Baker’s Quarry Cake

This is what happens when you ask a geologist to bake a cake. has a very funny description of the quarry and how it was formed. Make sure you read the whole thing!

Historical records indicate that quarrying operations began in earnest around 9:30pm, although there is anecdotal evidence of small scale nibbling, particularly in the Strawberry Granite, prior to that time. Though only crumbs were removed, a few locals reported their findings to others. Resulting hype and rumor-mongering built up public anticipation to a frenzied hum. When the echoes of dinner had faded, industrial-scale excavations began at Baker’s Quarry.

The real Baker’s Quarry is a mine in Monroe, North Carolina, also known as Martin Marietta Materials. This is what it looks like.

Bakers quarry mine north carolina aerial view map

From Google Maps

Minerals in Fireworks

The 4th of July fireworks that we saw last night would not be possible without minerals. Fireworks mainly contain gunpowder, which is a combination of charcoal, sulfur, and the mineral potassium nitrate. In order to create the pretty colors we are used to seeing in fireworks, mineral salts are added. This infographic from Compound Interest explains which mineral salts create which colors. If you go to the website, you can read a lot more about the chemistry of fireworks and a brief explanation of why different minerals make different colored flames.

I learned that blue fireworks are very difficult to produce because copper chloride breaks down at high temperatures, so they have to somehow keep the temperature hot enough to ignite but not so hot that the blue color vanishes. Thus, you almost never see purple fireworks because it is a combination of red and blue.

World’s Largest Uncut Diamond Up for Auction

hand holding largest uncut diamond from Lucara

Photo by Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Sotheby’s

From the New York Times, June 27, 2016:

In the fall of 2015, a 1,109 carat white diamond was found in the Lucara mine in South Africa. The diamond is called the Lesedi La Rona, which means “Our Light” in Setswana. On Wednesday, June 29, 2016 it will go up for public auction at Sotheby’s in London. Usually, precious stones like these are sold secretly by sealed bids and kept anonymous, so this Sotheby’s auction is unusual. This is the first time that such a large diamond has been on sale publicly.

The Lesedi La Rona is a type IIA diamond, which is very rare and is the most chemically pure type of diamond. Other famous IIA diamonds include the Koh-i-Noor and the Cullinan, which is 3,106 carats and is the biggest diamond ever found. The Cullinan was cut into 9 different stones and the pieces are now owned by various monarchs. Sotheby’s says that “whoever buys the Lucara stone will pay Sotheby’s a 12 percent fee, known as the buyer’s premium, on the hammer price for anything over the first $3 million, and a higher percentage of the first $3 million.” Whoever buys the stone will then have to decide if they want to have it cut. What a hard decision! What would you do?

The whole article is here:

UPDATE: It turns out nobody bought the diamond because the bids failed to meet the minimum reserve price. The reserve price was secret (just like at eBay) but it must have been more than £45 million ($61 million) because that was the highest bid. Maybe it will go on sale again later. Source:

Andradite Garnet

andradite garnet

Credit: Aaron Palke/Gemological Institute of America

Since it’s January, it’s a good time to read about this garnet originally posted by Chemistry in Pictures.

“This gemstone isn’t pure andradite garnet [Ca₃Fe₂(SiO₄)₃], but its flaws produce its mesmerizing colors. Some gemologists think that this rainbow explosion arises because the garnet’s different elements aren’t regularly spaced from the core of the gemstone to the outside. For example, in some regions, aluminum atoms might have worked their way into the structure and replaced the iron atoms. These irregularities create mismatched sheets of atoms that then bend and stretch. This makes the stone birefringent, meaning that light travels through it at two different speeds. Under cross-polarized lighting conditions, rays of light that enter get misaligned by the time they exit, so they then interfere with each other and highlight some colors in certain spots, producing the spectrum seen here. The black flecks are tiny pieces of magnetite that were enveloped by the crystal as it grew.”

Earth Science Week 2015

Earth Science Week is October 11-17, 2015

Earth Science Week logoEvery year, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MO DNR) has an Earth Science Week full of fun activities for kids and adults. From their website: Earth Science Week aims to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Earth Sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth. This year’s activities will be held Oct. 11-17 and will celebrate the theme “Visualizing Earth’s Systems.” This year’s theme will engage young people and others in discovering the Earth sciences, remind people that Earth science is all around us, encourage Earth stewardship through understanding, and to motivate geoscientists to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about the Earth.

Go ahead – be a citizen scientist!

Enter the photography, visual arts and essay contests! All eligible submissions must be submitted to the American Geosciences Institute and received electronically by 4 p.m. CST, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015.

Participate in events during Earth Science Week. Plan a visit to the Missouri Geological Survey during Earth Science Week. The Missouri Geological Survey will be open during Earth Science Week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, Oct. 12-16.

Read our Governor’s Proclamation!

  • Sunday, Oct. 11 is International EarthCache Day – Explore the world using your GPS.
  • Monday, Oct. 12 Earth Science Literacy Day Learn the fundamentals of geosciences with Earth Science: Big Idea, a video series developed to explain why Earth science literacy is important.
  • Tuesday, October 13 is No Child Left Inside Day  NCLI Day encourages students to go outside and research Earth science in the field like a professional geoscientist.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 14 is National Fossil Day – Visitors to the Ed Clark Museum of Missouri Geology, in Rolla, will receive a Crinoid fossil. Also, be sure to check out the fossils in the limestone of the Missouri State Capitol.
  • Thursday, Oct. 15 is The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut – Register and join millions in the “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” earthquake drill Oct. 15 at 10:15 a.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 15 is Geoscience for Everyone Day Do your part to help young people from underrepresented communities explore exciting careers in the geosciences.
  • Friday, Oct. 16 is Geologic Map Day – Special mapping exhibits were on display at the Ed Clark Museum of Missouri Geology during Geologic Map Day to promote awareness of the study, uses and importance of geologic mapping for education, science, business, and public policy concerns.
  • Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17 and 18 the Ozark Mountain Gem and Mineral Society’s Gem and Jewelry Show will be held in the at the Expo Center in Springfield, Mo. – Geologists with the Missouri Geological Survey will host an educational booth Saturday, Oct. 17.
  • Saturday, Oct. 17 is International Archaeology Day – Hosted by the Archaeological Institute of America, this special event is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery.