Crystals, Geodes and Discovering Answers to Wonders

To see the Blogging Hawks original post...

Wonders Lead to Discovery

Hello Blogging Hawks,

I know the previous class has tipped you off I am likely to visit your blog and, despite being very busy making DVDs/CDs and helping my local schools, I just had to drop in a comment about your latest post. I wonder if you all suspected I would interested in this post? I know previous classes learned of my interest in many things and geology as one in particular.

What a brilliant activity! I will have to try your experiment myself and see what results I can find.

The questions you started with are fascinating in themselves.

How are they formed? I know you discovered chemicals can invade spaces and, if the conditions are right, allow crystals to grow. what a natural wonder!

How long does it take? I think you also realised how long depends on the conditions. They can take millions of years or you can make them in a day. Did you notice no two of your geodes were exactly the same?

Where do you find them? Over the years, I have come across crystals protruding from the ground and clusters on rocks. It seems a game of chance if you're in a spot known for crystals or geodes. When we do a search on the internet, we realise geodes can be found in many places around the world. Here is a Wikipedia link on geodes...

Geodes

Can you really dye them? When I was your age, I wondered the same question. Like in your picture, I had seen beautiful colours in geode slices but soon learned they weren't always natural.

Crystals can, of course, be naturally coloured. We know diamonds can be clear, blue, yellow, brown, green, purple orange or even pink depending on small defects or impurities*. Quartz can also be clear, purple (amethyst), yellow (citrine) and other colours. I don't have any dyed geodes in my collection as I prefer natural colouring.

*Here's a little information I found. Blue diamonds are blue because they have boron impurities. Boron is part of borax.

Below you can see photos of some crystals in my collection.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Quartz from Northern Territory, Australia

 

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Smoky Quartz

 

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Citrine Quartz from Brazil

 

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Iron Pyrite (Fool's Gold) from Australia's Northern Territory

Mr. B is certainly fabulous to bring in such an interesting experiment. I also liked the option to create a crystal snowflake. They may not look like a geode but each is special as, just like snowflakes and us, no two are exactly alike. That's what has interested me about geodes, each is unique even if they look almost exactly the same.

Look at the pictures below. Each is of a Brazilian geode in my collection. One has been cut in half while the other is complete. I decided long ago never to cut open the complete geode so what's inside remains a mystery. It could be incredibly beautiful but I treasure the intact geode. I wonder if any of you could resist cutting it open?

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Looking at your reflections...

Adam - You have shown what science experiments are often about. We take steps and wait to see
the results.

Shaye - I like your simile, "looks like a tiny city the way it sparkles". Good use of descriptive writing makes writing stories or explaining science easier to understand for readers and interesting.

Faith - You packed quite a bit of information into your comment. Adding "in my opinion" is a very good phrase. It tells readers the idea is yours and suggests others might have other ideas. You also introduced an idea, i.e. removing the yolks and albumin (white) from eggs to make them hollow. Did you know there are collections of bird eggs often found in museums, universities and even private collections? Collectors normally make small holes at either ends of an egg and blow out the contents. Can you imagine doing this for an ostrich egg?

Haya - Aquamarine may not be my birthstone but I do like the idea of making blue crystals. I like your suggestion it might be possible to make your name in crystals. I know it will work because you only need something for the crystals to grow on. Raindrops and snowflakes are the same, they need something to form on. In the sky, it might simply be dust.
On checking, it seems my birthstone is either topaz or citrine. I have citrine quartz in my collection. Here is a close-up photo of citrine quartz crystals

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Marcus - You have shown your knowledge of stones. Obsidian, volcanic glass, can be very dark and forms when lava, high in silica, cools quickly so minimal crystals form. I have seen natural obsidian in the crater of a volcano in New Zealand and have some in my collection (bought, not taken from the volcano as it isn't permitted). Below is a photo I took about 40 years ago on the edge of a crater in Mt. Tarawera, New Zealand.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Like you, I also like the reflection of light on crystal surfaces. What else is borax used for? Here is a Wikipedia link.

