Apollo 11 Lunar Landing 40th Anniversary (not 20th!)

View of Lunar Module footpad, subject of much geotechnical analysi I’ll be brief since I have already mentioned this in a previous post and in the July GeoPrac newsletter. But today was the 40th Anniversary of the first time humans set foot on the moon. I’m embarrassed to say, but I mistakenly noted this historic anniversary as the 20th instead of the 40th anniversary in both of the above links. I’m surprised nobody called me on this, but I guess you ridiculed me in private. If you haven’t already, check out the wonderful article by Ed Nowatzki on the geotechnical engineering aspects of the lunar lander…fascinating reading, even for non-geotech types.

First Lunar Landing 40 Years Later and Stuck Spirit Rover

Free Spirit - via NASA

Back in May, the Mars Rover Spirit was announced to be stuck in soft Martian soil. As anyone who has ever gotten a 4wd vehicle stuck in loose soil knows, if you’re not careful, trying to get out can make you even more stuck. So NASA engineers and scientists are taking their time in designing and testing a solution to the problem, taking advantage of a Martian wind storm that blew a coating of dust off Spirit’s solar panels, giving it some additional battery life it didn’t have before. In the meantime, they are using whatever on-board equipment they can to perform a sort of Martian geotechnical investigation on the soil its stuck in while personnel here on Earth perform physical and computer simulations and experiments to try to figure out a solution.

The Spirit business reminded me of Ed’s article when he described that some scientists believed that the lunar soil cover or regolith was so thick and powdery fine that attempts to land on it would be doomed to failure.

These and other factors led to much speculation on the part of scientists as to the thickness of the lunar regolith. I can recall attending a conference in 1966 where Dr. Thomas Gold, a renowned but rather eccentric astrophysicist from Cornell University, suggested that the lunar surface was coated with a deep layer of fine rock powder and warned that astronauts and landers would sink out of sight.

As everyone knows, the mission was ultimately a success, and Ed recalls his work on the mission as the Ultimate Geotechnical Engineering Challenge, which is the phrase with which he appropriately titled his essay. In an interesting connection between the two stories in this post, another accomplishment in Ed’s distinguished career has been his publication of a 1978 book titled Soil Mechanics for Off-Road Vehicle Engineering which was co-authored by Dr. Les Karafiath, who was also Ed’s partner on the LM geotechnical work. I wonder if any of their work was used in the design of the Mars Rovers?

 

 

One final note, even if you are not a geotechnical engineer, I think you will find Ed’s article fascinating reading and a glimpse into an exciting time in our Nation’s history.

Read More

Buried in Twitter and Geo-terms Searching Fail

Soccer fail Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I’m a geek, I’ve been wrapped up in a new programming project with PHP and the Twitter API. Its going to be a new feature on the Geoprac site and I’m very excited about it, but its not quite ready for prime time yet.

Have you ever tried to Google a geo-term either for work or general interest and found mostly things that are completely unrelated to what your looking for? For example, try a google search for landslide. Mixed in with all the stuff of interest to geotechnical engineers and geologists are videos and lyrics for Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, the Dixie Chicks etc. Results from google news for landslide show similar problems, you get news stories about landslide victories in elections, on American Idol, etc. That’s the kind of stuff I’ve been dealing with when trying to sift through the sea of tweets out there…but I think its even worse on Twitter because half most of the time, people are twittering about nothing really. We’ll see how successful I am at sifting through the crap for the interesting tweets.

But one of my points in writing this post is to plug one of my related sites, GeotechSearch.com. Its a custom search engine powered by Google but it works on the principle of a “whitelist” where it only returns results from a specified list of sites. My list of sites comes from the GeoLinks section of the GeoPrac.net site where links can be submitted by any registered member. So if you or someone else have determined that your company’s site or one of your favorite geo-related sites is important enough to include in the GeoLinks, it should be included in GeotechSearch.com results (at least for the right keywords).

So for comparison, try the landslide search on GeotechSearch.com and see what you find. I think it does a pretty good job, but there is always room for improvement by adding more relevant sites to search, so become a member of GeoPrac and then submit your links (you can get there from the GeoLinks page, or from Menu).

Southwest Geotechnical Conference Wrapup


Presentations

Exhibitors and Networking

  • Meeting Scott Deaton, President of Dataforensics and seeing their PLog software for field data collection in action
  • Speaking with Dennis Poland with Anderson Drilling, comparing notes about getting excited about natural disasters!
  • Speaking with George Ford of AIS Construction – the guys with the walking excavators that work on some insane slopes!
  • Finding GFC-West (Nick Andrews) – the licensed geopier designer and installer for Arizona (they also do Chance helical anchors and GeoBase dynamic subgrade improvement for slab on grade)
  • Meeting Aaron Thomas and Kevin Wilson with Case Foundation Phoenix office and comparing notes on their boss, Todd Dustin (only good things of course!)
  • Putting faces to names for a few colleagues and contacts from various projects etc.

