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Archive for the ‘Geology’ Category

4 Mostly Useless but Fun Facts about Iron Pyrite (Fool’s Gold)

Iron Pyrite! Such a popular mineral in our store. Let’s get started!

1) Iron Pyrite is known as “Fool’s Gold” because of its golden luster. Although many an old Western storyline may have involved a prospector thinking he’s hit 825paydirt but actually just found Iron Pyrite, this is actually very unlikely since the structure of Fool’s Gold is cubical in nature, while gold nuggets and flakes show no such features. Fool’s Gold is also much brighter and shinier in color than unpolished gold. Any but the most green of prospectors would be able to tell the difference.

2) Iron PyrWheellock_pistol_or_'Puffer'ite doesn’t have a lot of industrial uses (although it was once a source for sulfur and sulfuric acid) , but one of the odder uses for it was for igniting gunpowder in old wheelock pistols and musket.Pieces of Pyrite where put in a ‘jaw’ that clamped down on the Pyrite. The jaw would then be placed against a wound up steel wheel. All of this was next to a primer of gunpowder. When the trigger was pulled the wheel would spin, striking the Pyrite and causing sparks. The powder would ignite and fire the weapon. Later weapons would use pieces  of flint, but pyrite was used at first because you didn’t need to shape the pieces beyond getting a chunk big enough to fit in the ‘jaw’ of the weapon. Pyrite is brittle and tended to crumble  easily, so it probably wasn’t the best choice.

3) As mentioned above, Iron Pyrite forms in cubes that either clump to make ‘nuggets’ together or grow larger 2807individually in a matrix. The clusters/nuggets tend to shine and seem sparkly because the light is reflecting off various sides of the cubes.  Another form taken is a ‘Sun’ where Pyrite crystals form outward from a central cluster of pyrite cubes – this makes for a crude image of the sun with rays much like how a child would draw it.

4) Pyrite is actually unstable and oxidizes when exposed to air or water. Not a big concern with large pieces that are sold, but in mines where Pyrite dust is kicked up and oxidizes there can be actual mine explosions if the Pyrite dust in the air is exposed to an ignition source. Pyrite’s oxidation also weakens it, which is why it has little use in industry (although it does appear in some building stones simply because there is little structural threat and too costly to exclude).

Want to buy your own Iron Pyrite?







Little Boxes of Geology Fun

Spectrum Scientifics has been an excellent source of rocks, minerals and fossils since we first opened. We always love adding new items to our geology offerings. Recently we added a few new items that are fun, attractive, and come in their own little gift box!

First up is a quartz crystal cluster



New Fossils

We’ve carried fossils in the past, and still have quite a few. But sometimes old sources dry up and we need to find new ones. We have recently added some great new fossils for starting collectors. First up we have a Goniatite Fossil



Iron Pyrite Suns

Iron Pyrite, or Iron Sulfide is a fairly common mineral that is more commonly known as Fool’s Gold due to its golden luster. Its crystalline structure is a dead give-away that it is not actually gold, although in many cases it can be more attractive than gold. Typically, Iron Pyrite is found in chunks made up on hundreds or thousands of tiny square crystals:



But a rare formation of Iron Pyrite is the Sun. This is where a flat disc is formed by the crystals, with the smaller crystals forming the interior and larger crystals forming at the rim.This forms an interesting pattern that actually resembles a sun:


Spectrum Scientifics now has these rare Iron Pyrite suns in three different sizes: Small (1″), Medium (1-1/2″) and Large (2″). These are low-cost, Grade B Iron Pyrite suns. They will have defects like cracks and other flaws, but the overall structure will be a sun. Consider these an excellent addition for collectors!


Playing Cards

Playing cards are great fun, from a simple game of solitaire to Texas Hold ’em. But the classic design of cards gets kind of boring after a while. We  carry more entertaining playing cards already but a few new lines have come out and we jumped on the chance to carry them!

First up is the new Night Sky Playing Cards

Each card shows a constellation with descriptive details and the star pattern of that constellation. The suit (hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs) are also indicators of the best season for viewing the constellation! Great fun and a neat way to learn while playing cards.

We also now have the Rocks & Minerals playing cards

Each card has a colorful photograph of one of the most common and sought after specimens in the USA.

Both packs have 52 cards in all and cost just $5.95!


New Geology Items

We added a couple of nice geology items to make our coverage of this topic a bit better. First up is the Scale of Hardness Kit with Test Samples:

This kit is for testing the hardness of rocks and minerals using a penny, a nail, a streak plate and a piece of glass. 9 samples are included with the kit which cover the range of hardness from 1-9. A rock with hardness #9 is not included as that would be a diamond. This kit is an excellent educational project for budding geologists and can be used with rocks and minerals not included with the set.

Next up is a collection of 50 US rocks and minerals:

50 excellent quality specimens are included in this set representing rocks and minerals found in the USA.  This is an excellent collection for a classrooms, home schooling, and outdoor events. Each sample is about 1″  on the longest axis and glued to the box interior. Each sample is labeled. A study guide is included.






New Geology Items

We’ve added some new geology products to our line. First up are some  cut & polished agate ends. These have cut bases so they will stand on their own.

Agate End with Cut bases

This come in many sizes and range up to 1-1/2″ wide and 3″ tall. They come natural or in dyed colors to bring out the agate strata.

Also we have added cut agate slabs. These are 3/4″ thick and range up to 1-1/2″ wide and 4″ tall. Like the agate ends there are many variations in size and color. They are natural colored or dyed to bring out the strata.

Finally we added a new bookend! This one a pair of Goniatite Fossisl in a matrix with other fossils. It is a very impressive piece!

Goniatite Bookends

The sides are polished and each part of the pair measures 4-1/2″ x 6″ and weighs about 8 lbs total.



New Information Intensive Poster – The History Of the Earth

Our line of Feenix published information intensive posters has been quite popular and well received, and now we have added a new one  that is humbly titled the History of the Earth

The History Of The Earth

In this poster, the 4.6 million year history of the Earth (the Universe, really) is covered in excellent detail. Pictures are used to illustrate the four Eons and periods within them. As one might expect from a poster covering such a ling era, human arrival is but a blip of the two last pictures (one of which is actually post-human).

Like the other Information Intensive Poster series this poster is laminated for durability so it can survive in a classroom, but good enough quality and attractive enough to be on an amateur scientists home wall.



Stick Stones Get Colorful!

Stick stones have been popular at Spectrum Scientifics since we opened. The little hematite colored rocks are magnetized and are fun to get in bunches.

Stick Stones!

Until now, Stick Stones have been this color and nothing more. But now that has changed! Stick Stones are now available from Spectrum in both Gold and Peacock colors!

The gold is a nice golden coating that adds a level of class to the normal drab Stick Stone color:

Gold Stick Stones

Gold Stick Stones

Meanwhile the Peacock Titanium has a nice metallic multi-color that is quite attractive:

Peacock Titanium Stick Stones

Peacock Titanium Stick Stones

All of these stones are just $0.50 per stone and are on average about 3/4″ on their long side (the original stones are a little larger).  Be sure to get a few to little shape building projects and other fun ideas!

8/23/11 Virginia Earthquake Propogates Across the Country

This video is courtesy of the Bad Astronomer

Watch as the seismic waves make their way across the USA. Red denotes upward motion, Blue is down.