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I would like to be able to point to a piece of rock and say that is rock type such and such. I have tried learning but it literally seems like an endless list of types and sub types and the pictures don’t really seem to help me. Short of a person taking me out and physically handing me rock specimens, is there any easy way to self learn the different types?

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The best way to learn about rock types is to handle rock specimens guided by an experienced geologist.

By handling rock specimens you get to feel the weight of the rock, its roughness or smoothness or if it feels slippery, soapy, glassy, firm or crumbly. Is it weak or strong? You will also be able to better see the colours in the rock, the sizes of the grains of minerals, the way the rock breaks, its cleavage. You can test its hardness. If you have a piece of unglazed white porcelain you can do a streak colour test.

All these sorts of things can help you identify different rock types.

Also, the same rock type can look slightly different in other parts of the world, because of geological and environmental processes that rocks experience in different parts of the world. This is particularly so if the rock is deeply weathered.

Learning the different rock types, alone from books and pictures is a difficult way to learn, befriend a geologist, you'll learn more quickly and it will be more enjoyable.

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    $\begingroup$ Buy a beer or cake for a geologist, is always a good start! $\endgroup$ – Tactopoda Aug 11 '15 at 14:46
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  1. Go to a good geological museum and spend time there. Alas, many such museums have dumbed down, and are not as informative as they used to be (Natural History Museum in Kensington, London - I'm writing about you!).

  2. Go walkabout with local rockhound / geology clubs. There are always geologists trying to impress with their knowledge.

  3. Get a geological map of a complex area, and explore.

  4. Do a course in geology.

Books, even with good illustrations, usually fail; to point out the salient features and variability. Do not expect to learn it all. I have been a geologist for more than 40 years, and have checked out the geology in about 45 countries. I'm still learning! There is always something new to see.

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