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Rocks and Minerals

April 06, 1998

A rock is a rock is a rock. Right? Wrong. Look closely. Every rock is unique, with different colors, textures and shapes. These characteristics help tell geologists about the earth's history. Last year, NASA sent a robot named Sojourner to Mars to take pictures of rocks. Scientists are analyzing these pictures to unravel some of Mars' mysteries. So next time you're outside, look around for little bits of history--rocks! And to find out more about them, use the direct links on the Times Launchpoint Web site:

Here are the best sites for getting your schoolwork done or for just having fun.


What Are Rocks and Minerals, Anyway?: Learn about the three different types of rocks: sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic. Find out what the hardest rock in the world is, and which rocks are so soft you can scratch them with a fingernail. /mmem/grade3science/3F.r&m/rocksmin.htm

He's Nothing But a Rock Hound, a Diggin' All The Time: See how cavemen turned rocks into tools and find out why scientists study rocks today. Learn some rock-hunting tips and try a crossword puzzle.

Rocks and Minerals: What we call pencil "lead" is actually the mineral graphite, which gets its name from the Greek word meaning "to write." View photos of different kinds of rocks and minerals and learn about their uses. Try a fun online quiz in the fourth-grade Rocks and Charts section. /RocksandMinerals/rocks.html


The Burgess Shale Project: The Rock Cycle: Learn how different types of rocks are formed and how forces such as erosion, heat and pressure can cause them to change into other types of rocks. Click on the illustrated diagram to find out more about each different stage of the rock cycle.

How Old is That Rock? When you look at layers of rock, the oldest rocks are at the bottom and the youngest layers are on top. Find out what other methods scientists use to discover the age of rocks, including how radioactive dating works.

Fossils, Rocks and Time: Scientists read the Earth's history by studying layers of rock. See photographs of fossils and look at diagrams that assess the earth's geologic age to be roughly 4.6 billion years old.


Geology: Learn about the history of geology, the geologic time scale, the layers of the earth, and plate tectonics through this site that features many color diagrams. platetectonics/frontpagegeol.html

Minerals by Name: You can view minerals alphabetically by name, by scientific type, and by special groups such as fluorescent minerals, which glow in ultraviolet light.

Mineral Resources: Geologists identify minerals by conducting tests and evaluating such properties as color, hardness and luster. Find out what standards are used to measure the value of minerals, look up terms in the online glossary and get some tips on how to organize a collection.

Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for a ppropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This week's Launch Point was designed by Anna Manring and Stan Woo-Sam.


If the earth's heat and pressure are added to limestone, what kind of metamorphic rock would you get?

CLUE: See Rocks and Minerals at http://www.willowgrove. rocks.html

Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point now covers more than 40 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week's Explorer's Quest: Ice Cream because I'm a cheerleader.

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