How well do you know geology?

Jodi C.

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Geology: A scientific discipline 4.6 billion years in the making! Is your knowledge of the subject solid as a rock? Or as crumbly as talc? Find out now, with our quiz!

"Geology" comes from the words meaning "earth" and "lore" in what language?

The key here is the word "logos," which as "-logy" appears in many academic subjects. So does "-sophy," from the Greek word for "wisdom."

Which of these is not a layer of the Earth?

Geology teachers sometimes also divide the core into its inner and outer core, or the mantle into inner and outer mantle. But no matter how many layers you divide the earth into, "diaspora" isn't one of them. It's a term from demography, having to do with a population spreading to other regions.

Seismology, related to geology, is the study of what?

A seismologist studies faults and earthquakes. They don't seem to have much luck predicting them, though.

When magma erupts from a volcano we usually call it ______.

We also call it dangerous! Fortunately, the signs of an impending volcanic eruption are usually not subtle.

What is the hardest mineral on Earth?

Though quality of diamond varies, most can only be scratched by another diamond. It's possible that the popularity of diamonds for engagement rings comes not from the fact that they are beautiful to look at, but because they can stand up to everyday wear, as engagement rings need to do.

Which mineral often smells like rotten eggs?

Sulfur, once known as "brimstone," gets a bad rap. An element on the periodic table, it has many important uses, including pharmaceutical ones.

Which of these substances is ferromagnetic?

Lodestone, aka magnetite, attracts iron. There's more to magnetism than just ferromagnetism (the kind exhibited by iron and similar metals). Magnetism is a subject so complex it led the Insane Clown Posse, in the "Miracles" video, to imply that it is unexplained. This, in turn, led a bunch of Internet wonks to point them, helpfully, toward online explanations.

If you study glaciology, what are you studying?

Glaciers are large, long-lasting bodies of ice that move slowly under the power of their own weight. Most glaciers are found on the polar ice caps.

A hard cast or impression of living matter in rock is called a _______.

Even soft-bodied creatures or leaves can create fossils, under the right circumstances. The totality of the fossils we have available to study is known as the "fossil record," and it tells us about the earth's past.

Geologists are important to which of these fields?

Geologists work in oil and mining exploration, and other fields that have to do with finding and using the Earth's natural resources. In climatology, geologists help to interpret the Earth's past climate, using the clues left behind in rock and soil.

Water erosion from the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon in what U.S. state?

The Grand Canyon isn't the deepest canyon in the world, but it's still impressive. Its steep-sided walls reveal a good deal of geologic history to someone with a trained eye.

Which of these terms describes the gradual breakdown of rock?

Erosion is the breakdown of rock due to natural forces. Wind, water, and gravity can all lead to erosion.

What is the name scientists have given the single land mass on the Earth 300 million years ago?

"Pangaea" combines "Gaea," the Greek name for Mother Earth, with "Pan-" meaning "all" or "complete." Pangaea isn't even the first "supercontinent," geologists say. Earth has a long, long history!

What makes a metamorphic rock metamorphic?

A metamorphic rock started out as an igneous or sedimentary rock. Or, in some cases, it might have changed from another sort of metamorphic rock.

What kind of rock is often found in flat, sharp-edged pieces?

The geologic definition of shale is complicated, but you'll know it when you see it. There's often a big loose scatter of it, and it's not advisable to walk on if it's on a grade.

Which of these is a force that creates a metamorphic rock?

Heat and pressure change igneous and sedimentary rocks into metamorphic. Nature invented the pressure cooker long before humans did!

Fossils are only formed in _______ rock.

Igneous rock comes from magma, which is far too hot to preserve most life forms intact. Metamorphic rock comes from the breakdown and re-forming of other rocks. But soft sediment envelops organic material and can preserve it.

Fossilized tree resin is known as ______.

Amber sometimes traps once-living creatures in its flow. You might have seen amber paperweights or pendants with a dragonfly or something similar inside.

All rock falls in one of three categories. Which one is NOT one of them?

This question was a bit tricky, as the words "meta-" and "meso-" are closely related. But "meso-" tends to mean "middle or medium," while "meta-" is about change.

The crust of the earth is broken up into segments known as what?

Plate tectonics is the body of knowledge that explains continental drift and how earthquakes happen. It is closely related to the field of seismology.

What is the term for a large piece of ice breaking off a glacier?

Often, a loud cracking sound accompanies a glacier calving. If the glacier is next to a body of water, an iceberg is created.

The gradual hardening of small mineral particles creates ______ rock.

You might have used the word "sediment" to refer to the darker-colored, more flavorful particles in the bottom of a bottled drink. So, hey: maybe if you let your Snapple sit for a million years, you'd have Snapple rock.

Soil deposited by rivers is known as what?

Rich alluvial deposits are usually found at river mouths and deltas. Fun fact: "Polder" is the Dutch word meaning "land reclaimed from the sea."

Igneous rock is also called what?

Igneous rock is formed from cooled magma. And magma is pretty much melted rock ... reduce, reuse, recycle is nature's motto!

Which of these planets could a spacefaring geologist NOT study?

Saturn is a gas giant. The "terrestrial" planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, and of course, Earth. They have solid rock and soil to be studied.

The Jenolan Caves, the world's largest open caves, are in New South Wales on which continent?

The Jenolan Caves are a popular tourist attraction in Eastern Australia. They include a cave called "the Temple of Baal." (Which sounds kind of scary to us!)

What is the term for sediment becoming rock?

"Lithos" means rock in, you guessed it, Greek. Lithology is the specific study of rocks.

Are there glaciers in the ocean?

Glaciers are large bodies of ice on land. The name for floating ice in water is "iceberg," as any Titanic scholar knows.

The long process by which rocks are made, broken down and remade is called _________.

The rock cycle isn't just how sedimentary or igneous rocks turn into metamorphic ones. Sedimentary rock can erode and crumble into sediment, then be compressed back into sedimentary rock. Or rock can melt, become magma, and cool, becoming igneous rock.

What mineral has a black mirrorlike exterior when gently tumbled, but is red when sliced into?

Some quiz-takers might remember this tidbit from the "Secret Circle" series of books written by L.J. Smith (better known as the author of "The Vampire Diaries.") Her witch protagonist, Cassie Blake, had a special affinity for hematite, her "working crystal."

About how many active volcanos are there on Earth at present?

Some tourist destinations are famous for their volcanos, like Hawaii and Japan. Then there are famous volcanos in history -- like Vesuvius, that destroyed Pompeii.

Is the earth's core solid or liquid?

The Earth's core is extremely hot, so it's easy to imagine it being entirely liquid. But only the outer core is liquid; the inner core is solid.

Geology is not limited to the Earth. The study of the moon's geological features is called ________.

The moon has a core, mantle and crust, like Earth does. But it doesn't have an atmosphere, so erosion from wind or water doesn't happen on the moon.

What drives the movements of the Earth's plates?

The Earth convects like an oven, transferring heat to its cooler surface. This causes the plates to move past or away from each other, putting pressure on faults, where the plates meet.

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