back to kids mainback to the MBMGWord Puzzles Glossary


aquifer Aquifer diagramAn underground geologic formation composed of materials such as rock, sand, soil, or gravel that can store and supply ground water to wells and springs. A ground water supply is usually considered an aquifer if it contains enough water to supply the water needs for a community (water-bearing formation).
arsenic A hexagonal mineral, the native metallic element As and atomic number 33. It is brittle and commonly occurs in steel-gray granular or kidney-shaped masses. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250. Arsenic is a metalloid. It can exist in various allotropes, although only the gray form has important use in industry.

The main use of metallic arsenic is for strengthening alloys of copper and especially lead (for example, in car batteries). Arsenic is a common n-type dopant in semiconductor electronic devices, and the optoelectronic compound gallium arsenide is the most common semiconductor in use after doped silicon.

Arsenic and its compounds, especially the trioxide, are used in the production of pesticides, treated wood products, herbicides, and insecticides. These applications are declining, however. It is notoriously poisonous to multicellular life, although a few species of bacteria are able to use arsenic compounds as respiratory metabolites. Arsenic contamination of groundwater is a problem that affects millions of people across the world.

bedrock A general term for the rock, usually solid, that underlies soil or other unconsolidated, superficial material (solid geology).
clinker The baked rock above burnt coalbeds.
coal A readily combustible rock containing more than 50% by weight and more than 70% by volume of carbonaceous material. This fossil fuel is formed from plant remains that have been compacted, hardened, chemically altered, and metamorphosed by heat and pressure over geologic time (black diamond).
contour An imaginary line on the surface of the earth connecting points of the same elevation or a line drawn on a map or chart connecting points of the same elevation.
copper A reddish or salmon-pink cubic mineral, the native element Cu. It is ductile and malleable, a good conductor of heat and electricity, used as the base metal in brass, bronze, and other alloys.
dip The maximum angle that a structural surface , e.g. bedding or fault plane, makes with the horizontal; measured perpendicular to the strike of the structure and in the vertical plane. To be tilted or inclined at an angle.
energy The capacity for doing work as measured by the capability of doing work (potential energy), or the conversion of this capability to motion (kinetic energy). Energy has several forms, some of which are easily convertible and can be changed to another form useful for work. Most of the world’s convertible energy comes from fossil fuels that are burned to produce heat that is then used as a transfer medium to mechanical or other means in order to accomplish tasks. Electrical energy is usually measured in kilowatt-hours, while heat energy is usually measured in British thermal units (BTU).
environment All those external factors and conditions which may influence an organism or a community (habitat).
eon The primary division of geologic time, from oldest to youngest. The eons are Hadean, Archean, Proterozoic, and Phanerozoic eons. (See our timeline)
epoch An increment of geologic time; it is a subdivision of a period. Example: the Pleistocene Epoch is in the Quaternary Period.
era The formal geochronologic unit next in order of magnitude below an eon, during which the rocks of the corresponding era were formed; e.g. the Paleozoic Era, the Mesozoic Era, and the Cenozoic Era. Each of these includes two or more periods, during each of which a system of rocks was formed. Long-recognized Precambrian eras are the Archyeozoic(older ) and Preterozoic (younger).
fault A fracture in the earth's crust along which slippage has occurred (paraclase). There are two major kinds of faults:

Dip/slip faults show a vertical change:Normal Fault one wall, usually called the hanging wall, is higher than the lower surface, or footwall. Dip/slip faults can be caused by compression, which can force one side up above the other, or by tearing forces, in which the separate sides of the fault move apart.

Strike/slip faults show horizontal change, as compressive or tearing forces displaceStrike slip fault each side of the fault laterally. Faults can exhibit both characteristics, as well, with both vertical and horizontal displacement. Faults are well-known for their interrelationship with earthquakes and some—like the San Andreas fault in southern California—lie under populated areas and are the subject of constant and intense study.

