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Clear Quartz Crystal: The Master Healer

Photo by Jason D on Unsplash

Clear Quartz, part of the biggest and most diverse family in the mineral kingdom is the most iconic crystal of the quartz family. Clear quartz is abundantly found all over the world, as it can develop under different climatic conditions.

Also commonly known as the Rock Crystal or Ice Crystal, this gemstone is valued by not only healers and spiritual leaders, but by scientists as well. As this beautiful clear rock has extraordinary characteristics, it has long been considered the source of light for humanity.

History

Various cultures all over the world have included clear quartz crystals in their traditions and ceremonies. The crystal gets its name from the Greek word krystallos, which means ‘ice.’ It was named as such because the ancient Greek philosophers thought that it was a permanent form of ice, frozen so hard, preventing it from thawing.

Clear quartz has been held in high regard by each culture with a unique meaning. The Japanese thought of it as a symbol of purity, patience, and space, calling it the ‘prefect’ jewel.’ Native North Americans believed the rock to be animate, breathing once every hundred years. 

Some cultures used it as a religious talisman and included it in funeral rites, considering it as an urn for the spirits of their ancestors, and used to carve out the crystals shaped like human skulls. Some people also used the rock for its metaphysical power to heal illnesses.

Types of Quartz Crystals

There is a wide variety of quartz crystals other than the clear crystal found on the Earth. Some of the most popular types are listed below:

Amethyst

Also referred to as the Bishop’s Stone, the stone’s color ranges from soft lavender to deep purple. Representing royalty and spirituality, the stone is thought to promote creativity.

Citrine

The Lucky Merchant’s Stone ranging from shades of transparent and pale to golden yellow, is believed to attract joy, success, and all the good things in life.

Rose Quartz

Also called the Stone of Unconditional Love, its pale pink to deep reddish-pink hues symbolize love. It is said to promote loving feelings for oneself and others.

Smoky Quartz

The Stone of Power displays different shades of black and brown. A powerful grounding stone, it has the alleged ability to absorb negative vibes from the surrounding.

Tiger’s Eye

Popular for its chatoyancy and layers in rich gold, red and brown colors, this stone is a symbol of courage and the right use of power.

Carnelian

The orange and red warm and fiery tones of the stone helps boost confidence and motivates the person. It is believed to attract warmth and bliss in life.

Physical Properties of Clear Quartz Crystal

  • Chemical Formula: SiO2
  • Color: Clear, Multicolored, All spectrum colors, Black, Brown
  • Crystal Structure: Hexagonal
  • Hardness on Mohs Scale: 7
  • Cleavage: Indiscernible
  • Luster: Vitreous
  • Transparency: Transparent to Translucent

Appearance

The clear quartz crystal looks just as beautiful as ice. The ordinary-looking gemstone tends to hold within its pure light the entire color spectrum. Although it has the term ‘clear’ in its name, it can be transparent, milky or striped.

The smooth hexagonal prism has a cluster formation. It occurs in various shapes and sizes, with naturally faceted terminations at either one or each end of the crystal. Its shape and size depending on the rate at which the crystals are formed.

Clear quartz crystal forms in compact masses and druses, and often times as dense, fibrous, or grainy formations without visible crystals.

Properties

Believed to carry the traits of the master healer, clear quartz is used by healers to open the heart and mind and balance and guide one’s inner soul. This stone is quite adaptable as it can be programmed with any intention. It gives an energy boost and aids in healing and can help to achieve any purpose. However, spiritualists believe that it’s important to cleanse this magnificent crystal.

Clear Quartz is quite useful as it has piezo- and pyroelectric properties that can transform mechanical or heat energy to electromagnetic energy. Due to its ability to direct, intensify, store, and modify energy, it is used in various technological devices.

The multifaceted and versatile rock is used to encourage self-awareness, and attract love and success. Once you feel in sync with it, the stone can help to lift the mood. It protects the aura by creating a force field of healing negative ions. 

It also improves one’s intellect, strengthens and clears the mind, helps to concentrate better and improve memory. This stone helps to sleep better and is useful to understand the meaning behind dreams. The clear quartz crystal can also be used to amplify the energy of other stones.

Physical Healing Properties

Considered the master healer crystal, it can be employed to cure several conditions. It sets the body in balance and energizes it, by stimulating the immune and circulatory system. It can prove to be useful to relieve headaches, migraines, and also stabilize dizziness.

The rock is great for providing support with exhaustion, metabolism, and reducing weight. It can be quite helpful to treat digestive issues, treat diarrhea, and infections in the kidney and bladder.

Clear quartz crystal also helps to soothe sore and wounded areas. It works wonders in treating skin problems and burns in particular.

Emotional Healing Properties

Acting as a deep soul purifier, using the stone clears the soul and mind. The crystal helps to remove the negative energy within a person and replaces it with positive vibes. It makes the user self-conscious, patient, focused and gives an energy boost.

An Overview of Shale Gas

What is Shale Gas?

Shale gas is natural gas that is trapped within the tiny spaces of shale formations. Shale is fine-grained rocks formed from mud, silt, clay and organic matter. It is a hard, low permeable mudrock and can be a rich source of petroleum and natural gas. However, the oil and gas trapped in shale are very difficult to extract because either it is trapped in small pores or is absorbed on to clay mineral particles that form the shale.  