And of course catching up with friend, colleagues and clients!

Read More

GeoPrac Turns Two!

GeoPrac.net turns two! Geology cake stratigraphy by Khol-y (Flickr) after original design by Tim Babb.GeoPrac.net is now well into its toddler years! Today marks the second anniversary of the site. The past year has seen a major upgrade to the content management system, a new design, Geothreads, Delicious geotech, new sponsorship model, the launch of a sister site, GeotechSearch.com and most recently, a monthly newsletter. We’re up to around 414 news posts and articles, and 153 geolinks.

In the next year I hope to continue with the top quality content, and perhaps implement still more new features with a decidedly Web 2.0 feel. Thanks for all the support! A special thank you to my first sponsor, gINT Software!

(Cake photo…and actual cake by Khol-y after an original T-Shirt design by Tim Babb. Thanks to Rock Bandit for finding the photo)

There and Back Again…Ed Medley

image Maybe its a physical resemblance to Sir Ian Holm who played Bilbo in the movies, or perhaps its to the hair or maybe its the muted Welsh accent, I dont’ know. But I think the comparison struck me even more after reading on his website about various adventures he has experienced on his path to becoming a successful geological engineer. I’m still wading through the entertaining posts from his personal website, but it sounds as if he had his fair share of challenges growing up, and didn’t end up working on his PhD (at Berkley) until he was in his 40’s.  It sounds like he took a rather circuitous route through his career, and some of his colleagues had pegged him as a failure. Like I said, I still have more reading to do, but if you’re interested, his blog is one of the more entertaining ones I’ve read!

At any rate, his talk this evening was very entertaining, and it reminded me of so many of the things I like about geological engineering…things I sometimes forget during my practice as a geotechnical engineer. To give you a flavor of the talk, and his colorful writing and presentation style, check out the abstract from his Jahns Lecture page:

Something to Chew on- Rock is More Nutritious than Dirt: A medley of geoengineering presentations is scrambled to provide oft-neglected supplementary nourishment to soils engineers afforded by rock engineering. Ingredients in the Lecture may include (at the whim of the chef): an analysis of high cut slopes, and characterization of weak rock masses using the Hoek-Brown Failure Criterion, “layered” on the basis of depth varying Geological Strength Indexes; description of the simple Geological Engineering basis for confidence in the rock mass stability of the walls of lava tubes caves during retrieval of a buried collection of unique Hawaiian cultural artifacts; and, why you should care about melanges and other block-in-matrix rocks (bimrocks).

I forget the exact terminology he used, but one of the most poignant series of slides for me was when he was discussing the volumetric distribution of rock blocks in a melange or bimrock unit. He showed a cartoon diagram of a cross-section of block-in-matrix material, then he took thin vertical slices of the entire section, analogous to boreholes. His point was the difficulty of estimating the percentage of blocks by volume based solely on borings.

He further emphasized his point by making the audience do an exercise where they held their hands up together leaving a vertical slit in between. He told us to look at something in the room, and take a “mental digital picture”, then look around the room and take 4 or 5 more “digital photos”. Then he said to imagine emailing the digital pictures to someone and asking them to recreate who and what was in the room. It puts a whole different spin on what we geotechs do as a matter of routine!

His case studies on cut slopes for a landfill expansion in bimrock and his work collecting archaeological artifacts in lava tubes in Hawaii were both fascinating. The preceding sentence doesn’t do the topics justice of course, but I’m running out of steam.

It’s getting late and I should go to bed, but I wanted to share a few more personal notes about Ed. He clearly shares a view held by Richard Jahns as well that professors of geological engineering should work in the real world and take that knowledge back to their teaching…a philosophy that I agree with wholeheartedly. He clearly is passionate about the profession and his work, and his enthusiasm is very apparent in his presentation. And I mentioned that I judged him to be a very genuine person…I only conversed with him briefly, but I introduced myself and he remembered me from our email exchanges (he might provide an article based on his photogrammetry papers/presentations) and remembered that he had promised an article. He was also very appreciative of me making the trip up to see his presentation and he asked me a question that nobody has really asked me before…why I give up my time to the GeoPrac site. Maybe it take a fellow blogger to see the amount of effort involved in keeping up a site like this, and he must have known that I have some of the same passion that he has for our profession. Maybe that’s why I liked him.

