Mineralogists have long studied how and why minerals occur where they do. Now, they’re applying big data to the question. The researchers are using network theory to understand the complex way different chemical, biological, physical and geographic parameters determine where minerals occur. Network theory – the idea that the relationships between things are governed by a set of mathematical rules – is often used to look at the spread of infectious diseases or to understand how human groups (for example, terrorism organizations) interact. Researchers are hoping it will help them discover new kinds of minerals, find troves of valuable resources like gold and copper, and better understand the way the earth was formed. A report on the work was just published in the journal American Mineralogist.