THE IDEAL GEOLOGIST WOULD
(a bit of geo-fantasy)
By Bill Tong
Imagine if a man with superpowers really did exist - the comic
book hero, Superman, would probably be our first choice. Long-time
readers of Superman comics may recall past "imaginary" tales depicting
what Superman would have done had he retired from fighting crime - invariably,
the comic book writers converted the retired crime-fighter into a super-doctor
researching miracle cures for deadly diseases. Such scenarios lack imagination
- Superman would better serve humanity as a geologist! There is
good rationale for this idea; remember that Superman was sent to Earth
due to a geological catastrophe (planetary core explosion) on his home
planet. A super-powered geologist would fill a severe technological gap
in the study of the Earth (especially the study of the Earth's interior).
As a mere doctor, Superman's individual efforts could probably be matched
by a large team of medical workers. Imagine a superhuman geologist who
could do all of these things by himself:
With all of these choices, even Superman wouldn't want to tackle all of
them at once, although with his super-speed, it probably wouldn't take
that long. As a personal quest, though, he might want to investigate the
mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry of Kryptonite (wearing a lead radiation
suit, of course)!
X-ray diffraction of minerals and rocks, using one eye as an X-ray
source, and the other eye as a detector!
X-ray stratigraphy ," in which Superman could locate minerals, oil,
and groundwater by sight.
Seismic stratigraphy , using himself as a "thumper truck," and his
super- hearing for monitoring and correlation.
Aerial remote sensing , using his telescopic vision.
Deep borehole drilling , as human drill rig - imagine reaching all
the way through to the Earth's core and bringing back fresh rock samples,
to boot! Superman could revolutionize solid earth science.
Seismic fault monitoring - a superhuman observer could obtain far
more data than any instrument; and if an earthquake strikes, he could "heal"
the fault zone!
In today's age of specialists, here are some geological specialties
ideally suited for Superman:
Geophysics : Using his supersenses and unlimited range of exploration,
Superman could perform gravity, magnetic, geodetic, and other tests with
unprecedented speed and accuracy.
Geochemistry : Using super-strength, Superman could create new and
unknown high-pressure minerals (recall his well-known feat of turning coal
into diamonds). What about high-temperature minerals? No problem - he also
has heat vision. (The world diamond market could be in trouble.)
In hostile environments, Superman could literally "go where no man (or
geologist) has gone before":
As a planetary geologist , he could obtain extra-terrestrial samples
As a marine geologist , he could map the ocean floor by swimming
at super-speed, dive down into subduction zones and mid-ocean ridges, investigate
intraplate hot spots and hydrothermal vents, and drill through the ocean
floor. Perhaps "Project Mohole" should be renamed "Project Kal-El."
As a glacial geologist , Superman could easily bore through the
Arctic and Antarctic ice and obtain samples of bedrock.
As a petroleum geologist , Superman could not only find oil using
his super-senses, he could also recover it in a way no conventional machines
could - by inhaling. If the hydrocarbons are found to be not quite geologically
mature, a little heat vision could cook them to the proper composition.
The competition by oil companies for Superman's services would be ferocious.
Maybe if he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, he could avoid this
Perhaps the greatest scientific feat that Superman could accomplish would
be time travel . If it were possible, the Earth's past history and
the evolution of life could be verified first-hand. We would finally know
when the Earth was created, and how it actually happened. (Creationism
would be put out of business for good!) Wouldn't it be nice to have dinosaurs
and trilobites (and perhaps, early whales) brought back for study?
This essay has been translated into Estonian by Karolin
This essay has been translated into Russian by Michael Taylor:
Copyright © 1986 by William K. Tong