Friday, November 16, 2007

Tools of the Trade

The science teams here use lots of different tools while examining the core, some simple, some very complex. By far the most commonly used items are magnifying lenses of all types and lab or science notebooks. White wax pencils, probes and flags are all used to mark the core, and meter sticks are used to find the precise location of a sample.

Besides the already described tools used by the curators to take samples (see Core Curating, Nov 9), lots of smear slides and thin section slides are made from samples of the core. Smear slides involve scraping a tiny bit of sediment from the core with a pick and spreading it very thin in water on a glass microscope slide. Thin sections are a very thin slice of rock attached by strong glue to a glass microscope slide and then ground down until there is barely any left. Many specialized tools are used in this whole process (more details to come in a future blog!) including the one shown here, pressing the rock onto the slide as the glue dries to make an even bond. Once we have all these slides, we need lots of microscopes to look at them.

One very important tool we use to gather data is the high quality scanner that takes a very detailed picture of the face of the core once it is split. This information is entered into a computer program called Corelyzer that everyone can access. We have lots of computers and our own ANDRILL drive that everyone can access and upload information to share. Another important computer program used is PSICAT- it creates a graphical record of all the core characteristics as they are logged, cm by cm.

There are other scanning machines that don't take pictures but instead make measurements of various features of the core. This one, at the drill site, measures the core density, its velocity (how quickly a sound wave travels through the core), its infrared emmissions, and magnetic susceptibility (how magnetized the core is in response to a magnetic field).

What tools do you use on a regular or daily basis? What specialized tools do you use for a particular purpose? Are there tools that would be useful to you that you do not have?

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