Borax

Liam - How interesting. You used green dye but your crystals seemed blackish. How could this be? Sometimes dyes can concentrate (get stronger) as the mix dries out or perhaps the crystals on your star were growing on something dark. I love mysteries. They encourage us to suppose what might have happened. Some of our great discoveries have come about when experiments didn't turn out as expected.

Riley - You have given a very good explanation of the process you used to make crystals. I also liked your suggestion the crystals looked life-like. Crystals grow as do we so it seems a little like life. Imagine if we were able to use time-lapse photography (pictures taken at regular times apart) to photograph the growth of your crystals then showed the photos one after the other as in a movie. We would see the crystals forming and growing.

Alvin - I liked your "wonder". The chemical reaction works quicker when in hot water. You can see this with sugar dissolving in water. If two of you each placed a spoon of sugar in containers of water where one had hot water and the other cold, I suspect you would find the sugar is dissolved more quickly in the hot water. What do you think?

Anita - I liked your use of "Step 1" and "Step 2" in your comment. Science, particularly chemistry, uses steps to carry out experiments. It looks like a cooking recipe. Follow the steps and you should bake a cake. Follow your class experiment and you should get crystals.
Why use borax? Borax dissolves easily in water and has water in its formula. Let's look at the chemistry involved...
Borax is sodium tetraborate decahydrate but I think it's easy to remember borax. The longer name tells us the chemical contains the elements sodium, four parts boron, and oxygen as well as 10 parts water. It's written like this...

borax

Na is sodium, B is boron and tetra tells us 4 parts, O is oxygen and there is also 10 parts water. It is a type of salt and can be found in crystal form. Below is a public domain photo of borax crystal I found through Wikimedia Commons. You can see borax can form crystals.

This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Aramgutang at the English Wikipedia project.

This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Aramgutang at the English Wikipedia project.

Carter - I like your explanation of the steps needed in order to carry out your class geode experiment. One of the keys to scientific research is recording information. Experimenters have to not only record what happens in an experiment, they have to record how an experiment was done. This is so other scientists can repeat an experiment to check the results.

Marah - I like your description of the appearance of your crystals. My imagination was sparked by the thought of a million cazillion crystals sparkling in the light. I know I enjoy the sparkle as light bounces off the facets (faces) of the crystals. I also liked your thought on what might happen if the borax wasn't completely dissolved. Science is full of "what if" questions and experiments to discover the answers.

Colby - How did the borax mix in with the dye? How and why do crystals grow on a pipe cleaner? What a great questions. It's good to be able to follow experiments but to wonder why things happen is real scientific thinking. Questioning why then finding answers is the sign of a mind full of curiosity.

William - I like your "wonder" thinking when you wondered if the crystals would continue to grow if you returned your geode to the mixture. I suspect, providing the chemicals aren't all used, the crystals would continue growing. Imagine filling and egg and making a solid crystal geode. Your idea made me wonder what might happen if, after the crystals have grown in the first borax/dye mix, the eggs were placed in a different dye colour/borax mix? Would you get two coloured crystals? Would the new mix dissolve the old crystals? Would the first crystals change colour? These questions could be a completely new experiment.

Sofie - Because of the photo, I can see your crystal star so I agree it is really cool. I also read your birthstone is sapphire. The area of Australia I live in is known as the Sapphire Coast. It's known for the colours of the sea and sky in summer. Below is a photo taken from a trail in my town.

  Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Did you know there is something known as the Moh Scale? It's used to describe how hard minerals are. At the very top at level 10 hardness is the diamond. Sapphire comes in at 9 so it is amongst the hardest.

MOH SCALE

Robert - It can happen in experiments. What was expected to happen doesn't exactly work out as planned but this has led to some good results. Perhaps you have used post-it sticky notes? They work so well because they can be stuck on, removed and replaced. Did you know the glue used was an unexpected result of an experiment? A scientist was trying to develop a very strong glue. The results of one experiment was the glue now used on post-it notes. He realised it was sticky enough to hold but could be removed and reused. I find science fascinating, especially when it finds something unexpectedly good.