With advancements in technology and the use of a combination of various extraction techniques, large volumes of shale gas have been extracted over the last decade. Extraction techniques such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed access to large volumes of shale gas which were previously uneconomical to produce. The extraction of this gas gives hope to the world where the energy demand is increasing exponentially. It is expected that the reserves of shale gas are enough to sustain the global economy for centuries. 

Shale Gas vs. Natural Gas  

Shale gas is a type of natural gas. It is a mixture of various hydrocarbon gases and consists mainly of methane. However, there is a difference in how the gas is distributed under the surface of the Earth. There is also a difference in how it is extracted from the Earth.

Natural gas reserves are formed when the gas travels towards the Earth’s surface. The gas originates from an organic-rich source into a permeable reservoir rock. This reserve of gas is trapped by another layer of rock which is impermeable. So essentially, natural gas is trapped between layers of two different types of rocks. Thus, natural gas is extracted through vertical drilling. 

On the other hand, shale gas also forms from organic-rich sources. However, these sources are present within the shale rock. The rock is impermeable and this inhibits the gas to migrate towards the surface of the earth. As a result, the gas remains trapped within the rocks. To extract this type of gas, a combination of techniques called hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling is used. The wells are drilled horizontally. Later water, chemicals and sand are pumped into the wells to break the hydrocarbons. This process is known as hydraulic fracturing. Together, these processes allow for the extraction of hidden resource. 

Global Reserves of Shale Gas 

There is a rising environmental concern on the extraction of shale gas. Insertion of water and chemicals into the wells can disturb the water table. It can also contaminate the potential sources of water for nearby habitats. However, considering the exponential increase in global energy demand, there is an increasing extraction of shale gas. 

It is interesting to note that many countries around the world hold large reserves of shale gas. Below is a description of the five countries which hold the largest reserves of shale gas in the world. 

China 

Shale gas exploration is a very recent practice however, it progressed very rapidly. China holds almost 770 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas reserves with more than 26.98 trillion cubic feet of proven shale gas reserves. In 2016, the overall production of shale gas in China was around 280 billion cubic feet and it is expected to reach more than 1 trillion cubic feet by 2020.

Argentina 

Argentina is known to be the largest producer of dry gas. It also holds the second-largest reserves of shale gas. The country possesses 802 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. The extraction of shale gas from Argentina began after 2013 when Chevron and YPF, a vertically integrated energy company in Argentina, signed an agreement to develop the shale gas facility in the VacaMuerta field.  

Algeria 

Algeria, the largest country in Africa and the Arab world is also the third-largest country in the world when it comes to shale gas reserves. It possesses 70 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas. Significant foreign investment from ENI, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Talisman Energy Inc. will certainly play an important role in the development of shale gas facilities in Algeria. 

US

According to the estimates, the US holds the fourth-largest reserves of shale gas following China, Argentina and Algeria. It holds 665 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. As of now, the country is producing 87 billion cubic feet of shale gas per day. This product is expected to increase further. This increase in the extraction of shale gas has provided a boom to the US economy. It is estimated that the shale gas reserves are enough to sustain the energy needs of the US economy for the next 110 years.   

Canada 

Canada is one of the largest producers of natural gas in the world. It also holds the fifth-largest reserves of shale gas. It is estimated that the country holds 573 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves. There are significant explorations in Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick. However, due to inadequate local infrastructure and environmental protection laws, the country is unable to capitalize on this resource so far. Given the limited population and huge reserves of shale gas, the Canadian economy can continue to rely on this resource throughout the next century. 

Conclusion 

With the depleting natural resources and ever-increasing global energy demand, shale gas is the new ray of hope for the global economy. Apart from the list of countries, there are many other countries that hold large reserves of shale gas including Mexico, Australia and South Africa. Looking at the reserves, we can safely assume that this important resource can continue to meet the global energy needs for years to come. 

Black Holes – The Mystery of Outer Space

Photo by Yayimages

Ever wonder what a black hole is? If I told you that you would be stretched like a rubber band if you came near it, would have I captured your interest?

From planets that orbit around the Sun to galaxies that are bounded by a special force (gravity), the universe is full of surprises and one such surprise is the black hole. These entities have such a high gravitational pull that not even light can escape, which is quite fascinating and mind-boggling in itself. 

The existence of black holes was first predicted by Albert Einstein, but the term was coined many years later. Though considered a theoretical object, the first physical black hole was discovered in 1971, but the first-ever image of a black hole was released only this year, which has opened up a new area of study on these magnificent entities. Researchers and astronomers now know what a black hole looks like. But for us, it is important to understand what it is.

First-ever image of a black hole. 53 million light-years from here in the M87 galaxy. Scientists used the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) which are scores of telescope arrays located in different parts of the world and synchronized to focus on the object on the same day and at the same time.

What Exactly is a Black Hole?

Before we begin, we need to identify two entities. One is matter. The other is gravity. We all know what gravity is, so let’s focus on matter, which is nothing more than an object that is made up of atoms. From the tiniest microorganisms to the largest stars, all objects are made up of matter.

The next factor to note is that all matter has gravity, which is proportional to its size, the larger the object is, the more gravity it will have (we are talking about objects that exist in space, not on Earth).

