Today’s distraction:

The winner of this match will face #Magnetite for the finals with a shot at the #MinCup2020 crown. Both are beautiful & bizarre with odd properties and a lot of charm.
Both are Safe But Boring to lick. They even have similar texture (smooth). As far as your tongue in concerned, it’s a wash. You’ll need different criteria to pick your fav.

(One #MinCup we’ll have either a Fun To Lick or a Do Not Lick finalist and I will be overjoyed)
#Fluorite is a basic calcium fluoride (CaF2), which didn’t give me headaches when memorizing composition for mineralogy exams.

Amusingly, the element is named for the mineral, not the other way around. Same for fluorescence: the effect named for the rock’s distinctive property.
#Fluorite has highly geometric growth, usually forming as cubes or octahedron but occasionally as dodecahedrons. If you SMASHY-SMASHY, it has perfect cleavage into flat triangles & rectangles.

It picks up vibrant colour from any trace contaminants, sometimes growing as rainbows.
While most of #MinCup2020 has focused #Fluorite’s beauty (fair), it’s also a workhorse.

Fluorite is the primary industrial source of fluorine. The name is a hint (fluere = to flow): it’s used as flux to purify steel & other metals. It’s also used in specialized glass for optics.
Likewise, #Corundum is a basic aluminum oxide (Al2O3) where neat colours come from contamination of other trace minerals. The most famous varieties are emery (as in nailfile) and the gems ruby & sapphire.

Historically, it’s a catch-all for pretty blue or red shinies.
While diamonds define the top of the Moh’s hardness scale, #Corundum is the next step down (colloquially “hard af”) and far tougher with resistance to scratching, smashing, & even acid baths.

It’s occasionally triboluminescent, so SMASHY-SMASHY is more likely to glow than break.
Pretty #Corundum is most frequently mined as gems (most often ruby & sapphire, but high-shine cleat yellows/oranges/greens are gaining popularity), but less-pretty (& usually synthetic) varieties are a common industrial abrasive, heat-resistant refractory, or laser gain medium.
I know which way I’m voting, but honestly either of these pretties is a good choice.

The match is hovering near 50/50. A dozen votes could easily win it. Take a break from Doomscrolling to browse pretty pix & esoteric facts, pick your fav, & vote!
#Fluorite vs #Corundum are tied within detection limits with only 60 minutes left.

3 votes could select the semi-finalist that faces off against #Magnetite for the crown.

Go on, cackle maniacally while using your power choosing between a pair of good options.

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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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