floodplain Any flat or nearly flat lowland that borders a stream or river that may be covered by its water at flood stage; the land described by the perimeter of the maximum probable flood.
fold A curve or bend of a planar structure such as rock strata, bedding planes, foliation, or cleavage. A fold is usually a product of deformation, although its definition is descriptive and not genetic and may include primary structures.
geochemistry The study of the distribution and amounts of the chemical elements in minerals, ores, rock, soils, water, and the atmosphere, and the study of their atoms and ions.
geology The study of the planet Earth—the materials of which it is made, the processes that act on these materials, the products formed, and the history of the planet and its life forms since its origin. Geology considers the physical forces that act on the earth, the chemistry of its constituent materials, and the biology of its past inhabitants as revealed by fossils.
geoscience Sciences related to Earth and its environment; e.g. geology, hydrogeology, paleontology, soil sciences, geochemistry, meteorology, oceanography.
gneiss (pronounced nice) A foliated rock formed by regional metamorphism, in which bands of granular mineral alternate with bands in which minerals having flaky or elongate prismatic habits predominate. Although gneiss is commonly feldspar- and quartz-rich, the mineral composition is not an essential factor in its definition. Varieties are distinguished by texture (e.g., augen gneiss), characteristic minerals (e.g., hornblende gneiss), or general composition and /or orgines (e.g., granitic gneiss).
Centenial Gold Nuggett
Highland Centennial Nugget
27.3 troy ounces
A soft, heavy, yellow, cubic mineral, the native metallic element Au. The most malleable and ductile metal known, gold is used as a monetary standard, and in jewelry, dentistry, electronics. Au-198 is used in treating cancer and some other medical conditions. Gold has been known to exist as far back as 2600 BC. Gold comes from the Anglo-Saxon word gold. Its symbol Au comes from the Latin word aurum which means gold.
ground water Water beneath the ground surface that seeped into the soil and rock from above; subsurface water.
hachure hachure exampleOne of a series of short, straight, evenly spaced, parallel lines used on a topographic map for shading and for indicating surfaces in relief (such as steepness of slopes), drawn perpendicular to the contour lines.>>

Cartographic techniques in GIS


hydrographA graph showing the water level (stage), flow, velocity or other properties of water with respect to time. A stream hydrograph commonly shows rate of flow; a ground-water hydrograph, shows water level or head.


ice age Any part of geologic time, from Precambrian onward, in which the climate was notably cold in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and widespread glaciers moved toward the equator and covered a much larger total area than those of the present day: specifically the late glacier epoch, known as the Pleistocene Epoch.
landslide A general term covering a wide variety of mass-movement landforms and process involving the downslope transport, under gravitational influence, of soil and rock material en masse.

When identifying a specific point on the earth a grid system is used, with coordinates referred to as longitude and latitude. The reference point is the Earth's equator. The equator is the imaginary line latitude diagramthat runs along the center of the earth and divides the earth into the northern and southern hemisphere.

In the imaginary grid, latitudinal lines run horizontally and longitudinal lines run vertically. A point's latitude is measured according to its distance from the equator, in relation to the distance to either the north or south pole. The measurement of latitude is in degrees. All points on the equator measure 0 degrees latitude. There are north and south latitudes. The North pole is 90 degrees north. The South Pole is 90 degrees south.

lithology The description of rocks, especially in hand specimens and in outcrops, on the basis of such characteristics as color, mineralogic composition, and grain size. The physical characteristics of a rock.

Longitude are imaginary lines running north to south from the poles on Earth, e.g. the Prime Meridian. It can also be used to locate a place on a map. It is Longitude diagramimaginary great circle on the surface of the earth passing through the north and south poles at right angles to the equator; "all points on the same meridian have the same longitude."

The arc or portion of the equator intersected between the meridian of a given place and the meridian of some other place from which longitude is reckoned, as from Greenwich, England, or sometimes from the capital of a country, as from Washington or Paris. The longitude of a place is expressed either in degrees or in time; as that of New York is 74[deg] or 4 h. 56 min. west of Greenwich.

mapping The act or process of making a map.

Pertaining to the process of metamorphism Metamorphism is the process by which any kind of rock is changed into a metamorphic rock. Metamorphism uses heat and pressure to change the chemistry within a rock. An igneous rock will get "cooked" and look differently after the metamorphose. A sedimentary rock is composed by debris from older pre-existing rocks deposited in layers. These layers will become bent and the new rock will look "squeezed" after the metamorphose.

Examples of metamorphosed rocks:

  • Granite - Gneiss
  • Shale - Slate
  • Limestone - Marble


Minerals are the building blocks of rocks. They are inorganic— not alive and not plants or animals. (An example of a rock that is not a mineral is coal. Coal is a substance formed from decayed plants and animals. Therefore, coal is not considered a mineral.)

Minerals are found in the earth or are naturally occurring substances. They are found in dirt, rocks, and water. They are not made by man. Minerals are chemical substances. Some minerals like gold or silver are made of only one element. Other minerals, like quartz and calcite, are combinations of two or more elements.

Minerals always have the same chemical makeup. For example, quartz will always consist of one part silicon (an element) two parts oxygen (another element). They are usually solid crystals having a number of flat surfaces in an orderly arrangement. For example, a crystal of quartz is always hexagonal because of the way the atoms of silicon and oxygen join together.

About 2,000 minerals have been found. Oxygen is part of many minerals. Minerals containing oxygen make up almost half of the earth's crust. Quartz is a common mineral. Other common minerals are feldspar, mica, and horneblend. Many rocks are made of these common minerals.

