Silica and Sand Castles - a science project for the beach
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Silica and Sand Castles

Sand castle

If you want to see some real silica, go to the beach or to a playground with a sandbox. Beach sand (which is also what people put in sandboxes) is nearly all silica (actually molecules of silicon and oxygen). Notice how easy it is to get wet sand to stick together - that's the beginning of the formation of sandstone.

Look at sand through a magnifying glass to see how the little grains of sand look like glass - because glass is made out of sand (in fact, the magnifying glass itself is made from sand). Or, if you're at the beach and don't have a magnifying glass, use a good cellphone camera and zoom in on the sand. Take some sand home and look at it under a microscope. Is all the sand really rocks? These days, thanks to pollution, a lot of beach sand is actually tiny pieces of plastic, from plastic bags and bottles that were thrown away into the ocean and broke down into little tiny pieces.

More about silica
More about glass

Bibliography and further reading about silica and sand:

Silica
Molecules
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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