Robert D. Blackledge’s favorite structure is:

Bismuth

Bismuth

Source: Image by Micha L. Rieser

Why?

Looking at the photo it’s obvious that their beauty and geometric symmetry are the main reasons my favorite crystals are those formed by bismuth. However, other metals also form beautiful crystals with interesting symmetry. But bismuth may be obtained cheaply and is comparatively safe to work with and handle. A teach may divide a class into several groups and have each group grow bismuth crystals, but have each group grow their crystals with one condition (example, cooling rate) different from the other groups. The images of the crystals grown by each group could be viewed and their digital images captured by a smart phone. Then an app on the smart phone could measure the length and width of the top of each hopper-like crystal, calculate the area of each, and determine the mean area for the crystals by each group and the standard deviation in the mean area for the crystals of each group. Comparing the results of the various groups would lead to a class discussion of statistics and of the possible effects on crystal size of each of the varying conditions. These same experiments would be of great interest to hobbyists wanting to grow bismuth crystals for insertion into items of jewelry.—Robert D. Blackledge

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