Read More

Problems with Comment Forms Now Fixed

I’ve told a few people this before, it seems like every time I try to fix something on this site, I break two more things. The latest casualty: The forms to add comments to GeoNews posts and Articles. They seems to be working again, but it obviously put a damper on the Space Navigator giveaway. So for that reason, I’ll be extending the deadline for the contest until just before midnight (CST) on January 31, 2009. My apologies to anyone who tried to leave a comment only to have nothing happen! We would love to have your feedback, please try it again!

Thanks to Ryan Portman for sending me an email about the problem and for his comment on Wal-Mart’s Geotechnical Investigation Specifications. That’s the beautiful thing about tapping into the community of GeoPrac readers, there is so much collective knowledge out there, don’t hesitate to share yours with the rest of us! Ryan is now entered to win the Space Navigator, don’t forget to get your name in the hat by leaving a comment on one of the news posts or articles!

On a side note, if you want to see your photo next to your comment, or you are curious about how GeoPrac handles comments, check out our Commenting on Posts page. Oh, and don’t be shy about sending me an email if you notice any other problems.

Top Content of 2008


Most Popular Content Published In 2008

  1. 7 Amazing Holes – Published Feb 11, 2008 (29.2 hits/day, 9,463 page impressions total)
  2. VBA and Excel for Engineers and Scientists – Part 2 – Published May 21, 2008 (14.6 hits/day, 3,285 page impressions total)
  3. NY Landslide Halts Highway Construction – Published Sep 3, 2008 (13.3 hits/day, 1,590 page impressions total)
  4. Mill Creek Dam near Walla Walla, WA Leaking, Receives Corps Worst Rating – Published Nov 7, 2008 (11.8 hits/day, 642 page impressions total)
  5. New Feature – GeoThreads – Published Oct 21, 2008 (11.2 hits/day, 796 page impressions total)
  6. GeoPrac.net Facelift – Published Oct 21, 2008 (9.7 hits/day, 694 page impressions total)
  7. Retraction and Apology – Drilling Accident in Ontario Canada – Published Oct 30, 2008 (9.7 hits/day, 599 page impressions total)
  8. GEO5 Distribution Deal Signed by gINT Software, Fine – Published Sep 29, 2008 (9.1 hits/day, 845 page impressions total)
  9. Geotagging Images for Geoengineers – Published Jul 10, 2008 (8.6 hits/day, 1,508 page impressions total)
  10. Dataforensics and Vertek Announce a Software Collaboration Program for CPT Data Analysis – Published Dec 3, 2008 (8.6 hits/day, 240 page impressions total)
  11. North America’s Tallest MSE Retaining Wall – Published Jan 9, 2008 (8.2 hits/day, 2,939 page impressions total)
  12. Top 50 GeoPrac Content Items of 2008 Q1 – Published May 14, 2008 (8.1 hits/day, 1,886 page impressions total)
  13. Problems with Registration and Outside News and Blogs – Published Jan 22, 2008 (7.5 hits/day, 2,584 page impressions total)
  14. German town sinking after drilling operations – Published Feb 24, 2008 (7.4 hits/day, 2,309 page impressions total)
  15. Mitigation of Karst and Sinkholes for New Hospital Structure – Published Nov 24, 2008 (7.3 hits/day, 270 page impressions total)
  16. New Tunnel Project In Peru Through Andes – Published May 30, 2008 (7.3 hits/day, 1,576 page impressions total)
  17. Transient Stability Analyses with SLOPE/W 2007 – Published May 28, 2008 (7.1 hits/day, 1,546 page impressions total)
  18. Yucca Mountain Solution for Nevada’s Budget Deficit? – Published Nov 24, 2008 (7.0 hits/day, 259 page impressions total)
  19. Drill Rig Fatality – Removed – Published Oct 29, 2008 (6.9 hits/day, 431 page impressions total)
  20. Wind Turbine Foundations and Massive Off-Shore Turbines – Published Jun 29, 2008 (6.7 hits/day, 1,235 page impressions total)
  21. Continuing Problems for Ohio Landfill – Published May 6, 2008 (6.6 hits/day, 1,567 page impressions total)
  22. ASTM Standards November Update – Published Nov 26, 2008 (6.0 hits/day, 211 page impressions total)
  23. Allegations: Oregon Not Forthcoming With Landslide Hazard Information – Published Jan 25, 2008 (5.9 hits/day, 2,015 page impressions total)
  24. Landslide Videos from Brazil – Published Dec 10, 2008 (5.8 hits/day, 123 page impressions total)
  25. Personal Reflections on I-35 Bridge Collapse in Minneapolis – Published Jan 17, 2008 (5.7 hits/day, 1,980 page impressions total)

