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Survival Academy: While Dragons Rule

New Scientist Magazine

a part of “Survival Academy: While Dragons Rule”, a fictional universe by shmband.

The Survival Academy gathers the young people of the dwindling population, to learn how to preserve the future of humanity under the reign of dragons

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New Scientist Magazine

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby shmband on Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:53 am

We've finally figured out what to call it - "Obsitrite"

By Helen Baker, writing for "New Scientist" Magazine

It's not the finest testament to the human race that a radical scientific discovery practically falls into our laps (in the form of a 3km wide asteroid) and for six years we really don't get much further than arguing over what to name it.

But I'm being flippant. Of course we've gotten further than that. Two things came out of asteroid 1997XF11. The first was dragons. The second, was a whole lot of rock. But among that rock was a black, extraterrestrial element that had geologists scratching their noodles for a very long time. At a glance, it looks like Obsidian, but whereas Obsidian is a mineral, this space-stuff has more the appearance of a metal ore. It's pitch black with a natural white spotting, much like so-called "snowflake obsidian", popular in gothic jewelry.

You won't see many people wearing it in beads in a necklace though. It's not as though it's rare; there's hundreds of house-sized lumps of it all around the Mexican gulf - or as many people are calling it now, the "Chicxulub sea", in a tip of the hat to the last time god pitched a bad ball at planet earth. (Some cynical observers still refer to 1997XF11 as "strike two"...which is why, I guess, the human race is still not 'out'.)

What makes it unsuitable for jewelry, however (and don't let me give you the impression that fashion is at the front of the scientists' minds...), is the unusual structural properties it possesses. Despite being hard and almost impossible to manually tool, it's actually extremely brittle. It takes a relatively small impact to get it to fracture, but when it does fracture, it does so directly away from the point of impact right through to the furthest point away. In other words, it always breaks into two roughly identically sized pieces, notwithstanding a few small shards at the POI.

Which means that if you've got a lump of obsitrite (such as we're calling it now) which is twenty cubic meters big, you're gonna have to hit it a whole lotta times before you're breaking it into beads. Which is very labour intensive work, and expensive to do. That and no mainstream party is really very interested in actually making jewelry out of the stuff that wiped most of us out.

The ease with which obsitrite shatters does, however, make it ill suited for most practical construction applications, and it may well be that if we ever do sort out the rather more pressing issues that the asteroid left us with, obsitrite use may well be restricted to the decorative.

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shmband
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