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A Crystal the Size of a School Bus?!

In South Dakota miners found a crystal of a mineral called spodumene that was 42 feet long and weighed 90 tons. While it's an extreme example, the massive crystal showcased one of the incredible qualities of the rock in which it was found, known as "pegmatite." Unlike most rocks, pegmatites contain unusually large crystals of a wide variety of minerals....Read more
Tags: geology
Blue beryl that crystallized as a 6-sided hexagonal crystal, not bus-sized but beautiful. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian.

Discovering Weird, Wonderful New Species in the Open Ocean

When we think about the ocean, we may visualize sea turtles swimming around coral reefs, sea urchins anchored in tidepools, dolphins breaching the surface, or even shrimp gathered around deepwater sulfur vents. But most of the ocean is just open water, miles and miles of it from below the surface to thousands of feet down. This ocean midwater is the largest habitat on Earth! ...Read more
The red paper lantern jellyfish, a strikingly beautiful animal in the web of midwater ocean life. Photo by Karen Osborn, Smithsonian Institution.

The Tales that Plants Can Tell

They are silent and stationary, but scientists look to them to tell stories about what happened in the past. Because plants are all around us, and specific in their needs, they are great indicators of ecosystem change. Just as an animal might move to a different place if conditions get rough, plants must adapt. Unfortunately, habitat changes are happening more rapidly than in the past and plants cannot adapt as quickly....Read more
Tags: collections
Ash-grey Indian paintbrush plant in Southern California. Image by Gary A. Monroe, EOL via CalPhotos, CC-BY-NC.

Webcast Extra: More Answers to Your Questions About Birds

Welcome to the first “Smithsonian Science How” video blog! If you tuned in to the Dec. 11, 2014 live webcast featuring Smithsonian ornithologist Dr. Helen James talking about bird extinctions, you know that the show’s awesome viewers from classrooms across the county were typing in questions fast and furiously. You might say the questions were flying! ...Read more
Smithsonian's Dr. Helen James and Maggy Benson during a live Smithsonian Science How webcast

Dinosaurs were just the Tip of the Iceberg

We’ve all fantasized about living in a world where dinosaurs roam the Earth, a place like Jurassic Park, rife with the perils and excitement of living amongst these odd creatures. While it’s safer for us now, what a shame that birds are the only living descendants of the dinosaurs that walked on two legs and included the infamous T. rex. About 66 million years ago, T....Read more
Late Cretaceous scene. Depiction by Mary Parrish, Smithsonian.

Choose Your Weapon: Shark or Vending Machine

You may have heard that more people die from vending machine accidents every year than from shark bites. My fourth grader knew that, and it's not hard to dig up statistics to confirm it. So, if we're going to make the world a safer place by eradicating vending machines or sharks, I'd choose vending machines....Read more
Tags: shark
Silky Shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) off the coast of Cuba. Photo by Alex Chernikh, via Wikimedia and EOL, CC-BY.

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