Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Geology Yeeeaaaaaaah


As promised, I will now regale you (or really, just post for your reading enjoyment) with my EAS 111 (Geology) report on graphite. I am pretty sure this is also an extra credit assignment, because reading through it, there is no way a University would accept this with anything better than a C, and I’m pretty sure I aced this class.

Or maybe it was a real assignment, and I was just counting on my inexhaustible supply of charm and wit to get me through. Yeah. That’s probably it.

Graphite – It’s Not Lead!
But it is, a little bit.
Well, Sort of.
Just Read.

Tim Franklin

Remember in the olden days of elementary school, when you were probably “accidentally” stabbed in the hand (or other extremity) with a (probably sharpened) No. 2 Dixon Ticonderoga pencil? And you worried for days and days that you would get Lead Poisoning? Well, the good news is that piece of pencil lead still imbedded in your palm (or ear) won’t give you lead poisoning. Of course, having a piece of graphite stuck in your hand probably isn’t the best of ideas, either. That’s right. Graphite – it’s not lead, and it probably will never be.

So why call it lead? Why not call it “pencil graphite”? Well, according to www.pencils.com, the name comes from the time when people would find clumps of graphite on the roots of trees, and they called it names like “plumbago” and “Blacklead”. I have no idea how they got “Lead” from “plumbago”, though. It is a mystery, it is a mystery.

The “lead” in your pencil isn’t actually a chunk of graphite chiseled into a round shape, however. It is actually a mixture of graphite and clay. The clay is added to make the “lead” harder, stronger, and darker. Basically, the process involves pulverizing the graphite into a powder, and then mixing it with clay and water to make a paste. The paste is then dried and shaped into slim cylinders. These are sandwiched in between two sections of grooved wood, which are glued together, cut into sections, and shaped into pencils, erasers optional. It’s actually a very interesting process. Early pencils were just pieces of graphite wrapped in string. The problem with this was that graphite crumbles easily, so these early writing tools didn’t last long. The holders advanced to wood, and experiments with clay were made, and the modern marvel called a Pencil was formed.

Graphite can be found all over the world. There once was a significant source near Ticonderoga, New York (hence the name of the stabby-pencil of your youth), but it has since shut down. China is currently the leading producer of graphite, and other countries include Sri Lanka, Brazil, and even Canada. An interesting tidbit about this wonder mineral is that it is a form of carbon. Another form of carbon is diamond, which, as we all know, is an extremely hard mineral. It’s a good thing graphite isn’t, because we’d all have to go around burning wood to write with charcoal, and no one wants to burn wood. No one.

Now, the pencil is an integral part of human society. How many times have you ransacked the drawers of your house looking for a pencil? Without pencils, we’d have to fill out a bubble exam sheet with pen, and then the computers wouldn’t be able to read them! Without pencils, we would be very hard pressed to do everything perfectly the first time, because everyone knows you can’t erase pen. (Unless you buy those “erasable pens”, which aren’t erasable, and which suck anyway.) And everyone knows that mistakes are important learning experiences in life, and we must all learn from them. So without pencils, we would never learn.

Graphite is also used as a lubricant in places where liquid lubricants can’t go, like places of extreme heat, etc. Who knew? I didn’t.

Okay, I did. But I might not have, and that makes all the difference.

In this paragraph, I shall try to stall for time and space, as my report on the wonder material known as graphite is lacking in length, and length, being one of the requirements of this paper, is very important. Very important indeed.

Speaking of graphite, it is a very good conductor of electricity, which is sort of odd because it is a non-metal. This probably has something to do with electrons. I could research this further, but I have come under a sudden attack of Last-Semester-itis, and it is seriously hampering my schooling ability.

In conclusion to this very uninformative, yet hopefully amusing paper, it is clear that graphite is a very important mineral to our society. Writing is an integral part of any society, and graphite was an enormous help in that area. Once again, without pencils, all of society could come crashing to a halt. And halts are bad news for people who like good news.

Well. Someone was listening to Modest Mouse when he wrote this. And look at all those parentheticals! Man, this is some high-powered writing. And did you see that in-text citation? How totally correctly done was that? What? You can’t just put a URL in a paper and call it a day? The A+++ I got on this paper says otherwise. You can’t tell, but this paper was double spaced, and used Arial 12.5 font. Oh yeah. Gotta sneak that extra .5 in. Don’t you know anything about college?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Geology Whaaaaat

In the spring of 2006, which would have been the second half of my freshman year at Purdue, I took a Geology class (EAS 111), because I needed a lab science. I’m not sure if I was aware of it at the time or not, but it had a 3 hour lab attached to it. A lot of the instructors who ran these labs were aware of how painfully long that is, and usually let out early.

Not my guy.

I think I had the Associate Professor Deanish President-Elect Acting Chancellor in charge of EAS labs, because he never let out early. In fact, he started every lab by reteaching what had been presented in the lecture that week.

But that’s okay, because this guy was awesome at Geology. He knew everything. Probably better than the lecture professor did – and  he was hands on.

Anyway, he gave us an extra credit assignment – a self-guided field trip around Purdue’s campus to find and identify geological wonders. I recently found my submission for this assignment, which I received full points for. Not because I was correct in my identifications (which I am pretty sure I was, for the most part, not), but because my paper was (in his words) “the best thing he’d ever read”. He also told me that I would most certainly get an A in his lab regardless of how correctly I identified everything as long as I kept making him giggle the way my extra credit assignment did.

