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52 Things You Should Know About Geophysics

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Geophysicist / science-web savant Matt Hall and I were backchanneling a year ago when he asked if I would like to be a part of “an informal, practical, useful book for geophysicists and seismic interpreters in the worldwide oil and gas industry, full of down-to-earth, common sense advice.” To which I replied, “Yeah!” Today, 52 Things You Should Know About Geophysics is out on (virtual) bookshelves, with my essay on integrative innovation in the geosciences! You can order your own copy at the Agile Libre eStore or, if you must, at Amazon. Can’t go wrong at 52 essays for $19 or $0.37 per essay, folks.

My initial pitches for 52 Things were seismic interpretation haikus and anecdotes on why my geoscientific career moved in the direction of geophysics: painting a geologic story on depth seismic is a dangerous exercise when you understand nothing of its acquisition, processing, velocities and correlation to wells. Garbage in, garbage out, after all. I figured, instead, that

a) being not entirely without gravitas, I’d retain my *cough* Poetry for this blog,

b) pioneers in the field and others more experienced would explain geophysical concepts and their components and, in the process, show just how much has to happen before the geologic arm-waving can begin, and

c) all the way from education to career and Project Gutenberg to blogging, my real passion is information sharing. Any community, be it a nation, business or scientific society, succeeds not because of what one knows but what many know. Furthermore, knowledge sharing is actively encouraged by Matt and his business partner and 52 Things co-editor, Evan Bianco. They are the first geophysicists I know who have taken our discipline from the shadowy realm of static PDFs, relatively unknown personal blogs and annual conferences to an active web presence, apps, a SubSurfWiki, the Creative Commons and Open Data and Open Source. Matt and Evan are businessmen, to be sure, but ones who understand that sharing enhances research and maximizes efficiency.

Of course, the kicker was that soon after I signed onto this project, I attended the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Summer Research Workshop on seismic inversion where we preached to the choir once again. Some of the planet’s most brilliant geophysical minds shared findings on inverting seismic data for reservoir characterization and fluid flow during hydrocarbon production, but the folks who really needed to hear this – geologists, reservoir engineers and production workers – were missing from the audience and week of post-formal-talk idea exchange. Yup, a piece on amplified communication and integration was what the book deserved.

As I say in the essay, “The geoscience community has the same problem as the intelligence community. Each person on the project has at least one crucial bit of information that everyone else does not possess.” And even the military now openly acknowledges its physical and philosophical knowledge sharing gap.

… the problem right now is that those protocols, by and large, don’t yet exist. And the further the Navy and Air Force get out to sea, the harder it is for planes, ships and subs to share data: the bandwidth aboard Navy ships alone, for instance, is already taxed by distance.

It’s all about effectively linking the inevitable stovepipes. I believe the first big step forward is talking to team members, presenting even the most esoteric work because it reveals different mindsets and rationales and being rewarded for sharing by company management. Corporate backs info-sharing; great, now get them to attach an incentive to it. (And, please, no “lunch ‘n’ learns” as if broadening employee knowledge bases is done during break or spare time.) Once an ethos of sharing with and impacting a larger community is established, protocols follow.

It is to the benefit of all lovers of science, education and rational thinking to get a copy of this book. Note that it is called 52 Things You Should Know About Geophysics and not 52 Things Geophysicists Should Know. First principles are useful weapons for any arsenal, not just those of scientists. Haven’t you ever been curious about how sound travels through different media, what acoustic technicians do to condition and transmit radio, tv, concert and sports sound feeds to you, what a fetal sonogram is, how a DJ creates those oomph oomph sounds and, most importantly, one of the first things that happens in finding the fuel for your cars, buses and airplanes? It’s all in the signal to noise, frequencies, velocities, absorption and attenuation of sound waves and how these relate to different materials. In our case, they are beautiful, beloved rocks.

Thanks, Matt, Evan and Kara for this great opportunity and all of your hard work over the past year. To many more!

1 comment… add one
  • evan June 22, 2012, 2:17 PM

    Maitri,
    I don’t know what planet I was lost on, but I have not been able to read this blog post until now. Thank you for writing so generously about this project. You get it, you get us, and that makes me smile.

    I vote for this post being inserted as a foreword, or a epilogue in a new version of the book. Or the next book. Or something.

    Save up those Haikus, we’ll have to host a spoken word seismic poetry session with cigarettes, and latte’s, and intermissions with soothing Vibroseis wavetrains played over the speaker system of a crowded coffee house.

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