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Obsidian – A Few Fascinating Facts

The shiny volcanic glass obsidian comes in many interesting forms – and has a long and rich history. From varied shapes and a range of colors to chemistry that allows obsidian to be traced back to the originating volcano, plus the wealth of artifacts that people have produced for tens of thousands of years, there are many fascinating facts about obsidian.

By |2021-07-28T09:53:43-07:00July 29th, 2021|Our Amazing Earth|6 Comments

Obsessed with Obsidian

Obsidian, smooth and shiny black volcanic glass, has fascinated humans for tens of thousands of years. Researchers believe that humans have a natural reaction to shininess that is tied to an innate need–specifically, water. The Eastern Sierra Nevada is a fabulous place to see dark obsidian, especially in areas where it is swirled and folded together with frothy pale gray pumice..

By |2021-07-22T16:25:50-07:00July 22nd, 2021|Our Amazing Earth|10 Comments

Machu Picchu and Mysterious “Gold” Mortar

Machu Picchu is truly one of the wonders of the world. The spectacular ridge-top site of this city and the fine masonry of royal Inca buildings are stunning aesthetic and technical accomplishments. Early Spanish chroniclers reported "molten gold" was used as mortar during stone block construction, and a research paper by a chemist presents some intriguing insights.

By |2021-07-12T17:18:51-07:00July 8th, 2021|Ancient Andean Cultures|2 Comments

Colors and Cross-beds in Red Rock Country

Colorful rocks extend across wide swaths of the Southwest, showcased in sedimentary rock formations in Zion, Arches, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and other national and state parks. There is an interesting story behind the spectacular bedrock “palette” of rich shades of pink and red, purple and creamy white, and yellow and green tones.

By |2021-07-01T09:36:15-07:00July 1st, 2021|Our Amazing Earth|8 Comments

Curious Concretions on the Colorado Plateau

Iron-oxide concretions – curious-looking dark spheres – can be found by the hundreds of thousands in the dramatic red and white outcrops of Navajo Sandstone in Utah. The concretions typically consist of a sandstone core surrounded by a thick iron-rich rind, and they have an interesting geologic history and Native American cultural history. They also resemble Martian spherules or "blueberries", and may share similar origins.

By |2021-06-17T16:14:33-07:00June 17th, 2021|Our Amazing Earth|8 Comments

The Escalante Sandstone Sea

Towering cliffs, plateaus, arches, and narrow canyons are iconic symbols of southern Utah’s Red Rock Country. Another type of landform captured my attention during recent explorations: mile after mile of gently rolling rock-covered terrain, giving the impression of being surrounded by an ocean of sandstone. An arid sand sea of shifting dunes created these rocks many millions of years ago.

By |2021-06-09T06:06:53-07:00June 9th, 2021|Our Amazing Earth|8 Comments

Volcanoes and East African Rift Roulette

The volcano recently erupting in Africa–Mount Nyiragongo–is one of the most active on our planet. Eruptions in 1977, 2002 and now beginning in May 2021, have resulted in a significant number of fatalities and extensive damage in the nearby and densely populated city of Goma. If scientists were calling the shots, they would relocate Goma and designate the region beneath this active volcano as a national park.

By |2021-06-03T06:15:22-07:00June 3rd, 2021|Our Amazing Earth|2 Comments
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