Janice Boekhoff

Vacation Science

During my blog break in July, my family and I took an amazing trip to the Colorado Springs and Denver areas, so I thought I’d share some cool stuff about it. Here is a somewhat sciency (I love to make up words) run down of our vacation:

  • It’s possible to fall on Pikes Peak without falling off of it (my chiropractor was happy for the extra income). I fell at the top while walking around on some slippery boulders. It might have had something to do with me holding hot chocolate while climbing, but it’s really cold up at 14,115 feet.
This is close to where I fell on Pikes Peak, although it looks scarier than it was.

This is close to where I fell on Pikes Peak, although it looks scarier than it really was.

  • Rafting during a thunderstorm is still not a good idea, but nobody told the Colorado rafting guides this. It was sunny when we got on the bus to go to the river and pouring down rain with lightning when we got off the bus. Even so, our guides put the boats in the river and said get in. We did and thankfully, no one got electrocuted, although my son tried to drown himself, but that’s another story. (Sorry, no rafting pictures because frankly, rafting and my camera are just not a good mix).


  • Royal Gorge Bridge survived a wild-fire a couple of years ago with only some singed planks. This bridge is a suspension bridge with wooden planks that don’t fit together completely perfect, so you end up with enough space between the boards to look down 1,200 feet to the Arkansas River. It’s enough to scare the pants off this Acrophobe (fear of heights).
This is Royal Gorge Bridge over the Arkansas River.

This is Royal Gorge Bridge over the Arkansas River.


This is a view from the bridge looking down 1,200 feet at the Arkansas River.

This is a view from the bridge looking down 1,200 feet at the Arkansas River. The colored things you see in the water are kayaks.

  • Garden of the Gods is full of amazing sandstone spires, some rising up 300 feet. It’s constantly changing because it’s constantly weathering. I was shocked by how many people were attempting to climb in areas that were clearly not stable. But maybe that’s just the cautious geologist in me.
Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

  • The decrease in humidity makes such a difference on a person’s comfort level. Really, 85 degrees with 85% humidity in Iowa is totally different than 85 degrees with 30% humidity in Colorado (and it makes a huge difference in my hair).
  • Last, but not least, the mountains affected me psychologically. I miss the mountains so much that I wonder if there’s a Pining-For-Mountains syndrome. And if I’m diagnosed with it, will my husband move us to Colorado? (seriously, if anybody knows if this is a real syndrome, please let me know).

Someday, I plan to live in Colorado so I can indulge my mountain obsession every day. Oh, and by the way, if you’d like to contribute to the Janice-moving-to-Colorado-fund, feel free to e-mail me to let me know your desired contribution (this is just a joke, people, please don’t send me money).

Bonus Picture:

The only double rainbow I've ever seen (Colorado Springs)

The only double rainbow I’ve ever seen (Colorado Springs)

Diamonds of the Ocean Deep


 Anyone remember that scripture that says God opened the fountains of the deep when He initiated Noah’s flood? I know, I didn’t either. I had to look it up. Here it is:

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.

Genesis 7:11

The reason I bring this up is because scientists have long suspected water exists deep in the molten core of our planet. And now they have evidence of it. Recently, geochemists have found a large quantity of molecular water hidden in of all things diamonds.

Diamonds have long been thought to originate from deep in the mantle and what we see today seems to confirm this. Minute specks of diamonds can be found coming out of currently active volcanoes.

In early 2014, Canadian geochemist Graham Pearson and his graduate student John McNeill found something unexpected in diamonds discovered at the edge of the Amazon rainforest. While shining a laser into the diamond, McNeill saw a rare mineral: ringwoodite (a variety of olivine formed after the mineral is put under great pressure). Previously seen only in meteorites, ringwoodite is thought to form in the dense interior of the earth, but until now no one could prove it.

As if that astounding discovery wasn’t enough, then McNeill noticed something even more unusual inside the ringwoodite structure—water. The water was trapped in the microscopic pore space of the mineral during formation, present not as liquid water but as hydroxide ions.

Although the amount of water in each ringwoodite mineral is small (1.5%), the mantle is vast—adding up to a huge amount of water held at high-pressure deep in the earth. The amount of trapped water is potentially close to all the water in Earth’s oceans.

When God said he released the springs of the great deep, perhaps He meant that He brought the hydroxide ions out of the chemical bonds of minerals stored in the mantle.

