Category Archives: Geology

Blue Flames and Acid Lake: A Geological Marvel Around Indonesia’s Kawah Ijen Volcano

Kawah Ijen,volcano, Indonesia
A geological marvel of blue sulfur gases at the  Kawah Ijen volcano in Indonesia

The volcano of Kawah Ijen, situated on the island of Java, is known for two distinctive geological phenomena. It is a shallow volcanic crater emitting hot and combustible sulfurous gases. These gases burst into electric blue flames when they enter Earth’s atmosphere due to the abundance of oxygen. A portion of the emitting gases also gets condensed in the atmosphere to take the shape of molten sulfur. The blue ambiance created by burning sulfur produces a striking view, especially at night.

The second geological phenomenon is a one-kilometer wide caldera lake of turquoise blue water. This unusual color of the water is due to high acidity and high concentration of dissolved metals in the reservoir.

This caldera reservoir is the most acidic lake with a measured pH of as low as 0.3. These high levels of acidity are caused due to the fact that hydrothermal waters inflowing in the lake is charged with gases from a hot magma chamber.

History of the Volcano

According to geological findings, volcanic activity in the area began 300,000 years ago with the buildup of a humongous stratovolcano which is now known as Old Ijen. A stratovolcano is a high, conical buildup of layers of hardened lava and volcanic ash. The volcano grew to the height of about 1000 feet over thousands of years with repeated eruptions.

The caldera lake was formed about 50,000 years ago with a cascade of intense volcanic eruption. During the last 50000 years, many small stratovolcanoes within this Caldera including Kawah Ijen have been formed. Kawah Ijen is located in the eastern part of the Caldera.

The volcano is still active but hasn’t experienced magmatic eruptions since 1817. However phreatic eruptions have been happening till today. The last phreatic activity occurred as recently as 2011.

Lake Also Produces Sulfur Deposits

The opening of the volcano at the lake-side produces a continuous stream of sulfur enriched gases. These gases usually flow underground in the absence of oxygen. If the gas is hot enough at the time of eruption, then sulfur will ignite into blue flames, but usually, the temperature of the mixture is not that high, which results in the condensation of molten sulfur when it comes out on the surface. This molten sulfur then travels a short distance before ending up in solidified form.  Local people collect those deposits of sulfur and sell them to a local sugar refinery.

Kawah Ijen Volcano: One of the Few Sites of Artisanal Mining in the World

Most of the sulfur produced around the world is the byproduct of natural gas processing and oil refining. This site is one of the few ones where sulfur was mined, even though the process is a dangerous one. Miners have to walk up to the top of the mountain and then descend down the dangerously steep and rocky paths of the crater. They use metal objects; usually steel bars to break solidified sulfur from the outcrops. They fill up their baskets with soft sulfur rocks travel back to the sugar refinery. Miners are paid according to the weight of the sulfur.

Recently, miners have installed numerous pipes along the mountain. This network of pipes is created to collect the sulfur-laden gases from various vents and openings of the volcano and direct them to those areas from where gathering sulfur deposits is easy. This development has made the process of collection more efficient and less harmful for the miners.  

Kawah Ijen Volcano: A Tourist Site

Many adventurous people have made this place a tourist site. The area around possesses a beautiful landscape with fauna that can only flourish in these highlands. With an elevation of more than 2,000 meters, atmospheric temperature around the volcano is usually low. The fusion of different air temperatures — cold ambient air merging with the heat escaping from the volcanic openings, creates a very peculiar sensation that can’t be felt anywhere else.

A moderate 3-km track, which traverses through Casuarinas forest, leads up to the volcanic rim. From here the journey gets arduous with 2 km more of a relatively steep trail and ends up giving you a breathtaking panoramic view of Ijen Caldera. A slightly pungent smell of sulfur fumes rising from the acid lake will welcome you. For safety purposes, it is better to wear a gas mask.

 

Mining History of Diamonds

Sunrise open-pit Australia
Sunrise open-pit Australia

Diamonds have always possessed a treasured place in the human conscious. The history of diamonds stretches back to the pre-BC era. It has been mentioned in ancient Sanskrit and Greek literature and reference can be found in even earlier scripts. To this day, diamonds continue to set the human fancy on fire.  

