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Alberto Patiño Douce

Death Valley Sunrise
Professor Emeritus

My chief contribution to science, and the only one that I hope will survive me, is a book published by Cambridge University Press in 2011 with the title Thermodynamics of the Earth and Planets. My goal in writing this book was to present a rigorous and somewhat comprehensive mathematical analysis of planetary processes, beginning from general concepts and equations of physics and building up to the complexities of a messy planet. This is a reflection of my conviction that only mathematical formalism can reveal how the universe works. The leitmotif of the book could be summarized like this: there is only one objective and rigorous way of understanding our planet, and it requires that we stop thinking of geology as a discipline that stands in splendid isolation of physics. For physics is, like it or not, the queen of sciences, the one and only path to understanding nature. And physics, and by implication the universe of which Earth is a minuscule part, cannot be understood without mathematics. Words can be twisted to mean anything, which is one of the reasons why languages evolve. Mathematics is the only universal language, because equations are immutable and inflexible. 

Geology is the physics of a very complex assemblage of interacting systems. As all physics, geology should begin with objective, reproducible and quantifiable observations, which should then be placed within a formal mathematical framework. And if geology is to be considered a science, then it requires testability. Geology shares in this respect two handicaps with astrophysics. First, the subject of study, or at least most of it in the case of Earth, is not accessible. Second, the timescales of interest are many orders of magnitude greater than a human lifetime - in fact, than civilization itself. But geology has an additional burden. Whereas astrophysicists can draw from hundreds of millions of samples, for instance in the form of stars of different masses, compositions and ages, geologists have only one Earth, plus a handful of other terrestrial planets. Given this state of affairs, we should recognize that there are substantial limitations to what we can objectively learn about our planet. For every planetary system or process there is a level of detail beyond which claimed findings lack significance, because they are not testable. For instance, we have a solid understanding of the fact that the Earth’s mantle is a heat engine. This heat engine transfers heat between a deep reservoir of thermal energy and the surface of the planet. As any heat engine, the Earth's mantle converts a small fraction of that thermal energy into mechanical energy: plate motion and ultimately gravitational potential energy stored as topography. We know enough about the material properties and phase transitions of magnesium silicates to understand why present-day convection of the Earth’s mantle gives rise to a regime in which the top thermal boundary layer is fragmented into plates that move with some independence from one another, and why, in contrast, the top thermal boundary layer is largely unbroken in the other terrestrial planets. Maybe it is possible to increase the level of detail somewhat beyond this. But I wonder what future philosophers of science will make of the conjuration of ancient continents on the basis of no more than a few radiometric ages, some subjective observations, and the aesthetical inclinations of the author. This is no better than Aristotelian physics or medieval alchemy.

I have been swimming against the tide for decades, using logic to argue the point that a not insignificant portion of what we think that we know about our planet is scientifically suspect, and  explaining how we can do better. I don't expect the tide to change in my favor any time soon. But then, Jorge Luis Borges, John Wheeler, Ralph Alpher and Lise Meitner were shunned by the same Nobel Prize committees that rewarded a talentless poseur like Bob Dylan, that famous pair of grease monkeys, Penzias and Wilson, and the morally and scientifically challenged Otto Hahn. I am in excellent company.

This is a sanitized excerpt of a longer piece, that you can read here.

  • Ph.D., University of Oregon, Geological Sciences, 1990
  • Licenciado, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Geological Sciences, 1975
Research Interests:

My current research interests focus on Epistemology in the Planetary Sciences. I am also curious about the consequences of ignoring the obvious fact that a finite planet cannot sustain indefinite population and economic growth. This is an incapacitating disease that affects not only the benighted masses but also most economists and a not insignificant proportion of geologists. 

I now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the climate and landscape (both physical and human) are most stimulating in pursuing these research ideas.

