The Best Geology Dictionary I Have Ever Found

Just got an amazing dictionary. This is the Glossary of Geology written in 1957 by the American Geological Association with the National Academy of Sciences. The full title is the Glossary of Geology and Related Sciences. J.V. Howell was apparently working as the editor of what the Geological Institute calls a coordinating chairman. The book is  fantastic.

The dictionary provides many word origins along with the use of a term in a sentence. This is proper dictionary writing. Tough, technical words are explained in plain English, making a difficult vocabulary at least approachable. Without wallowing in unnecessary details, this dictionary opens the door to learning that most resources barely open.

Look at this Wikipedia definition of unconformity:

An unconformity is a buried erosional or non-depositional surface separating two rock masses or strata of different ages, indicating that sediment deposition was not continuous. In general, the older layer was exposed to erosion for an interval of time before deposition of the younger, but the term is used to describe any break in the sedimentary geologic record. . .

Now, the Glossary:

A surface of of erosion or nondeposition — usually the former — that separates younger strata from older rocks.

The Glossary then mentions four related unconformity terms which are described under their own names elsewhere in the dictionary. It also cites the name of a leading author on the subject.

This dictionary lets me get started whereas other dictionaries stall me when I first try to learn.

I got this title at which I have used since at least 1996. Downside? Six point type! Absolutely crazy small print. Fortunately, has dozens of magnifying device for viewing book pages and I have ordered one. Small price for clarity.

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Book Submitted!

I submitted my MS and related images to my publisher this morning. This marks 14 months of work but there is much to be done to turn a raw document into a book.

Over the next several months the editor and I will discuss revisions and additions and all manner of changes. The publisher’s design team will go to work and I may have to reshoot many images that I took. Their marketing people will also be getting involved as we all push toward an early 2020 release.

Posts here will now be more frequent. Thank you to everyone who has helped me so far and to all of those who will help me in the future.

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Drew Barkoff: Friend of The Book

Drew Barkoff is a Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He has been extremely helpful in all of my conversations with him, tolerating the questions of an unschooled writer. In his own words he describes some of the geological journey he has taken so far . . .

As for what part of the American Southwest interests me the most, the truth is all of it. Learning geology in NJ (effectively a massive sandbar) made me long for mountains and actual rock outcrops that weren’t a multiple-hour drive away. People living in the SW are geologically spoiled whether they know it or not, but I would argue that the Las Vegas, Nevada region is as good as it gets.

The LV region is centered between the Colorado Plateau and the Sierra Nevada, and situated within the Basin and Range province. This means that we have access to not only to rocks from a very wide range of earth’s history, but a number of different tectonic environments as well, ranging from the high-grade metamorphics of the coast belt in CA, to the middle- and upper- crustal sedimentary rocks in NV, to the igneous- and metamorphic core complex-rich rocks of Southern UT. Additionally, NV is the #1 state for mining, highlighting the fact that NV has some of the best mineralization in the county.

As for how I got interested in geology, it was a long-time coming. I have always been interested in the sciences, and chemistry in particular, something about how the complexities and processes of the natural world can all be described in a very ordered, logical manner through chemistry really appealed to me, it is the link that brings all the other sciences together.

When I first went to college, I thought I knew what I wanted to do for a career, and started my undergraduate Biology degree at Ursinus College, a small school in central PA. Within about a year, I realized that I was struggling and not enjoying the material at all, so I decided to search for another major in another field I was interested in. That summer, I took three classes at the local community college that interested me: Business and Economics, History, and Geology, with the goal of going the direction of whichever class I liked best for my new major. Needless to say, the geology class blew the others out of the water and I enrolled at another local school that Fall, Stockton University in NJ, and started my geology undergraduate degree.

My grades went from straight C’s and B’s to straight A’s, with seemingly little hard work, because I loved it that much. During my Junior year, my professor, Matthew Severs, asked me if I was interested in taking part in a research project, without thinking too much, I said yes. This critical moment is what changed the course of my life and academic career, and I am very grateful to Prof. Severs for the opportunity and seeing my potential. My research project involved determining the temperatures and pressures of pegmatite formation at the Oxford Pegmatite Field, Oxford Co., ME, using fluid inclusion thermobarometry, as well as determining the petrogenetic order of pegmatite formation.

Pegmatites, being some of the most spectacular sources for mineral collecting, really got me interested in the geochemistry behind their formation and what processes are capable of enriching them in many rare metals such as Be, Li, U, etc.. This project was successful and I felt confident enough in my research capabilities that I applied for a number of graduate schools during my senior year.

I was accepted to start a Master’s project at the University of Arizona, under Prof. Matthew Steele-MacInnis in the economic geology program. My Masters project focused on further developing a novel technique of using internal pressures developed by trapped mineral inclusions during cooling and exhumation to back-calculate the pressures and temperatures of formation. This method requires using Raman spectroscopy to quantify the internal pressures of the mineral inclusions (Raman peak location of different bonds are pressure-dependent) which can be used in combination with the compositionally-determined physical properties of the mineral phases involved to determine possible P-T conditions that may have produced their rocks, also using field relation constraints.

I loved the heavily analytical nature of this study but being in the Economic Geology department exposed me to the type of work the other students were working on, and needless to say, that interested me too. I knew I wanted to go in the direction of economic geology next because they are the ultimate example of crustal geochemical anomalies, so I applied to a few programs across the US and Canada that offer this program and I was lucky enough to be accepted to start my Ph.D. at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, under Prof. Simon Jowitt. Currently at UNLV, I am working on gaining a better understanding of the petrogenesis of evolved, topaz-bearing rhyolites in SW UT and their economic potential to be low grade, high tonnage resources of many rare metals such as the REE, Be, Li, and U.

