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Crystal Clear

While minerology may be amongst the most boring sciences (even geology has the flare and burn of sub-crustal movement to garner interest, and the phrase ‘supervolcano’ to boot), the language minerology uses to describe fractal shapes and properties are beautiful, even poetic. It’s appropriate, given how much considered precious by humanity falls under its study: gold, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, silver, diamonds, just to name a few.

Pyroxene twinned crystal line drawing.

(Pyroxene twinned crystal line drawing)

Lest any minerologists get up in arms by my initial claim, I’d like to point out the Natural History Museum’s Hall of Minerals as example. A dead end trapping weary families of tourists after they’ve slogged through the ‘controversial’ Hall of Human Origins and taxed themselves feigning interest in the Hall of Meteorites (the only thing more boring than minerology; sorry space rocks, you may unlock the secrets of the universe but when put on display you’re just a big rock sitting there), the Hall of Minerals remains trapped in the 70s, offering an industrial shag variant with all surfaces carpeted, as the site claims, ‘to simulate the interior of a cave’.

Tetrahedrite twinned crystal structure line drawings.

(Tetrahedrite twinned crystal structure)

People like oggling the displays of large gemstones, guessing how much they’d cost, but few can muster interest in the enormous chunk of azurite/malachite ore once known as ‘The Singing Stone’ (fluctuations in humidity before climate control caused parts to resonate), or do more than glance at the display of sulfur minerals . This is the creme de la creme of American mineral and gem collections and the museum tries its darndest to capture the imagination, but the ratio of people enraptured by facts about ore extraction vs people slumped on carpeted seats with their children running pell mell is about 1:50.

Pyrite twinned crystal structure

(Pyrite twinned crystal structure)

That said, just listen to the language employed describing what really should be a more fascinating area of study (from Wikipedia; bold text are my highlights):

Luster indicates the way a mineral’s surface interacts with light.
Metallic/Splendent -high reflectivity like metal: galena and pyrite
+ Adamantine – brilliant, the luster of diamond also cerussite and anglesite
+ Vitreous -the luster of a broken glass: quartz
+ Pearly – iridescent and pearl-like: talc and apophyllite
+ Resinous – the luster of resin: sphalerite and sulfur
+ Silky – a soft light shown by fibrous materials: gypsum and chrysotile
+ Earthy – shown by finely crystallized minerals: the kidney ore variety of hematite
Greasy lustre

Proustite crystal

(Proustite crystal)

Optical phenomena include Asterism, the display of a star-shaped luminous area.

Aventurescence (or aventurization) is a reflectance effect like that of glitter.

Chatoyant minerals display luminous bands, which appear to move as the specimen is rotated.

Schiller, from German for “twinkle”, is a term used to describe the metallic iridescence originating from below the surface of a stone occuring when light is reflected between layers of minerals.

Fracture- Hackley is jagged fracture with sharp edges.

Fluorite and Quartz crystal

(Fluorite and quartz crystal)

Polymorphism refers to the ability of a solid to exist in more than one crystalline form or structure. According to Gibbs’ rules of phase equilibria, these unique crystalline phases will be dependent on such intensive variables as pressure, temperature and volume.

Nucleation can be either homogeneous, without the influence of foreign particles, or heterogeneous, with the influence of foreign particles.

A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material, whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions.

A noncrystalline material, which has no long-range order, is called an amorphous, vitreous, or glassy material. It is also often referred to as an amorphous solid, although there are distinct differences between crystalline solids and amorphous solids: most notably, the process of forming a glass does not release the latent heat of fusion.

Realgar on Calcite

(Realgar on calcite)

Crystal twinning occurs when two separate crystals share some of the same crystal lattice points in a symmetrical manner. A twin boundary or composition surface separates the two crystals. Crystallographers classify twinned crystals by a number of twin laws. These twin laws are specific to the crystal system.

Twin boundaries are partly responsible for shock hardening and for many of the changes that occur in cold work of metals with limited slip systems or at very low temperatures. The motion of twin boundaries is responsible for the pseudoelastic and shape-memory behavior of nitinol, and their presence is partly responsible for the hardness due to quenching of steel.

Soft matter or Soft condensed matter is a subfield of condensed matter comprising a variety of physical states that are easily deformed by thermal stresses or thermal fluctuations.

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes has been called the “founding father of soft matter.