Olivia - A couple people have written about their fake geodes. I find the "fake" idea interesting. If we were to accidentally spill chemicals on the ground and they seeped through the soil, found a space, and started to grow as crystals, would they be fake or real? People didn't try to make them but they could happen. Real geodes are ones made in nature but your geodes were made in class. Real or fake, aren't they amazing?

Thomas - I wonder if geodes can change? I liked your question. You now know natural geodes take much longer to form than the ones you made in class. Forming crystals can take a great deal of time and need the right conditions. Think of this unusual crystal idea. Diamonds can only be formed when deep underground under pressure and heat for a very long time. They are made of carbon. Can they change? Did you know they tend to only come near the surface when brought up by volcanic eruption? Being made of carbon, do you think some would burn up in the magma? Imagine burning diamonds.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

This is not a diamond. It's a glass replica. I can't afford to add a real diamond to my collection. 🙂

Thomas's thought may have been correct. If someone accidentally bumped the borax/dye mix when crystals started forming, the crystals might not form correctly. Also, using too little borax might mean crystals don't form correctly because there isn't enough of the chemicals. I like mysteries in science. It can be fun trying to find the answers.

Mani - Now there's an interesting idea, would the process work with laundry powder?
I looked up information about borates in laundry powder and found they have a number of effects to help in the cleaning process but no information about using borate detergent to make crystals. I think it might depend on how much borax was in the detergent. There might not be enough to have good crystal growth or possibly even the detergent might stop growth. That would need another experiment to find answers.

Saadia - It can be cool to experiment but I think the coolest part would be seeing how all of the geodes and stars looked at the end. Imagine having many crystal stars hanging in the sunlight. Light would be reflecting off them in so many directions.

Luisa - I also think your parents would be proud of what you have made. I know I would want to try the experiment again but remember to always have adult help when working with chemicals. When I have some time, I'm going to have to try to make geodes and stars just like your class. I wonder how they might look?

Prayers - I'm glad your class mentioned making either geodes or stars. I might have though of geodes but not stars. I wonder what other shapes I could make? Would I be able to join the shapes to make crystal patterns?
I also liked your question as to whether you could make crystals without the borax. You can also try using salt or sugar. Dissolve salt or sugar in warm water and allow the water to evaporate off in the sun. Small crystals would form but I think you would find your borax crystals are larger.

Aleah - Your curiosity asked you questions I also found interesting. Would the eggshell inside be white or would the dye have changed the shell to colour? I suspect there might have been some change of colour but that's a guess. I would also guess they feel like real crystals because they are real crystals you just happened to grow.

Bryan - I wonder how the borax turns to crystals? What a great "wonder". Chemistry, the way chemicals can work together, is very interesting. The borax dissolves easily in water and then crystalises out again. How?

HOW CRYSTALS FORM

Without dye, the borax would form white crystals. Look at the picture posted for Anita and you will see what natural borax crystals look like.

Oliver - I like your description of the snowflakes being uncanny. Uncanny means 'unnaturally strange 'but we know crystals form naturally. I also find them uncanny because their sometimes beauty seems unnatural.  Examining crystals and other stones under a magnifying glass or microscope can unlock some amazing images. I don't have a microscope but I did take some close up photos of some of my small crystals in one of my geodes. The first photo shows the geode and the other three are close up photos.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

There are so many wonders in our world and so many I have yet to discover. All we need do is keep our minds and eyes wide open to the possibilities and our curiosity keen to know answers. Every day can be a learning experience just as reading your post and preparing this extended comment has been for me.

 

* * * * * * *

Crystal Art

While working on a CD for a choir, I had the television on in the background. I stopped work to look at one segment of the show because it was showing how to paint with crystals. I missed all the details but was able to search the internet and here is what I found...

You will need an adult to help you and...

epsom salt

hot water

food colouring

containers for your mixtures

spoon for stirring

paintbrush

art paper

What you do. Remember, you will need to have an adult help because of the hot water...

