The pandemic rages unchecked in a country where health care is a commodity. Climate change continues setting horrifying records. It’s all relentless bad news.

#YouFindARock. You cling to it, determined to lose yourself in the stony rose for at least a moment.
You ignore the translucent white beads, fingers rolling the grape chalcedony in your pocket as a reminder of past misadventures.

You focus on the salmon orange crystal bloom.

>
> Pet

You reach out, fingers tracing the delicately-radiating crystal fivers. It’s hard under your touch, but extremely brittle.

A single spine snaps free despite your caution. “Ah, drat!” You mutter under your breath. “So sorry about that.” You pat the crystal reassuringly.

>
> Lick

The hydrated calcium silicate is too hard to detect much flavour, although it vaguely reminds you of a calcium supplement.

>
> Zap

Playing it safe, you pull out your trusty UV flashlight and zap the mineral.

It glows a vaguely disquieting yellow-brown.

>
> Bake

“You didn’t taste like much, but you look like sliced strawberries,” you muse, sprinkling the fibrous zeolite on shortcake batter & stuffing it in the oven.

During baking, you detect a voltage change. Hurriedly, you conduct further tests. “Pyroelectric!” you determine

>
> Burn

Digging through your pockets, you extract a blowpipe & load the assay chamber with the fibre that broke while petting. You hold up a flame & blow gently.

The crystal fragment twitches & curls like a worm. “Skolec,” you identify in Greek, naming the root of Scolecite.

>
> Squeeze

“Come here, you beautiful mineral!” you coo, gathering the scolecite into a tight embrace.

As you squeeze the casuals, they generate a brief voltage. “Hah! Piezoelectric, too.” you smugly concludes. “Knew it.”

>
> SMAS—

“Bwahaha!” you cackle, winding up to smash the mineral, then abruptly stop when you realize you can just look up its cleavage or fracture.

> Revere

You carefully collect the sample. “How do you feel about starting a zeolite museum?” you ask as you set it on a cushion.
After setting up lights, checking humidity, and installing security display boxes, you step back to admire your hard work.

“Today, it’s just a scolecite. But who knows what rocks tomorrow will hold?” you muse. “Silicon, aluminum, & oxygen can combine in so many beautiful ways!”

• • •

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More from @mikamckinnon

Dec 26, 2021
The degree of rage I feel when someone flippantly declares getting COVID is inevitable and we should give up is beyond my ability to politely express.

It’s never too late to make things less bad. Like Climate nihilism, it’s self-destructive bullshit & I have no tolerance for it.
Science is an astonishing tool linking cause and effect, enabling us to create a path to any future we want.

It’s not easy! Untangling details can be lifetimes of effort to get right. But the harder part is picking a future, then doing the work.
It’s daunting. We need to do the work individually, but we also need our communities, governments, & everyone everywhere else to do the work.

But if we refuse to surrender to suffering?
If we keep struggling to do better?

We have infinite possible futures that are less bad.
Read 5 tweets
Mar 9, 2021
You know the rules:

Most vibrantly-coloured rocks are on the Do Not Lick list, but ALL rocks that are literally radiating are definitely on the Do Not Lick list.
> Record scratch

> Freeze frame of you, the protagonist, contemplating the pros and cons of licking a plutonium puck.

“You’re probably wondering how I got here. It all started when I was strolling around France...”

#YouFindARock.

📷 Roberto Bosi Densely-packed crystals of a pale translucent tan spackled a
You pick up the hunk of densely-packed quartz crystals, intrigued by the spatters of matte black.

“Did you mould?!” you ask the rock incredulously. “No, no, that’s not quite right... what IS this?”

>
Read 15 tweets
Nov 21, 2020
I’m reading a lot of well-intentioned articles that make it clear how many scicomm peeps have no idea disaster risk reduction is a deep field with a lot of research into effective communication.

ProTip: Using fear & shame as motivation backfires when applied to public health.
I can’t write this article (or even thread!) right now as I’m under medical orders to drop my stress levels (ahahahahasob), but...

If you’re writing well-intentioned pieces trying to influence pandemic behaviour, please take some cues from disaster sociology research. It exists!
Fundamental premise:
Vanishingly few people make active choices they believe will endanger themselves or the people they love.

If they’re making “bad” choices, it’s a fundamentally different risk perception. Until you understand how & why, your argument will miss its audience.
Read 7 tweets
Nov 20, 2020
Gritty has found rocks.

They are all safe but boring to lick. It’s a solid selection of common crystals from a rock shop or museum gift store.

I do have a few questions.
If you go outside and pick up a stray rock, it’s probably quartz.

This looks like quartz. Quartz is an excellent oscillator that is piezoelectric & resonates well.

White sand is also quartz, and is near oceans.

Conclusion: Gritty can use quartz as a distributed spy network.
I have questions on this ID.

If it’s rose quartz, it’s about as fun as licking a window for flavour.

But it could easily be pink halite (like Himalayan rock salt!). If it is...? Lick it! Lick it moar!
Read 7 tweets
Nov 19, 2020
I’m stunned that we’re losing Arecibo.

Even if you don’t pay much attention to ground-based astronomy, you know this telescope from pop culture & movies. It’s somewhere special. nature.com/articles/d4158…
This article from just before the closing announcement is fantastic for the context of why Arecibo is so unique:
space.com/arecibo-observ…
I just...

I know we’ve got a lot going on, especially with the mass casualty event scheduled shortly after US Thanksgiving.

But take some time to read the Arecibo tributes as they come out. They won’t be cheerful. But they’ll be heartfelt.
Read 6 tweets
Nov 14, 2020
Irregular reminder that landslides can behave like fluids.

(Thank you for all the pings!)
Landslides get weird when there really big, and can start behaving more like fluids than solids once they’re over the half million cubic meter mark.

...which was pretty much why I wrote a thesis once upon a time: io9.gizmodo.com/why-are-huge-l…
But technically landslide are fluid-like, not fluids.

Why?

Because they’re a mixed mess of materials that act differently when moving than when still. You can’t just sample a tree trunk, some peat, and water to figure out the rheologic properties (how it flows).
Read 9 tweets

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