The ability to identify rocks and minerals in the field is a very important skill. The Geology.com store has a selection of rock, mineral, fossil and gem mineral kits that can be used for learning and practice. Testing tools are also available.
“Scientists investigated the factors that influence forest cover in California’s Sierra Nevada. Bedrock may be as important as temperature and moisture, they found, in regulating the distribution of trees and other vegetation across mountain slopes.” Quoted from the National Science Foundation press release.
In the 1930′s a fruit company was clearing farmland on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. During their work hundreds of stone spheres up to two meters in diameter were discovered. They are thought to have been made over 1000 years ago and their makers and the methods used to make them are unknown. It would be really hard and costly to make spheres like these today. Imagine what it would have been like 1000 years ago.
“The potential role of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants and other industrial plants in global climate change is driving studies of sedimentary basins in Arizona for their carbon sequestration potential.” Quote from the Arizona Geological Survey Repository.
One of the most interesting mysteries of Death Valley National Park is the sliding rocks at Racetrack Playa. These rocks can be found on the floor of the playa with long trails behind them. Somehow these rocks slide across the playa, cutting a furrow in the sediment as they move.
You have probably heard about how “metal fatigue” can result in the failure of aircraft parts and bridge cables. Have you heard about “rock fatigue” resulting in the failure of outcrops and other structures?
Although most gemstones are mineral materials, a number of organic materials and fossilized organisms are considered to be gemstones. The most common of these are pearl, bone, amber, coral, ivory, petrified wood, fossil coral, dinosaur bone and more.
Peridotite is a host rock of chromite, a source rock of diamonds, a potential sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide and the rock that makes up much of Earth’s mantle. Did you realize it was so important?
While preparing to start robotic arm work on the target “Cape Elizabeth” on Sol 3541 (Jan. 8, 2014), Opportunity encountered a slight surprise — a rock had appeared in the images that had not been there before. This target that has been named “Pinnacle Island” and its origin has been the target of much speculation.
A Nature article reports how some researchers believe that climate change can be mitigated by crushing olivine-rich rocks and exposing them to weathering – to take advantage of olivine’s ability to sequester carbon.
National Geographic has an article about “deepwater soloing”. A variety of rock climbing in which the climber ventures without a rope or protection. When a fall occurs the plunge is into deep water. Some climbers say that it allows they to climb routes that are beyond their potential.
“Although researchers have determined the ages of rocks from other planetary bodies, the actual experiments—like analyzing meteorites and moon rocks—have always been done on Earth. Now, for the first time, researchers have successfully determined the age of a Martian rock—with experiments performed on Mars.” Quoted from the Caltech press release.
The Alberta Geological Survey has published Summary of Alberta’s Shale- and Siltstone-Hosted Hydrocarbon Resource Potential. This is a 339-page publication with lots of maps, data and descriptive information.
You will find this report as item OFR 2012-06 on the linked page. The landing page also lists dozens of other reports on digital data, organic petrography, rock evaluation, geochemistry, pycnometry and more.
DonorsChoose.org is a website where K-12 teachers post projects that they would like to have funded and anyone anywhere can provide support. Many of these teachers would like to have materials to help them teach about rocks and minerals. Here are three projects that might appeal to you.
““Iris Agate” is a name used for a finely-banded agate that produces a spectacular display of color when it is cut properly and illuminated from a direction that sends light through its very thin bands.”
“Researchers now have stronger evidence of granite on Mars and a new theory for how the granite – an igneous rock common on Earth — could have formed there. The findings suggest a much more geologically complex Mars than previously believed.” Quoted from the Georgia Tech press release.
Ancient people carried and traded obsidian objects over wide geographic areas. Researchers have found success at attributing these artifacts with the geographic locality of an eruption by measuring their magnetic characteristics.
“The 25 km accessible trace of the Pirate fault has been mapped to locate and describe those erosionally exhumed remnants of the fault that together provide a basis for structural reconstruction of this nominally Basin-Range tectonic feature. The fault forms the western boundary of the Santa Catalina Mountains in southeastern Arizona, where it separates the uplifted Santa Catalina structural block on the east from the down-dropped, alluvial Cañada del Oro basin on the west.” Quoted from the Arizona Geological Survey publication release.
“Reservoirs of silica-rich magma — the kind that causes the most explosive volcanic eruptions — can persist in the Earth’s upper crust for hundreds of thousands of years without triggering an eruption, according to new University of Washington research.”
“The granite monolith of Half Dome is recognized throughout the world as an icon of Yosemite National Park. Thousands of visitors hike to the summit each year, rewarded with spectacular views and an experience that is not easily forgotten.” Quoted from the Yosemite National Park video description.
The United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service have produced a publication: “Historical Rock Falls in Yosemite National Park, California (1857–2011)“. It contains information about rockfall events, types of slope movements, triggering conditions and much more in maps, tables and text.
Geology.com and RockTumbler.com are both GeoShops.com websites.
Lots of people enjoy going to fee mining sites where you can prospect inactive surface mines, mine tailings, soil, sediments or outcrops and keep any rocks, gems, minerals or fossils that you find. Examples include: Herkimer Diamond Mines where you can search for doubly-terminated quartz crystals, and Crater of Diamonds where you might be lucky enough to find a real diamond.
“The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has selected a second target rock for drilling and sampling. The rover will set course to the drilling location in coming days.” Quoted from the NASA press release.
The Erosion and Tectonics Project team is working to document “one paradox of geology – that weathering a mountain down can actually make it rise higher.”
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Homeowners Insurance usually does not cover damage caused by floods, landslides, earthquakes and other geohazards.
Frac Sand is a high-purity silica sand used in hydraulic fracturing to enhance the flow of oil and gas from tight rock units.
Diamonds from Coal? Diamonds form under a variety of conditions that rarely involve coal as a source of carbon.
Fluorescent Minerals glow with spectacular colors when illuminated in the dark with an ultraviolet lamp.
Helium is a byproduct of the natural gas industry. Its most important use is in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.