A Marvel Comics superheroine.

Crystal Amaquelin Maximoff was a member of the erstwhile extraterrestrial superhero group called The Inhumans, and possesses control over the elements. As such, she soon came into contact with The Fantastic Four, specifically Johnny Storm, The Human Torch. They entered into a romantic relationship, even against the wishes of the leader of the Inhumans, Black Bolt.

Because of this rift Crystal spent a lot of time with Johnny, even becoming a full fledged member of the FF for an extended period of time during the pregnancy of Sue Storm.

However, all of the Inhumans developed severe allergic reactions to the toxins in Earth's atmosphere, and were forced to emigrate to the Moon, effectively ending her relationship with Johnny (whose cheatin' heart would have done her wrong sooner or later anyway). There, she met and later married the mutant known as Quicksilver.

All characters contained herein were created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Marvel Comics.

A crystal is a solidified form of a substance in which the atoms or molecules are arranged in a definite pattern that is repeated regularly in three dimensions. Crystals form when saturated or supersaturated solutions deposit layer upon layer or a substrate, initially onto a surface and then upon each other. This process generally forms a solid with remarkable geometric properties. Because of the mechanics of crystal formation, the slower the crystal forms, the larger and more perfect it will ultimately be.

The beauty and perfection of crystals has long made them prized possessions for human beings. Diamonds are generally thought to be the most valuable and beautiful crystals. They are composed of a lattice of pure carbon, as is graphite, buckminsterfullerum, and carbon nanotubes. The regular structure, and the properties of carbon, make all of these forms exceptionally strong.

Other fascinating properties of crystals are exploited in electronics: quartz crystals oscillate with sufficient regularity to be used as timepieces, semi-conducting crystals form the basis for modern electronics. The quantum properties of the crystal structure allow fascinating electric properties: one can actually make a transistor from a carbon nanotube twisted properly. Our increasing understanding of quantum mechanics and crystals has allowed the development of the laser and numerous other inventions. The method in which crystal structure is determined is a process called x-ray crystallography. It was through these means that the structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) was determined by Watson and Crick. According to the principle of evolutionary pressure and selfish gene theory, some people have offered the supposition that the development of life on earth, and perhaps elsewhere in the universe, began with crystals.

Semisane's writeup on crystals is quite informative. I wish to give a more precise definition to which I can refer in other writeups on solid state physics.

Definition: A crystal is a set of one or more atoms called a basis that is positioned at every point in a Bravais lattice (see Bravais lattice).

It is helpful to consider an example. A very common and important example is the diamond structure, into which both carbon and silicon crystallize (carbon also crystallizes into other forms, as noted by Semisane). The Bravais lattice of the diamond structure is the face-centered cubic, which looks like this (actually it extends forever in all directions):

Face-centered cubic Bravais lattice


   /|         /|         /|
  / |  o     / |  o     / |
 /  |    o  /  |    o  /  |
X---|------X---|------X   |   . . . to infinity  
| o |      | o |      | o |
|   X------|---X------|---X
|  /| o    |  /| o    |  /|
| / |   o  | / |   o  | / | 
|/  |      |/  |      |/  |    Some o's are missing
X---|------X---|------X   |    here for clarity.
|   |      |   |      |   |       
|   X------|---X------|---X
|  /|      |  /|      |  /|
| / |  o   | / |  o   | / |
|/  |    o |/  |    o |/  |
X---|------X---|------X   |   . . . to infinity  
| o |      | o |      | o |
|   X------|---X------|---X
|  /  o    |  /  o    |  /
| /     o  | /     o  | /  
|/         |/         |/    

The X's and the o's are completely equivalent positions in the face-centered cubic lattice. The o's can be viewed as the "face centers" of the cubes formed by the X's. This is how I visualized the lattice when I drew the dashed lines. However, it is equivalent to view the X's as the face centers of the cubes formed by the o's.

Now, if we add a two-atom carbon basis to every Bravais lattice point, we'll form diamond. The two-atom carbon basis is oriented such that one carbon atom is at every point X and o and one carbon atom is a quarter of a cube diagonal up from each X and o. A way to think of the diamond structure is as two interpenetrating face-centered cubic lattices, offset by a quarter of a cube diagonal. This would be hard to draw with ASCII art. However, if you're picturing it correctly, you'll notice that every atom in the diamond structure has four nearest-neighbor atoms located symmetrically in space, forming the vertices of a tetrahedron. This is the sp3 hybridized bonding structure.

Notice that when the two-atom basis is added to the Bravais lattice, the cubic 90-degree rotational symmetries are lost! Can you see the axes about which there are still 120-degree rotational symmetries?

When I met Crystal, she was 19 and I was 15. It was at practices for the school play, a noble but ultimately pathetic attempt by a young drama teacher to get inner city kids to do Chekhov. I don’t think even many of the students in the play understood what it was about, let alone the audience, and certainly not Crystal, who had been given a bit part out of sympathy.

Crystal was a nice girl. I can say that much for her. She was dumb, and nice. I wouldn’t be surprised if she qualified as mentally retarded. She was fairly ugly— pudgy and pale and droopy-looking, her huge breasts hanging down like the saggy pendulums of a much older woman. She wore purple plastic glasses that looked like they belonged to a second-grader, and awkward, ill-fitting clothes. She had an aura of trashiness about her—that particular brand of twang that tells you so much about a person’s background around here, that patched-together appearance that said quite simply, “I’m poor, dull, and unloved.”

Crystal became attached to me largely because I was nice to her. Not many people were. She wasn’t exactly openly scorned, but she was certainly ignored. She was always giving people big, awkward smiles, and they were always pretending not to see her. She was that sort of person. And I wish I could say that, through my virtuousness, my guidance, I kept Crystal from falling through the cracks. But I can’t say that. I was hardly much of a role model myself at the time, a few months away from flunking out, debilitatingly depressed, attention-hungry and foolish. Over the course of our friendship I failed Crystal by letting her continue to be what she was, thinking that I was doing my part just by deigning to offer her a nice word here and there.

One day during rehearsal, Crystal pulled out a stack of photographs held together with a rubber band. They were an assorted bunch, all different sizes and qualities, the record of Crystal’s life, such that it was. There were a couple pictures of her brother, but none of her parents, and I didn’t ask. I still don’t know exactly what Crystal’s home life consisted of, and I doubt that she had much of a home life to speak of. The pictures started when Crystal was eight or nine, with some grubby, pocket-sized school pictures. There were some washed-out Polaroids of an eleven-year-old Crystal with some of her old friends, on a couch; a picture of her and her older brother and her older brother’s wife; a red-eyed twelve-year-old Crystal, now with those familiar, huge boobs, sitting with a skinny guy she identified as a boyfriend.

And eventually came the pictures of the kids. Her kids. She had the first when she was fourteen, the second when she was sixteen. A boy and a girl, I don’t remember which came first. They had been adopted by some other families, and there weren’t too many pictures of them, but it was the simple fact of their existence that amazed me. She’d never mentioned it before, and she addressed it very nonchalantly. “And here’s me pregnant with my daughter, and here’s me when she a month old.”

I never asked a lot of questions. Partially, because I didn’t want to get too involved with Crystal. She was a train wreck— a disaster already in motion, that I knew I couldn’t stop. And I had no desire to get caught up in it. Being friendly wasn’t too much of a strain on my resources, and I could handle it. I couldn’t handle truly being Crystal’s friend.

It was in this spirit that I never really found out about the baby’s fathers. I think it’s fairly safe to assume, though, that they were trashy assholes, who saw in Crystal an easy fuck and not much more. Crystal was not beautiful, not even pleasant-looking; she certainly didn’t dress or act with provocation, either. She was no slut, but just looking at her you could tell she would not or could not say no to anything you asked of her, in a gentle enough voice, or anything you demanded of her with enough authority. And the people who enjoy exploiting the Crystals of the world are the people who are especially keen at seeing those things. I never blamed Crystal for having illegitimate children she could not care for. I found it hard to imagine it was her fault. She was so fucking nice and so fucking stupid, that for a person of normal intelligence to have sex with her was pretty much criminal. And she was unloved enough that it was pretty much inevitable. I never knew if Crystal had even wanted the children she had, whether she had considered or been able to consider abortion. I guess you could say I knew too much about Crystal to know as little as I did. And I still feel bad for that.

It was around February, I think, that Crystal came up behind me in the cafeteria and said, excitedly, “Guess what?” I was playing a game of cards with some much cooler friends, and responded, “’Sup, Crystal?” with distraction. “I'm pregnant!” I set down my hand and turned around, just staring at her. She was grinning. I’m not sure if she was actually happy that she was going to have another kid, or if she was simply excited that something important was happening, that she had news to deliver. Crystal was that much of a child herself. Her innocence was unnerving, and sometimes infuriating.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was a horrible thing, but I had the good sense not to reward her for it, at least. I just sorta said ‘Wow,’ and shook my head. She said she wanted me to be its godmother, and I assented. Looking back, I wonder if I should have grabbed her and shook her and told her not to ever let this happen again, but I doubt it would have done much good. At the time, I felt it was important to be nonchalant and unjudgemental, to be cool. I felt it wasn’t my place to tell her what to do with her life, and even if I’d wanted to do something, I don’t think I would have known how.

Crystal ended up having a miscarriage that spring. A month later she failed to graduate because she had not passed the GQE exam, but nonetheless left high school, and I never saw her again. I myself retreated deep inside my own head around that time, and I doubt I could have been much of a friend even if Crystal’d still been around. Sometimes I still think about her, and wonder where she is and what she’s doing, if she’s okay. If she’s got more children, if she’s got anybody watching out for her.

I think about all the people who fall through the cracks; it never fails to bum me out.

A computer's actions are coordinated by refers a crystal embedded in the motherboard.

To understand the oscillations of crystal, you've got to know a bit about piezoelectricity, the relationship between certain materials, electricity and pressure. Piez is Greek for pressure: pressure-electricity. When piezoelectric substances are pressurized, they produce electricity; when they're infused with electric current, they distort and pulsate in movement called oscillation.

Chew gum with crystals in the dark in front of a mirror and watch the sparks dance in your mouth. That's piezoelectricity.

Quartz is the most common mineral on earth. Silicon Dioxide — SiO2. Take a handful of virtually any earth and you've got quartz crystal in your hands. In large enough and clear enough pieces it's mistaken by children for a precious substance. Nearly all of us at one time had a collection of cloudy quartz, washed under the tap, lined up on shelves. Little did we know that we could've collected more of it bringing home buckets of sand. You can buy quartz at the store in large pieces: it's cheap, so people don't bother to polish it much. Anyone with a Paganistic bend knows its spiritual qualities.

Quartz is piezoelectric. Put it in a vice and it produces electricity. Connect it to a battery and it oscillates. By closing a circuit around it to create a feedback loop, you can make quartz oscillate to a very precise rhythm — resonance. But don't expect to produce lightning or vibrators in your garage — quartz's piezoelectric shifts are too small to notice with your primitive senses. You'd need a machine.

Many of us have seen a computer motherboard. Probably somewhere near the PCI slots you saw a small white hard object banded with silvery metal. That's a small quartz crystal, precisely cut, and fed with electrical current. Its tiny oscillations are received by traces which carry them to the board's other chips and expansion slots.

As you know, computer data is binary. So is computer activity. Think of the 'all-or-none' response of human muscle fibers to chemical transmitters: it's similar for binary operations. Work or stasis, nothing in between. Consequently, the processing power going for your music, your gaming, your Everything2, are not working at the same time. Your computer (more specifically your operating system) is performing small calculations for each program one by one, switching between them so quickly the action looks fluid.

These operations are timed by the oscillation of the quartz. Because quartz can oscillate to such a precise rhythm, it can be used to manage the tiny intervals required for computer processing. Operations are performed according to beats of the system clock derived from the movement of the quartz. Imagine a child jumping rope: hop to let the rope pass underneath, rest otherwise. One operation on music, one on gaming, one on the mouse pointer, one on the keyboard, and so on. Your computer prioritizes multiple tasks with a hierarchy of interrupt requests — another node for another day.

Like I said before, the quartz on your motherboard is cut to a precise shape. The ways in which a clear crystal oscillates can be determined mathematically by anyone with a basic understanding of geometry.

Today, most industrial quartz is man-made and crystal-clear. Pressure along an axis results in electrical charge along an axis perpendicular to that of the pressure. Imagine a cross of pressure and electricity. In some Piezoeletric materials (like quartz), the principle can be applied conversely — direct electric current in a line, resonance flows outward at a right angle to the axis of electricity. Direct electricity into a perfectly cut crystal, place traces appropriately, you have a system timer.

