Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sand, Science and Nifty Relationships

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sand, Science and Nifty Relationships

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Longenecker

Relationships are fascinating. We all have a relationship with the shells on our beach. Shells are made of calcium carbonate. That mineral is one of the four calcium minerals that make up our very bones.

Calciums carbonate, phosphate, hydroxide and fluoride make up a nifty mineral combination called hydroxyapatite. It's a mouthful of words in two ways. Teeth are made of it and just try to pronounce it.

Calcium carbonate is generally white, but shells get their colors from a variety of minerals that are included or "intruded" into the batch. Think of a cup of water into which is added a tiny drop of food coloring. It tints the whole cup.

(Bone minerals include some of the 14 radioactive ones in an H bomb. Magnesium, sodium, potassium, lead, uranium and strontium are within you. My thanks to a Cornell Web site.)

It is the calcium carbonate that is of interest to me. Calcite is its beautiful crystal form that can be found in Jackson County. In August, I stopped in to the Colburn Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Asheville, N.C. By coincidence, the first sample of calcite I saw was from my hometown, Joplin, Mo., also a home of lead mines. Other samples came from California, Mexico, North Carolina and Lancaster County, Pa., where Longenecker is almost a common name. Relationships.

Limestone caverns run deep throughout most of Florida. This sedimentary genius purifies and stores vast quantities of fresh water. It forms our fragile aquifer. These rocks that are made of former bones, shells and chemical reactions keep us supplied with water. Bless their bones.

Limestone even plays a role in the production of electricity. The St. Johns River Power Park and Northside Generating Station use it as a reagent to purify the byproducts of coal combustion. Sulfur oxide is trapped in it and calcium sulfate, gypsum is "born." It can be used for wall board or road bed material.

Limestone also "harbors" yet another nice mineral common on our beaches. Quartz is silicon dioxide. Silicon is the mineral of the computer chip that helps me process words. Limestone has hollow spaces called vugs. …

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