Selected Publications:
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 2011. Thermodynamics of the Earth and Planets. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York, 724 pp.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 2017. Loss Distribution Model for Metal Discovery Probabilities. Natural Resources Research, 26, 241-263. doi: 10.1007/s11053-016-9315-2
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 2016. Statistical Distribution Laws for Metallic Mineral Deposit Sizes. Natural Resources Research, 25, 365-387. doi: 10.1007/s11053-016-9297-0
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 2015. Metallic Mineral Resources in the Twenty First Century. I. Historical Extraction Trends and Expected Demand. Natural Resources Research, 25, 71- 90. doi: 10.1007/s11053-015-9266-z
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 2015. Metallic Mineral Resources in the Twenty First Century. II. Constraints on future supply. Natural Resources Research, 25, 97-124. doi: 10.1007/s11053-015-9265-0
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 2015. Response to ‘‘Comment on Metallic Mineral Resources in the Twenty-First Century: I. Historical Extraction Trends and Expected Demand’’ by D. A. Singer and W. D. Menzie. Natural Resources Research, 25, 93- 96. doi: 10.1007/s11053-015-9273-0
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., Roden, M.F., Chaumba, J., Fleisher, C., and Yogodzinski, G., 2011. Compositional variability of terrestrial mantle apatites, thermodynamic modeling of apatite volatile contents, and the halogen and water budgets of planetary mantles. Chemical Geology, 288, 14-31.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E. and Roden, M., 2006. Apatite as a probe of halogen and water fugacities in the terrestrial planets. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 70, 3173-3196.
  • Roden, M., Patiño Douce, A. E.,  Jagoutz, E. and Laz’ko, E., 2006. High pressure petrogenesis of Mg-rich garnet pyroxenites from Mir Kimberlite, Siberia. Lithos, 90, 77-91.
  • Patiño Douce, A. E., 2005. Vapor-absent melting of tonalite at 15 - 32 kbar. Journal of Petrology, 46, 275-290.
  • Hacker, B., Luffi. P., Lutkov, V., Minaev. V., Ratschbacher, L., Plank, T., Ducea, M., Patiño Douce, A. E., McWilliams, M. and Metcalf, J., 2005.  Near-Ultrahigh Pressure Processing of Continental Crust: Miocene Crustal Xenoliths from the Pamir. Journal of Petrology, 46, 1661-1687.
  • Skjerlie, K.P . and Patiño Douce, A.E., 2002. The fluid-absent partial melting of a zoisite-bearing quartz eclogite from 1.0 to 3.2 GPa; implications for melting in thickened continental crust and for subduction zone processes. Journal of Petrology 43, 291-314.
  • Otamendi, J.E., de la Rosa, J., Patiño Douce, A.E. and Castro, A, 2002. Rayleigh Fractionation of Heavy Rare Earths and Yttrium During Metamorphic Garnet Growth. Geology 30, 159-162.
  • Otamendi, J.E., and Patiño Douce, A.E., 2001. Partial Melting of Aluminous Metagreywackes in the Northern Sierra de Comechingones, Central Argentina. Journal of Petrology 42, 1751-1772.
  • Castro, A., Corretgé, L.G., El-Biad, M., El-Hmidi, H., Fernández, C., and Patiño Douce, A.E., 2000. Experimental Constraints on Hercynian Anatexis, Iberian massif, Spain. Journal of Petrology  41, 1471-1488.
  • Castro, A., Patiño Douce, A.E., Corretgé, L.G., de la Rosa, J., El-Biad, M., and El-Hmidi, H., 1999. Origin of peraluminous granites and granodiorites, Iberian Massif, Spain. An experimental test of granite petrogenesis.  Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 135, 255-276.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 1999. What do experiments tell us about the relative contributions of crust and mantle to the origin of granitic magmas? In: Understanding granites. Integrating New and Classical Techniques, A. Castro, C. Fernandez and J.L. Vigneresse, eds. Geological Society, London, Special Publication 158, 55-75.
  • Otamendi, J.E., Patiño Douce, A.E., and Demichelis, A.H., 1999. Amphibolite to granulite transition in aluminous greywackes from the Sierra de Comechingones, Córdoba, Argentina. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, 17, 415-434.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., and Harris, N., 1998. Experimental constraints on Himalayan Anatexis. Journal of Petrology, 39, 689-710. 
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., and McCarthy, T.C., 1998. Melting of crustal rocks during continental collision and subduction. In: When continents collide: Geodynamics and Geochemistry of Ultra-high Pressure Rocks, edited by B.R. Hacker and J.G. Liou, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, p. 27-55.
  • McCarthy, T.C. and Patiño Douce, A.E., 1998. Empirical calibration of the silica - Ca-Tschermak’s - anorthite (SCAn) geobarometer. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, 16, 675-686.
