Project Profile: Science Education

Secrets in Stone for the U.S. Geological Survey

To make room for a new, modern paleomagnetic laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) needed to demolish a World-War-II-era building, the Rock Magnetics Laboratory, in Menlo Park, California. A humble structure, the original lab had been the site of revolutionary discoveries in earth science and had been designated a National Historic Landmark. For demolition to proceed, the USGS had to undertake mitigation efforts by documenting the building and its history. These efforts included a literary history, archival photography, and a commissioned video to describe the story and significance of the building and the research that took place within it.

DDP worked with the USGS to develop Secrets in Stone, a compelling educational video program recounting the pioneering studies conducted at the Rock Magnetics Lab from 1959 to 1966. The scientific activities of three researchers at the lab--Alan Cox, Dick Doell, and Brent Dalrymple--helped confirm the foundation geophysical principle of plate tectonics. Their findings triggered an avalanche of earth science discoveries and theories that significantly transformed our understanding of how our planet works.

To do justice to this truly fascinating story and to spark people's curiosity, imagination, and admiration, DDP developed a script utilizing a variety of imagery, including original footage, stock footage, and animation. The script treated scientific inquiry like a detective story and emphasized the human interest story line of the three scientists engaged in the historic research.

The video Secrets in Stone was widely distributed to the public through schools and libraries, has been broadcast on PBS television stations, and is distributed by the University of California Extension, Center for Media and Independent Learning.

"Secrets in Stone describes with clarity and verve the unfolding of scientific discoveries that led to the theory of plate tectonics, one of the fundamental revolutions in scientific thought. . . . The field shots, interviews, and animations are masterfully woven together; the narration is engaging, informative, and never tiring; complex earth processes are clearly explained, and the unfolding story is as captivating as an Agatha Christie mystery. . . [As one university professor sums it up,] 'This is the best short video explanation of the research on geomagnetic reversals and how that work led to the theory of plate tectonics that I've seen. The graphics are excellent and the narrative superb. It is an excellent teaching aid.'"
--David Howell, U.S. Geological Survey

View sample video sequence:

History of Geology (7.4 MB)

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