I live in Los Alamos, New Mexico — a beautiful mountain community in the Jemez Mountains just west of the Rio Grande.  I am a geophysicist by training, and I love the outdoors, and the wonders of the natural world. I enjoy trail running, road biking in the mountains, and have been collecting minerals for 56 of my 60 years of life.

I was raised in Los Alamos, and went off to school first at New Mexico Tech (degrees in Mathematics and Geophysics, 1978) and then Caltech (PhD Geophysics, 1983). After graduation I moved to Tucson, Arizona, where I spent 20 years as a professor of Geophysics and an affiliate in Applied Mathematics.  I was also the curator of the University of Arizona Mineral Museum for 18 years, and wrote extensively in the popular literature on topics of minerals, mineralogy and mining.The photograph below is the mineral “terrywallaceite”.


I returned home to Los Alamos in 2003, and work on issues of national security.


6 thoughts on “About

  1. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the past couple of hours learning all about silver minerals among other things such as Cahokia. And you caused me to explore electronic band structure which “cost” me another hour or so.
    Your article on minerals as art is dead on. And the mineral collecting hobby is now so much different than years ago. I have been collecting minerals since a youth (in the 60’s) but never really built anything that could be considered a good collection, but do have a few nice rocks that I really love. At one time as a paint chemist, it was my idea to collect all minerals that have been used in paint. And that is an amazing number. The costs have skyrocketed for normal people like myself so I went the route of collecting common old mica and try to acquire a good one whenever have a chance. It is still used in paint for multiple reasons. I had one that came from the museum I think you curated but stupidly sold it. Rob Lavinsky had it as one of his $50 rocks when he first went into business if you can believe he ever sold anything for $50, lol. A perfect phlogopite from Madagascar. Would love to get that one back.
    I found your blog researching mineral labels as I have come up with a kind of cool way to do labels for collection displays out of LEGO. I too have a fondness for labels, and one of my very favorite specimens is an ankerite crystal from NC (my native state) that has a John Sinkankas label with it that indicates it was self-collected. It was one of the very few rocks would not sell when had to sell my little collection (girl in college).
    Your blog on the Tucson show was great and hope you do one for this year. I have only been able to go to one of them—the American Localities show- and was overloaded. Wish I could afford to go every year.
    Again, thanks for some good reads. To be honest, kind of glossed over the running stuff, but love the mineral stuff.
    Tommy Armstrong
    The Original BrickEngraver

    1. Tommy

      thanks for your comment – it is nice to connect with a like-soul. I was a professor for 20 years, and could talk about all sorts of science – today my job prohibits me saying much at all. But I do get to talk about minerals and mineral collecting, which is a personal joy. I also love running in the mountains, but totally understand that topic is both strange and boring to most people!

      All the best to you and your family this holiday season.


  2. You have a picture of blasting at the Jackpile mine with the caption, “Jackpile uranium mine in full production in the 1970s. Mt Taylor is visible on the horizon of the picture.” Is this your photo? is it under copyright?

    1. Linda – the photo is from a talk I gave 20 years ago, and was from a NMT publication I believe. The photo is from earlier than 1970s, but I don’t have the details of when. I will see if I have the information requested on the original slide in my collection.

  3. wallace terry – i just intersected your trajectory and because of my own circumstances at the moment the best i could do was reduce my velocity in order to make this note and ask you to please contact me at my email address, paftoonz@alumni.sewanee.edu – i am a firm believer in the magic of crossing paths with the right people at the right time, having evolved to recognize those occurrences more and more. the offbeat manner of my intersection made me smile. i am a mineral collector. actually, i am a collector and minerals is one manifestation of that. i am a recovering nuclear fuel engineer – there is a 12.3 step program for that – and a musician and antique appreciator. i was looking for insights regarding the transition of Germans in Erzgebirge from mining to wood carving, i have a precious early 19th century Grodner Tal doll with which i was just reunited, perhaps some similarities to your reunion with your Freiberg silver. i must bow out to go to sleep or risk doing so unceremoniously. peace. penney file

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