Friday, February 26, 2010

Hazenite, a mineral named after earth scientist Robert M. Hazen

Hazenite is a hydrous alkali magnesium phosphate with the formula KNaMg2(PO4)2·14H2O [1,2]. This mineral was discovered and described by Hexiong Yang of the University of Arizona and named after Robert M. Hazen, a senior staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory and Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University [3].

Hazenite is a white, vitreous, and transparent mineral (see picture on page 64 in [3]). It is precipitated by microbes in the highly alkaline Mono Lake in Mono County, California. Hazenite, like many minerals on Earth, owes its existence to life. Current knowledge of the formation process of hazenite supports the hypothesis/fact of co-dependence and co-evolution of organisms and minerals. The subtitle of a recent article by Robert Hazen summarizes this view [3]:
Looking at the mineral kingdom through the lens of deep time leads to a startling conclusion: most mineral species owe their existence to life.
The lifeless matter is, from the viewpoint of a large time-scale, becoming alive. Geology is going to recognize terms like species and kingdom that are commonly associated with biological nomenclature and taxonomy.

Synonym/code for hazenite: IMA2007-061 [2].

Keywords: earth science, mineralogy, geochemistry, biology, history

[1] Carnegie Institution for Science: Hazenite officialy approved as a new mineral.
[2] The mineral and locality database: Hazenite.
[3] Robert M. Hazen: Evolution of Minerals. Scientific American March 2010, 302 (3), pp. 58-65.

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