Most Popular Content of 2008 (Published Anytime)

  1. Aesthetic Blasting – Published Aug 28, 2007 (38.8 hits/day, 15,105 page impressions total)
  2. 7 Amazing Holes – Published Feb 11, 2008 (29.2 hits/day, 9,463 page impressions total)
  3. VBA and Excel for Engineers and Scientists – Part 2 – Published May 21, 2008 (14.6 hits/day, 3,285 page impressions total)
  4. NY Landslide Halts Highway Construction – Published Sep 3, 2008 (13.3 hits/day, 1,590 page impressions total)
  5. Mill Creek Dam near Walla Walla, WA Leaking, Receives Corps Worst Rating – Published Nov 7, 2008 (11.8 hits/day, 642 page impressions total)
  6. New Feature – GeoThreads – Published Oct 21, 2008 (11.2 hits/day, 796 page impressions total)
  7. GeoPrac.net Facelift – Published Oct 21, 2008 (9.7 hits/day, 694 page impressions total)
  8. Retraction and Apology – Drilling Accident in Ontario Canada – Published Oct 30, 2008 (9.7 hits/day, 599 page impressions total)
  9. LRFD for Geotech – Note 1 – Published Apr 23, 2007 (9.1 hits/day, 4,245 page impressions total)
  10. GEO5 Distribution Deal Signed by gINT Software, Fine – Published Sep 29, 2008 (9.1 hits/day, 845 page impressions total)
  11. Embankment Dams in Fissure Risk Zones – Published Sep 27, 2007 (9.0 hits/day, 4,640 page impressions total)
  12. VBA and Excel for Engineers and Scientists – Published Apr 5, 2007 (8.7 hits/day, 3,956 page impressions total)
  13. Geotagging Images for Geoengineers – Published Jul 10, 2008 (8.6 hits/day, 1,508 page impressions total)
  14. Dataforensics and Vertek Announce a Software Collaboration Program for CPT Data Analysis – Published Dec 3, 2008 (8.6 hits/day, 240 page impressions total)
  15. 27 Years Ago: Bizarre Drilling Disaster at Lake Peigneur – Published Nov 20, 2007 (8.5 hits/day, 3,122 page impressions total)
  16. North America’s Tallest MSE Retaining Wall – Published Jan 9, 2008 (8.2 hits/day, 2,939 page impressions total)
  17. Top 50 GeoPrac Content Items of 2008 Q1 – Published May 14, 2008 (8.1 hits/day, 1,886 page impressions total)
  18. gINT Professional Software Explained – Published Jun 25, 2007 (7.8 hits/day, 3,458 page impressions total)
  19. Problems with Registration and Outside News and Blogs – Published Jan 22, 2008 (7.5 hits/day, 2,584 page impressions total)
  20. German town sinking after drilling operations – Published Feb 24, 2008 (7.4 hits/day, 2,309 page impressions total)
  21. Mitigation of Karst and Sinkholes for New Hospital Structure – Published Nov 24, 2008 (7.3 hits/day, 270 page impressions total)
  22. New Tunnel Project In Peru Through Andes – Published May 30, 2008 (7.3 hits/day, 1,576 page impressions total)
  23. Transient Stability Analyses with SLOPE/W 2007 – Published May 28, 2008 (7.1 hits/day, 1,546 page impressions total)
  24. The Ultimate Geotechnical Engineering Challenge – Published May 29, 2007 (7.1 hits/day, 3,590 page impressions total)
  25. Yucca Mountain Solution for Nevada’s Budget Deficit? – Published Nov 24, 2008 (7.0 hits/day, 259 page impressions total)

