CLOSE

This Mexican Cave Is Full of Giant Crystals

In 2000, two miners working for the Peñoles mining company discovered the largest cave crystals anyone had ever seen. A fantastic assortment of sparkling gypsum formations, some more than 36 feet long and weighing up to 55 tons, were growing about a thousand feet beneath the earth at the Naica Mine in Chihuahua, Mexico. The site later came to be known as the "Cueva de Los Cristales,” or Cave of Crystals.

As Dylan Thuras of Atlas Obscura notes in the new video above, scientists estimate the crystals have been growing for half a million years. They’ve formed thanks to interactions between the magma chamber below the cave and the cool waters inside it. According to Thuras, there’s no limit to how much bigger the crystals will get.

Despite the difficulties of exploring the place—it’s more than 100 degrees inside with 100 percent humidity—scientists with the Naica Project have been conducting research on the crystals. They’ve discovered a new type of gypsum formation and looked at the DNA of ancient organisms, among other projects. However, access to the crystals might be fleeting. As Thuras notes, the crystals were revealed when the mining company pumped out groundwater to exploit the precious ores inside the cave. As soon as it doesn’t make financial sense for the mining company to leave the crystals uncovered, they will be flooded again—a return to their natural environment, but one that could leave them sadly off-limits once again.

Header image via Alexander Van Driessche via Wikipedia // CC BY 3.0

arrow
video
26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

Original image
iStock
arrow
video
Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
Original image
iStock

Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios