Saturday, April 21, 2012

10 Reasons Geologist's are Weird

As the title says geologists are an odd breed, full of personality quirks that separate them from say...everyone else. So at the encouragement of my girlfriend, who is not a geologist and is therefore perfectly positioned to observe the quirkiness of me and my geo friends we are making a list of geologist quirks.

1. Many geologists think about rocks, minerals, fossils and their PhD thesis (me) while laying in bed at night. This is pretty strange behaviour since the rest of the population thinks about normal but way less interesting thins such as sports, politics, you name it, only geologists think about rocks.

2. Geologists suck at navigating in cities, but can always find their way in the bush. For example, two of our friends were coming over and while they have lived in Ottawa for a combined 7 years they ended up completely lost and on the wrong street. When we asked how the hell did you get lost they said "we knew it was in the 300's and we just though we'd feel it out when we got close". Indeed they did get close just on the wrong street, which in the city is terrible navigating. However, you put these two in the bush and they can navigate their way to the only outcrop for miles through dense undergrowth and led only by their "feelings".

3. Geologists tell really bad puns and make a LOT of dirty geologist jokes. Honestly, the list of dirty geologist jokes has to be miles long by now. All you have to do is find any pub on any given night in any given city and you will likely see a few wearing a stupid shirt that says something like: "Geologists make the bed rock", "Are you (Mg,Fe)7Si8O22(OH)2", and a personal favourite of mine: "My cephalopod is long". I take that they mean an orthoconic cephalopod that is.

Orthocone cephalopod
4. Uncyclopedia says that geologists may be the Earth's only alcohol based life form and far be it from me to disagree. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly. Many of the grad students in my department engage in an activity called "lunch beers". This entails leaving the office at around 11am, going to the nearest bar and ordering about a pitcher per person and sitting their drinking until about 2 or 3pm when they come back to the office if they ever come back at all...

5. Geologists dress weird. See my previous post on geologist stereotypes for a full description. Another example would be any number of eminent geologists who could be mistaken for homeless men due to their long brown/black/white hair and beards, torn field clothes that they wear to work every day and, of course, hiking boots.

6. Geologists actually want to get coal in their stocking for Christmas or any other rock. When I was a tiny geology enthusiast and rockhounder I would always ask my parents for new samples to add to my collection at Christmas. Another good example of this is that the child geologist will save all his or her allowance money to spend it on rocks and minerals when they go to a show. Normal kids buy CD's, clothes, toys, etc. Indeed, this is why I have horrible knowledge of pop music from my own generation, but a massive mineral and fossil collection. 

7. Speaking of rock shows...when geologists say "rock show" they don't mean music. This actually happened to me. The annual Ottawa gem and mineral show was going on one weekend and I asked my new housemate, Chris, if he wanted to go to a rock show on the weekend with me. His response was "Hell yes". A few days later on the Saturday of the show Chris asked me if "shouldn't we go get some booze so we can pre-drink before the show". I gave him a confused look and then explained to him the true meaning of rock shows. We then went to the show where I got some great samples for our shared living room. 

8. Geologists are annoying to drive behind. As a geologist I know that when I travel on highways in the Canadian Shield I am annoying to drive behind because of my erratic speed. Whenever I pass a roadcut I am compelled to have a closer look and that means slowing down and possibly even pulling over if it looks really promising. However, this must be really irritating to people driving behind me since roads in the Canadian Shield are almost all outcrop and my pattern of slowing down then speeding up as soon as I pass is must drive them crazy. So here is a sorry to them from me and all other geologists like me.

9. Geologists think that a good rock hammer can be used in any situation. For example, a rock hammer makes a great nut opener/crusher. I have used mine many times to crush nuts and seeds for recipes since I don't own a food processor. All you have to do wrap the hammer in saran wrap and go to town. It works like a charm and is great fun. It also helps keep my aim sharp in the winter when there are no rocks outside to practice on. 

10. The final oddity in my list, and believe me there are a lot more than 10, is that geologists love to be in harsh, remote places. To many in the general population camping involves driving to your site, making a campfire in the little metal thingy and cooking dinner. This can be fun, especially with lots of beer on hand, however, geologists want more. To a geologist the more remote the better. If my field site is fly-in only, hundreds of kilometers from the nearest outpost of civilization I am happy, as long as there is still beer that is. The other odd thing that goes along with this is that geologists are competitive with one another about how remote their field work is. It is not uncommon to hear lines at the bar that go as follows:

Geologist A: "Just got back from the field and boy was it ever a great trip! My beer ration was huge. We were working about 100km north of the Arctic Circle drilling ice cores. The camp was only accessible in the winter by snow mobile then we transferred to dog sled at Eagle Plains." 

Geologist B: "Wow! That sounds like a great trip! I just got back from my field season as well. My work was prospecting for new kimberlite pipes on Herman Melleville Island. We had to get helicoptered onto the island and then walk 300 km north. Hell, I must have been a good 1000km north of the Arctic Circle." 

Geologist A: "Oh yeah, well my cephalopod is longer."

I hope that you enjoyed my little top 10 list of geologist weirdness. If you have any other examples of geologist's being strange I would love to hear them so please comment!!



  1. One weird thing I often do while shopping with my non-geologist girlfriends in shopping malls -- they look at beautiful clothes, but I look at beautiful decorative and polished rocks on the floors...

    1. Haha, fantastic point. I often do the same. I also love to look at countertops while I am in other people's homes. You can be chatting to your host and characterizing their countertops all at the same time.