For the most part of the history, diamonds remained a rare stone and the mining process has always been tedious. It begins some 100 miles underground where heat and pressure crystallize carbon into rough diamonds (diamonds that haven’t gone through the polished cut, faceted process, also called natural diamonds). These diamonds reside in kimberlite rocks via kimberlite pipes – vertical structures that contain the kimberlite rocks. Volcanic eruptions, which has occurred millions of years ago brought up these rocks much closer to the earth’s service. 

Bucket Wheel-Excavator open pit-mining

To extract these rocks from the kimberlite pipes, a process called open pit-mining is used, which is a surface mining technique that removes material from an open pit or borrow, with respect to tunneling into the earth, such as longwall mining. Aside from diamond excavation, open-pit mines are also popular for removal of construction material and these mines are commonly known as quarries.

Heavy machinery and hydraulic shovels are required for kimberlite extraction from these open pits and the process of facet checking, cutting, smoothing and polishing begins.

When Did it All Start?

In the early years, wealthy people who can afford everything expensive couldn’t get their hands on diamonds because the stone was so short in supply. However, things changed after 1300 AD when it began to be used as an ornamental stone in medieval Europe.

The real transition, AKA ‘the diamond rush’ occurred in the 19th century, when diamond mines were discovered in different parts of Africa. The gemstone once so rare became available for elites as they were still considered precious and very expensive.

So here we will discuss how the mining of diamonds in different parts of the world has taken its shape from previous millennium to contemporary times.  

India: The earliest diamond producer

India was considered to be the place where mining and trading of diamonds started in the 4th century BC. At that time there was no mass scale mining and usually, diamonds were retrieved from rivers, streams and other sedimentary rock formations.  

The demand of those Indian diamonds increased in 13 AD when they were introduced in markets of medieval Europe by trade caravans of the time, who were mesmerizing Western Europe with exotic Indian commodities.

Brazil succeeds India

Due to the increased utilization of diamonds by the elites of Europe during the rise of the colonial era, the Indian supply of diamonds began to deplete during the early 16th century. By the same time, Brazil appeared as the major supplier of diamonds along with its already rich resources of gold.  

18th century: Africa takes the reins

The dynamics of diamond mining and trade witnessed dynamic changes in the 18th century, when mines were discovered in Africa, including mines in Kimberley and South Africa, the annual production of diamonds increased exponentially in the following years. In the 1870s, the annual yield of diamonds was well under a million carats, but in 50 years, this production reached the mark of 50 million carats. Almost 90% of those mined rough diamonds were coming out of the mines in Africa.

World Mining Map
World Mining Map. Pink box represents diamond mines.

Through the first half of 20th century, South Africa and The Republic of Congo (then Zaire) were responsible for more than 90% supply of diamonds in the world. In the latter half of the century, the Soviet Union also became a big player in the diamond market. The year 1982 became a fortunate year for Botswana, as they became the third largest contributors to the world’s diamond supply, with newly discovered mines. Additionally, mines in Australia and Northern Canada were discovered; thus, making this once fairly unknown mineral a world commodity.  

The Ugly side of diamond mining and trade

Sierra Leone Miners
Sierra Leone Miners

The symbol of love, luxury and passion can also transform into the manifestation of blood and gore due to the shortcomings of human greed.

In recent decades, the presence of diamond mines in underdeveloped countries in Africa, such as The Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Liberia have become the reason for civil wars and unrest. Warlords and guerrilla leaders used rough diamonds to finance their rebel movements and to feed their militias, and miners often work in terrible conditions. The diamonds that serve this purpose are called ‘blood diamonds’ or ‘conflict diamonds’. 

Angola was a primary source of the illegal diamond trade and was responsible for 20% of the total world production in the 1980s. In order to get a handle on the illegal diamond trade, the UN-appointed Canadian ambassador Robert Fowler to investigate it and in 2000, he produced the Fowler Report, which mentioned the countries involved.

Present status of diamond mining

Apart from some pockets of trouble in those countries mentioned, the supply of the diamond is stable and in safe hands. According to the forecasted figures of 2017, around 142 million carats of diamonds worth $15.6 billion will be mined worldwide. This production volume would be 11% more than the previous year. It is interesting to note that even with these huge volumes of diamond mining as compared to the 19th or 20th century, only 10 mines in the whole world are producing around 60% of global supply of these precious stones.

The largest mine is located in Botswana with the name of Jwaneng, which independently produces 15% value of the world’s diamonds.

