I recently completed an internship in Trieste, Italy, the highlight of which was a day hike around the Tre Cime Nature Park in the Dolomites. On top of the incredible geology, the park features relics of the World War 1 front between Austria and Italy, such as the pictured trench and cave dug into the carbonate rocks. Besides tunnels, other war uses of the geology included the use of explosions to trigger fatal rock slides. I can't imagine fighting and hauling heavy equipment across (and up!) this rugged terrain. Read more
Military Geology of Tre Cime Nature Park
Chemistry lesson: calcium carbonate solubility
The big equations:
CaCO3 ⇌ Ca2+ + CO32-
CaCO3 (s) + H2CO3 (aq) ⇌ Ca2+ (aq) + 2HCO3- (aq) Read more →
Grow your own bismuth crystals
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 →
Metamorphic meat: lava-cooked steaks
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 →
Even cats wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Read more →
Marbled orb-weaver spider
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 →
All cats are fabulous.
Geologic Map Symbols
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: beautiful blue sea slug, or Pokemon?
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!
Beautiful ducks of Duke Gardens, Durham, NC
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 →