Rocking the Paint

Making Paint From the Rocks

I can easily IFlose myself in Earth’s landscapes, especially the rocky ones. The textures and colors tell a story of chemistry, weathering and erosion. And, if providing a scenic backdrop to my life is not enough, with these rocks I make pottery and glazes.

And paint.

The color palette is generally limited to oxides of iron: brown, reddish-brown, tan, yellowish tan, greenish tan–e.g. Earth colors.

Occasionally a little copper shows up, coloring the clay softly green or blue. Pottery glaze colors depend on these denizens of the Periodic Table. And so did paint, once upon a time before IKB.

I started with several gallon-size zip-lock bags of reddish, greenish and one highly yellow clay. The colors are the result of a certain degree of iron oxidation, and finely ground turquoise, which is a copper mineral.

I sifted out all the rocks, twigs, animal bones and other detritus, and let the colored clay settle in large jars of water. After siphoning off the excess water, I poured this clay slurry onto large pieces of gypsum board to dry. The mud cracks were amazing art pieces in themselves.

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Painting with Clay

After the clay slurry completely dried, I crushed and sieved each into a fine powder. I added a little linseed oil to the colored clay powder and in a frenzy of inspiration, I painted

The Paintings

SandiaSunset2 What else can I say? Inspired by rocks, enchanted by Earth’s landscape…

Follow this link to Desert Paintings…http://wp.me/P3Fsq9-in

Science Meets Art: Intelligent Design

Blessed by the exquisite anatomy of our hands and the infinite crossing points between the so-called right and left brain, we blend the vision of the imagination with technical know-how. We are the God Kings and Queens of Tool-Makers, and with these hands we make everything…

Art Meets Science: Glass

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Blown Glass Baskets, Dale Chihuly

Discovered thousands of years ago, the science and technology of glass continues to enthrall and astound us. Quartz in the form of silica-sand is the primary constituent in window and art glass. Various oxides of calcium and boron, as well as colorants are added to the silica sand to give the glass the desired properties.

The first glass blowing techniques were developed in Syria over 2,000 years ago. Not much has changed in the methods or equipment since then, though the understanding of glass and melt behavior has certainly increased.

Click here for a short history of Glassblowing (http://www.seattleglassblowing.com/glass_history.html)

Peacock Window, Lewis Comfort Tiffany

Science Meets Art: Porcelain Pottery with Copper Red Glaze

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21st Century Copper Red Vase, Heather Mills, Christo Giles, New Zealand

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Red is a difficult color to produce in a glaze (which is nothing more than a glass) but the Chinese discovered the technology ~5ooo years ago. Oxygen atoms are stripped from the copper oxides in the glaze during the reducing atmosphere of wood-fired kilns. Not only that, the copper particles suspended in the melted glaze must be approximately the same size as the wavelength of red light, or the color will not be red. Too small particles gives no color at all, and too large particles give a fleshy color that is only occasionally attractive. Click here or on the image above for more information about copper red glazes.

Art Meets Science: Red Paint

Cochineal Beetle

Back in the day of the Alchemists, before the Periodic Table of the Elements had been invented, artists made their own paints, by grinding minerals from the landscape (or bugs) into powder, adding a binding agent, and voila! oil paint! Red and purples were beastly difficult to make. Red dye could only be produced by the crushed carcasses of the insect Cochineal, found mainly in Mexico and South America. The famed Red Coats that Paul Revere warned the countryside about had been dyed with Cochineal.

These days, artists use commercially-prepared paints. Red? No problem! Cadmium, from the Periodic Table is used to make both red and yellow oil and acrylic-based paints–another technological innovation in painting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrylic_paint.

Art Meets Science: Yves Klein International Blue

Back in the late 1950’s, the French artist Yves Klein, with the aid of Edouard Adam, a Parisian paint dealer, developed a pigment known as IKB (International Klein Blue). Using an alternative to the traditional linseed oil base, which tends to cloud the color, Klein produced a paint the color of the mineral lapis lazuli.

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Lapis Lazuli
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IKB – International Klein Blue
Klein’s purpose was not only to make a better blue; he wished to evoke the “authenticity of the pure idea.” Prior to IKB, his monochromatic paintings had been of a variety of colors and people reacted to a gallery showing of them as if they were each a part of a mosaic. Not what he had in mind…read more here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Klein)

Science Meets Art: The Art of Science Competition, Princeton University

In 2011, 20 university departments submitted 168 pieces of art to a competition sponsored by Princeton University, around the theme “Intelligent Design.

