James Brooks receives 2015 AAPG Presidential Award for Exemplary Service


James Brooks, provost emeritus and professor emeritus in SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, has received the 2015 AAPG Presidential Award for Exemplary Service, one of the highest honors of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

AAPG President Randi Martinsen bestowed the honor upon Brooks “for a lifetime of inspired and dedicated service to his profession and community, and for the education of hundreds of students for whom he has served as an outstanding teacher, wise mentor and genuine friend.”

AAPG is the premier organization for U.S. petroleum geologists. It is one of the world’s largest professional geological societies with more than 36,000 members. READ MORE

Heather DeShon and Matthew Hornbach, seismology research links fluid injections/removal to earthquakes

Oil and Gas Daily

Originally Posted: April 30, 2015

Combination of gas field fluid injection and removal cause of earthquakes

Several natural and man-made factors can influence the subsurface stress regime resulting in earthquakes. Natural ones include intraplate stress changes related to plate tectonics and natural water table or lake level variations caused by changing weather patterns or water drainage patterns over time, or advance or retreat of glaciers. Man-made include human-generated changes to the water table, including dam construction, and industrial activities involving the injection or removal of fluids from the subsurface.
A seismology team led by Southern Methodist University (SMU), Dallas, finds that high volumes of wastewater injection combined with saltwater (brine) extraction from natural gas wells is the most likely cause of earthquakes occurring near Azle, Texas, from late 2013 through spring 2014.

In an area where the seismology team identified two intersecting faults, they developed a sophisticated 3D model to assess the changing fluid pressure within a rock formation in the affected area. They used the model to estimate stress changes induced in the area by two wastewater injection wells and the more than 70 production wells that remove both natural gas and significant volumes of salty water known as brine.

Conclusions from the modeling study integrate a broad-range of estimates for uncertain subsurface conditions. Ultimately, better information on fluid volumes, flow parameters, and subsurface pressures in the region will provide more accurate estimates of the fluid pressure along this fault.

“The model shows that a pressure differential develops along one of the faults as a combined result of high fluid injection rates to the west and high water removal rates to the east,” said Matthew Hornbach, SMU associate professor of geophysics. “When we ran the model over a 10-year period through a wide range of parameters, it predicted pressure changes significant enough to trigger earthquakes on faults that are already stressed.” READ MORE

Rick Halperin, Embrey Human Rights, holocaust survivors shared stories last month at SMU

Texas Jewish Post

Originally Posted: April 30, 2015

DALLAS — Rosa Blum and Bernhard Storch recounted their nightmarish World War II experiences in great detail before a packed Southern Methodist University audience last week.
Blum, 86, of Dallas, is an Auschwitz survivor. Storch, 93, of New York, was imprisoned in a Soviet labor camp before becoming a death camp liberator in the Polish army.
These April 23 presentations in SMU’s Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Great Hall comprised the “Reflections from Survivors & Liberators of Nazi Death Camps” event — held in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps at the end of World War II.
The evening was sponsored by the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance and SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program.
After Storch and Blum discussed their respective histories at length, there was no disputing the respect and wonder they had earned from their audience. It led to a standing ovation, numerous handshakes, many, many hugs — and even autograph requests.
Earlier in the evening, Mary Pat Higgins, CEO and president of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, effectively commenced the proceedings by introducing Embrey Human Rights Director Rick Halperin.
Halperin told the audience they were being afforded the rare opportunity to learn about the Holocaust firsthand from the very last generation of people to have experienced it.
Halperin went so far as to urge audience members to offer hugs to Storch and Blum after they had shared their memories of the Holocaust.
Answering a question from the audience, Blum explained how she refused to return to the place where she had faced Holocaust horrors — even at the expense of property and belongings she might have claimed on behalf of her wealthy family.
“I never went back,” she said. “I could never face that emptiness. … There is nothing, nobody there for me or my family. I know many people who went there and came back hurt. I never wanted to see that blankness. That would be the wrong thing for me. … So I never went back and I never claimed anything. I wanted to live my life the way I wanted to live it.” READ MORE

Greg Brownderville – How to Make Up Your Mind (Hint: It Involves Reading Poetry) – TEDxSMU Inside SMU 2015

Originally Posted: April 30, 2015

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Brownderville claims that poetry can make one’s mind an interesting place to live. He tells stories about his intense relationship with language, his early experiences of poetry, and his dad’s delight in funny-sounding words.

