Secrets in Stone

I’m in ththin sectione mineralogy lab in the sub-basement of Cramer Hall. I’m seated in front of a petrographic microscope, a tool that I will come to know and love as a geology major. I place a slide carefully on the microscope stage. I look through the eyepiece and gasp- I never expected it to look like this. It’s beautiful! I eagerly press my eye to the ocular and take in the sight; a patchwork of colors, shapes and textures shines up at me. I rotate the stage and am shocked to see the light shift and play over the quilt of mineral crystals like a kaleidoscope. This is my first time observing a rock “thin section” and it’s blowing my mind.

After a few minutes of open-mouthed awe, I remember that I have a task to do; I need to identify the minerals that make up the slice of rock on my slide. Being a novice, I begin at the beginning. ‘Ok, so plagioclase has black and white stripes.’ I peer through the eyepiece looking for the tell-tale zebra stripes. My untrained eye is dazzled by the menagerie of shapes and colors. How am I ever going to pick out one mineral from all of this? I move the slide around on the stage, hunting for plagioclase. I finally spot one, and then another, and then another… suddenly I see them everywhere. They seem to pop out at me from the noise of the background.

I slowly work my way through the rest of the thin section, reading the rock like it’s written in an ancient language. I find myself totally lost in my work, and am surprised when I look at the clock to see that 3 hours have passed. Sadly, it’s time to go. I can’t wait to get back in the lab and continue to learn what the rocks have to teach me.




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