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...”


📷 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?”

> Heft

Determined not to plunge tongue-first into danger, you pick up the rock and weigh it thoughtfully.

“You’re weirdly heavy,” you muse aloud. “Like... twice as heavy as I’d expect.”

> Calculate density

After weighing the mineral, you pull out a graduated cylinder and dunk the mineral lump in water to measure volume.

“Accounting for the quartz...” you mutter to yourself while frantically calculating, “your specific gravity is... 5?! Damn, impressive!”

> zap zap zap

You rotate the rock in a bright sunbeam, catching an adamantine sparkle in what you thought was tarry matte black.

Intrigued, you shine a flashlight through a thin edge. “Brown!” you gasp, then “Pale yellow?!” as you rotate the rock. “Pleochroism is gorgeous.”

> Radiation check

“Geiger counter, grocery counter...” you mutter, patting the many pockets of your cruiser vest, finally finding the device.

It beeps frantically at the coffinite.

“Oh. Erm...”

> Exploit

Unsatisfied with running one uranium mine (), you open a second mine to exploit the coffinite as a uranium ore.

Ack! The quote-tweet ate the poll.

> Find pretty

You jaunt to New Mexico.

You find a dinosaur fossil where coffinite & pyrite have substituted in for the bone minerals.

You smile happily at the preserved vascules that once held blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue.

📷 JGW Slab of black rock with scattered white-rimmed oval openings
You clutch the coffinite dinosaur bone and plan your next step.

> Pet

You gently stroke the uranium silicate dinosaur fossil.

The dead dino does nothing.

Your skin blocks alpha particles, but you get the impression a prolonged cuddle would be unwise.

You yawn sleepily, exhausted from jumping continents.

> Cherish

“You are a gorgeous dinosaur,” you coo, patting it gently. “Simply lovely.”

You carefully wrap the fossil to protect it from damage & to protect others from it, then ship it to Portugal for display in the visitor’s centre of your original uranium mine.

Until later:

When visiting a power plant supplied by your growing collection of uranium mines, you find the tiniest pinhead of plutonium, just 10μg.

You eye the sewing-needle-sized vial of purply goop.

> Flee

You leave the plutonium untasted, running as far & as fast as you can.

You are unwilling to repeat the errors of Don Mastick (…) & taste the acidic, metallic twang of disconcerting warmth.

You avoid hospitalisation.
You’re a little bit smug.

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More from @mikamckinnon

21 Nov 20
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
20 Nov 20
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
19 Nov 20
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.…
This article from just before the closing announcement is fantastic for the context of why Arecibo is so unique:…
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
14 Nov 20
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:…
But technically landslide are fluid-like, not fluids.


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
13 Nov 20
Searles Lake is a major industrial source of evaporate minerals. Brine is pumped into shallow ponds, where desert sun evaporates water & leaves behind baby crystals to screen, harvest, wash & dry.

The minerals grow so fast they hopper: outside expands before inside fills in.
Searles Lake produces a whole bunch of halites and borates: halite, borax, selenite, ulexite (tv rock), as well as some weirder minerals like searlesite.

The pink cubical minerals are halite: table salt! Not only is it safe & tasty to lick, it’s essential for your health.
Read 4 tweets
19 Oct 20
Dear coastal Alaska:
Pay attention & be ready to head inland.

Dear coastal PNW:
Keep an eye on the news until we have tsunami confirmation.
Subduction zone earthquakes involve vertical movement of the sea floor. This displacement can trigger tsunami.

While we’re very, very good at forecasting how fast tsunami will travel where, we don’t know how big they’ll be until they start coming on shore.
If you’re on a coast and feel severe shaking, RUN the moment shaking stops. Don’t wait around for assessments or formal warnings, just get as far uphill & inland as you can get as quickly as possible.

Same if you ever see the ocean pull back & exposing sea floor.
Read 16 tweets

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