Click on image below to view 11 of the 56 works chosen. Nothing more needs to be said, other than: “Where are the other 44?

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Model of Earth’s Magnetic Field Reversal

Superman and the Great Diamond Ruse

It began innocently enough.

The Scene of the Faux Pasac293d_zpseff97f32

There we were, innocent boomer (and beyond) children looking up to Superman, gobsmacked by his prowess and great strength. Really? You can do that, Superman? Squeeze a lump of coal into diamond? Not just once did we witness this feat, but time after time.

So Easy!

SizeOfIt!

So Big!

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So Wrong!

Unless Superman has Superhot hands, the Super Squeeze is just not going to cut it; diamond formation requires heat. The kind of heat you get when you shove rocks 100 miles or so down below Earth’s surface, where diamonds crystallize.

Perhaps somewhere along the way, a geologist sat Superman down and explained to him the facts of diamond formation, and how you theoretically could take a lump of coal and, given enough squeezing, make a diamond. But only if you add a lot of heat.

That would explain why Superman started using lightning to make diamonds.

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Where’s the Super Squeeze?

Really little bolts, though. Hand-held, pocket-size lightning.

Lightning is very, very hot, along the order of 54,000°F, about 5 times the temperature of the surface of the sun.

But, heat alone can’t turn coal into diamond and lightning strikes at coal mines are far more likely to catch the coal layer on fire than to make a single diamond.

Heat&Pressure
Superman Gets with the Program

Am I being too persnickety here?

Perhaps I expect my Superheroes to be omniscient as well. Or at least geologically literate. But is this fair?

I, of all people should criticize an author for taking what is known about something on Earth and flying into fantasy with it? (see Corvus Rising-my book about crows who talk to humans.)

In my own defense, it is not impossible for crows and humans to communicate (see Language of the Crows), and I offer a scientific, gene-based explanation for this ability.

Fantasy fiction takes us away on the gift of tongues, illuminating the path into the darkness of the silent unknown, tantalizing us with magical journeys that reveal the secrets of our universe. Hopefully we have the ears to hear and the eyes to see.

I’m glad Superman saw the light, keeping his Superhero image intact in the eyes of geologists everywhere. In the late 20th Century, however, when cartoon characters leaped from the printed page onto the big screen, it seems that Superman lost a little know-how in the diamond department.

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Where’s the Heat. Man of Steel?

Alas, that Superman’s memory is less legendary than his great strength. What the cartoon knew, the “real” human did not.

That the truth of diamonds ever made it into a comic book is astonishing, however, and cause for a moment of gratefulness.

No Virginia, Diamonds Do Not Come From Coal

I am ecstatic when our scientific understanding about the Earth makes its way into cartoons, for no other reason than children watch them, the little sponges that they are. It’s very hard to dispel those childhood myths about coal and diamonds, to say nothing about the Flintstones and dinosaurs living side-by-side? For heaven’s sake, the dinosaurs had been extinct for at least 63 millions years before the first humans showed up.

We also know where diamonds come from and how they get to Earth’s surface.

diamond-earthlayersDiamonds form at the base of Earth’s crust, where pressure and temperature are very great. When pressure exceeds rock strength, an intense, but short-lived volcanic eruption occurs, and molten mantle rocks are shot to the surface through kimberlite pipes at the speed of sound.

That’s 768 miles per hour!

Kimberlite Pipe
Kimberlite Pipe
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Shiprock, northwestern New Mexico

Kimberlite pipes bring up other minerals as well, like garnets, mined for use in sandpaper products. The Navajo Volcanic Field in the Four Corners area of the Southwestern US (not to be confused with Monument Valley), a few diatremes (the eroded remains of a kimberlite pipes) poke up out of the desert floor, Shiprock being the most well known.

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Uncut Diamond Crystal

Diamonds almost always are far older than any of the coal layers on Earth, and the carbon comprising them is almost never from living organisms. The fearlessly curious might click HERE for exhaustive information on the chemistry and crystal structure of diamonds.

Unlearning a ‘fact’ is harder than diamonds sometimes. Superman burned an urban myth into our 21st century collective memories at an early age that to this very day most of us still carry with us.

It’s not a matter of geological correctness. It’s a matter of the truth being so much more marvelous.

 

Shine on, you crazy diamond…

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The Hope Diamond