Friday, August 27, 2010

The IMA Medalist is a snappy dresser

My interest in clothing and fashion is normally restricted to 12th Century and earlier. I just don’t find the trends that fashion have gone through since then to be pretty. However, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful black linen which formed the suit worn by Frank Hawthorne, winner of the IMA Medal for Outstanding Contributions in Mineralogy Research. Most modern men’s suits are polyester if they are cheap (and how they can tolerate to wear such a non-breathable fibre is beyond me), or wool if they are nice (much better!), but his is the first I’ve seen in linen (one of my favorite fibers), and despite being in a cut which doesn’t interest me, I couldn’t help but admire the colour (black shirt, black jacket, black trousers, all of a lovely, dark, shiny, new looking shade), and even thought the colour of the dark purple tie looked nice in contrast with the rest of the outfit. (However, I still don’t like the shape and location of ties. What is wrong with nice, contrasting colour collar and hems, like were used in part of the Middle Ages?)
But enough about clothing. What about his talk? That was fascinating. He managed to put an awful lot of very complex information into a fairly short amount of time, and while most of it was totally new information to me, he did it in such a way as I felt like I understood what he was saying the whole time.
His topic was from theoretical mineralogy, focusing on the bond-topological basis of structure stability and mineral reactions. He explained how the bonds between atoms in a mineral can be used to predict the stability of a compound. For simple atoms it is necessary that that the atoms on either side of a bond have roughly matching levels of acidity or baseness, making predictions easy—if the cation and anion involved have just about as much level of acid as base, then the molecule will be stable. He also demonstrated how this principal can be extrapolated up to very complex mineral structures, but while it made sense looking at it as he spoke, I’ll not try to explain it now without the diagrams in front of me.

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