KEGS/BCGS Roundup Breakfast – Tuesday, January 27, 2015
SPEAKER: Greg Hodges, CGG
TITLE: Mad Scientists and Other Salesmen
DATE/TIME: Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 @ 7:30am
LOCATION: Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, Princess Louisa Room, Vancouver
REGISTRATION: Online at www.kegsonline.com (Registration opening soon)
Pseudo-geophysical exploration tools have been available from over-zealous salesmen, misguided scientists, and blatant scam artists for longer than real geophysics has been available. From the middle ages (described by Agricola) to the early days of oil exploration (Blau in Geophysics, vol 1, pg 1) to today: when a current database of dubious geophysics includes almost 70 systems, of which more than 40 are still active. While they might seem like amusing distractions that no sensible geophysicist would use, in fact a conservative estimate suggests ten million dollars a year may be wasted on non-effective geophysics. That is money that will not be spent on geophysics that works, will not find a mine, but will definitely tarnish the reputation of geophysics and geophysicists everywhere.
Governments and large exploration companies attract the majority of bad geophysics, nearly always targeted at senior management with an impressive sales pitch. It is up to geophysicists to understand the nature of these voodoo geophysical methods, and educate their managers and clientele to at least recognize the warning signs and get some unbiased expertise in the evaluation.
For non-geophysicists, common sense and instinct are often all that is needed to raise a red flag that something needs to be checked: for example if a system offers incredible accuracy with uncommon simplicity. Everyone knows: “there’s no free lunch”. Uncommon resolution requires extensive effort. If a unique system is offered with no known history of development or theoretical background, it should be checked carefully before any investment is made. (Voodoo systems are often sold as an investment rather than a service.) And of course, shrouding the “geophysics” in secrecy is a loud warning that cannot be allowed.
Geophysicists need to have the confidence in their own basic science to recognize that if a technical description seems incomprehensible, it is probably not because of the advanced science, but rather because of the lack of real science – replaced by techno-babble and obfuscation. Geophysicists often need to set aside professional courtesy and trust, and challenge the science offered and the claims made.
As scientists in a young field still advancing rapidly, we geophysicists need to keep an open mind to new ideas, but be prepared to evaluate them with a healthy dose of skepticism using good science and common sense.