One example is our planet Earth, which weighs about 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds (or 5,974,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms or 5.972 × 10^24 kg ). Yes, that’s a lot but when referring to the size of the universe, it is analogous to a grain of sand on a beach. Its weight (or amount of matter it contains) is sufficient to have enough gravitational pull to hold the moon in its orbit and revolve around it.   

On a grander scale is our Sun, whose gravitational pull keeps the Earth and the other seven planets to revolve around it. If the Sun had no gravity, the Earth (and every other body in our solar system) would be endlessly floating through the universe. 

When stars die, they collapse within each other. When our Sun dies, which is expected to happen in about 4.5 billion years, it would collapse into itself, because gravity would be pulling all its mass towards its center. The remains would be a piece of matter about the size of Earth, called a white dwarf.

Since the Sun doesn’t have a sufficient amount of matter/gravity to collapse into itself any further, it will remain as a white dwarf. Another way of describing a white drawf is that its mass may be equal to that of the Sun, but its volume is comparable to that of Earth. This type of event is very common and consists of about 97% of the stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

But What About Larger Stars?

Just think of a star that is massive enough to have such a strong amount gravity that all its matter gets pulled in to the point that it is so much smaller than the Earth size we mentioned before. As a general reference, let’s say about 18 miles in diameter.

In other words, it is packed so greatly that even though the result is a smaller object, it becomes more dense, because all that matter is condensed within a smaller volume. When this happens, it is called a supernova and results in what astronomers call a neutron star.

You Still Didn’t Explain How a Black Hole is Formed?

Those stars previously mentioned do not have sufficient mass to collapse to the point that it produces a black hole. Now, for stars that are that big, 

A black hole is an area in outer space with an exceptionally high gravitational pull. So far, we have predicted the force exerted by the black hole. But it is so strong that even light cannot escape if it goes close to a black hole. 

Scientists, however, have understood the reason for such a high gravitational pull. It is because matter has been crammed into a very tiny place. When very huge stars die, they form black holes that continue to absorb all the mass in the surrounding vicinity. Scientists also believe that at times, a single hole can merge with other nearby black holes. It is also hypothesized that the center of any galaxy in outer space is actually a huge black hole. 

Since since light cannot escape, we cannot see black holes. They are invisible, but their presence can be felt. NASA has managed to develop special space telescopes which can help locate black holes. These special telescopes can also observe how stars close to black holes behave differently compared to other stars. 

Black holes can vary in size. A small black hole can be as small as a single atom, but it can have a mass equivalent to a mountain. So regardless of the size, what makes black holes unique is the mass of matter which is squeezed into it. 

Types of Black Holes

Astronomers and researchers have categorized black holes into four types.

Supermassive Black Holes 

Artist Conception of a Supermassive Black Hole
Artist Conception of a Supermassive Black Hole (Wikipedia)

The first type of black holes is also the largest. This type of black hole has an immeasurable amount of mass. Scientists believe that supermassive black holes are present at the center of galaxies in space. This type of black hole is also found in our solar system and is located at Sagittarius A*. 

Intermediate Mass Black Holes

So far, this is a hypothetical type of black hole. The mass in these black holes can range from 100 to 10 hundred thousand solar masses. There is no proof of the existence of this type of black holes. However, there is indirect evidence of the existence of such black holes due to the behavior of certain stars. 

Stellar Black Holes 

This type of black hole is formed when giant stars collapse. The mass of such black holes range from 5 to 100 solar masses. This can be observed as a hypernova explosion or a burst of gamma-ray. This type of black holes is also called collapsars. 

Mini Black Holes 

This is the last type of black hole. As the name suggests, they are small black holes with less than 5 solar masses. Mini black holes were introduced by Stephen Hawkings in 1971.

Major Black holes Near Our Galaxy 

So far, researchers have spotted three major black holes near our galaxy. 

A0620-00

Scientists believe that A0620-00 is a stellar black hole, which is approximately three thousand lightyears away from the Earth. This system of a collapsing binary star belongs to the Monoceros constellation. It comprises of an unidentified quantity of solar mass and a star. 

Cygnus X-1

Found in the constellation of Cygnus, this black hole was discovered in 1964. This is one of the few black holes which are widely accepted by scientists around the world. It is estimated that this black hole has 15 solar masses, and is about 5 million years old. Scientists also believe that it comes from a star that was originally more than 40 solar masses. 

V404 Cygni

V404 Cygni is also categorized as a stellar black hole equivalent to 12 solar masses. It also has a star. The star and the black hole orbit within a close range. Because of the proximity of the star to the black hole and the intense gravitational pull, this star continues to lose mass to the black hole. 

Beyond Black Holes

There is nothing more mystifying in outer space than black holes. So far, we only know that as we get closer to the edge of the black hole, nothing returns. The gravitational pull is so high that it attracts even the tiniest particles of light. However, we also know that the force is different from suction. So just like something falls on the ground due to gravity, it moves into the black hole due to the same pull. It is believed that pressure and temperature inside the black holes can be so extreme that it does not support any form of organic life as we know it. Considering life forms that are not organic, we can definitely not comment on that now. No one knows for sure what lies inside the black holes. On one end, there is a galaxy, but what lies on the other side still remains a mystery.

