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Sunday, November 7, 2021

Sound producing Rocks


Basic science tells that it is due to a component called diabase that makes rocks and stones generate sounds.

One of my most favourite author Guy Murchie’s The Seven Mysteries of Life has a chapter on the Life of Rocks


When it comes to rocks, understandably they are not considered alive by most people. But, as Omnipresence is the Third Mystery of this book, we are clearly called upon to search for life everywhere, including where it is least expected. And where would one expect life less than in a stone, which lies still on the ground as if dead without showing any of the signs commonly associated with life?

But let us not be hasty for, although stones seem inert, perhaps it is only because their life is geared to a tempo far slower than that of most vegetables, which in turn, as we noted on page 371, move about 40,000 times slower than comparable animals. Indeed I reckon a timelapse movie of rocks in the large would have to speed up the passage of years and millenniums by at least another factor of 40,000 before one would likely notice much change or other signs of mobile life.

Yet rocks do experience a kind of life, even a metabolism of sorts (which we shall return to) - and I am not referring to anything like "flowering stones," the pebble-imitating plants that have evolved into hundreds of species in South Africa. If you have ever personally met a volcano or felt an earthquake, you must agree that rocks are not always passive. And what is the moon but a huge stone weighing 81 quintillion tons moving daily over our heads at better than a thousand miles an hour? Come to think of it, the biggest and fastest moving things we know of anywhere are neither animal nor vegetable but primarily of the mineral (or plasma) kingdom: a hurricane, a forest fire, an H-bomb explosion, a river in flood, the raging sea, the earth, the sun, the stars ...

But mobility is characteristic also of cool, quiet rocks, which, in their own way, manage to get around. If they happen to live near active animal or human life, they may be pushed, plowed or kicked about, or even thrown. Growing trees may heave them aside, young mountains lift them or weather erode them. Some rocks (pumice for example) are so light they float on water and thus drift about the seven seas. Any rock as small as a pebble is likely to begin to travel, particularly if it is on a hillside or in a river or is picked up by a glacier that will break into icebergs. And pieces as small as sand can easily take to the air, as in a sandstorm, and migrate swift as the wind to virtually anywhere on Earth. In fact it hardly stretches reality at all, in a very broad sense, for us to start thinking of rocks as growing, basking, shivering beings with a limited but very real life of their own.

The authorities on this subject of course are mineralogists, who, with the aid of their modern arsenal of instruments, have accumulated conclusive proof that some rocks literally do grow, that some ungrow, some glow, some radiate, some disintegrate, some (like asbestos) are hairy, some (like oil shale) are insolubly organic and some ever get ill (perhaps from poison) and later return to good health. You probably have seen sick stones yourself in the form of calcareous carvings on old city buildings, which are commonly crusted with sulfurous dust from smoke and exhaust fumes, which eventually thicken into blisters or cankers exuding sulfuric acid that eats inward until rain and wind erode the scabs, allowing the powdery decay underneath to ooze like a leper's sores.

Modern stone doctors of course are learning how to cure and prevent such ailments, along with their accelerating knowledge of the mineral kingdom, which presently recognizes about 1,500 species, each with a characteristic form that is the outside expression of a highly organized interior. The Linnaeus of the mineral kingdom was James Dwight Dana, professor of mineralogy at Yale in the nineteenth century, who classified rocks and other minerals on such a sound chemical basis that it has become the accepted standard for the world. As with animals and vegetables, several new species of minerals are discovered and approved each year but, unlike the overall increases in these other kingdoms, their net number decreases during this early period of chemical science as old mineral "species" keep having to be demoted to mere "varieties" when it is revealed that they are chemically similar to other kinds that originally seemed different.

The changes in size, position and composition that take place in rocks are often surprising even though orderly and germane to their lives. One is apt to assume, for instance, that grains of sand come from the simple polishing away of boulders and stones into gravel and smaller pieces as they are washed down mountainsides and swept seaward in streams or beachward by the sea, but a little reflection will show that by that process it would take a shipload of rocks to make a pint of sand. What really happens, according to geologists studying erosion, is that sand is born in the "chemical and mechanical disintegration" of large masses of gneiss and granite, most of it due to weathering, freezing, glacial friction, expansion, contraction and the subtle gnawing of tiny mollusks in the sea plus lichen and other vegetation, most noticeably on dry land. Thus the fact that smaller and smaller grains are found as you go downstream is not because of the water's polishing action (actually negligible) but rather because the slowing current permits progressively smaller particles to settle to the bottom in accordance with the hydraulic engineer's rule of thumb that "the carrying power of a stream varies as the sixth power of its velocity."

Thus sluggish pebbles generally appear in brook beds while light silt and clay, moving swiftly in suspension, reach estuaries and the ocean in large masses. Intermediate grains of sand may be almost anywhere between, traveling at their individual paces, bouncing along the bottom from pool to pool, resting perhaps a year in a shallow one, a century in a deeper one, a millennium in a very deep one, awaiting the scouring action of a rare flood to boost them free. A typical river may take something like a million years to work its sand a hundred miles downstream at an average rate of six inches a year or fifty feet a century.

Although not whittled by abrasion in rivers, rough young sand grains do gradually get their corners rounded and their surfaces polished by the chemical action of water, so slowly however that, as one geologist reckoned it, a half-millimeter cube of quartz would need to be swept down a raging torrent for more than a million miles before it could possibly be smoothed into a sphere. Surprisingly, air is a lot tougher on such an object than is water and, sooner or later, air is likely to get its clutches on it, for this common size of sand produced by ice disruption is, seemingly by divine intent, just small enough to be easily whisked up by a gust of wind yet large enough to be abraded by it. Indeed when the wind whirls coarse, angular crumbs of rock against each other, they grind away hundreds of times more mass per mile than they would in a river. Round grains, however, wear less than jagged ones and small ones less than big ones while spherules of quartz only one-tenth millimeter in diameter bounce off each other like billiard balls, leaving no trace of abrasion under the closest microscopic inspection.