No matter how technology-savvy we become, with each passing generation, it may be in our human DNA that we still get spell bounded by the beauty and delicacy of this gem. It seems as if we are far from getting over this obsession. Moreover, this slogan might be true after all that ‘A diamond is forever’.

Evaluating the Methods to Cleanse Gemstone Necklaces

Gemstone NecklacesGemstone necklaces need effective cleansing every now and then. If you take proper care of these healing gemstones, you can benefit from their extensive capabilities. Their cleansing is necessary to ensure nothing daunts their beauty and healing capabilities.

Therapeutically, it is said that gemstones are capable of releasing unwanted and harmful energies from a person’s body. Sometimes, these unwanted energies gather up on the surface of gemstones as well as in the energy field surrounding each of them, which compromises the healing power of gemstones. Therefore, it is important that you cleanse your gemstone necklace regularly.

There are various methods to cleanse gemstone necklaces. Running water, moonlight, sunlight, salt, soil cleansing, smudging, clay packs and baths are among the most common ones. Additionally, there are cleansing sprays available that are made with the energetic imprint of gemstone energies. These sprays are designed to remove a range of unwanted energies. This method may be considered as the easiest, quickest and most effective of all.

Water

While water is effective for cleansing of crystals and crystal cluster, there are some considerable drawbacks in cleansing gemstone necklaces with water. The most evident one is premature necklace breakage. This problem can occur if the gemstone necklace is cleansed using water daily or more often, if you have a severe medical condition. Also, repeatedly losing contact with the gemstone necklace, to let it dry, can affect its therapeutic resources. 

Moonlight

Bathing in moonlight can be effective, but only in case of certain gemstones, such as Sugilite. It may appear as if it is the light of the moon, or rather sun’s reflection, that does the cleansing, but in fact, it’s the gravitational pull. Remember to first apply a cleansing spray on the gemstone, before placing it outside to bathe in the lunar energy. Also, always place it in a protected area and for few hours.

Sunlight

Another popular method of cleansing a gemstone necklace is sunlight. However, sunlight can impart destructive solar radiation and bleach the color from certain gemstones. If you are going to place gemstone in sunlight, always remember to place it behind a windowpane to avoid the harmful effects of solar radiation. This method is, however, no longer recommended due to constantly changing cosmic and solar radiation level, which can damage gemstone’s therapeutic energies.

Salt

An easy way to cleanse your gemstone is by placing it in a bowl of salt. However, this does not provide a complete cleanse. Salt crystals are able to absorb a lot of unwanted energies, but not all of them. Also, you must replace the salt every two to three days.

Cleansing Sprays

Cleansing sprays solve almost all the problems regarding crystal and gemstone cleansing. These sprays eliminate the risk of necklace breakage due to wet threads and also enable you to be in constant contact with your healing gemstone necklace. Surface of gemstones is also not damaged. Soft gems such as Rhodochrosite, Apatite and Fluorite are also not under any risk when cleansed with a cleansing spray.

Different people prefer different methods, but using a cleansing spray to cleanse a gemstone necklace eliminates the risks other methods pose to the physical and therapeutic characteristics of the stones.  

What Are Synthetic Gemstones?

Have you ever heard of the term ‘synthetic gemstones’?

Chances are that you have. Also, you may be under the impression that synthetic gemstones are not real; however, in the world of gemstones, the word ‘synthetic’ does not mean ‘fake’. The word has been derived from a Greek word which means ‘to put together’. Thus, synthetic gemstones are those that are man-made. This means that they are manufactured or grown in a laboratory and have the similar physical and chemical properties and appearance to their natural counterparts. In some cases, however, synthetic gems may contain additional compounds. Synthetic gems that are somewhat dissimilar from the natural ones include opal and turquoise.  

Synthetic gems look exactly like their natural counterparts and only a well-trained or experienced expert can distinguish a synthetic gemstone from a natural one.

The production of synthetic gemstones is not a new phenomenon, as many believe. Their production started around late 19th century mainly due to their industrial usages, such as in the fields of microelectronics, laser technology, and communications. They are also used as abrasives. However, they soon started to be used in the jewelry industry as well. The first known gem that was successfully produced in the laboratory was ‘Ruby’.   
How Are Synthetic Gemstones Grown?

Yes, you read it right!