Ten Interesting Facts about Floods in the US

A bench partially submerged in flood water
Photo by gufoto – yayimages.com

To experience the devastations of floods, you don’t necessarily need to live in a high-risk flood zone. Regardless of where you live, floods can severely affect you. As the global climate is changing, there is a tremendous increase in the frequency of floods. Every year, floods are becoming more intense and causing more damage to life and property. 

The United States experiences floods very often. This is because the country is prone to many other natural disasters. Some interesting facts in the United States are highlighted below. 

Floods Can Occur Anywhere 

Where there is water, there can be floods. This natural disaster can occur anywhere, anytime. In the United States, flash floods can occur in all 50 states. They are triggered by a preceding event like a hurricane or a storm. 

The eastern part of the US often experiences hurricanes and severe thunderstorms. Both of these conditions can trigger flooding. On the other hand, the western part of the US is more prone to snow melts and heavy rainfall. 

Flash Floods May Develop Quickly 

Flash floods may develop is as little as six hours following the triggered event. In case of a dike or levee breakdown or the collapse of a dam, flash floods can occur within minutes. They may take slightly longer in case of excessive flow of river water through ice melts.

While heavy rainfall is one of the potential causes of floods, other natural disasters including hurricanes, storms, and snow melts can also lead to flooding. 

Floods Follow Tornadoes

In terms of loss of property and lives, floods are the second most destructive natural disasters in the United States. Tornadoes are the only natural disaster that has caused more damage in terms of life and property compared to floods.  

In the year 2011, the total damages from floods were $8.41 billion. As the intensity and frequency of floods has increased over the last few years, the damages also hiked.

Flooding is a “Top 5 Causes” of Weather-Related Deaths in the US

In the year 2014, flooding was the 4th leading cause of weather-related deaths in the US. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collected the data regarding fatalities due to natural disasters for the years 1984-2013. The data revealed that the average deaths related to flooding was 85 per annum. This was highest amongst other natural disasters including tornadoes, lightning strikes, and hurricanes.  

Floodplains Are Just 2% of the Earth’s Surface 

Floodplains are areas that have a higher risk of floods. They are low lying areas near the rivers and other water bodies. Naturally, only 2% of the Earth’s surface can be categorized as floodplains. The rest of the surface of land also gets affected by floods, but not as much as floodplains. 

Though floodplains experience extensive damage due to frequent floods, they play an important role in maintaining the ecosystem. Floodplains maintain the level of groundwater by absorbing flood water and releasing it gradually. They also provide clean water, wildlife habitat, and crops.  

Wetlands Save Costs

Flooding incurs a major repair cost as it extensively damages property and infrastructure. In the US, wetlands save more than $30 billion in damage repair. Since wetlands act as sponges, they absorb and store excess water. As a result, flood water does not remain standing. A single acre of wetland can absorb up to 330,000 gallons of water. This volume of water is enough to submerge thirteen homes. 

Apart from saving costs, wetlands play a crucial role in maintaining groundwater levels.  

Floods are Becoming More Frequent and More Intense 

Over the last few decades, the US has experienced major shifts in the weather. There has been a 20% increase in heavy rainfalls. Heavy rainfall has increased the frequency of floods. This, combined with the increased use of land, has intensified damages from the floods. The average annual loss from floods has increased from $6 billion in 2013 to $10 billion in 2017. 

Considering the global climate change, scientists have predicted that the weather will further worsen in the United States. The size of the floodplains in the US will increase by 40% in the next 50 years. This can have devastating consequences on future generations. 

Dikes or Levees Can Collapse 

Civilizations have been residing around rivers for centuries. When the technology was limited, people living near rivers built levees or dikes. This was their only defense against overflowing floodwater. As technology improved and dams were constructed, people continued to rely on levees. 

In the US, 100,000 miles of levees run across the nation. However, there is no record of the condition of these levees. An estimate of 40% of the population in the US lives in counties that still rely on levees. People now do not rely on levees for agricultural purposes alone; instead, homes and businesses are now constructed behind them. However, with the growing intensity of floods, levees are no longer a reliable option. 

Heavy rainfall induced by climate change, along with the deteriorating condition of the levees, can pose a threat to the population residing near rivers and streams. 

Ten Interesting Facts about Floods in the US

Floods are one of the world’s most common and most destructive natural disasters and usually are an after-effect of natural disasters. In fact, 90% of all natural disasters are followed by flooding. Heavy rainfall, melting glaciers, hurricanes, storms, tornadoes and earthquakes can all trigger floods. . 

To experience the devastations of floods, you don’t necessarily need to live in a high-risk flood zone. Regardless of where you live, floods can severely affect you. As the global climate is changing, there is a tremendous increase in the frequency of floods. Every year, floods are also becoming more intense and causing more damage to life and property. 

The United States experiences floods very often. This is because the country is prone to many other natural disasters. Some of the interesting facts about floods in the United States are highlighted below. 

Floods Can Occur Anywhere 

Where there is water, there can be floods. This natural disaster can occur anywhere, anytime. In the United States, flash floods can occur in all 50 states. They are triggered by a preceding event like a hurricane or a storm. 

The eastern part of the US often experiences hurricanes and severe thunderstorms. Both of these conditions can trigger flooding. On the other hand, the western part of the US is more prone to snow melts and heavy rainfall. 

