Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Big Rock

Okay, so here's the story of the Big Rock.

It starts with Ron, the official car mechanic of the Office of Athletic Communications. A long time ago, TigerBlog bought a Toyota Sienna minivan in New Jersey but needed to have it inspected in Pennsylvania, even though it was brand new.

The dealer said that if TB took the minivan to a specific shop in Pennsylvania, then it would be free. So off TB went, and so a relationship with Ron was launched.

Since then, TigerBlog has referred basically everyone in the OAC to Ron, as well as others in the athletic department. In all, more than 10 others have taken their cars to Ron through the years.

When TigerBlog was there a few weeks ago, Ron started telling him about a big shiny rock, one that he'd found while dirt-biking in the Mohave Desert. He said it was very heavy, very dense and very cold. It was also magnetic.

Ron began to wonder if the rock might actually be a meteorite and asked TB if he knew anyone at Princeton who knew anything about geology. TigerBlog's source for all things geology is John McPhee, who has written extensively on the subject through the years.

Ron gave TB the big rock and asked him to get it checked by someone. TigerBlog was happy to help.

And Ron was definitely right about the big rock. It was really heavy, way heavier than it looked. And it was very cold. And there was a magnet on it, proving that it was in fact magnetic. Could this have traveled to Earth from millions of miles away and crashed into the Mojave?

When TB took it to Mr. McPhee, he and Princeton athletics video dude John Bullis, who was intrigued by the big rock, got a lesson in geology that was pretty interesting.

They also got an appointment with geology professor Adam Maloof.

Unfortunately, in about an instant, Professor Maloof could tell it wasn't a meteorite. That was disappointing.

If it wasn't from outer space, though, what was it? For conclusive evidence, Maloof tracked down a colleague, and he said in about one-one thousandth of a second that it was magnetite.

What is magnetite? According to Wikipedia: Magnetite is a mineral and one of the three common naturally-occurring oxides of iron.

How old is it? Millions and millions of years. How was it formed? At one point is was probably the size of a car or larger, but it was either beaten down by the desert winds or pushed out through the ground by some volcanic pressure.

Then it just sat on the Mojave floor until Ron rode by on his motorbike.

Ron was bummed that it wasn't a meteor. It's still a cool rock though.

And it was a fascinating few hours learning about geology. It's a subject in which TB and Bullis had little background, and both of them were hanging on every word for both Professor Maloof and Mr. McPhee. By the end, TigerBlog wanted to go back in time and change his major from American history to geology.

The bigger piece of the story is that Professor Maloof is a former college baseball player Carleton College in Minnesota. That was before he got his Ph.D. from Harvard.

He's been teaching at Princeton since 2006. And he's also a Faculty Fellow for the baseball team.

Maloof traveled with Princeton to LSU a year ago, and he was on the trip to Louisville this year, TB believes.

The baseball team has its home opener today, when it takes on Seton Hall on Clarke Field at 3:30. After that is this weekend's Ivy League openers, at home, with two games against Dartmouth Saturday and Harvard Sunday.

Both of those weekend doubleheaders begin at noon. There is no admission charge for regular season baseball games at Princeton.

The baseball team is 16 games into this season, without having played at home. That's how it works in the Northeast.

Princeton is also one win away from tying last year's total. The 2016 Tigers stand at 6-10 before today's game, one year removed from 7-32.

Ivy League baseball is very competitive. A year ago, Columbia went 34-17 and came within one game of reaching the NCAA tournament's Super Regional.

The way Ivy baseball works, teams play two games against each team from the other division and then four against each team from its own division. At the end, the two division winners meet.

Softball works the same way.

Princeton, who swept Colgate last weekend in its home opener, also hosts Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend, except the games are Friday and Saturday.

As of right now, no Ivy League baseball team has an above .500 record. On the women's side, only two teams - Dartmouth and Penn - are above .500.

But that's mostly a function of having to play teams who have a huge head start because of the weather, in terms of practice and playing games. At this point, wins and losses don't matter, not until the first pitches this weekend.

Clarke Field is a great place to watch baseball. Class of 1895 Field is a quaint place to watch softball. TigerBlog likes to stand beyond the outfield fence at softball.

There will be nine games on those fields between today and Sunday. Make sure you get out and watch.

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