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The BGS and the GSI3D conference

September 8, 2008

Even though we were staying in Nottingham my dad and I had business down in Keyworth. Particularly with the British Geological Survey. While there we attended the GSI3D conference where issues regarding 3D models were discussed. To summarize what I picked up at the conference (3D models and remote sensing are far from my area of expertise):

  • Geologists need to be able to effectively convey their information to non-geologists (something like 0.5% of people can actually read a geologic map)
  • We need to standardize data sets, so workers can share data easily. One individual explained that 5 contractors were working on the same problem for the government, but none of them could share any data because they all had different file formats.
  • Programmers need to design software with geologists in mind: this would get around the bottle neck of only a handful of geologists being able to input data and generate models (think about how often geologists need a GIS technician, now think how often the tech is a geologist themselves). If the workflow is what geologists already do, it is simpler.
  • Need to collect more subsurface data and centralize it (at least for government purposes).
  • There was also a lively discussion about how to display the uncertainties inherent in a model. Ideas ranged from making colors more transparent the less confident a geologist is of the model, to making the computer emit screaming sounds when the mouse moves over portions of the model where the model is likely wrong.

While at the BGS, I also got the chance to visit the library. The BGS started in 1835, and shortly thereafter the library started. I did some poking around there stacks (they have COMPLETE sets of something like 20 journals). But the thing I was most fascinated by was the first edition of Lyell’s Principles of Geology. I suspected they would have a copy (I mean it is the BGS), I was surprised they actually let me handle them and read through them (the quote from “For the Love of Lyell” BTW is at the bottom of the first page of the first chapter (second paragraph) so the placement I guessed at is more or less correct). I even cleared up a small mystery for the librarian.

She said the first volume claimed to be of a two volume set, but there were three volumes. I told her the three volumes were correct, and found where the change happened (the preface to the second volume explains there is so much good stuff to talk about Lyell has to expand it to three volumes). I also found a coincidence (that I find neat, though everyone else will probably not find it near as interesting) the third volume was purchased on my birthdate (well 149 years early, but month and day are correct).

We also got the opportunity to experience a “holodeck”. The BGS has near complete coverage of Great Britain in 3D (Scotland and Ireland have consistently been cloudy and they can’t get pictures of high enough quality). But flying around the middle of England was a lot of fun, especially when we would dive underground to take a look at the geology. I recommend everyone should buy one for their livingrooms.

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