Do You Know Where Your Sand Comes From?
August 10, 2018 7:39 AM   Subscribe

It may be from little Spruce Pine, North Carolina. There's lots of mineral wealth in the southern Appalachians, and the best and purest quartz sand is found in a tiny town in Mitchell County NC. Without it, you don't get your fancy phones and the like.
posted by MovableBookLady (9 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
And yet the area is still impoverished. Mining was still a terrible job 70 years ago, and equally environmentally destructive, but at least the workers got paid enough to drive some prosperity (and three trains a day). All hail late stage capitalism.
posted by tavella at 8:29 AM on August 10 [4 favorites]


When I was in geology school, our petrology class spent an afternoon digging in a hole in the woods near Spruce Pine. It's really a cool place, if you like minerals. There is a small museum that has some massive quartz crystals, and other things, and talks about the history of mica mining there.
posted by Maxwell's demon at 8:49 AM on August 10 [7 favorites]


Here's a link to the gemstone mines in the same area as Spruce Pine. It's a popular thing to do. NC Gemstones
posted by MovableBookLady at 9:25 AM on August 10


Oddly, I was just there earlier this summer. It's beautiful and now I see where the glassblowers get the raw materials for their amazing creations.
posted by Stewriffic at 10:52 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Its downtown consists of a somnambulant train station

Somnambulant train station? That I've got to see.

Terrified of the water surrounding them, the mica grains will frantically grab hold of the air bubbles

Perhaps he's taking hydrophobic a little too literally.

Transistors, which are tiny electronic switches that control the flow of electricity, offered a way to replace those tubes and make these new machines even more powerful while shrinking their tumid footprint.

Tumid footprint? He's trying much too hard.

Semiconductors—a small class of elements, including germanium and silicon, which conduct electricity at certain temperatures while blocking it at others—looked like promising materials for making those transistors.

This isn't exactly how semiconductors work.

A fire in 2008 at one of the main quartz facilities in Spruce Pine ... sending shivers through the industry.

Mixed metaphors?

Apologies, I must be feeling grumpy today.
posted by JackFlash at 11:47 AM on August 10 [6 favorites]


JackFlash - no, I tripped over much the same purple gems. And I'm never grumpy.

I did briefly wonder whether somnambulant might actually work, as I've sat on plenty of platforms in rural railway stations watching some train slowly pull through without stopping. But that was the train, not the station, and so I conclude that the writer thinks the word is a five dollar variant of sleepy, and that the editor - if such a beast existed - didn't know or care otherwise.

To get back on track a little, this is the second time a chunk of the electronic industry has depended on a highly controlled source of quartz. The first was in WWII, when the only known source good enough for the recently developed frequency standard quartz crystals was Brazil, and the US took a great deal of trouble in keeping a monopoly grip on things. The crystals revolutionised battlefield comms, and gave the Allies a big and mostly forgotten advantage.
posted by Devonian at 12:30 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


Somnambulant train station? That I've got to see.

"Miyazaki-San? I think you'd better get over here..."
posted by The Bellman at 1:19 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


Apologies, I must be feeling grumpy today.
I happily read the article yesterday and was brought up short by those same points. I'm pretty sure "somnolent" was the word he wanted there. .. Anyway, fascinating subject!
posted by Floydd at 1:48 PM on August 10


After nine years, some of the links are now broken but here's my previously.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:28 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


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