The mineralogist’s web companion

If you ever wanted to inform yourself about mineral structures, composition or properties, you can always search on Google (or the search engine of your choice); this will surely lead you to the Wikipedia page on that mineral. As good as the online encyclopedia is, I’d recommend also checking out the two links you’ll have below it: mindat.org (http://www.mindat.org) and the Mineralogy Database (http://www.webmineral.org).

These two webpages offer a detailed description of each and every mineral there is, including X-Ray diffraction data, crystalline structure, chemical properties, and good bibliographical references if you want to dig up the history of said mineral. So, for example, if we wanted to know more about pyrite (fool’s gold) we could search it, and click on the first three links we come across: Wikipedia, Mindat and Webmineral.

Mineral databases surrounding a pyrite crystal
The three main mineral databases

Each offers good value in its own: I feel like Wikipedia is very good at giving a general overlook on the mineral, its distribution and uses, while Mindat and Webmineral are very good at giving detailed information and references. The two latter choices also have a nifty search engine where you can specify elements of the periodic table for searches on chemical composition of minerals.

Another awesome feature of the alternatives to Wikipedia are the 3D models detailing crystalline structure or atom distribution. You’ll need Java installed, but they are powerful tools, as they let you drag the models to rotate the view.

3D models of pyrite: A) Crystalline structure. B) Forms.

All in all, you’ll end up using these three among many other databases, but these three are the bread and butter of the mineralogist’s day. Go check them out! Seeing your favourite mineral in glorious 3D is something to look forward to.

Become a virtual seismologist today!

This may sound as an infomercial, but there will not be any black & white videos of people failing at things. Today I want to talk about the Virtual Earthquake Lab of the Virtual Courseware Project.

Click on this link to access the virtual laboratory. Be sure to enable popups on your browser and to have Java installed, and click on the buttons to the right. If you go from top to bottom of the page you’ll get an idea of how seismologists read seismograms, calculate travel times, amplitude of the waves and you’ll also get to find the epicenter and magnitude of historical earthquakes.

I feel like the real deal!
My take on the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

There is a lot of explaining in each of the exercises and the user interface is very intuitive, so you’ll get the hold of it in no time. You can get through all there is in the virtual laboratory in around one hour; after that, you’ll be tested and you’ll earn a cool certificate, qualifying you as an earthquake researcher of sorts!

I feel pretty proud of this.
Certificate of completion, in all its 2001 glory.

I first did this exercise on 2006, but I must say it hasn’t lost charm and entertainment and is worth a try. If you are running an old PC, or if you hate Java, you can access an older version of the virtual laboratory here.

Computers and geology

Hello! If you stumbled upon this blog, you must be either geology-related or a programmer, or even both. Either way, let me make a quick remark on the awesomeness of combining these disciplines. Geology benefits greatly from modelling software, supercomputation, geographic information systems and such. I feel informatics aren’t given the importance they should during the formation of geologists, and that’s why I created this blog.

Blog's logo with transparent background.
The command line and the hammer, tools of the trade.

The logo of the blog is a geological hammer on a green and black computer screen. I feel kind of nostalgic for the old green phosphor crt monitors, and the geohammer is something every geologist recognizes. It summarizes my two passions and it’s recognizable.

I’ll be posting twice a month with geoinformatics-related stuff. Don’t hesitate to give feedback on the site, either by leaving a comment below or by e-mail. Have a nice day!