Synthetic gemstones are actually grown (the accurate term used within the industry). This is done in the laboratory. The process entails combining various chemicals in a particular environment so that they automatically arrange themselves–without any human intervention-in a particular manner so as to create the same structure as that of real gems.

Some of the processes that have been used for growing or producing synthetic gems are:

  • Verneuil Process. In simple terms, this is known as the ‘flame fusion’ process. It is the oldest and the cheapest method of creating synthetic gems.
  • Czochralski Process; also called ‘crystal pulling’.
  • Flux Growth
  • Hydrothermal Growth
  • Skull Melt Process
  • Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)
  • High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)

The most commonly grown or manufactured synthetic gems are Sapphires, Diamonds, Quartz, Opals, Emeralds, Ruby, Spinel, Alexandrite, Amethyst, Ametrine and Citrine.

Simulated Gemstones Are Different From Synthetic Gems

A lot of people use the terms ‘synthetic gemstones’ and ‘simulated gemstones’ interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two.

As mentioned above, although synthetic gems are made in the laboratory, they mostly have all the same properties as that of natural gems. However, this is not the case with ‘simulated gems’. These are actually the fake stones. They only look like the natural gems, but their physical and chemical properties are different.

Plastic or glass is used for the production of simulated gemstones. This is why they are available at extremely low rates.

So the next time you go for gemstone shopping, always remember that synthetic and simulated gems are two different things. It is a simulated gem that is fake, not the synthetic one.

Gemstones and Astrology

The sky, planets and stars have been sources of wonder and inspiration for a large number of people for hundreds of thousands of years. Poets and writers have used the moon to symbolize beauty and scientists have studied the movements of stars and planets to find and study various laws of nature.

There is another group of people that believe that the relationship between various stars and their movements affects human beings. They are known as astrologists.

Astrology: What It Really Is?

For a common person, astrology is all about zodiac signs. However, the sign is only a part of the wider field of astrology. In broader terms, astrology is defined as “a field that investigates and studies the influences of stars and planets on human life.”

According to the proponents and experts of astrology, a person’s life and personality is largely shaped by the positions and movements of stars, planets, sun and moon at the time of his/ her birth.

Astrologists study these very positions and movements to not only find out someone’s personality traits, but also to predict their future, in terms of finances, relationships, successes and failures and even health.

While some claim astrology as a field of pure science, others think it falls under the category of metaphysics because it deals with the non-physical entities.

Why Astrology Has Been So Popular?

Despite the fact that time and again, scientists have discredited astrology and its significance or relevance to human life, in any way, it has continued to appeal and fascinate millions of people all over the world. This is believed to be due to the very nature of human beings.

Humans have always wanted to be in control of their lives however, the unpredictable nature of human life is the greatest hindrance in this regard. Therefore, anything that in any way promises to remove this obstruction has always attracted humans. Since the ability to predict future greatly increases one’s control over life (as one could prepare for the upcoming things beforehand and could avoid unfavorable things and circumstances), it has captivated people’s’ attention since ages.    

Types of Astrology

There are two key methods to study the positions and movements of stars and planets and the relationship between them, giving birth to two main types of astrological systems:

  • Western Astrology

The origin of Western astrology can be traced back to Babylonian and Hellenistic traditions. As evident from the name, it is largely practiced and followed in western countries. It mainly revolves around horoscopes and sun signs. It has often been criticized for having a limited approach; it only considers the position of sun at the time of a person’s birth to make predictions.  

  • Vedic Astrology

Vedic astrology traces its origin to ancient India, about 5000 years ago; this is why it is alternatively called Hindu or Indian astrology. It uses a holistic approach i.e. it studies the positions, and movements of both sun and planets, to calculate horoscopes, to interpret someone’s personality and to prophesize about people’s’ lives. Since Vedic astrology takes into account various factors, it is said to be more accurate than the Western astrology.   

Considered as the ‘Science of light’, the Vedic astrology studies the connection between the human body and various celestial bodies of the earth’s solar system.

Gemstones

The lore associated with gemstones is as old as human beings. Not only gems have been associated with cultures, religions and various spiritual practices, they were also used for adornment and various medicinal purposes during ancient times. This is due to the belief that gemstones have various inherent qualities and can affect the personalities and lives of humans.

How Do We Define Gemstones?

