Start your journey.

Start your journey.

logo, app store
logo, google playlogo, google play

Bites of Curiosity

Sign up for a weekly bite of curiosity in your inbox.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Unlock the power of curiosity, wonder, and awe.

The Humane Space app makes it easy and fun to inject more curiosity, wonder, and awe into your daily life — a powerful way to boost well-being.

Start Free Trial
A yellow arrow pointing to the right.
Share on:

Crystals are Everywhere

They are mixed into the building materials of our homes, power our smartphones and computers, decorate our bookshelves, and exist on distant planets. They can reveal the history of our world and help us prepare for the future.

Crystals in Nature

The large and sparkling minerals we most commonly think of as crystals are but a small fraction of the crystals that exist in the universe. From a scientific perspective, crystals are simply atoms arranged in an orderly and repeatable pattern. These atoms can be arranged in different patterns to create various structures. Often, the structure the atoms naturally form is reflected in a crystal’s shape. Many elements, minerals, and compounds have crystalline structures, like sand, ice, sugar, chocolate, DNA, and silicon.

Crystals have been around for eons and appear throughout the known universe. Given their age, crystals are helping us understand Earth’s geological past. Unearthed zircon crystals from 4 billion years ago have given us insights into how and when the Earth’s crust formed and when plate tectonics began shaping the world as we know it.1 Zircon is an incredibly hardy crystal that remains intact through tectonic subduction or the recycling of plate crust. Throughout their existence, zircon minerals preserve the history of their formation within their inner layers. Studying these crystals and other ancient minerals will help us understand how life evolved on this planet.

A spindle whorl was a disk-shaped object used to make cloth for bedding and garments. If found on archaeological sites, it was usually an indication of the “spinning” method of textile production. Whorls can be made of many different types of materials including stone, pottery, wood, ivory, or other raw materials.

Rock crystal spindle whorl, ca. 2200–1450 B.C., diameter 3/4", courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequest of Richard B. Seager, 1926.

Crystals in Technology

Crystals also play a vital role in our current lives and the development of our future. Crystalline minerals and elements are used in many fields, including artificial intelligence, clean energy, communications, computation, and health care. One of the most important crystals within technology is silicon.

Silicon is one of the most common elements on Earth and exists throughout our universe within space dust and planets. You likely recognize silicon in one of its various forms, like sand, porcelain, or the clear and rose-colored crystals called quartz. Silicon has revolutionized civilization in the past century, as it plays a vital role in digital technology. It is the primary component of many transistors, diodes, and semiconductors – all of which are the basic building blocks of most modern technologies. The computer or smartphone you are using not only includes chips made using silicon, but these devices also rely on silicon to power the internet you are connected to and to manage the flow of energy that charges your device.

Wine crystals, Fernan Federici and Jim Haseloff.A microscopic exploration of crystals in daily life substances. Transmitted light and polarizing filters are used to provide coloration to transparent crystals in wine.

Images courtesy Wellcome Collection.


1 Sumner, Thomas. “Remnants of Earth's Original Crust Preserve Time before Plate Tectonics.”, Science News, 8 Aug. 2019.

Start your journey.

Start your journey.

logo, app store
logo, google playlogo, google play