1. Mix equal amounts of epsom salt and hot water in a container, adding five to seven drops of food colouring or using no colouring for clear crystals.

2. Use the paintbrush to paint the solution onto the paper but move quickly as crystals start forming as the solution cools.

3. Repeat using different colours.

4. Wait for the crystals to form and paper to dry. It could take two to three hours.

* * * * * * *

Searching the internet, I found collections of images of crystal paintings...

Crystal Art Images

4 thoughts on “Crystals, Geodes and Discovering Answers to Wonders

  1. The Blogging Hawks

    Hi Ross!

    Thank you SO much for the AMAZING comment … it was SO good and so FULL of interesting information that it made our MOUTHS drop open! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy filming schedule to write each and every one of us … and turn your comment into an extended comment BLOG post! We learned a TON from your amazing blog post to us and we loved all the pictures of YOUR collection! Some of us wonder if the blue crystals in YOUR crystal geode collection are sapphire?

    It sounds like you are crazy about rocks like US! Most of us thought that the diamond made out of glass, in your collection, was a REAL diamond … good thing we read the fine print! We think a diamond THAT size would be worth billions of dollars! We didn’t know that diamonds could come in SO many colours!

    We wonder if you were crazy about rocks when YOU were a kid. Since we’ve been learning about rocks, this year, some of us have been collecting rocks and making our own collections bigger. A few of us even have special spots in our rooms where we have our rocks out on display!

    Did you take chemistry in high school? A few of us think that it would be interesting … but … we’re still pretty young and have lots of time before we decide on our junior high and high school courses … or careers!

    We were really lucky that Mr. B. came in to help pull small groups of students out to try an experiment that Mrs. Renton found when we were investigating if you could make “fake geodes”. Most of our geodes and snowflakes have turned white now. It makes us a little sad because we really love them when they are bright and vibrant colours. But … we did some research and discovered that borax crystals do that when they get a little older because they are dehydrating. Our climate is VERY dry. We wonder if they would dehydrate as quickly if we lived in a humid climate like beside the ocean! Hmm. We also wonder if YOU’VE made one yet?

    Thanks for the Crystal Art recipe! A few of us think we’re going to try it at home!

    Thank you for helping us to learn EVEN more, Ross!

    The Blogging Hawks 🙂

    Reply
    1. rossmannell

      Post author

      Hello Blogging Hawks,

      Are the blue crystals sapphires? Sadly, no. The photo I used showed incorrect colour. They should have appeared a little more purple as they are amethyst crystals. Did you know when amethyst crystals are exposed to X-ray radiation, they become clear, i.e. they become plain quartz?

      Diamond? I wish it was although I wouldn’t be able to afford to keep it. The glass weighs in at 206 carats* (41.2g or 1.46oz). Considering an 8 carat diamond might sell for possibly $200,000, I would have a very valuable diamond. The glass one only cost me a few dollars.
      * carats are a weight measure used to value gemstones

      Interested in rocks as a kid? Yes, I was and would pick up interesting rocks. I should still have some samples from back then.

      Did I take chemistry in high school? I can go one better, while it was not my major study, I did do some chemistry in university as part of my science degree. My majors were in zoology (animal biology) and psychology.

      Climate… It can be quite humid where I live now but not as much as if I was in far northern Australia where the climate is tropical. My first school as a full time teacher was also in a very dry climate. It was in the far west of my state where drought was common and greeted me when I arrived. I can remember we had a very warm two weeks once. Temperatures in the shade reached around 47C maximum, that is around 116F yet humidity was very low. When rains come, the flat countryside out there can flood.
      Drying is slower in humid conditions because the air has a higher moisture content.

      Have I made a geode yet? I had a very busy second half of last year and it’s been a funny start to the year. I have already been filming for our local country show as well as filming at our Australia Day (Australia’s national day each Jan 26) celebrations and just today I was speaking to a group about making a 2.5 minute video clip to help them fund raise for a nature reserve so I haven’t taken the time as yet.

