Monday, November 28, 2011

Wonders of Geology - A New and Stunning iPad Download from Michael Collier

A Michael Collier photograph of the Teton Mountains

When most people think of the science of geology, they likely do not conjure up thoughts that excite the senses or exude images of great beauty. How odd because to geologists themselves, their chosen field is nothing if not exciting and beautiful! I know of geologists who routinely gasp with pleasure, losing their breath when they come over a rise and see what is laid out before them on the landscape. If you have ever wanted to enter a realm of earthly magic, do so through the eyes of an earth scientist who will show you the everyday things in whole new light. Geology holds wonder for everyone, if only we could access its jargon and complexities.

Say no more - for this coming Friday on December 2, Mikaya Press unveils a brand new download created by geologist, photographer, and small aircraft pilot Michael Collier. It is called "Wonders of Geology" - An Aerial View of America's Mountains and is sure to be one of the most modern and easy ways to access the arcane but ultimately rewarding world of our planet's geology. I had a chance to preview the download earlier this month and can share some of what I learned from the experience.

First, an acknowledgment that I know Michael Collier very well. He was my next-door neighbor for 20 years and being both "lovers-of-all-things-earth", we have a lot in common. But our connection does not warrant me to write a review of this new learning tool. What does is Collier's unique tri-part combination of being a geologist, a photographer and a pilot that make "Wonders of Geology" a truly breathtaking tour of North America's mountains. There is perhaps no better way to see and learn about mountains unless you become a geologist, a photographer and a pilot, all in the same life.

In "Wonders of Geology", we learn how mountain chains were created by uplift and see how they have been sculpted by erosion and carved by glaciers. The download would be well worth the $12.95 asking price even if it only included Michael's 240 photographs. But the program is also well-illustrated with numerous diagrams, maps, and figures developed by Tasa Graphics in Taos, New Mexico. These are used to blend what you see in the photographs and hear in Michael's own voice-overs, teaming together to make the learning pleasurable and easy. There are various "chapters" that can be easily navigated to from a prompt on the bottom of the screen.

There are few downsides. At this time it is only available to owners of Apple's iPad platform. (Having been an Apple geek myself since day 1, this does not present a problem for me and I can heartily endorse any Apple product for the sheer sense of beauty each of their inventions contains). Geologists themselves will know most of the subject matter in the program and it is not meant to be anything more than an introduction to the "wonders of geology". But even if you are a professional already, you could easily utilize this when teaching family or friends about your world view. It is an excellent way to grasp difficult concepts in a meaningful and fruitful way.

Here is a sampling of some of Collier's magnificent photographs in "Wonders of Geology". The captions here are mine but each photograph is part of a lovely narrative presented in "Wonders of Geology".

The Sheep Mountain anticline in Wyoming. This fantastic warp in the earth's strata was formed between 70 and 60 million years ago during the Laramide Orogeny. When these strata were buckled upwards, they were still many miles below the earth's surface but more recent erosion (and stunning early morning light) accentuate these mulit-colored strata. Such are the views that Michael Collier will share with you as he flies his small Cessna airplane over these features.

Mt. Stanford in the Sierra Nevada of California. John Muir called the Sierra the "Range of Light" and Collier definitely has captured the essence of this moniker.

Closer to home in Flagstaff, Arizona and a view of the southern slopes of Mt. Elden, a dacite dome volcano that erupted in the San Francisco Volcanic Field about 500,000 years ago. The three obvious lobes formed when very viscous lava (dacite) was extruded on the top of the volcano. As the lava piled up, gravity grabbed a hold of it causing it to cascade very slowly downslope. This aerial view of the lava lobes is the best I have ever seen and allows for quick comprehension of the earth processes that created them.

Death Valley plays a prominent role in "Wonders of Geology". Here is a view of Split Mountain, a volcanic cinder cone that erupted along a fault line. After the cone had formed, the fault moved again and split the volcano. See the diagram below with accompanying graphics to explain this concept.

Spilt Mountain, Death Valley, California.

You can watch a preview of the program at this url: I found this program worthwhile and if you already own an iPad and are a geologist you have to have this to share with your friends and family over the holidays. If you are a photographer you will love Collier's works of art. And if you are a pilot, you'll find this useful as well to know what you are looking at from above.


  1. The app looks amazing. Thanks for sharing. I have three friends interested and are now new blog fans for you

  2. Does having a Macbook Pro enable me to run the program, or is an iPad the only way?

  3. jg - This from Michael C.:

    The app downloads exclusively to an iPad. We considered the option of including smaller-screen devices but decided that the pictures would be too compromised.


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