A crystal the size of a school bus?
A crystal the size of a school bus? Dr. Michael A. Wise is a geologist, and an expert on pegmatites, at the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution)
A crystal the size of a school bus?
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In South Dakota, miners found a crystal of a mineral called spodumene that was 42 feet long and weighed 90 tons. While it's an extreme example, the massive crystal showcased one of the incredible qualities of the rock in which it was found, known as "pegmatite." Unlike most rocks, pegmatites contain unusually large crystals of a wide variety of minerals.

Why?

Pegmatites are igneous rocks that form as melted materials (magma) cool beneath the Earth's crust. Superheated water in the magma helps some chemical elements accumulate and allows the magma to crystallize many kinds of minerals, some of which are not found in most common rock types. Miners look to pegmatites for the beryl crystals that are cut into the gem aquamarine, the spodumene for kunzite and the spectacular and colorful tourmaline.

But pegmatites produce more than just beautiful gemstones.

Many minerals valued for industrial and commercial purposes are also found in pegmatites. Consider that your cellphone wouldn't work properly without the rare element tantalum that is mined from pegmatites, the only rock where it occurs in high concentrations. Spodumene is the source of high-purity lithium required for making rechargeable batteries used in electronics. The muscovite found in mica-rich pegmatites is used in many products, including cosmetics.

Find out more about why Smithsonian Geologist Dr. Michael Wise calls pegmatites "Nature's Giant Treasure Chests."

Join us on Thursday, April 16, 2015, for a Smithsonian Science How live webcast titled Mineral Dependence - Gemstones to Cellphones, airing at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT on the Q?rius website. Mike Wise will appear live to discuss and answer questions. Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

Critical thinking challenge: How are we dependent upon minerals?

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/teen/crystal-size-school-bus/

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COMMENTS (24)
  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    4/09/2015 - 01:09 p.m.

    It is pretty magnificent to know that a crystal this ginormous was found. I hadn't even known that it was physically possible for one to grow this large. It is pretty cool.

  • jarredc-Koc
    4/09/2015 - 06:18 p.m.

    We can never forget that we live ON the earth. It is because of this that we use its gifts to make wondrous machines and skyscrapers. We will always be using this world as both a home and industry. This world give us the materials and we are the tools that will craft the greatest of achievements. We will always be using this world to live and create a legacy.

  • amandam-Koc
    4/09/2015 - 07:48 p.m.

    According to the test, many minerals valued for industrial and commercial purposes are also found in pegmatites. Consider that your cellphone wouldn't work properly without the rare element tantalum that is mined from pegmatites, the only rock where it occurs in high concentrations. Spodumene is the source of high-purity lithium required for making rechargeable batteries used in electronics. The muscovite found in mica-rich pegmatites is used in many products, including cosmetics.

  • jacobm-Che
    4/10/2015 - 01:47 p.m.

    this is truly amazing to know something this big is real and that they found it i would love to see this crystal up close it would be so cool to see i love stones and gems

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    4/11/2015 - 07:57 p.m.

    I don't really like science, and don't understand it either, but random weird discoveries like this are always interesting. It's kind of amazing how engineers designs cell phones to work on lithium batteries that are made from crystals and minerals found deep under ground.

  • zarid-Koc
    4/12/2015 - 11:33 p.m.

    crystal itself is a beautiful sight to see...I love the color and the fractures are to die for. BUT THAT BIG? WOW. It's like I would have to see it for myself in order to believe it...It's so mind blowing and it's pretty cool

  • apalacio-Che
    4/13/2015 - 01:53 p.m.

    Its amazing how the size of this crystal was the size of a school bus. This crystal ways 90 tons and is 42 feet long. I never would have thought that a crystal could ever get this big.

  • tiffanylee-Goo
    4/14/2015 - 11:14 a.m.

    We are dependent upon minerals for many reasons. The text states that your cellphone wouldn't work without the rare element tantalum. The text also states that Spodumene is the source of high-purity lithium required for making rechargeable batteries used for electronics. Minerals are also important because some of them are used in cosmetics.

  • alberts-Eic
    4/17/2015 - 01:33 p.m.

    i have always thought geology was boring but now that i know there is a crystal the size of a school bus it makes geology a whole lot better

  • chrishias-boo
    4/21/2015 - 11:26 a.m.

    Minerals can be very valuable and can be found all over the world. We can become so dependent upon them because they can can be used for industrial and commercials purposes that we can use in our everyday lives

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