A Year of Mystery

I began writing this blog – The Mountain Mystery – exactly one year ago. So, as far as blogs go, this is a young one. It is a loosely cohesive collection of stories about the Earth. The only real themes around this place are a love of earth sciences and an occasional piece on the men and women who figured out where mountains come from (that’s the mystery). There really isn’t anywhere else that’s assembling a collection of vignettes about the nearly forgotten scientists who (just 50 years ago!) unraveled the mystery of mountain-building and showed that plate tectonics is the ultimate creator of all things high.

The author, hive sitting in Florida.

The author, hive sitting in Florida.

Since you are bothering to read this blog, you deserve to know a bit about the author. I was a Pennsylvania farm kid many years ago. We had honey bees on that farm so when I was 18, I  became a professional beekeeper by trade. That lasted for about 15 years. Those years were among my best – my bees produced a million pounds of honey and I sold it for them. In our exchange, I took the honey money they earned and I bought new boxes and new queens for those bees.  I helped them tour apple orchards in West Virginia, orange groves in Florida, and clover pastures in Wisconsin. The bees wanted to experience Saskatchewan when they heard that the sun always shined and bees always prospered on the wide plains – so I brought them to Canada.

Ron at Machu PichuEventually, the bees begged their freedom, so I left them and moved to Saskatoon, attended university, and earned an honours geophysics degree. Bessel functions, autocorrelation, and paleomagnetism were my thing. Among much else, geophysics took me on a magnetic survey looking for diamond-studded kimberlite pipes and took me to Peru where I taught something about seismic. Geophysics opened my eyes to the joys of critical thinking and scientific study – I hope a little of that comes through in this blog.

For these posts, my intention is to draw attention to the planet, the massive spinning rock we too often surficially take for granite. This old iron-hearted lady is much more than what meets the feet. She has great depth and many, many peculiar quarks.  I have a bit of curiosity about the history of scientific discovery, so I also occasionally write commentary on the way earth science became known. But in producing these postings, I quickly discovered that most readers of this blog are attracted to topics which stray towards controversy, especially  societal interference in scientific endeavours – the main theme of my book, The Mountain Mystery.

Among the 101 posts (85,000 words of pop-wisdom) published here in the past year, the relationship of science and society has comprised the most popularly read, linked, and commented material. My stories about Senator Cruz (Ted Cruz, the Science Guy), Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything), oil reserves in Cuba (Has Cuba Got Oil?), fracking (World’s Biggest Fracking Quake), and Russia’s warmongering in the Arctic (Russia’s Growing Pains) have been among the most visited. When I write about religion, evolution, pollution, and climate, my pages leap forward in the battle of the search engines. On the other hand, some of my articles on plate tectonics, magnetic rocks, and eighteenth century geologists have largely drawn yawns. Nevertheless, my first love has been science, so I will continue to bore the masses with tales of petrified bones and radioactive stones, even if only a few dozen people enjoy them – and even though they tend to be harder for me to research and write than the opinion pieces.

On the other hand, I will not shirk the responsibility of presenting and responding to controversy. I remind myself daily of the Greek lawmaker Solon who decreed it criminal for any citizen to avoid controversy. (I am guessing he grew up in a noisy household.)  Solon’s intention was to legislate community activism. That was around the year 600 BCE and his efforts led to the eventual invention of democracy. This blog will not invent democracy, nor even restore it to places where it is eroding – like Canada (where I live) or the USA (where most of my readers reside) although that is one goal. Hence, I will continue my political ramblings in this science blog for another year. Sunlight is a great sanitizer. And even a little artificial light sends cockroaches scurrying – as I discovered during my years of living in Florida.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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