  • Otamendi, J.E., Nullo, F.E., Patiño Douce, A.E., and Fagiano, M., 1998. Geology, mineralogy and geochemistry of syn-orogenic anatectic granites from the Achiras Complex, Córdoba, Argentina: some petrogenetic and geodynamic implications. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 11, 407-423.
  • Otamendi, J.E., Fagiano, M.R., Nullo, F.E. and Patiño Douce, A.E., 1998. Petrología, geoquímica y metamorfismo del Complejo Achiras, sur de la Sierra de Comechingones, Argentina. Revista de la Asociación Geológica Argentina, 53, 27-40.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 1998. Interactions among source composition and intensive variables in the origin of granitic magmas. In: Problems of genesis of magmatic and metamorphic rocks, S. I. Grigoriev, editor, p. 24-27. Proceedings of the International Conference dedicated to the 100th. anniversary of the birth of Nikolai Yeliseev, St. Petersburg State University, Russia.
  • McCarthy, T.C. and Patiño Douce, A.E., 1997. Experimental evidence for high-temperature felsic melts formed during basaltic intrusion of the deep crust. Geology, 25, 463-466.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 1997. Generation of metaluminous A-type granites by low-pressure melting of calc-alkaline granitoids. Geology, 25, 743-746.
  • Dooley, D.F. and Patiño Douce, A.E., 1996. Fluid-absent melting of F-rich phlogopite + rutile + quartz. American Mineralogist, 81, 202-212.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 1996. Effects of pressure and H2O content on the compositions of primary crustal melts. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Science, 87, 11-21.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E. and Beard, J.S., 1996. Effects of P, f(O2) and Mg/Fe ratio on dehydration-melting of model metagreywackes. Journal of Petrology, 37, 999-1024.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E. and Beard, J.S., 1995. Dehydration-melting of biotite gneiss and quartz amphibolite from 3 to 15 kbar. Journal of Petrology, 36, 707-738.
  • Patiño Douce, A.E., 1995. Experimental generation of hybrid silicic melts by reaction of high-Al basalt with metamorphic rocks. Journal of Geophysical Research, 100, 15,623-15,639.
  • Skjerlie, K.P. and Patiño Douce, A.E., 1995. Anatexis of interlayered amphibolite and pelite: effect of diffusion of major components on phase relations and melt fraction. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 122, 62-78.
  • Patiño Douce, M.L.G.; Patiño Douce, A. E., Qayyum, M. and Nielsen, R., 1994. New set of low concentration standards for La, Ce, Sm, Yb, Lu, Y, Sc, V, Nb and Ta in silicates. Geostandards Newsletter, 18: 195-198.
  • Patiño Douce, A. E. and Beard, J.S., 1994. H2O loss from hydrous melts during fluid-absent piston-cylinder experiments. American Mineralogist 79, 585-588.
  • Patiño Douce, A. E., 1994. Melt generation in the continental crust: answered and unanswered questions. Mineralogical Magazine 58A, 692-693.
  • Patiño Douce, A. E., 1993. Titanium substitution in biotite: an empirical model with applications to thermometry, O2 and H2O barometries, and consequences for biotite stability. Chemical Geology 108, 133-162.
  • Skjerlie, K. P., Patiño Douce, A. E. and Johnston, A. D., 1993. Fluid-absent melting of a layered crustal protolith: implications for the generation of anatectic granites. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 114, 365-378.
  • Patiño Douce, A. E., Johnston, A. D. and Rice, J.M., 1993. Octahedral excess mixing properties in biotite: a working model with applications to geobarometry and geothermometry. American Mineralogist 78, 113-131.
  • Patiño Douce, A. E., 1992. Calculated relationships between activity of alumina and phase assemblages of silica-saturated igneous rocks. Petrogenetic implications of magmatic cordierite, garnet and aluminosilicate. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 52, 43-63.
  • Patiño Douce, A. E. and Johnston, A. D., 1991. Phase equilibria and melt productivity in the pelite system: implications for the origin of peraluminous granitoids and aluminous granulites. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 107, 202-218.
  • Patiño Douce, A. E., Johnston, A.D. and Humphreys, E.D., 1990. Closed system anatexis in the Cordilleran Interior: the importance of initial lithologic structure. EOS, 71, 298-300.
  • Patiño Douce, A. E., Humphreys, E.D. and Johnston, A.D., 1990. Anatexis and metamorphism in tectonically thickened continental crust exemplified by the Sevier hinterland, western North America. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 97, 290-315.
  • Patiño, M.G. and Patiño Douce, A. E., 1987. Petrología y petrogénesis del batolito de Achala, provincia de Córdoba, a la luz de la evidencia de campo. Revista de la Asociación Geológica Argentina, 42, 201-205.
Events featuring Alberto Patiño Douce

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