What do you think? Do you believe in Noah’s flood? Is it a surprise to know the mantle is full of water, even if only on a microscopic level?



References: Palus, Shannon. “Diamonds Reveal Hidden ‘Oceans’ in Earth’s Mantle,” Discover, January/February 2015, p.35.


Photo Credit:ID 32784603 © Ingemar Magnusson | Dreamstime.com

Fossil layers like layers of a cake?


               Different layers of rock                               Layers of yummy chocolate cake

I love to bake, not regular food, but anything sweet, especially when it’s chocolate. Have you seen the cake that looks like the death star from Star Wars? I haven’t tried to make that one yet, but it looks amazing. Recently, I was thinking how the earth is like a gigantic death star cake (no, I don’t have too much time on my hands, but this weird stuff just floats through my head all the time). Anyway, go with me on this, you’ve all made mud pies before, right? Same thing.

So the layers in the cake are the different rock formations (sandstone, shale, limestone, etc.). Although the cake above isn’t the death star, I hope you can see the similarities? And if you bake a cake one layer at a time, you know the bottom layers were created first, followed by the next layer and then the layer on top and it’s the same with rocks. What we see on the surface of the earth are the last layers laid down, or the youngest layers. We know they are the youngest, but does anything about the layers tell us how long it took to bake the cake? Nope. And neither does the existence of rock layers tell us how long they took to form. Rocks don’t come with a year stamped on them and the supposed dates obtained from radiometric age dating have serious problems (more on this in future posts). Which leaves us with more questions than answers. Questions like:

Why do we find rocks stratified by fossil animals? Evolutionists will tell you that we find more primitive animals at the bottom of the strata (rock layers) because they are the ancestors of those higher in the strata. Seems to make sense, right? Unless there’s a different explanation.

If a global flood happened today, on the scale of Noah’s flood, we’d likely see the same fossils in the same rock layers after it was over. Not because the animals are related, but because they live in different habitats. The sea bottom dwelling creatures live at lower elevations and during a flood, they would be overwhelmed and smothered by mud. Amphibians live at a slightly higher elevation, but must stay close to water in order to breed, so they would be in layers just above the lower sea life. Reptiles and mammals would likely run to higher ground and then float after death, causing them to be found in higher rock layers. The only humans who would survive a violent flood like this today would be those on an aircraft carrier or maybe a submarine. In Noah’s time, no other humans, besides him, had seen the need to build a huge boat like the ark.

So, we would see much the same sequence of rocks with the same fossils of animals that weren’t related, just buried in sequence based on habitat.

Marine creatures—Amphibians—Reptiles—Mammals

Are there any fossils that cross over? Yes, but when geologists find a fossil which doesn’t belong, they typically call it in-fill from the layers above or they might say the whole sequence has been re-worked (meaning eroded and stirred up). Why do they believe the sequence was re-worked? Because the fossils are out of order. They are forced into this type of circular reasoning because there is no way to explain how those fossils got there without invalidating the theory of evolution.

What do you think? Which explanation for the distribution of fossils makes sense to you? One or both of them?


Photo Credits: Rock formation: ID 25013280 © Rixie | Dreamstime.com, Cake: ID 11609930 © Adina Chiriliuc | Dreamstime.com

Diamonds are forever?



ID 23543628 © Gunschi49 | Dreamstime.com

Diamonds might be forever, but are they old? The jeweler at my local jewelry store would probably tell me the diamond in my wedding band has been around for hundreds of millions of years. And the idea is romantic, isn’t it? To think this piece of rock (because I do love rocks) was sitting there, waiting just for me, for more days than I can count, so I could wear it on my finger as a shiny symbol of my commitment to my husband. Definitely romantic, but is it true?

My diamond certainly wasn’t formed in the year before my husband bought it, but there are a couple of problems with thinking diamonds are millions of years old. Recently, deep inside a kimberlite pipe (the volcanic rock which is the source of most of the world’s diamonds) a rare discovery was made. Fresh, unpetrified, wood was found 1,000 feet down, entombed in the kimberlite. This wood probably fell into the debris along the margins of the kimberlite pipe, and as the eruption slowed it became emplaced within the rock. But it’s not fossilized. It’s the same as any wood that you would use in a bonfire. Which begs the question, how could this wood stay unpetrified for hundreds of millions of years? How would this wood stay woody (also a fun tongue twister)? If the wood isn’t old, the diamonds shouldn’t be either.

