5 May 2008

Getting hard and dirty

Did you know I once thought a career in geology? Did you know the lithosphere is like sex, drugs and rock'n'roll to me, without the drugs and rock'n'roll? That I get off getting hard and dirty with a hammer and chisel, brushing those smooth curves aside and fondle those cuties all over?

Ever since I was a kid I loved rocks (technically, "rocks" are minerals, blended together, with a few Mineraloids and organic matter mixed in), collecting them, polishing them, sorting them, and loving them. What is there not to love? The visual patterns, the geological history, the versatility of them, and - the best part! - you find them everywhere! What better hobby than to collect something you can find absolutely everywhere. Yeah, my mum thought so, too.

Yesterday my family was invited to go for a trip to by another family, and all along the way my daughters and me collected rocks, looking at fault-lines, discovering and discussing the crystalline features of minerals, where you would likely find what type of rock, and - of course - finding some pretty cool stuff, including found only around Oslo, Kilimanjaro in Africa, and in the Antarctic. The Oslo valley is a treasure trove for geologists as it is the remnant of lots of spectacular volcanic and tectonic activity, and I'm teaching my kids all about it, how it relates to erosion, glaciers, shaping the landscape, the history of geology itself ("why are these rocks shaped like this, and why are there sea-animal fossils in this rock thousands of meters above sea level?"), and the importance of understanding how it relates to how the universe itself spins!

I've noticed that one of the most difficult things to explain to kids ain't the big issues, such as long stretches of time making small small changes, like erosion through rain or plate tectonic moving. No, it's that "crystal" in itself doesn't mean what most people think a crystal is. No, it's not just quartz crystals. It's the same issue of teaching people that "classical music" ain't what you think it is, as there's a classical type of music vs. a classical time period of music. We cling to phrases as if they're accurate but scientifically is very broad. This is of course due to prototypical category theory which I've talked a lot about before, so I won't bore you with the details. But they are everywhere, damn them!

Anyway, spring is here, beauty is everywhere, and my little family are enjoying ourselves more and more as time goes by. We're always off somewhere, and I can tell my kids have got the rock bug as bad as I did when I was young. I try to teach them everything I know about it, and we'll hopefully get a nice collection together. I might even post about the progress here, taking pictures and explaining them as we go along.

And on that note, I'm off to enjoy the wonderful weather and the family. Happy rock hunting!

(P.S. Did I mention that Grace already speaks a tolerable Norwegian? It's amazing what she's learned over the last three months.)


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