Thanks to bismuth's low melting point of 271°C, you can grow your own crystals by melting and then cooling bismuth in a stove pot. A pound of pure bismuth runs $25 (shipping included) -- much cheaper than buying large crystals -- and you can even use molds to create geodes or other shapes. Check out the video, or if you prefer written instructors, see this tutorial. Read more →
Researchers at Syracuse University developed a car-sized furnace, capable of melting up to 800 pounds of basaltic rock into lava, to study how lava flow morphology is influenced by factors such as temperature, slope (of the land), snow and ice, effusion (pour) rate, barriers, lava composition, and surface roughness.
While the furnace has already yielded plenty of helpful data, students found yet another use: cookouts at 1,000°C! No word yet on how a volcano-baked steak tastes, though. Suggested future include s'mores and hot dogs. Watch the video below, and then check out the Syracuse University Lava Project website for photos and descriptions of their work. Read more →
The orange marbled orb-weaver spider (Araneus marmoreus) looks like a lovely round pumpkin. I found this beautiful specimen (bravely!) crawling around my chicken pen in North Wilkeboro, NC in 2011 during the late summer or early fall. It wasn't pleased with my attempts to photograph it, although I don't know why: it's quite attractive! Read more →
Below are examples of the symbols used in geologic diagrams and maps to represent specific kinds of rocks. If bedding, cross-bedding, ripples, fossils, distortion, or certain materials are present in the rock, the symbols are altered. To download the complete list of standard symbols, click here. Read more →
Glaucus atlanticus (commonly known as the sea swallow, blue angel, and blue dragon) is a small, blue, pelagic sea slug. As I discussed in my post on why gastropods are awesome, this nudibranch can feed on cnidarians (like jellyfish) and harvest their nematocysts (stinging cells)—so this gorgeous slug not only looks like a Pokemon, but it can actually copy other creatures' moves!
One of the highlights of studying at Duke was walking through the Duke Gardens and observing the daily habits of the many ducks that frequent the pond in the Asiatic Arboretum. I came to realize that they all had very active lives and interesting relationships. Read more →
From a distance, sand can look homogenous and quite frankly, boring. Scoop up a handful and examine it closely—or better yet, magnify it 100 times plus—and you realize just how many different shapes, colors, and materials can exist. Volcanic material, coral fragments, quartz grains, foraminifera shells, and more all tell different stories about its origins. Read more →