Postscript: system timers do not violate the second law of thermodynamics.

Crystals don't oscillate unless their circuit includes an amplifier. Oscillation frequency also depends on the size and cut of the crystal — for example, there are 20MHz, 30MHz, 50MHz, etc crystals. Of course, these crystals resonate at higher frequencies, correct multiples of these base values.

Thanks go to IWhoSawTheFace.


Andrews, Jean. A+ Guide to Managing and Maintaining your PC. Thomson: Boston. 2004.

Hackman's Realm

Fox Electronics Technical Theory of Operation

When you think about crystal, do you imagine a geode, glistening at its opening or maybe imagine the the rough shafts of gypsum and feldspar that stick out at every angle from cave walls? Maybe the geeky out there will remember LCD monitor is a liquid crystal display, so surely it must have crystals in it. Whatever the image, with their sparkling beauty and rarity, crystals have taken on a captivating aura. Some have even taken crystals to hold healing powers.

But nearly everything solid in the world is made up of crystals! Not even rare, they're far cheaper than a mere dime a dozen. Even that dime is made of crystals! The dull granite that make up the ground, the metals that make up a car, and the ceramic that makes up your coffee cup all have a crystal structure. This is because of the somewhat-surprising fact that atoms bound together in a crystal require less energy than those same atoms spread out independently. As things tend to settle into the state that requires the least energy, things cooling down from a liquid into a solid tend to form crystals. And, viewed on a cosmic time scale, nearly everything on the Earth was molten at some point.

Consider salt, or, as the geeks like to call it, halite. Salt is also a crystal. If you pick up a little grain of salt and look at it, it sparkles like you'd expect of a crystal. But even a 1mm little grain of salt is made up of several even smaller crystals, meeting at weird angles. Each of those little crystals is called a 'grain' and where they meet are called 'grain boundaries'. Under a microscope, these boundaries spread all over like a web of cracks.

If you push on an aluminum bar, it will start to deform a little before it obviously crumples. This is accomplished by the individual grains slipping along the grain boundaries. It takes much less energy for grains to rearrange themselves than for a crystal to break apart. So rather than break, the grains slide around until the defects in the crystals collect together and the grain boundaries start pressing against each other. At a certain point, nothing more can slide and these little cracks join together, forming big cracks. Finally, they grow large enough to be seen by the naked eye, and things begin to fall apart.

So it is that most solid things — almost everything of consequence in our daily lives — are composed of a whole bunch of little bits that exist between the cracks.

For a robot.

Crys"tal (kr?s"tal), n. [OE. cristal, F. cristal, L. crystallum crystal, ice, fr. Gr. , fr. icy cold, frost; cf. AS. crystalla, fr. L. crystallum; prob. akin to E. crust. See Crust, Raw.]

1. Chem. & Min.

The regular form which a substance tends to assume in solidifying, through the inherent power of cohesive attraction. It is bounded by plane surfaces, symmetrically arranged, and each species of crystal has fixed axial ratios. See Crystallization.


The material of quartz, in crystallization transparent or nearly so, and either colorless or slightly tinged with gray, or the like; -- called also rock crystal. Ornamental vessels are made of it. Cf. Smoky quartz, Pebble; also Brazilian pebble, under Brazilian.


A species of glass, more perfect in its composition and manufacture than common glass, and often cut into ornamental forms. See Flint glass.


The glass over the dial of a watch case.


Anything resembling crystal, as clear water, etc.

The blue crystal of the seas. Byron.

Blood crystal. See under Blood. -- Compound crystal. See under Compound. -- Iceland crystal, a transparent variety of calcite, or crystallized calcium carbonate, brought from Iceland, and used in certain optical instruments, as the polariscope. -- Rock crystal, ∨ Mountain crystal, any transparent crystal of quartz, particularly of limpid or colorless quartz.


© Webster 1913.

Crys"tal, a.

Consisting of, or like, crystal; clear; transparent; lucid; pellucid; crystalline.

Through crystal walls each little mote will peep. Shak.

By crystal streams that murmur through the meads. Dryden.

The crystal pellets at the touch congeal, And from the ground rebounds the ratting hail. H. Brooks.


© Webster 1913.

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