Greg Brownderville has published a book of poems titled Gust (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly, 2011) and a book of folkloristic poems titled Deep Down in the Delta (Butler Center Books, 2012). His third book, a collection of poems titled A Horse with Holes in It (LSU Press, Southern Messenger Poets series), is slated for release in fall 2016. Brownderville teaches Introduction to Creative Writing and upper-level poetry workshop.


Using Geothermal Solutions to Desalinate Oil Field Water

Originally Posted: April 22, 2015

By: Cathy Chickering Pace, SMU Geothermal Lab

Cathy Chickering Pace Cathy Chickering Pace is a Project Specialist in the SMU Geothermal Laboratory in Dallas, Texas, where she primarily focuses on project management of the Lab's sponsored research from both government and private industry.
Cathy Chickering Pace
Cathy Chickering Pace is a Project Specialist in the SMU Geothermal Laboratory in Dallas, Texas, where she primarily focuses on project management of the Lab’s sponsored research from both government and private industry.

Clean water — it’s a precious resource in hot demand right now, for more than taking a shower or watering our crops. The United Nations projects the world’s population will grow by another billion people, to 8.4 Billion, by 2030. More people means more need for food, water, electricity, and other necessities. Beyond the obvious demands for water, our increasing appetite for electricity also requires water — and plenty of it. Most of the electricity generated in the U.S. uses water in some capacity.

When the Sierra Nevada snowpack is at 65 year low, there will be serious water shortages in California that can affect us all. Droughts can be powerful motivators for innovative water efficiency and conservation measures, and have led to the development of innovative technologies, such as desalination of brackish ground water, produced oil field water, or seawater. Certainly these technologies hold tremendous promise, particularly in places where high salinity waters outweigh the freshwater supply significantly — places like Texas, where brackish water is produced from oil and gas wells.

Texas also happens to be a large agricultural user of fresh water, especially in the southernmost part of the state, in the Rio Grande Valley where cotton, ‘Ruby Red Grapefruits’, ‘Texas 1015 onions’, grain sorghum, melons, sugar cane, and other crops are plentiful — but not without the help of irrigation systems. In fact, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), irrigation accounts for the largest use of fresh water throughout the U.S. Because the Valley is experiencing rapid population growth, the demands for water will only increase. The International Boundary & Water Commission projects the area’s municipal water needs to increase by a whopping 100 percent in the next 50 years and industrial use to increase by 40 percent. The current source for nearly all of the Valley’s water? The Rio Grande River: subject to extreme weather fluctuations, beginning to experience higher salinity conditions, and an international boundary. READ MORE

1st proton collisions at the world’s largest science experiment expected to start the first or second week of June

Originally Posted: April 28, 2015

“No significant signs of new physics with the present data yet but it takes only one significant deviation in the data to change everything.” — Albert De Roeck, CERN
First collisions of protons at the world’s largest science experiment are expected to start the first or second week of June, according to a senior research scientist with CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.

“It will be about another six weeks to commission the machine, and many things can still happen on the way,” said physicist Albert De Roeck, a staff member at CERN and a professor at the University of Antwerp, Belgium and UC Davis, California. De Roeck is a leading scientist on CMS, one of the Large Hadron Collider’s key experiments.

The LHC in early April was restarted for its second three-year run after a two-year pause to upgrade the machine to operate at higher energies. At higher energy, physicists worldwide expect to see new discoveries about the laws that govern our natural universe. READ MORE

Call Jillson, Political Science, in Bloomberg Politics


America’s Gay Corporate Warrior Wants to Bring Full Equality to Red States

Excerpt from article: “Conservative Republican control has allowed them to dilute that urban strength,” says Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University …


In 1992, Tim Gill was living a Rocky Mountain version of the familiar tech dream. A sci-fi buff and self-described “pathological introvert,” he’d earned degrees in applied mathematics and computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder and then, in 1981, founded the publishing-software company Quark in his apartment, with a $2,000 loan from his parents. When Quark took off, Gill became rich. He eventually sold his stake for half a billion dollars. But in 1992, he was merely the multimillionaire chairman of a successful tech company.