  2. Hahaha, completely true!! But as a geologist, I must say, most of the geologist I know (including me) have something else in common. We all looveee good food. Some of them cook great food, some of them love to go to good restaurants, some of them love to go to a field trip in an specific place to go to the restaurant they know, and even, some of them make the bus take like 50km or more just to eat at the restaurant where they eat that delicious whatever with that outstanding wine xD
    I think we love rocks, alcohol and food. Yeah!

    1. That is a great point. I completely agree. I remember a few instances on field trips during my undergrad where the professors would drag us to some outcrop and then tell us that their just happened to be a great restaurant nearby. Coincidence I think not. I myself think that I am a pretty good field chef. My best ever was camp crab cakes made with an onion, crushed canned chick peas, canned crab meat and garlic powder. Then I fried them up over the Coleman stove. Thanks for the great comment!!

  3. Enjoyed reading this Matt, very entertaining! No. 2 made me laugh and reminds me of Clyde's previous profession as a Hydrographic Surveyor, he could navigate on the water with no land markings...but put him in the city..and your sure to get lost!!

  4. call yourself a geologist ... your favicon is a bog standard orange B for Blogger. Mine is the mountain I look out at. The foothills of the Groot Winterhoek mountains. Cape Fold Belt stretching back to Table Mountain and on. Seriously, it helps to keep track of open tabs if your favicon is geared to your blog e.g. I have ScienceSeeker open now, with a tiny red microscope.

    1. Hahaha. Shhh. I am a geochemist and we have a bit of an inferiority complex compared to all you hard rock types. Thanks for the suggestion. What do you think of my little favicon now?

  5. RE: Good food - I make a point of cooking a full sunday roast for whoever I'm housed with (if our trip is over a sunday) haha! I have a space in my kit bag for herbs :)


  6. My husband (also a geologist) has a really great sense of direction, but I love to bug him about the time he got lost in Toronto's Airport parkade. He was "missing" for over an hour ... I seriously thought he'd been abducted.

  7. Tagay! (Filipino term for Cheers!)

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. haha i love this... I've got one for you though

    if you're a hiker, and have ever gone out with others... everyone is almost always looking up and at the forest and what not... but me and my friends, we're always looking down and at our feet unless we've suddenly come up to a cliff face =P

    I'm also gem/mineral nut, that's the big thing that got me interested in geology, so most of the time, I know more about what the girls are looking at in the jewelry shop than they do =P

  10. I got started in geology because of an interest in gems and minerals, and although I love getting out there and collecting my own stuff, I love cut gems and jewelry stores just as much as finding giant pegmatitic zones... i've found that i usually know more about the gems and jewelry that the girls are looking at and have on themselves than they do =P

  11. Question 2. led only by their "feelings"...........
    Don't you mean "Field Assistants"


    You should enjoy this per number 3!!!

  13. Hanging apostrophe! Shame on you.

  14. On a Geology spring break trip I was amazed by the professor who was "leading us" and his ability to find liquor stores in any local, and also his ability to know exactly how many days of drinking we should prepare ourselves for depending on the remoteness of our destinations. The one time he knew the exact location of the only liquor store in the county, also happened to plan our camping location based on proximity to such.

  15. we, of course, talked about orogenous zones, and piles of schist. i once had a button that said "Reunite Gondwanaland!" also nice to see a comment from John Gribbin. i still have your book "White Holes."

  16. Greetings from Greece. I am a University student and I find geology really hard. :( Any advices? I hope some day I can have fun too. Your blog is gorgeous! :)

  17. Me I like when I visit any country,instead of admiring new buildings I check and ask "where are the rocks ,is there any rock or river ? "Lol

  18. Just about everyone of these made me break into a big smile, because they are so true of us. We are a bit weird. I enjoyed those listed in comments too.

    I've nearly wrecked the car a bunch of times because the geology I was passing demanded my observation.

    I look at building materials every where I go. I always learn something about the local geology right away depending on what I see in the concrete, asphalt too. I want to see what's quarried locally. I look at counter tops in restrooms, floors and granite walls in banks and concert halls. Fireplaces, etc. My eyes find the stone and fixate on it!

    I have a part time odd job. The woman I work for and I do a lot of home improvement projects at her house. I am forever telling her how things are made, what minerals were used to make the products we use and where those minerals are mined. For instance, we were using some borax the other day. I said borax is an evaporite deposit that gets left behind when lakes dry up over and over again. Told her what we were using was probably was mined in California or out west. She just looks at me like, What? or Why? do you think about stuff like that? Because I am a geologist and that is what we think about and how we think.

    I solve a lot of problems with my rock hammer. Some women think about what shoes they are packing, I want to know where my rock hammer is. And bags for bringing rocks home. Love the idea of covering your rock hammer with saran wrap and hitting nuts. I put nuts (for baking) in a baggie and lay it on the kitchen floor, hit it with the rock hammer. Most effiecient way to chop nuts I know of.

    My rock hammer goes with me everywhere. Never know when I'll suddenly pulled off the road and go chip off some bring home and add to my enormous rock collection!

    No one mentioned our elaborate rock collections! Or how expensive it is to hire a moving company to move your small amount of furniture and huge rock collection! They always charge me extra when they show up to deliver my stuff, even though I stress to them ahead of time to allow a lot of extra weight for my rocks in their estimate that is paid up front before they move me. In route, they stop at weigh stations so when they get to my new residence with my stuff, they KNOW how much my rocks weigh! They charge me accordingly or they threaten to not unload my stuff.

    Just found your blog via About Geology dot com. Andrew, in one of his stellar articles, directed readers to this blog. I'll subscribe.