7-29-2010: New (uprighted) video loaded on "Nitty Gritty" :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SciMath Career #3: Paleomagnetism Technician

On shore, Trevor Cobine is a research specialist in geophysics but here on the JR, he's our Paleomagnetism Technician (or P-mag Tech, for short). What is paleomagnetism, you might ask? In a nutshell, the Earth has a magnetic field (which is the reason why our compasses point north) but that field switches (so that the compass points to the south pole) and back again - and those switches are recorded in the rocks we bring up in the cores. It's a way for us to know how old the rocks are (since we know when in Earth's history the field has switched back and forth) and consequently, to know when the lava erupted onto the seafloor. This knowledge is very important in our mission on the JR and without Trevor's knowledge in the earth science and statistics, we would not be able to date our lava flows

In developing software and maintaining the p-mag instruments requires statistics (calculating averages, errors and how far a certain number is off of the average) and signal processing (evaluating the quality of the data that come out of the instrument). In other words, he needs to know when the instrument is working correctly, if it is making precise measurements and if there's a problem, where there is a problem is. If Trevor did not know his statistics and signal processing, he would not be able to evaluate if the machine was spitting out good data or bad data. That is absolutely essential when getting any data! No one likes spending hours collecting bad data. No sirree!

Trevor has a strong background in geophysics (or the physics of the earth) that is key to doing his job. If he did not understand how rocks record magnetic fields, all the factors that can change a rock's magnetism or how to measure either of these, he would not be able to maintain software for an instrument that does just that: Measures magnetic fields in a rock and evaluates the data! Boy, would we be lost without Trevor's science brainpower!

As our P-mag Tech on board, Trevor's knowledge of science is especially valuable. Trevor maintains the equipment for our paleomagnetic experiments, trains us scientists on the instrumentation and software required to make our measurements and also develops software (see left) we use on board. In order to do all that, he not only has to know the instrument and the geophysics behind the measurement, but he also has to know what we are interested in knowing. To do that, he has to know geology outside of geophysics. It's a good thing Trevor got a Bachelors in Physics, a Masters in Geology/Geophysics and has years of experience in research. What advice does Trevor have for students? "Learn your geometry! It's extremely valuable and the simple math is always where you make your mistakes." Thanks Trevor for your expertise and for learning that math and science!

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