Over the three-day weekend of January 15–17, the Skeptics Society sponsored a geology tour organized and hosted by the Occidental College and Caltech paleontologist and geologist Donald Prothero and his Whittier College professor wife Teresa LeVelle. Around 50 skeptics departed Pasadena on a bus bound for our first stop, the Mt. Palomar observatory, home of the famous 200-inch Hale telescope, once the largest in the world and from which numerous important observations about the universe were made, including the discovery of quasars. No less an astronomical giant than Edwin Hubble was given the honor of being the first astronomer to use the telescope. They don’t build ‘em like this any longer: big and beefy!
In this limited space I cannot republish Prothero’s 30-page geological guidebook. Suffice it to say that Prothero is a brilliant lecturer who in the course of days packed in a 14-week semester’s worth of geological science as we wended our way around Southern California with it’s countless faults, uplifts, basins, and ranges. I’ll let a few photographs do the talking here, but this is no substitute for joining us on a future trip with Don Prothero, whom I call Protheropedia for his encyclopedic knowledge of seemingly everything under and including the sun. Join us, for example, on our next big trip to see the glaciers of Alaska.
Our three main locations on this trip, represented in the photographs below, after visiting and getting an inside tour of the Mt. Palomar telescope, were the Anza-Borrego badlands and surrounding areas, the Salton Sea, and the Joshua Tree National Park. All were spectacular sites for science, some of the most dramatic scenery to be found anywhere on the planet.
Click any photo below to view the entire gallery in larger format, with captions.
With considerable irony we ended the trip with a final stop along Interstate 10 west of Palm Springs (near Cabazon and the cluster of factory outlet stores just off the freeway), where you can’t miss the two giant dinosaurs—a T-Rex and a Brontosaurus (now Apatosaurus)—originally built in the 1960s by Knott’s Berry Farm sculptor and portrait artist Claude K. Bell (1897–1988) to attract customers to his Wheel Inn Café. They have been a California driving fixture ever since, and few people (including me!) realized that after Bell died his estate sold the property to an Orange County creationist who converted the site into a Young Earth Creationism park, teaching children that the entire world was created in six days around 6,000 years ago, around the same time that the Egyptians invented wine. The pictures below speak for themselves.