Gill was also gay. This aspect of his life, too, had a kind of dream-like quality. He came out to his parents as a teenager and was immediately accepted. In college, he joined a gay organization and started speaking to classes, “having all of nine months’ experience under my belt at being gay,” he said recently, at his offices in Denver. In his early career, comfortably ensconced in the tech world’s creative class, he rarely encountered prejudice or hostility. His gayness was never an issue.

Then, in 1992, Christian groups in Colorado began pushing a ballot measure, Amendment 2, that would prevent nondiscrimination ordinances against gays and lesbians and repeal those already in effect in Denver, Boulder, and Aspen. “It was a shock,” says Gill. What was more shocking, though, was that some of his own employees supported the ban, openly and at work. One of them even placed a “Vote ‘Yes’ on Amendment 2” sign on her desk. “Everyone has the right to their opinion, of course,” says Gill. “But I was astonished people would vote against the rights of the person signing their paycheck.” READ MORE

Emergency officials study Dallas-Fort Worth area’s growing quake risk

Dallas Morning News

April 24, 2015

The U.S. Geological Survey reported Thursday that North Texas’ risk of damaging earthquakes has more than tripled since 2008, the year the region first began experiencing more frequent ground-shaking.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area’s earthquake risk is now on par with parts of Oklahoma and California, Mark Petersen, chief of the agency’s National Seismic Hazard Project in Golden, Colo., said in an interview.

Dallas’ Office of Emergency Management said it would continue to strengthen the city’s preparedness for earthquakes. READ MORE

David Haynes, English, one of three fiction jury members, asked by Pulitzer Prize Board to submit a fourth nominee

Wall Street Journal

Originally Posted: April 21, 2015

Pulitzers Added a Fourth Novel to Find Fiction Winner

Board asked jury to submit another book before selecting ‘All the Light We Cannot See’

The Pulitzer Prize Board this year asked its fiction jury to submit a belated, fourth nominee, in contrast to its handling of the selection for 2012, when no fiction prize was awarded.

On Monday the fiction award went to Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See,” published by Scribner. The other finalists were “Let Me Be Frank With You,” by Richard Ford; “The Moor’s Account,” by Laila Lalami; and “Lovely, Dark, Deep,” by Joyce Carol Oates.
In a typical year, a three-person jury of literary experts recommends three novels or short-story collections to the board for consideration. In November, this year’s jury did just that.

But as the Pulitzer board was reading those three finalists over the winter, “there was some worry expressed among board members” and the board asked the jury to submit a fourth finalist, the prize administrator, Mike Pride, said in an interview Tuesday. READ MORE

Matthew Hornbach and Heather DeShon, both associate professors of geophysics featured in KERA article on earthquake findings

Associated Press and KERA News
Originally Posted: April 21, 2015

SMU Study Links Azle Earthquake Swarm To Natural Gas Drilling

What’s causing the Azle earthquakes? SMU researchers say that wastewater injection and saltwater extraction from natural gas wells is the most likely cause.

A study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications says researchers from Southern Methodist University and the U.S. Geological Survey monitored the shaking from nearly 30 small quakes west of Fort Worth from November 2013 to January 2014. The area hadn’t had any recorded quakes in 150 years.

The scientists say the shaking decreased when the volume of injections did. They have concluded that removing saltwater from the wells and injecting that wastewater back underground is “the most likely cause” for the swarm of quakes.

Other studies have made a connection between wastewater injections and a spike in earthquakes in Oklahoma and southern Kansas.

The state’s official seismologist has no plans for immediate action following the report. Craig Pearson said at a news conference Tuesday that he wouldn’t recommend that the Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, suspend activity at two wells the report’s authors identify as the source of the temblors in Azle. READ MORE