Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Feminist sulfates

I have been learning all sorts of new and interesting geology in my new life as an exploration geologist, but one of the things I recently read surprised even me. Economic geology tends to be a conservative, observation-based branch of the discipline. Ideology and activism are very seldom seen. So you can imagine my astonishment when I found papers and reports where barium sulfate suddenly started to self-identify as “Baryte”. Needless to say, I was somewhat taken aback. BaSO4 is an insoluble, highly stable mineral, with a solidly orthorhombic space group of Pbmm. It is not one to subject itself to trendy postmodern spelling fads.

On the other hand, the alkali earths are on the far left fringes of the periodic table, second only to the erotic alkali. So perhaps the insidious nature of political correctness has corrupted their vacant electron shells. And old Europe’s IMA has evidently endorsed the feminist spelling, despite the fact that no self-respecting red blooded American mineralogist would consider typing it.

Of course, being French, they can’t even be consistent with themselves. Despite listing “Baryte” as the correct spelling, the IMA still officially calls the nitrate salt “Nitro-barite”. And nowhere do they use the name “Baryum” for element 56. So forget the fact that the ancient Greeks spelled it with a y thousands of years before they knew what an element was, this is a matter of principle. Just like sphene. I’m with webminerals.com and American Mineralogist on this one. So barite it is, and those left-wing euro-trash crystalogists should consider themselves lucky that I don’t call hydrated calcium sulfate “gipsum.”

p.s. Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize “baryte”, so I must be right.


Sabine said...

"left-wing euro-trash crystalogists"

Another possible name for our band.

Ellery said...

According to Wikipedia:

"When the International Mineralogical Association formed in 1959 the american spelling 'Barite' was chosen as the official over the older 'Baryte'. This decision was reversed in 1978[1]."

[1 Mineralogical Magazine 38, 104 (1971)