This is Devil’s Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming:
It is, well, a tower of rock that rises up from the land and looks nothing like the surrounding mountains. It has all the makings of a great interdisciplinary topic:
- It’s awe-inspiring.
- Scientists don’t know why it exists but have three competing theories.
- There are various Native American stories that explain its existence, and it still holds a sacred place in the local cultures today.
- There is a voluntary rock climbing ban during the month of June because of its cultural significance, but we saw four separate climbers the day we visited.
- The name itself is the result of a mistranslation made hundreds of years ago (which is also true of the Badlands).
I know that the reason they form in these shapes has to do with chemical bonding angles as the rock cools, but I took Engineering Geology twenty years ago so I don’t remember all the details. So there we have it: two ways that math appeared in unexpected places on my trip today, plus the potential for an interdisciplinary topic that includes a non-trivial way to tie math to other fields (which is not always the easiest thing to do).