Flash Floods May Develop Quickly 

Flash floods may develop is as little as six hours following the triggered event. In case of a dike or levee breakdown or the collapse of a dam, flash floods can occur within minutes. They may take slightly longer in case of excessive flow of river water through ice melts.

While heavy rainfall is one of the potential causes of floods, other natural disasters including hurricanes, storms, and snow melts can also lead to flooding. 

Floods Follow Tornadoes

In terms of loss of property and lives, floods are the second most destructive natural disasters in the United States. Tornadoes are the only natural disaster that has caused more damage in terms of life and property compared to floods.  

In the year 2011, the total damages from floods were $8.41 billion. As the intensity and frequency of floods have increased over the last few years, the damages also hiked.

Flooding is a “Top 5 Causes” of Weather-Related Deaths in the US

In the year 2014, flooding was the 4th leading cause of weather-related deaths in the US. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collected the data regarding fatalities due to natural disasters for the years 1984-2013. The data revealed that the average deaths related to flooding were 85 per annum. This was highest amongst other natural disasters including tornadoes, lightning strikes, and hurricanes.  

Floodplains Are Just 2% of the Earth’s Surface 

Floodplains are areas that have a higher risk of floods. They are low lying areas near the rivers and other water bodies. Naturally, only 2% of the Earth’s surface can be categorized as floodplains. The rest of the surface of land also gets affected by floods, but not as much as floodplains. 

Though floodplains experience extensive damage due to frequent floods, they play an important role in maintaining the ecosystem. Floodplains maintain the level of groundwater by absorbing flood water and releasing it gradually. They also provide clean water, wildlife habitat, and crops.  

Wetlands Save Costs

Flooding incurs a major repair cost as it extensively damages property and infrastructure. In the US, wetlands save more than $30 billion in damage repair. Since wetlands act as sponges, they absorb and store excess water. As a result, flood water does not remain standing. A single acre of wetland can absorb up to 330,000 gallons of water. This volume of water is enough to submerge thirteen homes. 

Apart from saving costs, wetlands play a crucial role in maintaining groundwater levels.  

Floods are Becoming More Frequent and More Intense 

Over the last few decades, the US has experienced major shifts in the weather. There has been a 20% increase in heavy rainfalls. Heavy rainfall has increased the frequency of floods. This, combined with the increased use of land, has intensified damages from the floods. The average annual loss from floods has increased from $6 billion in 2013 to $10 billion in 2017. 

Considering the global climate change, scientists have predicted that the weather will further worsen in the United States. The size of the floodplains in the US will increase by 40% in the next 50 years. This can have devastating consequences on future generations. 

Dikes or Levees Can Collapse 

Civilizations have been residing around rivers for centuries. When the technology was limited, people living near rivers built levees or dikes. This was their only defense against overflowing floodwater. As technology improved and dams were constructed, people continued to rely on levees. 

In the US, 100,000 miles of levees run across the nation. However, there is no record of the condition of these levees. An estimate of 40% of the population in the US lives in counties that still rely on levees. People now do not rely on levees for agricultural purposes alone; instead, homes and businesses are now constructed behind them. However, with the growing intensity of floods, levees are no longer a reliable option. 

Heavy rainfall induced by climate change, along with the deteriorating condition of the levees, can pose a threat to the population residing near rivers and streams. 

The Fundamental Forces of Nature

Everything which happens around us is a result of the interaction of forces and we mean everything, from a fruit falling from a tree (Remember Isaac Newton?) to Earth orbiting around the Sun, aa matter around us interacts with other bodies around it, This phenomenon is based on four fundamental forces. 

Gravity, the weakest of the four natural forces is present in our everyday lives. It determines how and why things around us stay at a certain height and why some objects fall down, while others take longer. 

Electromagnetic forces run our electric and digital machines and allows us to access the universe from the comfort of our homes. 

The other two natural forces, namely the strong and the weak nuclear forces, operate at the atomic level. They influence the fundamental particles of an atom including the proton and electrons. 

Each of the four fundamental forces of nature has unique properties and characteristics. Every single interaction which takes place in the universe can be explained through these forces. However, there are certain interactions which appear to be bizarre and are not explained by these four forces. This raises the question of the existence of a fifth, unknown and unexplained force of nature. Physicists are still struggling to find the answer.  

Gravity – The Weakest Force of Nature

If a pen slips out of your hand, it will immediately fall down and touch the ground. For humans, gravity appears to be the strongest and most obvious force of nature. In reality, gravity is actually the weakest of the four elements. 

Simply defined, gravity is the attraction between any two objects which have a mass. The force depends upon the mass of the objects. According to the law of gravitation, the magnitude or intensity of the gravitational force can be calculated by multiplying the masses with the universal gravitational constant ‘G’. The resultant is then divided by the square of the distance between the centers of the masses. There is a different force of gravity constant for each object in the solar system and for that matter, the universe. The formula is F = G*m1*m2/r2 . One example would be the force of gravity on Earth is 9.8 meters per second squared, or 9.8 m/s2

Gravity is very weak on the atomic level, but since most objects around us have so much mass, the force of gravity becomes stronger and more apparent. The force becomes stronger and more evident for universal objects with larger masses including the planets and stars. In this case, gravity is strong enough to keep them in an orbit. When it comes to galaxies, the mass further increases and gravity plays a crucial role in attracting galaxies even when they are far apart.  

