having a good baseline for the conditions and mechanisims that were present for that particular event is making very big assumptions.


Wyandottecaver, can you provide an example of the proclamations of absolute truth by science that have been shown wrong at a latter time? For my part, I understand science to be thoroughly grounded on well thought assumptions. There are few absolutes that science holds, and those are subject to revision in the light of new data. As an example of observation, leading to assumptions to theory and then to fact: Galileo saw other planets in our solar system revolve around the sun (or around another planet) and assumed that the motion was a better model (supplanting an earth centric solar system) to explain the apparent motion we observe when the sun traverses the sky each day. That the Earth revolves around the sun. Counter to the conventional wisdom of the day and the doctrine of the the church, this assumption in the form of a well thought out hypothesis (i.e., theory) was not "proven" until quite recently with the advent of space exploration. When he proposed it, we know what happened to him.

Science isn't about "proofs" its about developing explanations that fit the observed facts, and using observations from one system to describe similar features in another where phenomenon can not be easily or directly observed. Science isn't dogma but a lot of people erroneously make it out to be dogma. Dogma resists challenge; science adsorbs challenges discarding that which is deemed an impediment to adaptation to new facts; rinse and repeat.

As for assigning baselines to the timing of speleothem development it is one thing to scoff at the idea, but what are you adding by saying "I don't believe." To discredit the science conducted and presented by the authors of the work that is the topic of this thread, propose why it may not work. If everything is relative and likely different through time, then you throw out all the underlying assumptions about physics, chemistry, geology, and biology. If it worked differently 2000 years ago, 100 thousand years ago or 10 billion years ago we wont ever know for a fact. We do make the well reasoned assumption that radioisotopes decay at the same rate now as it did at the start of the universe. That atoms have the same affinity and repulsion for other atoms now and hasn't changed since the galaxies formed. That drip rates in caves as controlled by the CO2 content in karstic waters during previous interglacials are under the same controls and that establishing a base line for dating a speleothem's observed microscopic rings in a speleothem can be connected to annual patterns of growth related to previously observed climatic changes. Occam's razor says that the best answer is not an overly complicated one, not just the simplest. If you can hold that the basic explanations of physic and chemistry that hold now have held since the beginning, then that is science. I am making an assumption that the authors of the article in question DO have a good basis and have not loosly assumed anything with out having a well reasoned explanation of the observed phenomenon for the basis for their chronology on relatively young speleothems. Why is it so incredulous? Is it that sufficiently advanced technology can not be discerned from magic? Be skeptical please, but not out of an incredulous reaction to a possible advance in knowledge.
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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby wyandottecaver » Oct 10, 2008 6:44 pm

" ...Science isn't dogma but a lot of people erroneously make it out to be dogma. Dogma resists challenge; science adsorbs challenges discarding that which is deemed an impediment to adaptation to new facts; rinse and repeat...."

That certainly haasn't been the experiance of many who work at the University level :big grin: I assure you that dogma is indeed alive and well. A well grounded desire to protect ones reputation and employability help it along. In fact the history of science is a history of resistance to changing the accepted norm. Mostly this is good. It mostly insures that only the most solid, repeatable, and grounded theories go forward. It also means that they are sometimes initially dismissed...sometimes for generations.

Your example of a sun-centered solar system in fact makes my point. While a earth centered universe is now known to be false, it was then treated as an absolute truth not just by the church but also by scientists of the day despite galileos observations, and the actual truth (sun centered solar system) was only much later accepted.

Thomas Kuhn shows that most scientists work within a research tradition called a paradigm. (Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions, (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press) Essentially he said (and many can affirm from experiance) that the paradigm provides focus on questions to be investigated, dictates what constitutes admissible evidence, and defines which tests and techniques are reasonable.

Examples of scientific ideas that were originally rejected but now accepted (which by implication means the previous accepted doctrines were shown false) include the sun-centered solar system, warm-bloodedness in dinosaurs, bird vs reptile origin of dinosaurs, the germ-theory of disease, and continental drift. In all these cases the then prevailing "theory" was in fact treated as an absolute truth regardless of the idealized supposition that science acts as though everything is open for consideration. Only time and continuing evidence literally forced the community into changing the accepted explanations.

Back to the spelothem article. I did say everything is relative. I also said that the conditions for spelothem deposition are likely different over time. This hardly discards the underlying assumptions for the major scientific disciplines as you suggest. Though your implied assertion that discarding these assumptions is somehow unacceptable contradicts your statement about the nature of science. Einstein did essentially that for Physics.

It does discard the notion (in my opinion) that a sample we know is formed by a wide range of variables collected from essentially an unknown context when considered across its period of existence can be reliably used to generate very discreet chronological dates that rely upon predictable conditions of formation. I also didn't directly challenge the UT dating. I merely stated that using depositional rings as an indicator of age seemed to be very shaky.
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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby JackW » Oct 11, 2008 4:49 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:That certainly hasn't been the experience of many who work at the University level :big grin: I assure you that dogma is indeed alive and well. A well grounded desire to protect ones reputation and employability help it along. In fact the history of science is a history of resistance to changing the accepted norm. Mostly this is good. It mostly insures that only the most solid, repeatable, and grounded theories go forward. It also means that they are sometimes initially dismissed...sometimes for generations.