Scientists have also demonstrated that it’s possible to create diamonds in the laboratory in mere hours using the correct temperature and pressure. So, why do some people think it would take millions of years in nature? Perhaps because it fits with a particular world view regarding the age of the earth.

Another clue about the age of diamonds comes from the radioisotope Carbon-14. This carbon isotope has been found within diamonds. Carbon-14 has a half-life of approximately 5,370 years. So, half of the radioisotope will revert back to non-radioactive material in 5,370 years. Which means that within 100 thousand (not million) years, the level of Carbon-14 in the rock would have fallen below detection levels. Since scientists have detected Carbon-14 in diamonds, we know they must be younger than 100 thousand years.

Diamonds might last forever, but it’s not likely they are as old as the guy at the jewelry store claims. No problem for me. I still love my shiny proof of commitment to my husband. And I wouldn’t discourage him from buying me some more for my ears.

What do you think? Should scientists claim an age for rocks when there could be contrary evidence? Can we ever prove the age of something without knowing for sure how it formed?

Reference: O’Brien, Jonathan. (2014). Diamonds, Are they really all that old? Creation, 36 (2), 22.

Fun Science Fact

ID 23471496 © Ryan Faas | Dreamstime.com      ID 28394049 © Ryan Faas | Dreamstime.com

Okay, so this isn’t so much a fun science fact. It’s more of an amazing human activity. Recently, a friend clued me in to the very new extreme sport of volcano boarding. I couldn’t find any non-copyright-infringing photos of this, so try to imagine the girl above sliding down the Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua (picture on left) using only that sled/surfboard looking thing. Amazing, right?

The goggles and full body jumpsuit are necessary because that’s crushed up volcanic rock they’re surfing on. Volcanic rock is composed of quite a lot of silica (also known as glass). Like snowboarding on glass. I’m guessing it’s not too much fun if you wipeout, but it looks like a fun ride!

For more on the sport, including much better pictures, see this site: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2013/06/27/seriously-hot-sport-volcano-boarding/

Field Camp


Photo by Janice Boekhoff, taken on field camp in Wyoming (notice the tiny people on the road)

Every prospective geologist must go to field camp before they graduate. If you graduate from a large school, then you go to field camp with your fellow geology students whom you have known for years. But if you go to a smaller school, like me, which doesn’t have their own camp, then you end up going to a larger school’s field camp. So basically I went to field camp with four of my classmates and somewhere around thirty strangers.

That may not sound so bad unless you know what field camp is all about. I showered in group showers with the girls (including my professor’s wife). I climbed mountains with the guys and had to hide behind tiny scrub bushes when I had to go to the bathroom (no restrooms on the side of a mountain). We froze together in the beginning of the season, we got heat stroke together near the end, and suffered through rashes, spider bites, and rattlesnakes. We hung off the side of unstable cliffs two hundred feet up from the highway (well, I didn’t, but I bit my nails twenty feet back from the edge). We worried over one of our professors, some 70 plus years old, who would waver and sway on the trails. He almost fell to his death at least five times. Thankfully, he survived field camp, as did the rest of us.

I came to know those thirty strangers quite well, but what pulled me through the struggles of field camp wasn’t my companions. It was my love of rocks, especially fossils. I came back with fossils of cyanobacteria (called stromatolites), gastroliths (stones used by some dinosaurs to grind up food in their bellies), nautiloids and more brachiopods (ancient clam shells) than I could count. Like most fossils, these are grouped together in deposits of different rocks and don’t usually overlap, with the exception of nautiloids and brachiopods.

At the time, I didn’t question anything my professors said at camp. I believed them when they said the fossilized animals lived hundreds of millions of years apart. And I never asked why they believed this. Later, I discovered the reason. Because the fossils are found in such discrete groups and because my professors believed the rocks were laid down slowly with burial occurring during local floods. However, I came to realize the discrete groups of fossils could just as easily be explained by the burial of animals living in different habitats, as the water rose during a global flood.

One global flood or many local ones? I look to the Bible for my answer and what I see in the rock record gives me no reason to doubt it. Fossils are the remnants of amazing creatures, many now extinct, that our creator left for us to appreciate. Even the rocks declare His majesty.

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