Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dendrite Myths


A recent post on Orthoprax has brought quite a few readers to this site to examine the geological evidence that plant-like structures in rocks are actually caused by the growth of managanese crystals. An alternative explanation given on a religious web site which Orthoprax links to is that such features are "mysterious engravings" created by God to allow Moses to recognise Mount Sinai when he returned from Egypt after reporting to the Jews about the redemption. The "engravings" are said to represent the burning bush.

It does not surprise me that people have interpreted these features in the rocks as a reflection of divine intervention. They are rather unusual and they do look like branching plants. Such things in fact "demand" to be explained but, millenia ago, absence of chemical analysis equipment and laboratory facilities for experimentation on crystal growth would have made this difficult. The noted similarity with plants is already a step in the right direction as regards interpretation of these structures however since the branching crystal structures grow in the same way that plants grow.

And while we're on the subject, the sculptor Richard Aumonier is back to blogging and his last two posts were both discussions of natural dendritic forms.

Finally, the dendritic image at the top of the page was generated automatically somewhere on the web that I have unfortunately forgotten. It represents in some way the Connaissances blog, with all its related links.


rsaum said...

Hi Jonathan
that post on Orthoprax was intriguing - or rather the comment "Taking a Midrash literally". The distinction being between a poetic or devotional aid and something literal.

Patry Francis said...

A beautiful representation of connection. I like the way your rocks teach you to see.

Jonathan Wonham said...

Richard, yes many religious texts manage to be both poetic AND literal!

Patry, thank you. Actually, I spend so much time staring at seismic at the moment that rocks are more likely to make me blind.