That was a nice reply. However, I think you are confusing blind adherence to a concept (dogma) with an individual's personal biases. Personal bias is not often "well grounded" even if "desire to protect ones reputation and employability" is the motivating factor. That is certainly an impediment that a lot of new and well thought ideas have run against, but that is the point where science ceases and becomes more of an agenda (whether personal or part of an organizational paradigm). J. Harlen Bretz (a caver of some repute) had this same problem - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J_Harlen_Bretz

treated as an absolute truth by...scientists of the day despite Galileo's observations
If you do know about science history, you should have seen easily where the fallacy lies in that statement. Being a "scientist" in that age was difficult as I'm sure you are well aware. However, counter to your claim, it was rather quickly accepted by scientists. It wasn't shown to be true until much, much later. I think though that you agree that there are no precepts in science. That is the realm of religion. As for my lack of science history it was Copernicus that formulated the heliocentric model. But my point still stands. I shoulda checked Wikipedia too...

Back to the spelothem article. I did say everything is relative. I also said that the conditions for spelothem deposition are likely different over time.


I believe that you don't mean "conditions" but "rates" are different (e.g.,environmental conditions vary rate of deposition). Am I right? When I think conditions, I'm thinking of the physical processes that are involved, that was my intention with the example of the core sciences. So, yes rates vary, but I do not think that it far fetched to be able to construct a model for growth in a speleothem that spans recent history. The GSA abstract says "for the very young stalagmites (200 years BP or less), a combination of U/Th dating and growth laminae counting. " As I stated in a previous post that advances in radiometric dating do occur because sensitivity of instruments are increasing. So if you can deduce the age of the bottom of the stalagmite (even a young one) and I think we can safely assume the top is modern, why can't you construct a growth model on ring counting? You, or anyone has yet to state a logical reason for why this is "a stretch" or "far fetched". Personally, I'd like to know more from those that disagree and ultimately the researchers. As I said, please scoff at the idea, but be prepared to back up you skepticism.

a sample we know is formed by a wide range of variables collected from essentially an unknown context when considered across its period of existence can be reliably used to generate very discreet chronological dates that rely upon predictable conditions of formation.


So if I'm following this correctly, why is it not likely then to be able to take methods, such as U/Th dating to construct an age model that temporally intersects with a known event (the earthquakes of 1811/12 in this example)? If an observed change (such as an over thickened band of calcite) can lie between analytically determined and finite dates, then why is it that using the number of bands of growth between the two dates to reconstruct the age of the event hard to believe? Based on the information in the article, this is what they seem to have done. If you'd like I'll send you an article or two on how age models are constructed for dating speleothems. Despite the wide range of variables that go into creating and preserving a growth ring in a speleothem, I think consistency in growth pattern would largely negate these unknowns or minimize them because they would remain relatively constant over time (decadal to centennial time).
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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby wyandottecaver » Oct 14, 2008 5:56 pm

I perhaps didn't examine the article in sufficient depth, but my understanding was that while UT dating was done on the younger material, the reason they were counting rings was because it was not considered precise enough for young samples.
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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby ggpab » Oct 14, 2008 9:50 pm

Hello Wyandottecaver,

wyandottecaver wrote:I perhaps didn't examine the article in sufficient depth, but my understanding was that while UT dating was done on the younger material, the reason they were counting rings was because it was not considered precise enough for young samples.


In the Geological Society of America (GSA) abstract, the authors state:
"For dating purposes, we are using U/Th techniques and, for the very young stalagmites (200 years BP or less), a combination of U/Th dating and growth laminae counting."
In the media article, the reporter states:
"Like trees, stalagmites are often composed of concentric layers that represent annual growth periods. Counting the layers is one way of assessing how old a stalagmite is. But radioactive dating provides a second, and sometimes more accurate, assessment."

Neither publication provides any indication that the counting of the rings was was done to overcome any real or perceived inadequacy in U/Th dating precision. Amongst scientists using geochronometric techniques (radiogenic or otherwise) U/Th dating is the best (accuracy and precision) for carbonate material such as stalagmites from a few hundred to around 500 000 years. That is why U/Th dating is the defacto standard for such material and over such time intervals.

For very young speleothem samples that happen to be nicely laminated, it is very fortunate that counting rings is also a good way to quantify time intervals. This study in Missouri is to be commended for working towards the highest possible accuracy and precision they can, and in this case their use of two independent dating techniques (U/Th dating + counting laminae) on the very young speleothem samples is an excellent approach. They are not trying to overcome some conceived weakness, but rather they are starting from a strong position and making their science very robust. For example, if the U/Th date is +/- 15 years at two StDev (a hypothetical number here), but the researchers then also counted the laminations, they can then probably have confidence in when recent events happened to within a 5 year or even smaller interval. Wow!

