Beautiful Rocks

I have always been fascinated by geological specimens. They offer me so much inspiration in their form, colour and pattern and give up a glimpse of how the big, complex world is built out the intersection of simple, deterministic rules and chaotic complexity.

Order and randomness in a beautiful relationship

Order and randomness in a beautiful relationship

Sadly, being “into crystals” nowadays tends to mean something anti-scientific and disturbingly irrational, which I find both troubling and ridiculous. For me they are just objects that display the structure of our world at a visible scale.

Crystalline minerals display a history of their growth

Crystalline minerals display a history of their growth

Many of the lessons about structure that one can learn from (these large-scale) minerals suggest direct parallels with the structure of living things, though living structures (like the majority of minerals) have to be viewed under a microscope. This is because growth, in both cases, proceeds from simple rules and constraints at a local level interacting with degrees of randomness on a larger scale.

The growth of one type of mineral crystal within another

Here the growth of one type of mineral crystal within another looks very similar to bacterial or algal growth seen under a microscope

I see many parallels between mineral specimens and my own work. I too am seeking an intersection of order and complexity; crisp control meeting happily with chance.

Texture, colour and the hints of hidden order in minerals all inspire me

Texture, colour and the hints of hidden order in minerals all inspire me

This post is just about the visual qualities of these rocks and I have ignored the matter of identifying them. This, together with the science of how they are created is fascinating field in itself. These samples were all photographed at The Natural History Museum in London. A visit there (or to your own local geological collection) will provide a fascinating day out and lots of inspiration.

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