Gemstones are usually inorganic minerals that occur naturally in the earth’s crust and are extracted, cut and polished to be sued for various purposes. Gemstones are known for their beauty and durability.

Thanks to the advancements of modern world, we now have some synthetic gems as well. Synthetic gems are those that are not naturally found, rather are prepared in labs. Since real gems tend to be really expensive, synthetic gems are considered as good, cheaper alternatives. They have properties similar to the real gemstones.

Gemstones and Astrology – The Connection

Gemology i.e. the “study (ethnic or scientific) of gemstones, has been an essential branch of applied astrology from the time immemorial

The connection between gemstones and astrology was first identified by the Vedic astrologists. They believed that each gemstone is ruled by a planet and if we could identify the position of planet in each person’s chart, and the planetary rulership of a gemstone, gems can be used for personal development, healing and for attracting positive energies.

It is believed that every living being produces some energy in the world. It is this energy field where our emotions, habits, beliefs and thought patterns reside. Gems are thought to affect that energy field and as a result a person’s’ mental and emotional energies. With time, these subtle effects of gems can cause long term changes in a person’s habits, emotions, thoughts etc.

However, to gain the benefits of gems, it is crucial that you use the right gemstone according to your ruling planet or horoscope.

Since only astrologers can understand the complex details associated with planets, their movements, relationships etc. and not many people understand the idea of ruling planet, they have used the horoscope system for gemstones recommendations.

Gemstones According To Sun Signs (Astrological Gemstones)    

  • Aries – Bloodstone
  • Taurus – Sapphire
  • Gemini – Agate
  • Cancer – Emerald
  • Leo – Onyx
  • Virgo – Carnelian
  • Libra – Chrysolite
  • Scorpio – Beryl
  • Sagittarius – Citrine
  • Capricorn – Ruby
  • Aquarius – Garnet
  • Pisces – Amethyst

Gemstones According To Ruling Planet

  • Sun – Ruby
  • Moon – Pearl
  • Mars – Coral
  • Mercury – Emerald
  • Venus – Diamond
  • Jupiter – Yellow Sapphire
  • Saturn – Blue Sapphire
  • Ascending Lunar Node – Hessonite
  • Descending Lunar Node – Cat’s Eye

Modern Birthstones

  • January – Garnet, or Rose Quartz
  • February – Amethyst or Onyx
  • March – Aquamarine or Bloodstone
  • April – Diamond
  • May – Emerald or Chrysoprase
  • June – Pearl, Moonstone or Alexandrite
  • July – Ruby or Carnelian
  • August – Peridot or Sardonyx
  • September – Sapphire
  • October – Opal, Watermelon Tourmaline, or Pink Tourmaline
  • November – Topaz or Citrine
  • December – Turquoise, Zircon, Lapis or Tanzanite

Final Word

Despite the fact that the roots of the connection between gemstones and astrology can be traced back to the ancient times, it is still not considered by many as having any scientific base. Therefore, different opinions and views exist with regard to the role gemstones and astrology plays in one’s life.   

Easy Ways to Start Your Own Mineral Collection!

Are you a fan of relaxing, quiet time, spent in the outdoors? Are you an individualistic person, who enjoys bonding with others with similar interests and building connections?

Collecting minerals involves adventure, a connection with nature, spending time outdoors and then enjoying the collections created by others; hence building some interesting, possibly life-long connections.

Howard Fensterman is a NY lawyer, with a knack for mineral collecting. He has helped scores of collectors build and secure their personal collections and that makes him the perfect advisory for anyone just getting in the habit of mineral collecting.

He also suggests the following concrete steps to get your mineral collection off to a great start.

  • Invest In a “Field Guide”

Get a guide or catalogue that clearly defines the qualities of different mineral specimens along with clear pictures. Learn your way through these books and you will soon be able to recognize and class the minerals.

  • Check Out Museums and Other Collections

Books are great; but there is something immensely engaging about seeing mineral collections in person.

There is something so enthralling about the cuts, colors, lustrous finishes and shapes of an amazing specimen.

Find out if there are any public displays of mineral collections in your city and pay them a visit.

  • Attend Mineral Shows

Hundreds of mineral shows are held across the world each year. Try to get to a few once a year and you’ll love the atmosphere if you are a true mineral connoisseur.