      Blogging – This year will see my blog have its 100,000th visitor as well as its 200th post so I have some ideas in store as a thank you for those visiting. Some cute little stuffed guys I purchased from fundraisers groups are going to be looking for a new home. More details will appear on the blog some time this year.

      Keep blogging. Learning is a lifelong journey.

      Ross Mannell
      Teacher (retired), N.S.W., Australia

      Reply
  2. The Blogging Hawks

    Hi Ross!

    That was FAST … considering it has taken us SO long to respond to your amazing extended comment to us about rocks and minerals!

    Oh, oh! We have MORE wonders! We wonder how the x-ray radiation sucks the colour out of the amethyst crystals and turns them into regular CLEAR quartz crystals. That’s weird!

    We think that the diamond would be worth 4 million dollars if it was real. We rounded the 8 carats to 10 and the 206 carats to 200 … and, if an 8 or 10 carat diamond is worth 200 000 dollars, (wow), then … a 200 carat diamond is worth 20 times MORE! Gulp! So … 4 million is what we think!!! That’s a TRIPLE gulp!

    Those two weeks, when the temperature was 47 degrees Celsius, must have been VERY uncomfortable weeks. We wonder if those kinds of temperatures happen very often in Australia … it sure doesn’t in Calgary. We think the hottest temperature ever recorded in Calgary was 36.1 degrees Celsius in 1919 and 1933!

    Your blog has 75 000 more hits than our blog does! We were also wondering how many years you have been doing your blog because you have so many hits! 200 hundred post is a LOT! We wonder how you have TIME to make all these posts and wonderful comments to classes around the world when you have so much filming to do! Your AMAZING … you must not SLEEP!

    The Blogging Hawks 🙂

    Reply
    1. rossmannell

      Post author

      Hi all,

      Have you ever had one of those moments when you realise something you have said isn’t quite correct? This is what happened when I mentioned x-ray radiation and amethyst. Here is what should have been listed…

      Amethyst, when exposed to high temperatures (450C to 750C) tends to change colour or become colourless. When exposed to x-ray radiation their original colour can return. I had it the wrong way around. Its to do iron (Fe) impurities in the crystals.

      Now a secret about diamonds… I should be able to pick up an uncut diamond on Tuesday. I am uncertain of the size but a local jeweller knew I was interested in adding one to my collection. Before you get too excited, it will only be industrial quality and won’t be suitable for cutting but it will be a cheap diamond. I’ll share a picture and some information if I decide to buy it.

      Calgary highest at 36.1… Our state of Western Australia had been having a major heatwave recently. One town renowned for its high temperatures reached 50C (122F). Even in my town, temperatures in the 40s can occur in summer but, being near the sea, they aren’t as common as inland.
      A rule we had in schools when I was your age and living in Sydney was children could go home if temperatures exceeded 120F (49C) for more than an hour. We possibly had one yearly on average in summers. These days safety concerns doesn’t allow this but many schools have air conditioning, especially in the western inland areas.

      Blogging – I started my Extended Comments blog in May, 2012 and didn’t think it would catch so much interest. May, 2015 will see it reach its third birthday. Last school year’s Battalion class found themselves part of the celebrations. Here is a link to my blog’s birthday post…
      http://rossmannellcomments.edublogs.org/2014/05/22/happy-2nd-birthday-extended-comments-for-students/

      How do I have time? – Time can be a problem for many of us.
      An old saying says, “We all have the same 24 hours in a day.” This may be true but some of us pack a lot in those 24 hours.
      Towards the end of 2014, I was very busy with filming, photography, CD and DVD production for schools and community groups. I was also President of my local school’s Parents and Citizens group helping raise funds for the school. Adding to this, these days I am my mother’s carer so days can be very full and blogging time tight but I love doing it all.
      At the top of my blog, I listed my six word autobiography*…
      Seeking ways to make a difference.
      A life is well spent if we find ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
      I do try to make time for about 6 hours sleep each day. 🙂

      Ross Mannell
      Teacher (retired), N.S.W., Australia

      *autobiography – A story of your life written by you.
      I was once challenged to write my autobiography in only 6 words.

      Reply

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