LOOK! SHINY PEBBLE! What Are Geology Museum Exhibits Trying to Tell Us?

I usually get frustrated with geology exhibits in museum because, too often, I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to learn other than rocks are pretty. Which they are (from the Harvard Natural History Museum):


Some big ass gypsum crystals (and imagine the holistic woo-power these motherfuckers could generate!):


The infamous burrito rock (also known as smithsonite):








And for the grand finale, mesolite:


Like I said, these are really neato looking. But I suspect that a geologist would get a lot more out of these than just ‘SHINY PEBBLE!’ I wish I knew what that was.

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6 Responses to LOOK! SHINY PEBBLE! What Are Geology Museum Exhibits Trying to Tell Us?

  1. george.w says:

    A good start would be to inform the viewers that a crystal is a sort of reflection of the atomic properties of the atoms from which it is made. The longer I dwell on that little tidbit, the more mind-blowing it becomes – no woo necessary at all. Some information about how and where the crystal was formed would help too.

  2. jw says:

    the thing that blows my mind about all these is the ways (and i’m not a geologist, only read one textbook years ago for edification) that many crystals, metals, rock types and all form–by separating out and crystallizing as magma cools through different temperature and pressure changes, and/or through the action of water/dissolution/recrystallization, and of course TIME. i think everybody could benefit from learning some generalities to explain how these things form. would be a great counter to ‘goddidit’.

  3. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says:

    Here’s what you should learn: photographs taken through glass may suffer from reflections.

  4. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says:
  5. albanaeon says:

    Well, as someone studying for a geology degree, on one hand, wow those are really cool. On the other, wow that’s really annoying because they look nothing like the specimens you are trying to identify. Still, museums are pretty much there for the “oh wow” factor and sometimes it really gets to the point that it disguises how much work doing science really is.

  6. sethkahn says:

    I don’t know if JW is right, but that comment sent me looking for the “Like” or “+1” button.

    My geology faculty friends would say that the Wow factor is an important part of the reaction–enough to get you to care more than, “Oh, those are just rocks.”

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