True or False LithoQuiz

by Richard Busch

Lithosphere (May 1994); Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.; Fallbrook, CA

It's time for our first-ever LithoQuiz. Answer TRUE or FALSE to the following statements. Look for the answers below.

  1. During or after World War II, the U.S. Navy took a topaz-elbaite specimen from the mineral collection of the San Diego Natural History Museum and dumped it in the Pacific Ocean.

  2. In the prehistoric past, whales had feet.

  3. Breaking with tradition, transuranium element 106 has been given the name seaborgium -- the only element to be named after a living person.

  4. The state fossil of Maryland has never actually been found in the state of Maryland.

  5. The potato-shaped asteroid, Ida, has its own moon.

  6. The world's largest blue diamond, the Hope Diamond, fluoresces red under ultraviolet light.

  7. NASA is making plans to look for fossils on the planet Mars.

  8. If you stuck your rock hammer into lava flowing from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, the hammer would not melt.

  9. Scientists have discovered a 1.8 billion year old nuclear reactor in Africa.

  10. The mineral quartz has been recently discredited.

LithoQuiz Answers

  1. A very fine topaz-elbaite matrix specimen weighing about 150 pounds was mined in 1905 from the Little Three Mine main dike in Ramona, California. It was on display for many years at the San Diego Chamber of Commerce until it was moved to the then newly opened Natural History Museum. During World War II, the Navy took over the museum and the displays were crated and stored. The specimen was never seen again. It is probable that it was hauled out to sea with a barge of junk and dumped. [Reference: Foord, E. E.; "Gem-Bearing Pegmatites of San Diego County, California;" Geological Excursions in Southern California and Mexico; M. J. Walawender and B. B. Hanan, Editors]

  2. Paleontologists digging in Pakistan unearthed the 50 million year old fossilized remains of a whale, named Ambulocetus natans, which had large, functional legs and feet. Scientists believe that modern whales evolved from four-legged carnivorous mammals that lived on land. In the Eocene period (roughly 57 million years ago), the land dwelling mammals migrated to the oceans, lost their legs and pelvises, and developed the fluked tail characteristic of today's whales. [Reference: Science; 1/14/94 via Science News; 1/15/94]

  3. Transuranium element 106 was discovered in 1974 but remained unnamed for twenty years due to a dispute over which research team found it first. After an arbitrator gave credit to Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, the California scientists named the element seaborgium (Sg) in honor of 82 year old Glenn Seaborg, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who codiscovered plutonium and nine other transuranium elements. As a result, seaborgium has become the only element to be named after a living person. [Reference: Science News; 3/19/94]

  4. In 1984, Maryland state legislators designated Ecphora quadricostata as the state fossil. Unfortunately, the official Maryland state fossil never existed in what is now Maryland. The shell is actually found in Virginia. Maryland legislators have recently introduced a bill to name Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae, which is found in the state, as the official state fossil of Maryland. [Reference: The Washington Post; 2/94; submitted by Jacob Busch]

  5. Images taken by the Jupiter-bound Galileo spacecraft on August 28, 1993, clearly show the 35 x 15 x 13 mile, potato- shaped asteroid, Ida, being orbited by a 1-mile diameter moon. The photograph marks the first evidence that asteroids can have moons. Astronomer Michael J. S. Belton of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory at Kitt Peak, Arizona, said the discovery "probably means they are quite common." The finding may explain the occurrence of double meteorite craters on the Earth. [References: The Washington Post; 3/24/94 (submitted by Jacob Busch)]

  6. It is not unusual for diamonds to fluoresce when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. The Hope Diamond does, in fact, fluoresce red despite its blue color in natural light. [Reference: The Washington Post; the date of first publication is lost in the fog-shrouded recesses of your editor's mind]

  7. Dr. Jack Farmer, a paleontologist and geologist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, has developed a strategy to search for microfossils on Mars. His criteria are helping to guide site selections related to the search for evidence of past life on Mars during upcoming Mars missions planned for later this decade. Farmer, with colleagues at Arizona State University, has cataloged and prioritized the sites on the martian planet most likely to conceal well- preserved microbial fossils. He bases his strategy on the principles of Precambrian paleontology, the study of the Earth's earliest fossil record. [Reference: NASA Ames Press Release 94-49; 3/22/94]

  8. If you stuck your rock hammer into lava flowing from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, the hammer would get very hot and probably ruin its annealing (thereby making it unsafe to use) but the hammer would not melt. The plain carbon steel used in the manufacture of your rock hammer has a melting point of 1,515° C. The maximum temperature of Kilauea's lava has been measured at 1,350° C. [Reference: Richard Stead; Center for Seismic Studies; 11/1/93]

  9. In Africa about 1.8 billion years ago, enough uranium-235 became concentrated through natural processes that the resultant mass went "critical." The remnants of the event, called the Oklo Natural Reactor, is the current site of the Oklo uranium deposit. [Reference: Cowan; "A Natural Fission Reactor;" Scientific American; 1976]

  10. This was an April Fool's joke perpetrated by your editor. Nearly everything in the original article, which appeared in the April 1994 issue of Lithosphere, was a fabrication. You really didn't think they would discredit quartz, did you?

Copyright © 1994 by Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.

The preceding article was originally published in the May 1994 issue of Lithosphere, the official bulletin of the Fallbrook [California] Gem and Mineral Society, Inc; Richard Busch (Editor).

Permission to reproduce and distribute this material, in whole or in part, for non-commercial purposes, is hereby granted provided the sense or meaning of the material is not changed and the author's notice of copyright is retained.

Last updated: 18 September 2002