Living Crystals, Part 2

What exactly is gained by expanding the borders of crystallography to incorporate living things? Gould and Lewontin’s paper on the “architectural” origin of evolutionary byproducts suggests one possible answer. Another might be found in Erwin Schrödinger’s postulation that genetic information is stored and transmitted by way of “aperiodic” crystals — a notion which may have helped Watson, Crick and Franklin discover DNA.

More To It?

But could there be more to it? Is there some prior, subjective satisfaction onto which functional/methodological justification is bolted on after the fact? Truth is — before any of the malarkey about evolutionary theory — there is something purely and simply delightful about making a conceptual connection between a vug brimming with calcite crystals and a meadow bespangled with wildflowers.

Of course, sometimes this metaphorical delight derives from the alien becoming less so as it’s refracted through the lens of something familiar. We say horsts are like boats floating on the mantle. God is likened unto a jealous monarch or a father or a mother. The foundation of the Universe is a chorus of buzzing strings.

Endorphins And Connectivity

In the case of plants-as-crystals, though, I’m not sure anything’s been made more digestible. At least not for me. I know as little about how fluorite forms in the depths of the Earth as I do about the unfurling of a mountain iris in the Jemez.

Maybe increased connectivity and the attendant gush of endorphins are justification enough; usefulness, meanwhile, might just be an added bonus. Besides, like penstemons and gypsum hairs, all useful insights start with a seed. And who can say what seeds will germinate and blossom, and what seeds will fail?

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(Today’s photo is courtesy of Natalie Rae Good.)


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