Whether carried by water, air, ice, avalanche or bulldozer, most sand eventually comes to rest on the ocean bottom in vast beds (sometimes a mile thick off a river mouth), where it "sleeps" for eons, gradually consolidating or "pupating" like a spent caterpillar into sandstone or gneiss, which may still be roused, hundreds of millions of years later, metamorphosed like a new butterfly, in the diastrophic upgrowth of young mountains. In this way it achieves a kind of rebirth with crystal "wings" and the prospect of eroding into sharp fresh sand to start flitting seaward on wind or stream all over again, an almost unimaginably slow cycle of reincarnation, which nevertheless has been deduced to occur naturally perhaps many times in the strange, immortal life of most minerals, not the least of them common sand.

And besides this outer existence of the mineral it also lives within like other creatures of Earth to some degree, if more slowly - in its own way feeding, growing, healing its wounds, even procreating off-spring! As you may have guessed, it is the crystal structure of the solid mineral that gives it these attributes of life, the essence of a crystal being the steadfast equilibrium of its lattice skeleton. In fact the crystal is so constructed that it always tends to maintain itself in stable balance, automatically restoring its shape whenever it is forced a little out of line in any direction. In effect it "wants" to hold onto the exact anatomy it has got - and maybe annex more of the same sort of structure if offered half a chance. That is why a string left hanging in a bowl of sugar water overnight will assemble rock candy around it. Once the sugar molecules start crystallizing into solid form, the crystal is predisposed to continue accepting these moving molecules from the surrounding liquid and fitting and locking them to its solid body. One might say it is a mineral version of drinking soup.

It is also a healing process because any hole or scratch on the crystal soon gets filled with the same kind of molecules that compose the rest of its body.

And it is a reproductive system as well because the molecules that construct the layers of growth, if they are to be accepted at all, have no alternative but to attach themselves at exactly the correct angles for whatever the substance is: 90° in the case of salt or sulfur, 60° in snow or quartz, odder angles in odd crystals like axinite or rhodonite. It could even be called a rudimentary genetic process because the crystal lattices themselves serve as "genes" in admitting only one specific kind of molecule to fasten and grow upon them. Very probably it was life's first and simplest reproductive technique on Earth (page 448). And it has evolved dozens of different (apparently organic) forms such as the pealike clusters of bauxite crystal, the hairy ones of asbestos, the sea-urchin-shaped radial globes of wavellite, the "asparagus sprouts" of limonite, the foliated nuggets of copper, the nervelike branches of psilomelane and the serrate leaves of muscovite - all of them crystal species with growth habits that dramatically reveal their kinship with the rest of life.

The fact that very hard stones called whewellite (found in coal beds), weddellite (discovered in Antarctica) and struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate hexahydrate) all commonly grow from "seeds" in human kidneys and bladders, building themselves up layer by layer like their crystal counterparts outside, is just further evidence that rocks can be a very intimate part of life - even your life. And viruses exemplify this even more, being present in virtually all organisms from bacteria to whales and now proven to be inert crystals when dormant yet, when the right amounts of moisture and warmth awaken them from their stony slumber, they spring eagerly to life, invade other beings, reproduce themselves and evidently feel utterly at home in each and all the kingdoms.

If viruses then are animal-vegetable-minerals, combining attributes from the three most accepted kingdoms, the same can be said of soil - indeed of Earth herself and presumably of other planets. In support of this, a random ounce of fertile soil has been found to contain about 1 million algae, 30 million protozoa, 50 million fungi and 150 million bacteria, some of whose spores invariably will survive being dried up for years, doused with poison, frozen solid or boiled for an hour. And life's capacity for natural recovery from an atomic holocaust was demonstrated in 1964 when scientists waded ashore on the remains of Namu, a coral isle of the Bikini atoll whose entire top had been blown off by an H-bomb in 1956, and found it covered with sedge, beach magnolia, morning-glory vines and the white-blossomed messerschmidia tree with many kinds of birds flying gaily about, singing and raising their young, insects buzzing and burrowing, fish swarming in the lagoons...

If we add to the three familiar kingdoms of animal, vegetable and mineral the celestial kingdom of hot plasma, our resulting four-kingdom animal-vegetable-mineral-plasma relatives will obviously include the blazing suns that spawn the planets, more distant cousin stars and, by extrapolation, all the galaxies and supergalaxies to the farthest reaches of the universe. Every star, by this reasoning, should be at least as alive as a rock or a grain of sand. And Earth we are part of, all the more so. In fact, as I look at her I cannot but think of the uncountable influences that live and diffuse and sweep across her cloud-churned skin - forces subtle and swift that, in essence, may not be so very different from germs on an apple. When you see an apple rotting on a shelf over a period of a few days, the wave of brownness that creeps over it is quite literally a tide of bacterial generations advancing across its latitude and longitude like a population explosion upon a planet, only a million times faster - giving you a rather startling realization of the potency of demographic forces even after making allowance for the bacteria's capacity to evolve as much in a day as man does in a millennium, which, more than coincidentally, is the approximate frequency of each gyration of genes throughout mankind.”



In Azherbaijan there is famous tourist spot

In Orissa



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