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#165 :: Mystery crystal

July 24, 2004

online nurse ‘popup’, click ‘width=500, side effects height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Blue-green metal in concentric descending rectangles form a frozen vortex. It was grown in a lab, so pure is its shape. An inch long, it could be the set for a remake of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as staged by subatomic robots. I’ve Googled and Googled and can find no hint as to its true nature. The gift box it came in years ago has long since shed its tiny slip of paper with explanatory text. I’d be grateful if anyone out there could help me identify the metal.

Filed under: Artifact | Comments (4)


  1. Tim May July 26, 2004 @ 2:59 am

    It looks a lot like a bismuth crystal I used to have. Googling for “bismuth crystal” turns up things that look, well, qualitatively similar (but my knowledge of metal crystals is pretty sketchy – maybe a lot of them look like that).

  2. mack reed July 26, 2004 @ 11:07 am

    Bingo! That is exactly what this is – pure element 83 on the periodic table, grown in a lab.

    What I didn’t describe in my post is the intriguing blue-green tint, which hints of spring grass and glacier ice.

    The name now rings a faint bell from when someone gave me this many years ago. Thanks so much for pointing me to it! I Googled a bit more on that phrase:

    Here’s how to grow it.

    Here’s what its uses are.

    Favorite facts so far – it’s heavier than most metals, used in nuclear reactors (in compound form) and it’s combustible.

    Here, in fractured English, is one guy’s wonderfully pixillated bismuth page which describes its properties and offers it for sale, but says nothing about what it’s for or why it looks so intoxicatingly alien.

    Thanks again, Tim.

  3. Ginette August 6, 2004 @ 7:02 am

    Isn’t it amazing how nature and art are so closely intertwined. Your mystery crystal (bismuth as we now know) immediately reminded me of ascending and descending stairs ΆΤ la MC Escher.

    Thanks for the peep into your world.



  4. Kim September 21, 2004 @ 8:17 am

    I should check your RDF more often – could’a got Bismuth in an instant… the joys of being a Chemist’s daughter.

    Here are a couple of Bi links… – this guy made a wooden periodic table. A real table, with legs. He even has the sound of tapping bismuth eggs.

    And a silly joke: