Landmark Technology Discoveries
Geophysics, the determination of various properties of the earth via the application of physical theories and measurements techniques, was an infant science in 1859 when the Drake discovery was made. The subdiscipline of applied geophysics, or attempting to use this knowledge to discover natural resources of great economic value, was not even imagined. Indeed, it took the better part of a century for geophysics to assume a major role in the oil industry. However, its growth has been steady, and occasionally spectacular, since the 1920s. And, even though recent technological advances have been astounding, even more incredible breakthroughs seem possible in the early years of the new century.
The term “applied geophysics” covers a broad spectrum, ranging from earthquake prediction through engineering and environmental analyses and even such incredibly important national security issues as detection of nuclear tests. However, the dominant role for applied geophysics throughout the past 70 years has been exploration and development of natural resources, primarily petroleum.
All major branches of classical physics have been adapted to geophysical exploration. The Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) publishes many books and sponsors many professional meetings, workshop, symposia, etc. on various exploration methods using ingenious adaptations of, for example, seismology, gravity and electromagnetics, magnetotellurics, and ground-penetrating radar in the search for natural resources. There is no doubt, though, that seismology is the overwhelmingly dominant choice of the explo-rationist. Accurate statistics about the actual breakdown regarding the use of each discipline are hard to obtain, but most think that seismology accounts for at least 90% of this work around the world and probably more than that in the United States.