So now, I present to you, my submission for EAS 111’s self-guided geology field trip.

Wouldn’t It Be Gneiss?
A Geology Field Trip

EAS 111
Tim Franklin
March 8, 2006

clip_image002[5]Rock one seems to be granitic in composition. It is light colored, with small amounts of pink, suggesting the presence of quartz or K feldspar. It has a medium grain size, with the majority of the grains moving in the same direction. I would just call it granite, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s some type of gneiss.


clip_image002[7]Rock two was all kinds of weird lookin’, I am not gonna lie. It was dark, with a fairly uniform grain size. There were lighter colored “veins” criss-crossing the entire thing. Unfortunately, I haven’t the slightest idea what it is. The first time I looked at it, I thought it might be a sedimentary rock with large pieces cemented to each other, but after a closer examination, I think it’s some sort of metamorphic rock.


clip_image002[9]clip_image008 Rock number three was like some kind of prehistoric beast, sitting in its ring of trees waiting to jump on some poor kid’s compact car. I noted foliation, and that it was a dark stone, with very small crystals. For some reason, I was under the impression that it was basaltic in nature. I would say it is metamorphic, and an example of a hornfel or an amphibolite.

clip_image002[11] At first, I thought that the steps were stop number four. Then I took a better look at the paper. Ahh, the pillars. They are definitely a limestone (sedimentary), and though I’m leaning towards oolitic, I could be wrong. They have a light, sandy color.



clip_image002[13]As I approached rock number five, I said to myself “That looks like a sandstone.” Of course, I had to go sit and play on it before I was absolutely sure, but it is definitely a sandstone. It has a light, tannish color, and very small particles. I would classify it as an arkose sandstone.


clip_image002[15]I have rock number six marked as “igneous, possible metamorphic”. That seems to be the theme in my observations. It has whitish gray and black particles, and a “salt and pepper” look. The crystals are fairly small. I identify it as diorite.


clip_image002[17]I noticed some distinct foliation on rock number seven, and from basic observations I determined it to be a granitic gneiss. The pinkish color is consistent with K feldspar or quartz, suggesting granite. I also enjoyed the many quotes dotting the landscape around rock number seven. If it isn’t a philosophical rock, it should be.


clip_image002[19]I stood in the Stewart Mural Room for about ten minutes until I realized the rock I was to be looking for was probably the room itself, in other words, the marble walls. It’s very good looking white marble, and is a metamorphic rock coming from limestone. I wish my mural room was made out of marble. I also very dutifully noted the dark granite steps leading up to the doors to the Stewart Center. They were very nice. I even took a picture, but I keep that under my pillow.

clip_image002[21]The rock opposite Stone Hall appears to be igneous, with some quartz present – fairly large crystal size. It is a dark stone, crossed with white and pink “ropes”. It’s also very old, and I’m assuming it hasn’t changed much since 1887. There’s a chance the dark sections are gabbro, but I’m not holding out.


clip_image002[23]Stop number 10 was a little tricky to find, but I was looking in the wrong place. I did find it though, and have it marked as a clastic sedimentary rock with a large (1–4 in.) particle size. The particles are angular, and are held together by a dark cement. From this, it appears to be a breccia, and it also looks like the sediments didn’t get very far before they cemented into place. I wonder how they feel about that.


clip_image002[25]The fountain in Founder’s Park is made of the metamorphic rock marble. It’s just as nice as the marble in the Mural Room, but it’s darker, with more pink, black, and green, although the green may be due to water damage. It reminds me of my kitchen countertops, only more round and taller.


clip_image002[27]Okay, rock number twelve was in the middle of a cluster of thornbushes. I got a chuckle. I mean, if I were designing a field trip / scavenger hunt, I would make it as hard as possible. Anyway, the definite foliation suggests a metamorphic rock, with a fairly small crystal size. The colors range from reddish orange to black. SO I would call it a staurolite-quartz-garnet schist, but that’s just me, and me’s wrong a lot. In other words, I don’t know about this one.


clip_image002[29]Rock thirteen is a metamorphic rock with definite layers that curve around. It looks like there is some quartz present, along with some K feldspar. The crystals range from small to fairly large in size. It could be a granitic gneiss. Or it could be a Quartz-K-feldspar schist. Some scholars maintain that the actual identity of this rock has been lost forever. Who am I to argue with that?


clip_image002[31]Rock fourteen was pinkish, with thick layers of large crystals on layers of smaller ones. It probably contained a lot of K Feldspar and quartz ( I seem to see them everywhere.) The layering suggests to me a metamorphic rock. I would say that this rock is a gneiss, and a guartz-feldspar one at that. It seems to be a common thing to call a rock when you don’t know what it is.

clip_image002[33]Here it is. The last rock on this roller coaster of discovery, joy, frustration, and confusion. At least I did it when it wasn’t raining. This rock is yet another metamorphic rock, ascertained by the definite (definite, mind you, I wrote it down) foliation. I saw “lots of darker minerals” and some pink and white hues. Oh, and there was some green as well. Yet again, I’m going to have to go with some sort of gneiss with this one, but I think this time I might be right about it. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m going to say granitic gneiss due to the fact that, gosh-darned it, it looks so much like a granite that had all the colors separated and smashed into separate layers by extreme pressure and heat. Or something like that.

Well, I enjoyed going on this field trip. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed writing it and hitting the “text-wrap” button on the picture toolbar every few minutes. Rock on!


So there you have it. Apparently, I am an idiot. Next time, I’ll share with you the report I did on graphite!