Remember mineral shows aren’t just for buying raw-form minerals, but also precious jewelry and other items. These are also a good place to get an up-close and personal look at some beautiful specimens.

  • Go Field Collecting

True-blue mineral collectors can’t resist the charms of finding and collecting fine mineral specimen all by themselves. Go out in the field, visit an active or inactive stone quarry, or take a walk along a natural rock exposure for example, along a shoreline or in the woods. It’s easier to see the veins and pockets containing traces of minerals. And if you are lucky, you might even be able to prospect some beautiful precious/semi-precious stones for yourself.

Are you excited about making your first mineral acquisition? Keep visiting Howard Fensterman’s website here and be inspired by his lifelong passion for mineral collecting.

How to Identify Fake Gold Nuggets

Interested in investing in Gold? Be careful! It isn’t always easy to tell a gold nugget from a copper nugget that has been polished to shine just like real ones. And then there is Fool’s Gold; this is simply the name given to some naturally occurring minerals such as chalcopyrite, bismutite and iron pyrite that look a lot like unpolished gold to the unsuspecting eye.

But there are some ways of testing the nugget and find out if it really is what the seller says it is i.e. gold! And in case you still can’t figure it out, it is always a good idea to consult with a mineral and precious metals expert to help you make the right decision.

As a connoisseur of the finer things in life, Howard Fensterman has a passion for minerals and metals.

According to the professional lawyer and gemstone authority, Howard Fensterman offers the following few ways of ensuring the authenticity of your gold nuggets.

Real Gold Is Heavy

Gold has a specific gravity of 19.3 g; this simply means that it is 19.3 times heavier than a corresponding volume of water. A nugget made of any other metal will feel a lot lighter than a real gold nugget. So if you have ever handled gold, let your intuition guide you on this one. Or better yet, get a weighing scale!

It Always Looks Amazing

Hold the gold nugget under a lamp. Look at it from various angles, turn it around and examine it properly. The color and lustrous shine of a gold nugget remains uniform, but Fool’s Gold will show variations and get caught out! The uniformity in appearance is the secret to figuring out if you have a real gold nugget or not.

Gold is Tough

Try hammering a nail into the gold nugget. Don’t worry; if it really is gold, you don’t run the risk of damaging it.  Because if it cracks or crumbles away, it’s not gold.

Real gold can’t be broken away that easily, it may best or dent slightly but it sure won’t crumble under a hammer.

Do the Nitric Acid Test

This is the most effective, foolproof test we have to date. Drip just one drop of nitric acid (be careful) on the nugget. If it fizzes into green foam, it isn’t gold but copper instead. On the other hand, if the nugget is entirely unaffected by the nitric acid, the Gold Nugget is good.

The Last Word

As the value of gold continues to increase, so does the temptation for scoring a good deal on gold nuggets. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

If you’d like to obtain more specific information about the qualities of gold, check out Howard’s article the history and scientific background of this amazing mineral.

A Countdown of the Five Strangest Geological Formations

  1. Moeraki Boulders

These unusually large and spherical boulders are found lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the coast in New Zealand. The boulders are concretions made by the cementation of the Paleocene mudstone that was exhumed by coastal erosions. The boulders are estimated to have taken about 5 million years to form. After being analyzed, the boulders were found to be made of mud, fine silt and clay, cemented by calcite.

  1. Giants Causeway

In Northern Ireland, the Giants Causeway is an area of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. These columns are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and vanish into the sea. Similar basalt columns are found in Iceland, near the town of Vik. These perfectly hexagonal forms are typically found near sources of water, most commonly along coastlines or near streams and rivers.

  1. Cave of the Crystals

Located a thousand feet under Naica mountain in Chihuahua, Mexico, the Cave of Crystals is a cave connected to the Naica Mine. The main cave contains massive selenite crystals, some of the largest natural crystals ever found. Hydrated sulfate gypsum is believed to have crystallized at a very slow rate over half a million years to form these huge crystals. Currently, only scientists are able to visit the Crystal Cave. Other caves continue to be discovered beneath Naica, including the Queen’s Eye, Candles Cave, Ice Palace, and Cave of Swords.

  1. Chocolate Hills

The Chocolate Hills is a geological formation in Bohol province in the Philippines. There are around 1,700 of these conical karst hills spread over an area of more than 20 square miles. They are covered in green grass that turns brown during the dry season and look like endless rows of chocolate kisses, giving the hills their name. The conical and symmetrical rolling hills are actually grass covered marine limestone.