The Weak Nuclear Force 

The weak nuclear force is much stronger than the gravitational force (1010times). However, the force is only stronger within a certain range. It acts at a distance within the size of the proton. The particles which carry the weak nuclear force are called the weak vector bosons and have symbols w+, w and z0. The interaction between these particles causes one type of charged particle to turn into another type of charged particle. This interaction is responsible for phenomena such as beta and other radioactive decay

Electromagnetic Force 

The electromagnetic force is far stronger than the gravitational pull and has a much wider range than the weak nuclear force. This third strongest force of nature is 1040 times stronger than the gravitational force. An easy way to assess the strength of the electromagnetic force is to hold a magnet against a few paper clips. Gravity will attract the paper clips downwards but the electromagnetic force, which is stronger than gravity, will end up attracting the paper clips upwards. 

The electromagnetic force allows the interaction of particles with an electric charge. When the charged particles are at rest, they interact through electrostatic forces. When in motion, they mingle together through both electrical and magnetic forces. 

Though less powerful than the strong nuclear force, the electromagnetic force is by far the most prevalent force in the world. It can affect objects with a fair amount of power when they are at a reasonable distance. 

The Strong Nuclear Force

The strong nuclear force is the strongest fundamental force of nature. It is the biggest influence on the fundamental particles of the universe. It is this force which binds together the nuclei of the atom. However, the range of the strong nuclear force is only limited to subatomic particles. 

The nuclei of an atom is made up of a positively charged proton and a neutral charged neutron. Since like charges repel, each proton in the nuclei is working hard to get away from the other proton. This is where the strong nuclear force comes in. The strong force allows particles called gluons to stick together and create nucleons. These gluons can interact with other gluons and further strengthen the bond within the nuclei. The presence of the strong nuclear force is the reason why so much energy is released when the nuclei of an atom breaks down. 

The Fifth Force – Fact or Fiction 

Physicists around the world have unanimously agreed that the four fundamental forces explain every phenomenon that takes place in the universe. However, there are various mysteries of physics which cannot be explained by these four fundamental forces of nature. One such mystery is the existence of dark matter. After immense research, physicists have agreed that dark matter is a form of a stable and huge particle which experiences gravity but no other known forces. Researchers have failed to identify the reason why dark matter does not experience any force other than gravity. 

There are many ideas about why other forces do not act on the dark matter. One famous hypothesis is the presence of an unidentified fifth force. Physicists around the world are studying the possibilities of existence of a fifth fundamental force of nature. But it is too early to claim its presence.  

How Mountains are Created

Mountains big and small have been the result of plate teconics.

The formation of the Himalayas was created when the Indian subplate burrowed under the European continent and formed the Appalachian Mountains.

When the North American and African plates collided, a large separation of earth materialized and the Atlantic Ocean opened up.

The volcanic and seismic activity of the West Coast of the US occurs as a result of grinding of the North American and Pacific plates.

The above are just a few examples of the effects of plate tectonics. The geological history of Earth is littered with such phenomena that have made the Earth what it is today.

The Mighty Mountains

Mountains in Colorado SpringsWhat would the world look like without the peaks and glory of the mighty mountains? From the Himalayas to the Rocky Mountains, these mysterious peaks cover almost one-fifth of the Earth’s surface. 

A mountain is a land form which stretches above the land, many times in the form of a peak. Like every landscape, mountains are unique in their formation, characteristics, and the way they affect the environment.   

What are Mountains?

Mountains are generally assumed to be a giant formation of rock, but there is no universally accepted definition of a mountain. Factors like elevation, slope, and continuity define a mountainous environment. The UN Environmental Program defines a mountain as a piece of rock with at least one of the following attributes:

  • A piece of rock with an altitude of at least 2500 meters above sea level.
  • A piece of rock with an elevation of at least 1500 meters above sea level and a slope of more than 2 degrees.
  • A piece of rock with an altitude of at least 1000 meters above sea level and a slope of more than 5 degrees.
  • A piece of rock with an elevation of at least 300 meters and an elevation range of more than 7 kilometers.

The World’s Most Famous Mountains 

Mountains cover almost 24% of our planet and are scattered all around the globe, with some being underwater and the rest on the surface of the Earth. The longest mountain range is called The Mid Ocean Ridge, which is almost 65,000 kilometers long and is mostly underwater and stretches almost all around the globe.

But the world’s longest mountain range above sea level is The Andes. The Andes is 7000 kilometers long range and is located in seven countries of South America.

The most famous mountain range in the world is The Himalayas. This is because of the fact that mountain climbers try to summit the mountain peaks in this area. The range contains 3 of 5 highest mountain peaks in the world. The Himalayas include:

  • Mount Everest – The world’s highest point with a peak height of 8848 meters above sea level. It is situated in Nepal. 
  • The K-2 – The second highest point on earth and located in Pakistan.
  • Nanga Parbat – One of the most dangerous mountains to summit. Compared to Mount Everest and K2, this mountain is responsible for the highest climber death toll in the world.

It might come as a surprise, but the world’s tallest mountain is actually not Mount Everest. It is called Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea has a total height of 10,203 meters – almost 2 kilometers more than Everest, but almost 6000 meters of it are under the ocean.  It is situated on one of the islands in Hawaii and is basically an inactive volcano. 

