I’m studying Ollier and Pain’s book about the origins of mountains and the example of Uluru in central Australia, aka Ayers Rock, as a mountain created by the erosion of all the surrounding rocks. Ayers Rock is made of steeply bedded arkose and the question of where did all the eroded material or rock go? There’s no evidence of an ancient planation surface, so the erosional circumstances of Ayers Rock remains a geological mystery.
One novel erosional mechanism is plasma machining and it occurred to me that exponents of plasma physics applied to geological processes are ignoring a fundamental factor – the behaviour of electrified plasma in and on water. All the laboratory scaled plasma experiments, including those made by interested amateurs, involve applying high voltage and amperage electric currents to DRY solid matter, or in the geological sense, dry rocks. Add water, especially ionised water, and literally, all hell could break loose. There is a very good reason why electricity and water do not mix too well, and modelling wet material subject to plasma arcs in the laboratory environment is almost as dangerous as fooling around with plasma Z-pinch experiments.
On reading Ollier and Pain you discover the enormous volumes of sediment deposited at the Earth’s surface during during the Cainozoic Era. This requires massive erosional events which pose no problem for the Lyellians as they invoke the factor of near infinite time. However the appearance of rounded cobbles and boulders in the Surtsey Island beach deposits suggest that the formation of sediments occurs more rapidly than generally believed. This fact is seized on by the biblical literalists as supporting their religious beliefs, while the biblical liberalists, or Lyellians, reject this rapid process simply for the lack of any viable mechanism. The secular humanists and atheists have their own creation myth in the astronomical Big Bang event, and hence tend to agree with the biblical liberalists in terms of the efficacy of the long chronology.
The general model of fluvial transport involves crustal uplift and gravity powered water flow with or without ice and wind, along with chemical weathering, to slowly erode the mountains or uplands. This is all and well until one gets to the base of the mountain or upland that of necessity has to be surrounded by lowlands, and then the problem of moving eroded materially laterally appears. Flowing water can’t actually do it. Well, it can if the eroded material is very fine grained, and the particles remain in suspension. Large particles move downstream via the process of either rolling or saltation, so it is believed, until an obstacle is encountered and movement stops until the channel depression is filled and downstream movement restarts when the sediment load overflows the barrier into the next channel depression.
The problem is that one needs a little bit more than an infinite amount of time to move sediment eroded from mountains into large sedimentary basins, as presently believed.
My experience is that water simply cannot do it and something else must have been additionally involved. This possibility raises enormous problems for the geological profession for the paradigm of Uniformitarianism requires that only observable presently operating physical processes can be used to explain geological observations. Mysterious external or exogenous processes are simply not permitted as this is a necessary requirement for the application of the scientific method.
The problem is the definition of the present and what primary observations are ‘scientifically’ permissable by that definition. When native peoples relate historical stories, (their histories) that involve rainbow serpents and other celestial prodigies that sculptured the present day land-forms, then those stories have to be taken at face value and not as some primitive superstition. They may be considered unbelievable but when reduced to essentials all human observations, and thus beliefs, have to be anchored in historical physical observations, no matter how muddled the memory of those observations became over the ages to the present day. The ability to make sense of native myths depends on the number of ideas one thinks with, and one’s experience. I recall a lecture by Prof. Ian Plimer stressing the need for an interdiscplinary approach to university study, when we undergraduates were required to include some social science subjects to our curriculum; the great pity was that we never thought of wandering to the school of electrical engineering for our multidiciplinary subject requirements.
And it strikes me, as a retired diamond exploration geologist, the fact that kimberlites, the primary source of diamonds, occur in all geological terrains, from crystalline basement to sedimentary basins and everthing in between, that I would wander into taboo lands to find new explanations simply because the ideas I was inculcated at University were simply unable to explain what I observed in the field. That native peoples indicated anachronistic historical knowledge of geological phenomena only strengthened the resolve to travel further into the taboo-lands of plasma physics.
There’s another taboo-land we need to visit – the land of our mind in order to understand how we think and to explain how many of us, when confronted with new data, refuse to change our minds and to continue to see only what we believe. The inability to change one’s mind is the hall mark of the ossified brain.