Most Popular Content Published in Q4 2008

  1. Mill Creek Dam near Walla Walla, WA Leaking, Receives Corps Worst Rating – Published Nov 7, 2008 (11.8 hits/day, 642 page impressions total)
  2. New Feature – GeoThreads – Published Oct 21, 2008 (11.2 hits/day, 796 page impressions total)
  3. GeoPrac.net Facelift – Published Oct 21, 2008 (9.7 hits/day, 694 page impressions total)
  4. Retraction and Apology – Drilling Accident in Ontario Canada – Published Oct 30, 2008 (9.7 hits/day, 599 page impressions total)
  5. Dataforensics and Vertek Announce a Software Collaboration Program for CPT Data Analysis – Published Dec 3, 2008 (8.6 hits/day, 240 page impressions total)
  6. Mitigation of Karst and Sinkholes for New Hospital Structure – Published Nov 24, 2008 (7.3 hits/day, 270 page impressions total)
  7. Yucca Mountain Solution for Nevada’s Budget Deficit? – Published Nov 24, 2008 (7.0 hits/day, 259 page impressions total)
  8. Drill Rig Fatality – Removed – Published Oct 29, 2008 (6.9 hits/day, 431 page impressions total)
  9. ASTM Standards November Update – Published Nov 26, 2008 (6.0 hits/day, 211 page impressions total)
  10. Landslide Videos from Brazil – Published Dec 10, 2008 (5.8 hits/day, 123 page impressions total)
  11. Geophysics used to find 139 missing WWII Marines – Published Dec 10, 2008 (5.5 hits/day, 118 page impressions total)
  12. Be Thankful Your House Foundation is Intact – Published Nov 27, 2008 (5.3 hits/day, 179 page impressions total)
  13. Fracking Chemicals in Your Water – Published Nov 18, 2008 (5.1 hits/day, 218 page impressions total)
  14. Carbon Sequestration as Hard Rock – Published Nov 6, 2008 (5.0 hits/day, 272 page impressions total)
  15. What Would a Large Earthquake Do to Downtown L.A.? – Published Nov 7, 2008 (4.8 hits/day, 263 page impressions total)
  16. GEI Consultants Completes Site at Proposed New Nuclear Plant for AREVA and UniStar Nuclear Energy – Published Nov 7, 2008 (4.8 hits/day, 259 page impressions total)
  17. New Publication: Landslides and Engineering Geology of the Seattle, Washington Area – Published Nov 4, 2008 (4.6 hits/day, 262 page impressions total)
  18. Scary: Things that go bump…at the end of the bridge – Published Oct 31, 2008 (4.4 hits/day, 269 page impressions total)
  19. ASTM Standards Updates – Sep/Oct – Published Oct 22, 2008 (4.3 hits/day, 297 page impressions total)
  20. Geoengineer.org: New Ralph Peck – Published Oct 30, 2008 (4.0 hits/day, 251 page impressions total)
  21. ReSSA and FoSSA Updates – Published Oct 29, 2008 (3.9 hits/day, 246 page impressions total)
  22. Locating the Tomb of Genghis Khan Using Remote Sensing and Geophysics – Published Nov 4, 2008 (3.9 hits/day, 220 page impressions total)
  23. Precast Bridge Abutments used on Wisconsin Highway Project – Published Oct 27, 2008 (3.8 hits/day, 246 page impressions total)
  24. Google Earth for iPhone Released – Published Oct 27, 2008 (3.2 hits/day, 208 page impressions total)
  25. 96-Acre Platform Over San Diego Marine Terminal – Published Oct 24, 2008 (2.3 hits/day, 158 page impressions total)
Read More

Retraction and Apology – Drilling Accident in Ontario Canada

Yesterday I received a forwarded email from a fellow geotechnical engineer and former coworker regarding a fatal accident involving a hollow stem auger drill rig in the Lindsay area of Ontario Canada on October 8th. I attempted to find local media accounts of the accident, and the only one that I could find did not have all of the details regarding specifics of the accident that were listed in the email. I chose to publish the details from the email anyway.

In my zeal to provide relevant news to the readers of GeoPrac.net, I lost sight of the fact that even bloggers must follow basic journalistic principals of checking their facts before publishing something. And more importantly I lost sight of the fact that this person was a friend, coworker, and family member to people…not just a news item.

Today I received a call from a friend and colleague (coworker I think) of the victim. He told me that my facts were not correct, and asked me to take the article down from GeoPrac, which I did immediately. I deeply, deeply regret and apologize for publishing this incorrect information without making every effort to verify the facts. And I am absolutely sick to my stomach to think that I have caused his friends and family, in particular his parents, any additional grief or heartache over and above that which they are already feeling.

In conversation with this person, he discussed briefly some of his efforts spurred by this accident to advance drill rig safety in Canada. I applaud these efforts, and I hope that he and the victim’s other family and friends can see that I had good intentions in sharing the email I received by posting it on GeoPrac…that is to remind people of the potential for serious accidents when working near drill rigs in the hopes that engineers, geologists and drillers will be always vigilant and look out for each other on the job site.

I truly meant what I said at the end of the original post, “My most sincere condolences go to [the victim’s] family and friends. This is an unfortunate reminder of the hazards of working around drill rigs. To all in the geotechnical or geological industries, please be careful out there…” If the family and friends of the victim wish me to print a correction to my previous post, I will most certainly do so. Again my most sincere and humble apologies to anyone who may have been hurt by my previous post.

Respectfully,

Randy Post
Owner/Editor – GeoPrac.net