  1. Salar de Uyuni

Found in southwest Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni Is the world’s largest salt flat at 4,086 square miles. It contains around 10 billion tons of salt. The salt flat is located near the crest of the Andes, at an altitude of 11,995 feet above sea level. The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes about 42,000 years ago. The Salar contains large amounts of sodium, potassium, lithium, magnesium, and borax. Currently, it holds between 50-70% of the world’s lithium reserves.

 

Asteroid Mining : A New Gold Rush

The idea of mining asteroids has been around for over one hundred years. In the late 1800s, this idea first came about, and today it is not just an idea, but a reality. There are currently four different private asteroid mining companies that are actively pursuing this new endeavor, such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries.

All the different types of minerals and metals needed to make electronics such as platinum and gold is quite scarce on Earth. Space, however, is rich in these metals. Platinum is a fantastic conductor, yet it is rare on Earth but very plentiful in space. A typical 100 foot asteroid could contain as much as 50$ billion worth of platinum. Asteroid 433 Eros contains about $3 trillion dollars worth of gold. This amount of gold could devalue the entire market, but one thing is for sure, it will definitely have an economic impact.

Twenty years ago, Shell discovered the first North Sea oil deposit located underneath 5,000 feet of water and 10,000 feet of rock. Shell took a very costly risk to extract the oil using robotics, in a very hostile and distant area. This same technique can be applied to mining asteroids. The technology for mining already exist. There have already been three missions, two from NASA and one from Japan, that used probes to reach asteroids and collect dust from their surface. This is the first step to mining asteroids. Besides the scientific value, these explorations are on the brink of launching an entire new industry.

There are nearly 10,000 asteroids near Earth that have mineral mining potential. With the need of electronics such as smartphones, computers, and other technologies increasing, the global demand for minerals such as copper, gold and platinum is also increasing. The lure of asteroid mining is powerful. Congress has already passed a bill, the Asteroid Act, that will allow those that mine asteroids to claim its resources as private property.

Brass and Bronze: Their Amazing Uses Will Surprise You!

Brass and bronze are probably two of the most common metal alloys. They are used in a variety of everyday objects and have great usability properties. Brass is made with a combination of zinc and copper, while to make bronze, copper is mostly used with tin, but at times some other alternative metals are also used.

What Does Brass Has to Offer?

Firstly, brass is highly malleable as compared to zinc or copper. It has a low melting point and when melted, it takes a flowy state. It comprises of many other minerals including iron, aluminum, silicon, and manganese. On the downside, it can crack under stress when in exposure to ammonia. It is also not as hard as steel.

What Does Bronze Has to Offer?

Bronze is hard but has brittle nature as well. Depending on how much tin is mixed with copper, bronze has a normal 950 degree centigrade melting point. Bronze is mostly used due to its heat and electricity conducting properties. It has the capacity to resist corrosion, sea water corrosion in particular, which makes it even more useful.

Uses of Brass and Bronze

Both the alloys have a number of uses. From manufacturing better quality copper wires, to creating metal structures, a great many things can be done with these two artificial minerals.

A Variety of Musical Instruments

Brass is highly preferred for making musical instruments. Tuba, trumpet, tenor horn, French horn, and a number of other instruments are usually made with brass. Saxophone and harmonica also make it to the list quite often.

The properties of bronze make it a much better option for bells and strings used in piano and guitar.

Preserving the Cultural Heritage in Brass and Bronze

Since the color of these alloys is a lot like gold and they boast of regality as well, people have been making sculptures and statues from brass and bronze for the longest of time. Its resistance to tarnishing and corrosion is also an added advantage. When used for sculptures in molds, bronze gives the perfect look with sharp minute detailing. This is due to the nature of the allow to expand just before it set.

Mechanical Usage

Since it does not cause much friction, brass is often used in automobiles and mechanical gear, especially for this purpose. For electrical and plumbing options, brass makes a good choice for sure. Similarly, even bronze makes a good alternative to be used for automobile and mechanical productions. Since bronze has the potential to resist water corrosion, it is often used for ship and boat manufacturing as well.

Brass and bronze are very useful alternatives to pure metals that often have certain limitations. The permeable nature of these two compounds makes them ideal to be used in a great variety of things