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Re: A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby ek » Oct 20, 2008 10:30 am

Some basic misunderstandings about both the overall structure of science, and about physics, have been stated. I will try to correct them. I am not exceptionally wise or without error, so my post may not be perfect either. :wink:

wyandottecaver wrote:Thomas Kuhn shows that most scientists work within a research tradition called a paradigm. (Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions, (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press) Essentially he said (and many can affirm from experiance) that the paradigm provides focus on questions to be investigated, dictates what constitutes admissible evidence, and defines which tests and techniques are reasonable.

This is a good thing, not a bad thing. What separates a science from a pseudoscience (or pre-science) is a consistent paradigm that provides a structure for analyzing the cogency of theoretic claims. This is one important component of a scientific theory, is that its claims make sense in some way. The paradigm will be imperfect (which is to say that some of the claims it is based on will be wrong), but it evolves with the acquisition of knowledge. It is self-evolving (that is, scientists who subscribe to it evolve it).

wyandottecaver wrote:Examples of scientific ideas that were originally rejected but now accepted (which by implication means the previous accepted doctrines were shown false) include the sun-centered solar system, warm-bloodedness in dinosaurs, bird vs reptile origin of dinosaurs, the germ-theory of disease, and continental drift. In all these cases the then prevailing "theory" was in fact treated as an absolute truth regardless of the idealized supposition that science acts as though everything is open for consideration. Only time and continuing evidence literally forced the community into changing the accepted explanations.

A classic example of this is the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, who said that doctors should wash their hands before operating, and wear gloves. He grew more and more outraged against the obstetric establishment, his temperament degraded, he wrote open letters to respected obstetricians accusing them of being murderers, and he came to drink to excess and spend inordinate amounts of time with a prostitute. His wife and friends got him admitted to an insane asylum, where he was severely physically abused ("treated"), denied the ability to check himself out, and died from a gangrenous wound, probably inflicted by one of the guards at the asylum. (Psychology was then, and still is, a pre-science.)

Semmelweis himself failed to demonstrate to his contemporaries the scientific validity of his theories. For their part, though, they did not consider it significant that an over-fivefold decrease in patient mortality was manifested when his sanitation methods were introduced, and an over-fivefold decrease was manifested upon his "retirement."

Still, compared to the general public, or to other fields, the degree to which scientists are willing to go to change their minds is amazing. In less than a hundred years, Semmelweis was vindicated in the scientific community. Have any of you heard of a religion that responded to a few decades of evidence by instituting a doctrinal change?

They were forced by persistent evidence to change their views. Practitioners of other disciplines, say, religion, or politics, don't tend to change their views to bring them in line with persistent evidence.

But the thing that really upsets me when discussions of evolution vs. creationism go to the criticism of the imperfection of science is that science is imperfect at doing something that is extremely important--respecting evidence--and this imperfection is often tragic...but creationists do not value respecting evidence at all! Creationists will always have the social upper hand in a debate where scientists' failure to respect evidence in a minority of instances is considered more damning than creationists' failure to respect evidence ever.

A word on celestial mechanics. Observations from Earth are all that is needed to verify the current theories on celestial mechanics, which are, specifically, that they obey the same laws as the laws of terrestrial mechanics. It was Newton who realized this. Before this realization was to be achieved by anyone it was necessary first to realize that all the planets have nearly elliptical orbits around the Sun, and in this sense Earth is most definitely a planet. This was the valuable contribution by the heliocentric model. You do not need to go into space to make these observations. Furthermore, complex corrective theories like the theory of epicycles (describing the motion of Mars as it went "around" the Earth) cannot be shown to be less consistent with the facts than the heliocentric model. In fact, if you look at Mars's trajectory with respect to the Earth, it goes around the Earth. In a very wavy, strange way. Go out into space, go to Mars even, that doesn't change what Mars's trajectory is with respect to Earth. The reason why it made sense to accept the heliocentric model and reject the geocentric model is that the heliocentric model better passed the Occam's Razor test. The geocentric model had way too much scaffolding on it, holding it up in spite of its fundamental instability and inability to explain the available evidence in a simple and elegant way.

But just like the geocentric model, the heliocentric model is wrong. Our Sun is not the center of the Universe. It is not meaningful to say that the Universe has a center. Furthermore, while saying that the Earth orbits the sun is a good approximation, actually the Earth and the Sun both revolve around the center of mass of the Earth-Sun system (as do all two-body systems interacting primarily gravitationally). This happens to be in the Sun, but it is not at the precise center of mass of the Sun. So it is also false to say that the Earth goes around the Sun, and I wish people would stop it. :wink: (When you take into account other sources of gravity, most primarily other planets in our solar system, you have to make further corrections to your orbital trajectories.)
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A whole new concept on how formations form???

Postby Ernie Coffman » Oct 20, 2008 11:15 am

Little did I know when I made that first post, back on September 10th, with my thought, that we'd go over a month with comments on this study. Whewee! :banana_yay: I'm glad it brought out the scientific discussions of all of you, but EK's latest comments are getting a little beyond the scope of cave science...even to prove a point...I would think, considering this started out "on how formations form" from a study done in Missouri. But maybe that's what makes scientific studies as they are. :shrug:
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