Drop everything and manipulate your stereonet data in 3D

Stop what you’re doing. Stereonet software now displays data in 3D, let’s you rotate, go crazy.

Geologists, get excited.

Anyone who has worked with stereonets by hand knows that in addition to being an invaluable structural geology tool, they are also a pain, especially for large data sets.

For the unfamiliar, stereonets are circular graphs that are used to represent 3-dimensional data in 2-dimensions.  Data can be everything from bedding measurements, fault orientation, to cleavage planes in a fold. Once this data is plotted on the stereonet it can be manipulated to work out everything from the deformation history of a region to the correct orientation to drill a mineralization zone (ie. where’s the gold at?).

Figure 1: Some bedding plane and lineaion data displayed on a 2D stereonet in OSXStereonet.

Stereonets are notoriously difficult for students to grasp on the first try around. My undergrad (UCSC) structure class used a hamster ball-cd set up to explain 3D bedding plane orientation projected into 2D. That was okay, but also a bit funky. Doing stereonets by hand can be even more funky. Enter stereonet software.

The most widely used free stereonet software (this is from a poll/guess on what people I know use) is Rick Allmendinger and Nestor Cardozo’s OSXStereonet (mac) and Stereonet7 (windows). I haven’t used the mac version much, but from what I’ve seen it is always about 1 version iteration ahead its windows counterpart.

Figure 2: Same data as Figure 1 displayed in 3D, rotated with North pointing top-right. Awesome.

The mac version made a huge leap recently with the introduction of a 3D viewer. Like, hell yea! This feature is so awesome, it blew my face off when I first loaded it up. The stereonet can be rotated to view the data from any angle. I think this could be a great teaching tool to help students grasp what a 2D stereonet is really displaying. Of course they should finish the assignment by hand to be sure that they really grasp the concepts and are not just entering data into a table 😀 .

My first thought when I saw this (after HOLY SHIT THIS IS AWESOME!) was how cool this would be to combine with the KeckCaves software and a 3DTV. It would be SO cool to visualize the stereonet in “real” 3D and manipulate it with a Keck wand.

Also, the stereonet .pdf files it exports look very clean, which is an improvement from previous versions.

And for those who are wonder… no I’m not writing this on a mac, I am running the program in a VirtualBox OSX system.