A tentative postulate

My outlier stone with a specific gravity of 2.73. Photo 3/12/016.

Consider that mind—like a garden, a species, an economy, or realms of discourse—may grow vulnerable in sameness and vigorous in diversity. How cool is that?

Last night, I got home from the day job with zero presence of mind for editing. A week passed in spreadsheet trances had sapped too much imagination for a Friday evening return to the story in progress. I needed a fun night off, nothing taxing, quiet at home through chill March drizzle. My solution was to pull out a box of quartz chunks collected over the years, and measure specific gravity of some of the smaller pieces. My super scientific apparatus consisted of a carat scale, a dressing cup from a deli-case salad saved because it would likely be useful for something, a basket made from a paperclip, and tap water. I first weighed each stone dry, again suspended in the water-filled cup, and then divided the dry result by the wet. Crude, crude, crude!

Even so, after measuring a baker’s dozen, I got seat of the pants confirmation of method by noting that grouping by specific gravity also tended to group the stones by appearance. Rounding to two decimals, those with result 2.61 or lower are blue-grey, with denser, darker color as the number sinks. Stones with result 2.64 are reddish with color running deep, while those of 2.65 are graded clear/white/pinky-orange. Two stones look nothing alike but measure exactly the same rounded to four places, 2.6310, which is a nice puzzle for another evening. The real outlier is pictured here, with specific gravity of 2.73 and no close match to any other stone in appearance. It’s too worn to determine crystal structure with tools at hand, but it just might be a piece of beryl. Green beryl is called emerald; blue beryl is called aquamarine. Other beryls get names like heliodor or morganite when they are gem quality. When they are not, most of us would just call them rock, as in, “Johnny threw a rock at me!”—although quartz is a more likely missile.

The whole exercise was a restful, engaging bit of discovery through repetitive process. Simple division has seemed a kind of magical power since I learned it as a child—no less so now—which spiced the steps of relating stone wet to stone dry with a dash of alchemical relish. Curiously, I fell asleep thinking not about pieces of quartz and specific gravity, but about the story in progress. Today, the box of rocks has been put away. Necessary chores wait, as do necessary errands, and then I shall sit again with my peculiar novelette, “The Seven Jewel Bird.”

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