Close-ups of his brightly colored rock and mineral slides drew such oohs and ahhs from neighborhood children -- including his own -- that Dr. John Reed got an inspiration.
Could he turn the slides into a virtual science course, a supplemental resource for junior high and older students curious about geology?Dr. Reed, an environmental professional with training in geology, teamed up with former Savannah River Site colleague Chris Bennett to create a software program that displays rock and mineral pictures along with hyperbox texts -- the "help balloons" familiar to software users. Mr. Bennett, now living in Dallas, has continued to contribute to the project.
Besides identifying rocks and minerals, the learning module has background information on geology, a glossary on technical terms in the presentation and a self-test at the end.
The course will be marketed nationally in September as Rocks from the Inside Out, tentatively priced at $14.95. New Covenant Inc., a producer of Christian software programs based in Augusta, will distribute a first run of 1,000 copies, targeted for Christian bookstores, home-schoolers and possibly other markets. "It is a home-school natural," said Greg Rowland, owner of New Covenant.
Dr. Reed credits Mr. Rowland for making the project a reality. The fact that the children liked the slides was interesting, but without a businessman he had nowhere to go with it, Dr. Reed said.
He thinks that the program, written from a Christian perspective, will be especially helpful to home-schoolers who share that viewpoint, he said. "I definitely had home-schoolers in mind when I designed this."
Nothing on the package, however, will say "Christian" or "creation science," said Mr. Rowland. "But nothing in the program supports evolution or anything that is opposed to what we believe."Evolution is the theory that all species evolved. Some Christians combine evolution with a belief in a Creator -- that God allowed species to evolve. Other Christians maintain that evolution played no part in creation, a belief called creation science.
Rocks from the Inside Out offers an in-depth look at one small area of geology, called petrography, the study of rocks using a polarizing or petrographic microscope.
A petrographic microscope shines polarized light through ultrathin slices of rock taken from core samples. "Usually the source of light is on top of the slide instead of (shining) through it -- you are reflecting down instead of shining up," said Dr. Reed.
Like a detective looking for clues, scientists can determine the genesis and development of rock, which can help in finding oil or gas.
Streaks of gold, red, blue, purple, white and black lay hidden in mica, feldspar, quartz and other minerals until grains are sliced open.
Some substances like anhydrite and zeolite show delicate plant-like structures, eerily dramatic when slides are black and white. These structures could never be seen with the naked eye, he said.
Dr. Reed's collection of specimens came mainly from eastern Slovakia and were collected when he worked in Brataslava, Slovakia, in 1989.
"People think of rocks as solid and unchanging, but they are formed by heat and pressure. When they are taken out of that, they change," said Dr. Reed.
He wanted to devise a program that would keep students' interest, or at least teach about being aware of the beauty of nature, he said.
A scientist should recognize God, he said. "It is his creation."