The word “crystallography” is derived from the Greek words crystallon = cold drop / frozen drop, with its meaning extending to all solids with some degree of transparency, and graphein = write.

Neutrons are scattered by the atomic nuclei through the strong nuclear forces, but in addition, the magnetic moment of neutrons is non-zero.

Tri-Color Tourmaline

(Tri-color tourmaline)

*Crystal structure drawings by R.Weller/Cochise College

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Surprise Asteroid Makes Near-Miss of Earth

Wait! Did you hear that whooshing sound?

A small asteroid buzzed by Earth Monday, though only real astronomy geeks in the Pacific would have noticed.

The rock, estimated to be no more than 200 feet wide, zoomed past our planet at an altitude of 40,000 miles at 1:44 p.m. universal time — or 8:44 EST.

Dubbed 2009 DD45, it was discovered only on Friday by Australian astronomers.

Forty thousand miles may sound like a lot, but it’s only about one-seventh of the way to the moon, and less than twice as far out as many telecommunications satellites.

Had 2009 DD45 hit the Earth, it would have exploded on or near the surface with the force of a large nuclear blast — not very reassuring when you consider humanity had only about three days’ notice.

The link is to a more scientific article, but the text above is from Fox News, whence also came this gem:

According to the Australian news Web site Crikey, the asteroid is likely to be drawn in by Earth’s gravity, meaning it may return for many more near misses in the future.

First of all, Fox News gets ITS news from a WEB SITE called ‘Crikey’ (which you have to shout in an Australian accent). Secondly, A HUGE FUCKING ROCK ALMOST HIT EARTH YESTERDAY AND NO ONE THOUGHT TO TELL ANYONE?!?!?! Perhaps it was for the best, given my all-caps reaction after the rock passed by safely. Still though, we now know should anything terrible really be going down we will not be told until after it happens, alive or dead. The space chunk is estimated to come back about 2029, so in your face, 2012-ers. That’s assuming, of course, that we survive the near-collision predicted in 2014, 2016, and 2021. Waaaaah.

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Above are two of the numerous ludicrous attack scenes from ‘Night of the Lepus’, the film where humans are terrorized by….giant rabbits. Note to self-when making a horror movie about giant animals try and pick one that people are normally frightened of/grossed out by on the small scale anyway:
(This may be of poorer quality but it shows all the good stuff, and by ‘good stuff’ I mean giant radioactive ant attacks. Ah, for a simpler time again.)
(From ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’, a surprisingly existential meditation on man, despite the lurid title)

…or an animal that would actually become more imposing at a larger scale. Giant rabbits are still rabbits. Sure, these supposedly got a taste for blood when they mutated, but that doesn’t make them any less fluffy.
(from ‘Attack of the Puppet People’, though really it’s mostly them getting attacked.)

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“They have had their moment of freedom. Webley has only been a guest star. Now it’s back to the cages and the rationalized forms of death-death in the service of the one species cursed with the knowledge that it will die…”I would set you free, if I knew how. But it isn’t free out here. All the animals, the plants, the minerals, even other kinds of men, are being broken and reassembled every day, to preserve an elite few, who are the loudest to theorize on freedom, but the least free of all. I can’t even give you hope that it will be different someday-that They’ll come out, and forget about death, and lose Their technology’s elaborate terror, and stop using every other form of life without mercy to keep what haunts men down to a tolerable level…”

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Don’t forget to set your TiVOs. I doubt they’ll have anything to rival their big capper from last year: the grotesque and fascinating first documented shark mating put to film. It was a swirling mass of near-death and raw aggression.

On a side note, one of the first extensive forays into the black and icy waters surrounding the Antarctic found a number of new species and pockets of thriving ecosystems interspersed amongst silent deeps.

Also, intrasonic frequencies, felt but unheard by human ears, have been found used in communication by both elephants and whales at ear-shattering levels of over 110 decibels. As the waves are upwards of 50 ft. in length, we cannot hear them.

Just a wee reminder there is still much to discover, and that the world is a far more interesting and stranger place than we can perceive. Also, sharks are mad scary and awesome in their might, and I’m glad Discovery dedicates a full week to these perfect primeval killing machines. I forget the name of it, but one of the hour-long specials is hosted by this English fellow with an unfortunate blonde bowl cut circa 1968, who just up and puts on flippy-fins and goes diving, bare, with these creatures. Why? Because he admires their perfection. Yes.

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