► The first detective (okay, fictional) to put his knowledge of rocks and soils to work solving crimes was none other than Sherlock Holmes. Real-life forensic geologists today would knock Holmes’ socks off with their nifty tools and techniques.
► Forensic geologists are inspired by poetry. I learned the basics from a guy at UC Berkeley who was kind enough to give me a tour of his lab. He quoted from William Blake’s poem Auguries of Innocence: “To see a world in a grain of sand.”
And then he showed me a grain of sand under the scanning electron microscope. And there, indeed, was a world revealed. That grain was angular. Sand is shaped by wind and water, banging grains into one another. The most rounded shapes suggest desert sand. Less spheroid, it likely comes from dunes. Angular shapes mean beach sand.
The murder suspect--in whose pant cuff the sand in question was stuck--was placed at the beach where the victim was discovered.
► Geology is just flat-out cool. Consider this: the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone. Meaning, the summit was born a long time ago at the bottom of an ancient sea, and then subcontinental plates collided and raised that summit up to become the top of the world. If that doesn’t knock your socks off, what will?
And just because I can't resist corny jokes: Watson: Holmes! What kind of rock is this?
Holmes: Sedimentary, my dear Watson.
Q: What did the boy volcano say to the girl volcano?
A: I lava you.
Q: What did one tectonic plate say to the other?
A: Sorry for bumping into you--my fault!
Q: Did you hear about the geologist who was reading a book about Helium?
A: He couldn't put it down.
...and there are a bunch of dirty ones that I won't include ;)