As for what classes aspiring geologist can take to quickly gain a better understanding of geology, I would suggest physical geology (101 level class, might be too basic) and especially mineralogy and igneous petrology. Mineralogy gives you a very good (probably over the top for most people) understanding of mienrals, how they are constructed and the effect this has on what elements can make up their structures. Igneous petrology is a 2nd or 3rd year course but is easily understandable by anyone with a physical geology-level understanding. Igneous petrology really focuses on how crustal or mantle magmas form and how their evolution affects the geochemistry of these rocks. I think it best to start with igneous processes, then potentially moving onto sedimentary. And metamoprphic petrology because igneous petrology is the most applicable to most types of rocks, but classes exist for whatever your specific interest may be.

Regarding the fluorescent minerals, I don’t know too much about them specifically but many minerals can be UV fluorescent and it really depends on the formation conditions, and more importantly, geochemistry of the fluids that formed them. From what I know, the energy of the UV light is enough to excite certain transition metals within the mineral structure to jump to a higher energy state and then instantaneously dump this energy in the form of light as the electrons try to reach equilibrium again. I can actually look into some research on this if you would like an even more scientific explanation, this is quick-and-dirty explantion.

~Drew Barkoff

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Wikipedia is A Starting Point. Only.

Wikipedia is best for references, not its original writing.

Compare these two paragraphs:


Promethium is a chemical element with the symbol Pm and atomic number 61. All of its isotopes are radioactive; it is extremely rare, with only about 500-600 grams naturally occurring in Earth’s crust at any given time.

Los Alamos National Laboratories:

Searches for the element on earth have been fruitless, and it now appears that promethium is completely missing from the earth’s crust. Promethium, however, has been identified in the spectrum of the star HR465 in Andromeda. This element is being formed recently near the star’s surface, for no known isotope of promethium has a half-life longer than 17.7 years.

Wikipedia wasn’t dependable when it began but it is much better now. It has to be checked, though, like all research sources. Today, I see magazine articles written solely from online materials. This is disastrous. You need information from online resources, research from authoritative books and magazines, and personally gathered quotes from experts.

Anything else is lazy.

Double check.

Another research problem. Promethium’s density is likely undetermined, despite what this graphic and most sources state. I do not have enough certainty of that, however, to commit to this in print. When in doubt, say matters remain unsettled. A writer is not required to answer all questions.

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The Southwest According To My Book

No agreed upon boundaries mark the American Southwest. For my book  I place its northern limit as the 38th parallel,  the United States’ border with Mexico its southern limit. This image shows the area I write about, in the main, with no Mexico or Texas coverage.

Feldspar and Quartz Crystals

Just started photographing small specimens. This is a far greater challenge than taking pictures of hand sized rocks and minerals. Although I am not happy with the shot below, it is interesting.

Feldspar and quartz are the two most common minerals on the planet. The photograph shows feldspar with its “blocky crystal habit” and smoky quartz, with its six sided crystal form. Feldspar doesn’t get much love because its color isn’t exciting and because it is so common.

A mineral’s outward crystal expression is the manifestation of its inward atomic structure. If we were to peer inside feldspar at high magnification, we would see that feldspar’s atoms were arranged in the same blocky pattern that is exhibited on the outside. Provided one important thing.

Conditions must be right for crystals to develop into the shape you see here. Under poorer conditions, a lack of room for example, feldspar crystals would not express themselves and this specimen would be just another lump of dun colored rock. Quartz is often associated with feldspar.

More good information here:

Gearing Up for Photos

My outdoor photography has been good enough to be regularly published in many different magazines. In fact, I earned more from photographs accompanying my last article than the text of the story itself. That was for a publication that paid for each photo, some magazines pay you nothing extra for your photography.

Indoor photography has always been a challenge, especially now when I am trying to take pictures of all the rocks and minerals I have sourced for my book. I bought a light box last year and it was and is very sad. Too small and too poorly lit. Light accidentally came in  from holes in the bottom. It folded up neatly but otherwise was essentially worthless.

Taking the plunge, I have ordered a more professional lightbox from B&H Photo out of New York. I hope to have it soon. I’ll share some test photos when I get some shots taken.  There’s supposed to be 150 LED lights inside the box, enough to brighten up even the darkest rock.

I previously used a motley collection of table lamps and natural light through a window. That didn’t work because every light bulb has a different strength and hue. Eliminating a shadow with one light added yellow or orange to the picture from the new lamp. The key to indoor photography. at least for product placement, seems to be uniformity in lighting and background. Maybe this new lightbox will get me to my goal.

Update! November 14, 2018

The box has arrived and I think it will work. The shot below was taken using a handheld iPhone. Photos with my good camera, my Canon, mounted to a tripod, should be even better.

The Kelly Mine in Magdalena, New Mexico

Magdalena, New Mexico. Known for Smithsonite, a zinc ore. Beautiful country all around.


A proud rock shop owner known simply as Otero, displays his rough material and his cabs, the findings made by a native woman silversmith.


To know more about Smithsonite, named for the founder of the Smithsonian Institution, watch this video:

Read more about the mine, its small dig fee, directions, and the beautiful town of Magdalena in my upcoming book.