Category Archives: Geology

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

What Are Igneous Rocks?

Igneous_rockIgneous rocks form when magma cools and solidifies. This happens both above and below the surface of Earth. Magma is made up of the atoms and molecules of melted minerals that rearrange themselves into mineral grains. When magma cools, rocks are formed. Magma can be forced into adjacent rocks, forced to the surface as lava, and also be blown out in volcanic explosions.

Over 700 different types of igneous rocks exist. Some of these types include granite, pumice, obsidian, tuff, and basalt.

Types of Igneous Rocks

Granite is a very common rock that contains 25% quartz and is commonly used in construction due to its strength and abundance.

Pumice is a very lightweight rock that forms when molten rock is quickly blown out of a volcano. As pressure is lost and the rock cools quickly, tiny bubbles (vesicles) are formed.

Obsidian is a volcanic glass that forms very rapidly without any crystal growth. Its edges are sharp and smooth making it a great choice for cutting tools or arrowheads.

Tuff is a rock formed from volcanic ash. During volcanic eruptions, rock, ash, and magma falls back onto Earth and is compacted and cemented into a rock, becoming a lens-shaped deposit called tuff.

Basalt is extremely common rock found all over our solar system. It is used in building materials and thermal insulators. When subjected to extreme heat and pressure over time it will metamorphosize into granulate.


The Science Behind the Age of the Earth

Geological_time_spiral How do you calculate your age? You simply go take out the difference between your birth year and current year, isn’t it? But when it comes to taking out the age of the sprawling sphere which we call home, Earth, it becomes a bit trickier. Let’s explore what science has to say about the age of the Earth.

The age of the Earth couldn’t be guessed by anyone before the process of radiometric dating came into play. In 1898, the pioneer of radiology, Marie Curie discovered the phenomenon of radioactivity. The atoms either decay or lose energy by emitting radiation in the form of electromagnetic waves or particles. Later, in the year 1904, Ernest Rutherford, the famous physicist determined how this decay could let them explore the age of old rocks.

With this exploration, Arthur Holmes, who was completing his geology degree in London, acted as a helping hand by developing a new technique of dating rocks using the uranium lead method. He applied this technique to the oldest rock and got to know its age. Applying the similar technique to calculate the age of the Earth made him reach the conclusion that the Earth was at least 1.6 billion years old.

But wait, this is not the actual age of the Earth! The Earth’s age has always been hotly debated among the scientists over the years. That is why several revisions have been made. Later, in 1920’s, an unknown scientist declared that Earth’s age was approximately 3 billion years. This suggested that the Earth was even older than the universe, which itself is 1.8 billion years old.

Later, the scientists declared that radiometric dating of the fragments from Canyon Diablo iron meteorite was the best estimate for calculating the age of the Earth. From those fragments, they got to know that the true age of Earth was 4.56 billion years.

Since then, scientists have been using radiometric dating to determine the age of extraterrestrial objects such as Earth, meteorites, space rocks and moon rocks. For many years, scientists have tried to determine the exact age and now that they have discovered its age using the radiometric dating, they are using it for several other space objects as well.

If you want to explore some more interesting information from the world of geology, come back and join us for more interesting information on other fascinating topics.          

Knowing What’s Underneath the Earth’s Surface

Breakaway view of the earth's inner cores
Breakaway view of the earth’s inner cores

Geology is an interesting subject as it involves studying different features of the earth including the oceans, mountains, rocks, earthquakes, and volcanoes.

Basically, a geologist studies all solid and liquid matter that forms the earth in addition to the history and processes that have fashioned it. A basic and important part of geology is the earth’s interior. This part of geology is what we’re going to discuss here.

Earth’s Interior

Just like the interior of your car, the earth’s interior is made up of a variety of elements and a number of layers are present in the earth’s interior. The earth’s crust, mantle, and the core are its major layers. The mantle is further divided into the upper and lower mantle while a liquid outer core and a solid inner core constitute the earth’s core.

The earth’s crust

The first layer of the earth consisting of about 16 kilometers of rock as well as unattached materials is known as the crust. Compared to its thickness under the oceans, the crust’s thickness underneath the continents is almost three times more.

The Earth’s Mantle

earth mantle cutaway viewMantle is the layer beneath the crust and accounts for a large majority of the Earth’s volume. Movements, know as convection in geology circles, is responsible for earthquakes and volcanic activity.  Almost 1,800 miles deep, the mantle consists of substances that are rocky, solid and thick. Of the earth’s total weight and mass, 85 percent is made up of this substance. Very hard, rigid rocks make up the mantle’s first few miles. Super heated solid rock makes up the next 100 or so. Solid and sturdy rock materials make up the next hundred miles of the earth’s mantle.

The Earth’s Core

Two layers that are mostly iron make up the earth’s core. Iron is estimated to make up about 90% of the earth’s core with oxygen, sulfur, or nickel combining to form the remaining 10 %. The earth’s core consists of mostly iron and nickel. Solid, the earth’s inner core measures about 1500 miles in diameter.

The earth’s outer core also consists of mostly nickel and iron. The earth’s inner and outer cores combine to become as big as the planet Mars. Superheated liquid molten lava is what most people believe earth’s outer core is made of. A solid ball comprising mainly of nickel and iron is believed to make up the earth’s inner core.

There you have it—the earth’s interior and its components. The next time you start digging holes in your garden, you will know exactly what lies underneath it.