How Are Mountains Formed?

The two known ways of mountain formation are: 

Tectonic Plates Movement

Diagram of Earth's Inner LayersThe Earth consists of six main tectonic plates, which are located in the Lithosphere (Higheset layer). These plates are continuously moving over the hot magma. They are like a jigsaw puzzle and when any of the two pieces collide with each other, they create a disturbance which, in common terms, is known as an earthquake. 

When this happens underwater, it creates a tsunami. But when this happens on land, we get earthquakes. As a result of this, these plates overlap each other and create uphill surfaces known as mountains. An interesting fact about The Himalayas is that the process of the creation of these mountains started about 55 million years ago and the range is continuously growing because of these continuous tectonic movements.

Volcanic Activity

Some mountains are formed by the movement of these tectonic plates, but others are formed by volcanic eruptions. 

Volcanoes are basically openings in our planet that are directly connected to the hot magma which is flowing under it. Whenever a volcano erupts, it lets go of lava (hot magma), gas, ash, and solid rocks. With the continuous release of lava over time (volcanic eruptions), a solid block is formed. This happens when the hot lava cools down. With this continuous release over time, a cliff or a mountain is formed.  Mauna Kea in Hawaii and Mount Fuji in Japan are examples of volcanic mountains.

Characteristics of Mountains

Capital Reef National Park
Capital Reef National Park, Utah

All mountain systems share a common characteristic of height. Other than that, the mountain ranges supply almost 80% of all the spring water present on earth. This spring water comes from the melting of ice that is present on the peaks of these mountains.

Mountain ranges are home to several living creatures as well. Around 10,000 species of animals and plants are found on the different mountain ranges around the globe. Moreover, not just plants and animals, but 10% of the world’s human population lives on various mountain ranges. They earn a living on these mountains by growing and selling various types of vegetation. 

How Do Mountains Affect the Environment?

Mountains are not just bumps on the earth which serve as geographical borders and adventure hubs for climbers. They have a wider impact on the environment. 

Mountains divert the flow of wind on the surface, and the effect can be seen not only in the vicinity but far, far away. The higher you go up a mountain, the thinner the air gets, and there are more chances of rain. Also, as the weather gets cooler, and there is a higher probability of snowfall. This snowfall forces the air to become cooler, and the whole area enjoys lower temperatures. When the snow from the mountains melts in the summer, it provides an ample supply of natural spring water. This is the reason why valleys are more wet and green. 

Elevation and depression play an important role in the absorption of carbon dioxide. The green valley absorbs the carbon dioxide in our system, hence creating a positive impact on the environment. Mountains play an important role in the ecosystem, and hence, they are much more than just an elevated piece of rock.

Opal Demand is Soaring as Australian Mines Struggle to Keep up with Demand

Opal Mines in AustraliaEven in the opal-rich fields of South Australia, one needs luck, months and even years of patience to come across this rare gem. Potential miners spend hours in the sun waiting for a fortune that can be made on the sale of opal. The market for larger pieces of opal can go north of $1 million because of high demand from jewelers and fashion brands.

South Australia is the producer of over 80% of the opals currently circulating in the market. But even then, finding opal stones is extremely rare. The town associated with opal mining is Copper Bend where many of these gems are found in the surrounding areas. Currently, the population of the town stands at 3,500. However, at the height of the mining, thousands of miners lived in the town where summer temperatures can go up to 116° F (47° C). There are still massive profits to be made, thanks to the high demand from fashion brands and countries like China and India.

A Rise in Demand

The depletion of opal mines is making it harder for South Australian miners to keep up with high demand from Chinese and Indian buyers who keep on placing large orders for export.

The locals have been frustrated as the price of the precious gem has gone through the roof and Chinese and Indian buyers are flooding the market for requests. There is not enough opal to export as no new mines are being discovered.

The local mining population has started its own exploration but only managed to find satellite mines so far. These small mines are only capable of producing opals worth $2 to $3 million whereas the locals estimate they need about $200 to $300 million worth to fulfill demand and bring back the old mining towns to their former glory.

A Darling of the Fashion World

Opals are making their way back to the fashion limelight as they are being used by both old timers and upcoming designers to distinguish their work from the competition.

Though opals were first discovered in the 1800s in Australia, it was not until the 1990s that their market price started gaining more momentum, helped mostly by a surge in European demand at the time.

Opal carries with a sense of individuality and creativity, two characteristics that are highly sought after in the fashion world. Compared to colored diamonds, rubies, and blue sapphires that have sky-high prices and are out of reach for many people, opals come as an equally dazzling alternative. Furthermore, all the opals in Australia are mined ethically. As ethical sourcing is becoming a huge concern for the next generation of jewelry buyers, Australian opals are being considered more desirable.

What Needs to be Done

Most miners from South Australia believe that the surface of opal mining has not even been scratched yet. There needs to be a more robust government policy to ramp-up investment in opal mining and exploration which miners feel a lack of government support.

However, the government has its own reasons for not giving enough support to middle and small-scale miners. A report identifies the following reasons for not providing more to support to the opal mining industry.

