Science Club Challenge: Grab A Neat Rock

5:57 minutes

Photo by Isaac Wedin/flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Science Friday’s Science Club is back with a new challenge! In honor of Earth Science Week (Oct. 8-14), we’re challenging people to learn about the world around them through geology … AND to help us build a collection of interesting rock specimens.

[Learn more about the Science Friday Science Club.]

It’s simple. First, find a neat rock. (Maybe there’s one on your desk or in your junk drawer already.) Send us a picture of it on social media, using the hashtag #neatrock. Then, try to deduce something from the rock about its past, like how it was formed, or how it got to the place you found it.

Charles Bergquist, one of the founding members of the Science Club, joins Ira to explain more about the project and how to participate.


Segment Guests

Charles Bergquist

As Science Friday’s director and senior producer, Charles Bergquist channels the chaos of a live production studio into something sounding like a radio program. Favorite topics include planetary sciences, chemistry, materials, and shiny things with blinking lights.

Segment Transcript




IRA FLATOW: That sound means the Science Friday Science Club is back in session. And that is our invitation to go out, do something, learn something, and share it with everybody else. And here to tell us about this month’s challenge is Charles Bergquist. You know him as our director. But he is also one of the founding members of the Science Club. Good to see you, Charles. Let’s talk about this month’s challenge.

CHARLES BERGQUIST: So it’s really simple. It’s something that everybody can participate in. And it’s got one key first step. And that is find yourself a neat rock.

IRA FLATOW: That’s it.

CHARLES BERGQUIST: That’s it, you find yourself a neat rock. You know–

IRA FLATOW: What’s a neat rock mean?

CHARLES BERGQUIST: You know one when you see one. It’s the one that probably you’ve got sitting on the corner of your desk. Or maybe it’s in your junk drawer because at some point, you were walking along, and you saw this thing, and you said, whoa, that is cool. I don’t know what that is, but that is cool. And you picked it up. And you took it home. And now it’s just kicking around.

But we want you to try and find out what is cool about that rock. So take it home. Take a quick picture of it. Share it with us using the hashtag #NeatRock on Instagram, Twitter, or send it into our website. There’s directions online.

And the cool thing is we’ve got a bunch of our friends at the American Geosciences Institute who have graciously volunteered to help you figure out what is cool about your neat rock.

IRA FLATOW: And this is Science Friday from PRI, Public Radio International. Talking with Charles Bergquist about finding a neat rock.

Now, I already put mine out there. I found– I did exactly what you– I went through my drawers. I found a really neat rock. It’s up there on Instagram. It’s up on our website and stuff. And it’s not a hard thing to do. You know? Do I need to tell you anything about the rock when I find it, besides where maybe I found it?

CHARLES BERGQUIST: Sure. You know, any information you have about it or observations you can make about are clearly helpful. Right? Is it weathered? It is smooth? Is it sharp? Is it pointy? Does it look like it’s all one thing? Or does it look like it’s got a lot of different things mixed in there? Is it shiny? Can you see little facets or crystals or something like that? Those are all bits of information about the rock that will help us tell its story.

IRA FLATOW: And actually, hopefully, this is what I’m hoping about my rock. When I posted it up there, I said, I forgot where I got this, or where it came from. Hopefully, because we’re crowdsourcing it, somebody will look at it and say, oh, I know where this came from.

CHARLES BERGQUIST: Exactly. I mean, the goal here is that we are trying to build a virtual rock collection of everybody’s cool rocks so that it’s not just sitting on your desk, it’s sitting on all of our desks. And we can all admire it and learn something about it. Because rocks are really neat. And they can tell you a lot about the history of both how that particular rock came to be and about the history of the Earth itself.

Did it start out at the bottom of the ocean for millions of years? Did it come from the bottom of– inside of a volcano? There’s all kinds of different backstories to that neat rock that we want to share with everybody else.

IRA FLATOW: Sort of like a John McPhee idea.


IRA FLATOW: He was Mr. Rock Man.

CHARLES BERGQUIST: You can rewrite coming into the country all by yourself right now with us this month on Science Friday Science Club.

IRA FLATOW: Again, go out, find a neat rock. Right?

CHARLES BERGQUIST: Find a neat rock. Share it with us on social media, hashtag #NeatRock, Instagram or Twitter. If you go to our website at sciencefriday.com/scienceclub, you can also find a form that you can submit your picture. And if you really need to email it to us, you can do that, or postal mail us. We even take that.

IRA FLATOW: There’s one thing we want you not to do though. Right?

CHARLES BERGQUIST: Yeah, so we don’t actually want you to send us physical rocks.

IRA FLATOW: That would be too much.

CHARLES BERGQUIST: Yeah, I mean, Rachel who opens our mail would probably not appreciate getting thousands of rocks sitting on her desk. But you know, if you are a teacher or something, an educator, and you say, this is something I want to do, there’s a lot of cool things about rocks, but I’m not a geologist, I don’t know enough about it, we’ve actually got an online webinar set up for a couple of weeks from now on Wednesday the 18th at 7:00 PM. And some of our friends at the American Geosciences Institute will help teach teachers how to interpret their students’ rocks. So that’s something else that we’re doing this week.

IRA FLATOW: Wow, that’s great. You know, it’s already working for me. I’m getting people who’ve looked at my rock. Someone says it’s maybe a coprolite. Somebody says it could be a rose rock.

CHARLES BERGQUIST: All kinds of ideas. I mean, I know that I’ve been seeing traffic already. Somebody earlier during the show was sending in pictures of her fossilized piece of coral. And it was really gorgeous.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah, I saw it.

CHARLES BERGQUIST: And we want you to be very inclusive in your definition of what is a rock. Right? Some of our friends pointed out that if it’s something that’s in your world, and it’s not synthesized chemically, and it’s not something that grew, there’s a good chance that it was mined or has some kind of geologic component to it. So even that gypsum in your wallboard could be your neat rock.

IRA FLATOW: Because we all know that the rocks on top of Mt. Everest were once at the bottom of the ocean.

CHARLES BERGQUIST: Isn’t that crazy?

IRA FLATOW: That’s crazy.

CHARLES BERGQUIST: That’s what we mean when we say that every rock has a story to it. Right? And you know, the other thing that we want to– part of the reason that we’re doing this is I know that you’ve all been looking for a way to celebrate National Earth Science Week, which is next week. And so if you want to get in on the ground floor, hashtag #NeatRock, sciencefriday.com/scienceclub, and you can participate in our virtual rock collection.

IRA FLATOW: Thank you, Charles. Charles Bergquist is one of the founding members of the Science Friday Science Club. Again, sciencefriday.com/scienceclub.

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