One of the most important substances found on earth is rocks. There are different types of rocks and each one can be used to serve different kinds of purposes. Rocks can be used as a building material, to build tools, to enhance the beauty and utility of homes, and even to clean surfaces. Humans must always have a steady supply of rocks. It is therefore a good thing that the rock cycle ensures that the people on this planet will always have access to rocks. The following pages will explain the rock cycle as well as the experiment conducted to prove that there is a scientific basis to the rock cycle thesis.
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The main argument behind the rock cycle is the assertion that rocks are not destroyed but undergo a transformation that after a long process will result in the creation of new rocks. Thus, if one can see broken rocks and rocks pulverized by erosion and the effects of wind, water, and human activity one should not be worried because these rock particles – after undergoing a process – will return to their previous rock-solid shape.
The following information will help explain the importance of rocks in general and the rock cycle in particular. The following is a list of rocks with their corresponding uses:
- Basalt (Igneous rocks) – can be sued in building roads.
- Granite (Igneous rocks) – can be used to build beautiful tombstones and monuments.
- Marble (Metamorphic rocks) – Floors made of marble, and counters made of marble are not only about utility but also for aesthetics purposes.
- Pumice (Igneous rocks) – this can be used as a scrubbing material or as a cleaning agent.
- Slate (Metamorphic rocks) – these durable rocks can be used as roofing material for roofs.
Underneath the earth’s surface are superheated rocks that are called magma. It is common knowledge that heat, especially high temperatures causes substances to move. Rock matter subjected to this level of heat can be transformed into a liquid state and therefore can be moved with ease. The very hot magma will move up from below. If magma finds its way underneath a volcano, the pressure builds up, and finally, at a critical point, the volcano will erupt, spewing magma. When magma cools down it will form igneous rocks.
Since magma contains rock matter and minerals that was mixed by the high temperatures when magma cools down and form igneous rocks one can also discover the different kinds of minerals contained in the said igneous rocks. When igneous rocks are exposed to the elements they will undergo a process called “weathering” and if it breaks down it will experience erosion. Rainwater as well as wind and earthquakes can speed up the weathering process as well as erosion.
Igneous rocks broken down by natural forces can then be transported and deposited by streams, wind, glacier water, or ocean currents. If sedimentary rocks are deposited in rivers and in places where it is exposed to wind and water a different type of sedimentary rocks are formed – clastic sedimentary rocks. But when sedimentary rocks are deposited deep in the ocean non clastic sedimentary rocks are formed and characterized by the minerals found in them. Examples of nonclastic sedimentary rocks are limestone, rock salt, rock gypsum, and Chert.
Sedimentary rocks can be broken down even further and then hundreds of years of the “weathering” and erosion process will result in the piling up of rocks. The weight of the rock and the heat coming from the earth’s molten core will cause heat and pressure to change the composition of the rocks, specifically the mineral content of the rocks. The result is a new type of rock called metamorphic which comes from the term metamorphosis or transformation. If metamorphic rocks are exposed to greater pressure and more heat then the rocks can melt and transform into magma. And the cycle goes on and on.
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To fully understand the rock cycle an experiment was conducted using white and black chocolate chips to resemble rock matter. The proponent of the experiment began to cut the chocolate chips into pieces and then pulverize them using hands and fingers. This action mimics the “weathering” process experienced by exposed igneous rocks. The process of cutting and breaking down the chocolate chips continues until the chips are simplified further.
There are two kinds of chocolate chips one is white and the other is black. This represents the different mineral compositions found in rocks. The white and black chocolate chips also help in visualizing a feature of the rock cycle process where minerals are mixed or moved from one place to the next. Going back to the experiment the constant cutting and breaking of the chocolate chips will reduce it into something that is of finer consistency.
At the beginning of the experiment, the chocolate chips are more stable and solid that it requires a knife to cut through and break it into pieces. But in the latter part, the chips are reduced to an almost fine powder. Then the black and white chocolate powder – it could no longer be called chocolate chips because of the fine consistency of the chocolate – are mixed. One could easily see the effect of the mixture. Part of the mixture is colored black or dark brown and the other is colored white.
Then the result of the process is layered on top of a tin foil. The layering process mimics mother nature’s erosion where rock particles are moved from the mountains down into river beds, streams, oceans, etc. The tinfoil is then folded to mash the chocolate together. Then a burner is used to heat the tin foil. The burner mimics the heat coming from the earth’s molten core while folding the tin foil mimics the pressure exerted by tons of rocks piled on top of each other.
The heat and the pressure allowed the white and dark chocolate substances to melt and mix. The result is dark brown chocolate with white color presumably coming from the milky substance of the white chocolate. If more heat and more pressure are added the chocolate will melt and this mimics the transformation of metamorphic rocks into magma and the cycle goes on and on.
Rocks are an integral part of human existence. Without rocks, mankind would have no building materials to create sturdy and beautiful homes, buildings, monuments, and even tombstones. But aside from constructing materials rocks are also part of the earth’s geography. Soil comes from weathered rocks and therefore without it there would be no vegetation on earth and no living things either.
Concern over the sustainability of rocks and continuous access to them is a legitimate concern. But there is no reason to worry because rocks do not disappear they merely change from one form to another. Although this process takes years to complete the rock cycle will ensure the sustainable supply of rocks on the planet. The rock cycle is a helpful way of understanding why there are igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, and metamorphic rocks. This also helps explains why there are minerals embedded in rocks. Some of the minerals are the reason why there are precious stones buried underneath the earth while other minerals are the source of beneficial materials that are needed in various industries.
But the rock cycle can be a highly theoretical proposition. An experiment is required to help understand the rock cycle process. The experiment described in the preceding pages is a simple demonstration of how rocks transform from one form to another and ensures how future generations will always have their steady supply of rock material. The use of chocolate chips is a wise choice because it can easily be broken down and the shape can be further simplified. The availability of white and dark chocolate is also very helpful because it can help demonstrate that different rocks have different mineral compositions.
Moreover, the use of the chocolate chips enables the proponents of the experiment to heat it while retaining consistency and mimics the behavior of rocks when under tremendous heat and pressure. The mixture of white and dark chocolate is a good visual aid when it comes to understanding how rocks are melted to become magma before they can be spewed out from the mouth of a volcano. And the cycle goes on and on.