Some minerals are rare and expensive. They are called gems. Diamonds, rubies, and emeralds are good examples of such minerals. Gold and silver are also minerals. Together, these natural substances are used to make beautiful jewelry.

mining The art and science of excavating and extracting of commodities from the earth.
Montana A state in northwestern United States on the Canadian border. Known as the Treasure State. It became the 41st state on Nov 8, 1889. Montana is the fourth largest state in the contiguous United States; land area-146,924 sq mi. (380,530,884,608 sq meters); population approx.909,453. Click here for more information on Montana.
oil A naturally occurring complex liquid hydrocarbon, which after distillation and removal of impurities yields a range of combustible fuels, petrochemicals, and lubricants.

Platinum is the rarest metal. It costs double what gold costs. It is formed in igneous rocks that have iron and magnesium in them.  Platinum is found in thin layers along with other metals like copper and gold. 

It is mined using surface and underground mining.  When the igneous rocks are weathered by wind, rain, snow, etc., the platinum is washed down into rivers and streams where it is mined with placer mining.  In the old time silver mines, the miners thought platinum was a junky form of silver and threw it away.  People call platinum “white gold” because it is found in places where gold is mined.  Platinum is found in grains or flakes.  In the United States, we get platinum when copper and gold are processed.  It is mined in Stillwater County, Montana as well as South Africa, Russia, Columbia, Alaska, and Canada.

Platinum is used for surgical instruments, chemical equipment, jewelry, and catalytic converters in cars.  It can be molded easily, so it is used for things like wire and in things that need to be bent. 


Well, what is it? Stinky stuff? Muck? Poison? Yes, all those things... and more. Some is obvious like smoke which you can see but much of it is not obvious at all. Yet you're eating it and drinking it and breathing it most of the time. And what is worse is that all this muck affects all other life on Earth. You can find pollution made by people just about everywhere on the planet. Even remote places like the Arctic are badly polluted by nasty chemicals made by people. The polar bears and seals there have poisonous chemicals made by people in their bodies and so do the Inuit people who live with them. These nasty things kill many animals and make others sick -- including penguins in the Antarctic. They also kill people and make them ill too. There's nowhere on the planet left with no pollution; not even the bottom of the sea or high up in the air.

quake Shaking and vibration at the surface of the earth resulting from underground movement along a fault plane from volcanic activity. A seismic event on another planetary body.
radon An invisible, naturally occurring, colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that is a daughter product of the decay of uranium. The half-life of radon is 3.8 days. Radon concentrations are measured in units of radioactivity called picoCuries. The national average background level of radon in outdoor air is between 0.2 and 0.7 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). For indoor air, the national average is 1.3 pCi/L, but in Montana the average is 5.9 pCi/L.
research A systematic investigation to establish facts.

Faceted Sapphires

Any pure, gem-quality corrundum (a very hard mineral of aluminum oxide used for grinding, smoothing, or polishing or in some crystalline forms as a gem) other than ruby.

seismic Pertaining to an earthquake or earth vibration, including those that are artificially produced.
shale Shale is a very common form of sedimentary rock found in deposits all over the world. It is distinguished by being soft and highly fissile. Shale has a number of ornamental and practical uses, in addition to being a rich source of fossil depositions which can provide information about different eras in Earth's geological history.
stratigraphy That branch of geology which studies the arrangement and succession of strata (layers). It is often used as a relative dating technique to assess the temporal sequence of artifact deposition.
strike and dip

Dip — The maximum angle that a structural surface , e.g. bedding strike and dipor fault plane, makes with the horizontal; measured perpendicular to the strike of the structure and in the vertical plane. To be tilted or inclined at an angle. Strike — The direction or trend taken by a structural surface, e.g. a bedding or fault plane as it intersects the horizontal. Any line which joins two (or more) points of the rock plane which are at the same elevation.

For an excellent example of how to measure strike and dip and use a Brunton compass click here.

topology Study of the properties of geometric configurations. A descripton of the relationship between nodes, lines (arcs), and polygons (areas) in a vector data file.

ZeoliteHeat a glass of water and you'll see steam rise off it sooner or later as it comes to the boil. You certainly don't expect the same thing to happen if you heat a rock—unless it's a special kind of rock called a zeolite, which traps water inside it. Back In 1756, Swedish geologist Axel Cronstedt (1722–1765)—best known as the discoverer of nickel — coined the name "zeolite" because it literally means "boiling stone"; today, the term refers to over 200 different minerals that have all kinds of interesting uses, from water softeners and cat litter to animal food and industrial catalysts.

Zeolites are crystalline rocks that are widely used for commercial, industrial, medical and scientific purposes due to their specific and unique structure. Because they have many uses, zeolites are often synthetically produced,tetradedron and natural zeolite crystals are sought after by rock collectors.

Zeolites have special physical characteristics that separate them from other crystal minerals. They are framework silicates consisting of interlocking tetrahedrons of SiO4 and AlO4. In order to be a zeolite the ratio (Si +Al)/O must equal 1/2.

Back to top