    • Tax evasion on a large scale by small miners which forces the government to ignore their needs as they believe taxpayer money could be spent better.
    • The lack of unity amongst the mining community on how the industry should be supported is also an issue, preventing the miners from lobbying collectively.
    • Australia is rich in minerals and stones such as gold, iron, and ore. It receives royalties from these industries, unlike opal mining which requires no royalty payments to the government.
  • The government believes that the potential of opal is not worth the time and money as other resources like nickel and gold yield better returns.

A lack of unity by the miners and a lack of interest by the Australian government are creating a situation where the supply of opal might dwindle from Australia. Of course, this is good news for sellers, hoarders, and other countries that have opal mines as the loss of a major supplier would drive up prices. But the problem for small-scale Australian miners and opal cutter would just exacerbate as they are being neglected.

Immediate steps are necessary to be undertaken by the government if the opal mining industry in Australia is to be saved from doom. Investment and explorations of new mines and new mining equipment are needed as well as subsidies.

From the part of the miners, a more united front for stronger lobbying efforts are required if they want the government to focus on a dying industry.

Factors Behind Undervalued Silver

Close up of Silver CoinsSilver is perhaps the most overlooked precious metal, as most people tend to focus more on gold and platinum. However, it has most of the same properties as gold, and even offers important technological and electronic applications.  

The first reported mining of silver took place in 3,000 BC in the regions where Turkey and Greece are located. Silver was first used as a currency in the form of coins in Greece around 400 BC, but it was the Spanish conquests of South America that saw a drastic shift in silver production, which lead to three countries, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia producing over 85%of the world’s supply.  

Demand for Silver

Silver is one of the most versatile metals in the world and is used in many applications. It is the second-most tensile and malleable metal after gold. A single ounce of silver can be molded into 8,000 feet of wire.

Industrial and technological usage account for over half of the demand for silver annually which is due to its versatile nature. Here are some applications which depend on silver:  

Industrial Applications

Silver is one of the best conductors of heat and electricity which makes it viable for use in many electrical applications. It is the primary element used in the production of solar panels. The metal is also heavily used in the automobile sector.

Jewelry

Few metals are better suited for jewelry than silver, which is what drives up demand in this sector. Shiny and resilient, the metal is quite easily molded into shapes, requires less upkeep and can last a long time.

Coins

Silver was once the most widely used form of currency in the shape of coins. It was used globally as an accepted medium of exchange until it was phased out gradually in the 19th Century.

Silverware

Silver has been the standard bearer for decor and cutlery since the 14th Century. Silverware lasts for generations and does not corrode.

Is Silver Undervalued

While gold netted a decent return of 13% in 2017, silver gave out a consistently negative return. Over the course of the last seven years, the price of silver has dropped significantly from $35 an ounce in 2011 to $14 an ounce in 2018.

Even if silver is not in the same category of precious metals such as gold, the demand and supply forces dictate that the price should be much higher, especially because of its high demand in industrial usage and a weak dollar. This meant that all commodities gave a decent return except silver.

Here are some possible reasons as to why the value of silver should be higher than the current market price.

Strong Demand

Silver has many different applications and some analysts suggest that price is artificially low. Each year, new innovations are discovered regarding the usage of silver because of its unique chemical properties. Applications from biotech to electronics all use silver and there is a concern that there is not enough silver left to fulfill all the demand.

Supply Deficiency

The production of silver has struggled to meet with the surging demand. In 2017 alone, the supply of silver fell short by 32.5 million ounces, while the year before, the shortage was recorded to be 17.14 million ounces.

Despite this shortfall in supply, the price further decreased for the given years which goes against the basic economic principle of demand and supply: prices rise when demand increases and supply reduces. This led market analysts to speculate that silver was undervalued, as prices remained low even as demand outpaced supply.

The Gold-Silver Ratio

The gold-silver ratio is a measurement of how many ounces of silver does it take to purchase an ounce of gold. Historically the average of this ratio has always been 12:1. This means it takes 12 ounces of silver to buy 1 ounce of gold. The current ratio is 83:1 implying that the market price of silver is massively undervalued.

Reasons to Buy Silver

Silver appears to be a great buy for investors at the moment because of it being relatively underpriced as compared to other metals; however, there isn’t a lot of capital tied up in silver compared to gold. Furthermore silver can meet small financial needs in case of an emergency as it can be easily broken down into smaller denominations. Also silver coins and bars can be sold almost anywhere in the world.

As world inventories of silver have fallen thanks to a surging demand and a falling supply, a fact has been established from data observation over the past fifty years. Since silver is a small market, small money movements have a great impact on price which implies high volatility. A great volatility means that silver can fall more than gold in bearish markets but the opposite stands true for bull markets.

With observation and a little knowledge, you can clock in at the right time to buy silver when it is at an all-time low currently and reap in the profits when prices take off. As of the writing of this article, the price of silver is $15.31.

One of the biggest banks on Wall Street, JPMorgan identified this opportunity in 2011 by buying silver in great numbers. Reports of the bank having accumulated more than 600 million ounces of physical silver at their warehouse, implies a changing trend. Silver prices appear to be at an all-time low and a bank on Wall Street accumulating a huge stash of the metal is not for nothing.  

Commodities are all priced in dollars and depreciation in USD means that the prices of all commodities are rising, except silver. With a massive hoard of silver in their warehouse, JPMorgan is likely to have predicted a spike in the price of silver much quicker than the rest of us.