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◌  Cheap tomography

1 February 2009

Chunks of anthracite wash up on some beaches. They fell off barges out of Bellingham decades ago. After many childhood hours, it’s habit to notice them and a game to distinguish distant coal from basalt and charcoal. Wandering around trying to figure out what parts of the beach it’s appearing in today, it’s natural to imagine what you would see if you had coal-vision goggles. From this I wonder what it will be like to have good consumer ground-penetrating radar – or sonar or whatever works. Imagine a better version of a CT scan that you could carry around like a camera.

Okay, archeology and paleontology, obviously. All sorts of digging; it’s like a stud finder for rocks. Treasure hunting like I’m doing with coal. Geology in ways we can’t do now without hundreds of hours of work. There’s some layered sandstone on the island, and I bet if you could speckle it with sensors and send some sort of magic waves through it to get millimeter-ish resolution in a few cubic meters, seeing very small density variations, you could brute-force it into a record of yearly sediment deposits, matchable with local tree rings and preserved mollusk shells, blah blah, presto, science.

Obviously when the bright day comes that I get a handheld seer-insider, the first order of business will be checking out my insides. But then I’ll take it on a walk. There’s probably a lot of cool stuff under heavy stuff.