Swimming in acronym soup

In a few rare instances, an abbreviation can become so well-known that it is adopted into everyday language; more familar than the words it used to stand for. It's embarrasing, but I needed to actually look up LASER, and you might feel the same way with SONAR. These acronyms are the exception. Most are obscure barriers to entry in technical conversations. They can be constructs for wielding authority and exclusivity. Welcome to the club, if you know the password.

No domain of subsurface technology is riddled with more acronyms than well log analysis and formation evaluation. This is a big part of — perhaps too much of a part of — why petrophysics is hard. Last week, I came across a well. It has an extended suite of logs, and I wanted make a synthetic. Have a glance at the image and see which curve names you recognize (the size represents the frequency the names are encountered across many files of the same well).

I felt like I was being spoken to by some earlier deliquent: I got yer well logs right here buddy. Have fun sorting this mess out.

The log ASCII standard (*.LAS file) file format goes a long way to exposing descriptive information in the header. But this information is often incomplete, missing, and says nothing about the quality or completeness of the data. I had to scan 5 files to compile this soup. A micro-travesty and a failure, in my opinion. How does one turn this into meaningful information for geoscience?

Whose job is it to sort this out? The service company that collected the data? The operator that paid for it? A third party down the road?

What I need is not only an acronym look-up table, but also a data range tool to show me what I've got in the file (or files), and at which locations and depths I've got it. A database to give me more information about these acronyms would be nice too, and a feature that allows me to compare multiple files, wells, and directories at once. It would be like a life preserver. Maybe we should build it.

I made the word cloud by pasting text into wordle.net. I extracted the text from the data files using the wonderful LASReader written by Warren Weckesser. Yay, open source!