Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Diamonds In Earth's Mantle

Sound Waves Reveal Diamond
Cache Deep in Earth’s Interior
Study finds 1–2 percent of Earth’s oldest mantle rocks are made from diamond
By Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

July 16, 2018 -- There may be more than a quadrillion tons of diamond hidden in the Earth’s interior, according to a new study from MIT and other universities. But the new results are unlikely to set off a diamond rush. The scientists estimate the precious minerals are buried more than 100 miles below the surface, far deeper than any drilling expedition has ever reached.

The ultradeep cache may be scattered within cratonic roots — the oldest and most immovable sections of rock that lie beneath the center of most continental tectonic plates. Shaped like inverted mountains, cratons can stretch as deep as 200 miles through the Earth’s crust and into its mantle; geologists refer to their deepest sections as “roots.”

In the new study, scientists estimate that cratonic roots may contain 1 to 2 percent diamond. Considering the total volume of cratonic roots in the Earth, the team figures that about a quadrillion (1016) tons of diamond are scattered within these ancient rocks, 90 to 150 miles below the surface.   

“This shows that diamond is not perhaps this exotic mineral, but on the [geological] scale of things, it’s relatively common,” says Ulrich Faul, a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. “We can’t get at them, but still, there is much more diamond there than we have ever thought before.”

Faul’s co-authors include scientists from the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, the University of California at Berkeley, Ecole Polytechnique, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Harvard University, the University of Science and Technology of China, the University of Bayreuth, the University of Melbourne, and University College London.

A sound glitch

Faul and his colleagues came to their conclusion after puzzling over an anomaly in seismic data. For the past few decades, agencies such as the United States Geological Survey have kept global records of seismic activity — essentially, sound waves traveling through the Earth that are triggered by earthquakes, tsunamis, explosions, and other ground-shaking sources. Seismic receivers around the world pick up sound waves from such sources, at various speeds and intensities, which seismologists can use to determine where, for example, an earthquake originated.

Scientists can also use this seismic data to construct an image of what the Earth’s interior might look like. Sound waves move at various speeds through the Earth, depending on the temperature, density, and composition of the rocks through which they travel. Scientists have used this relationship between seismic velocity and rock composition to estimate the types of rocks that make up the Earth’s crust and parts of the upper mantle, also known as the lithosphere.

However, in using seismic data to map the Earth’s interior, scientists have been unable to explain a curious anomaly: Sound waves tend to speed up significantly when passing through the roots of ancient cratons. Cratons are known to be colder and less dense than the surrounding mantle, which would in turn yield slightly faster sound waves, but not quite as fast as what has been measured.   

“The velocities that are measured are faster than what we think we can reproduce with reasonable assumptions about what is there,” Faul says. “Then we have to say, ‘There is a problem.’ That’s how this project started.”

Diamonds in the deep

The team aimed to identify the composition of cratonic roots that might explain the spikes in seismic speeds. To do this, seismologists on the team first used seismic data from the USGS and other sources to generate a three-dimensional model of the velocities of seismic waves traveling through the Earth’s major cratons.

Next, Faul and others, who in the past have measured sound speeds through many different types of minerals in the laboratory, used this knowledge to assemble virtual rocks, made from various combinations of minerals. Then the team calculated how fast sound waves would travel through each virtual rock, and found only one type of rock that produced the same velocities as what the seismologists measured: one that contains 1 to 2 percent diamond, in addition to peridotite (the predominant rock type of the Earth’s upper mantle) and minor amounts of eclogite (representing subducted oceanic crust). This scenario represents at least 1,000 times more diamond than people had previously expected.

“Diamond in many ways is special,” Faul says. “One of its special properties is, the sound velocity in diamond is more than twice as fast as in the dominant mineral in upper mantle rocks, olivine.”

The researchers found that a rock composition of 1 to 2 percent diamond would be just enough to produce the higher sound velocities that the seismologists measured. This small fraction of diamond would also not change the overall density of a craton, which is naturally less dense than the surrounding mantle.

“They are like pieces of wood, floating on water,” Faul says. “Cratons are a tiny bit less dense than their surroundings, so they don’t get subducted back into the Earth but stay floating on the surface. This is how they preserve the oldest rocks. So we found that you just need 1 to 2 percent diamond for cratons to be stable and not sink.”

In a way, Faul says cratonic roots made partly of diamond makes sense. Diamonds are forged in the high-pressure, high-temperature environment of the deep Earth and only make it close to the surface through volcanic eruptions that occur every few tens of millions of years. These eruptions carve out geologic “pipes” made of a type of rock called kimberlite (named after the town of Kimberley, South Africa, where the first diamonds in this type of rock were found). Diamond, along with magma from deep in the Earth, can spew out through kimberlite pipes, onto the surface of the Earth.

For the most part, kimberlite pipes have been found at the edges of cratonic roots, such as in certain parts of Canada, Siberia, Australia, and South Africa. It would make sense, then, that cratonic roots should contain some diamond in their makeup.  

“It’s circumstantial evidence, but we’ve pieced it all together,” Faul says. “We went through all the different possibilities, from every angle, and this is the only one that’s left as a reasonable explanation.”

This research was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9

Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 (formally designated D/1993 F2) was a comet that broke apart in July 1992 and collided with Jupiter in July 1994, providing the first direct observation of an extraterrestrial collision of Solar System objects. This generated a large amount of coverage in the popular media, and the comet was closely observed by astronomers worldwide. The collision provided new information about Jupiter and highlighted its possible role in reducing space debris in the inner Solar System.

The comet was discovered by astronomers Carolyn and Eugene M. Shoemaker and David Levy in 1993. Shoemaker–Levy 9 had been captured by Jupiter and was orbiting the planet at the time. It was located on the night of March 24 in a photograph taken with the 46 cm (18 in) Schmidt telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California. It was the first comet observed to be orbiting a planet, and had probably been captured by Jupiter around 20–30 years earlier.

Calculations showed that its unusual fragmented form was due to a previous closer approach to Jupiter in July 1992. At that time, the orbit of Shoemaker–Levy 9 passed within Jupiter's Roche limit, and Jupiter's tidal forces had acted to pull apart the comet. The comet was later observed as a series of fragments ranging up to 2 km (1.2 mi) in diameter. These fragments collided with Jupiter's southern hemisphere between July 16 and 22, 1994 at a speed of approximately 60 km/s (37 mi/s) (Jupiter's escape velocity) or 216,000 km/h (134,000 mph). The prominent scars from the impacts were more easily visible than the Great Red Spot and persisted for many months.

Impacts of the Comet Fragments

Anticipation grew as the predicted date for the collisions approached, and astronomers trained terrestrial telescopes on Jupiter. Several space observatories did the same, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the ROSAT X-ray-observing satellite, and significantly the Galileo spacecraft, then on its way to a rendezvous with Jupiter scheduled for 1995. Although the impacts took place on the side of Jupiter hidden from Earth, Galileo, then at a distance of 1.6 AU (240 million km; 150 million mi) from the planet, was able to see the impacts as they occurred. Jupiter's rapid rotation brought the impact sites into view for terrestrial observers a few minutes after the collisions.

Two other satellites made observations at the time of the impact: the Ulysses spacecraft, primarily designed for solar observations, was pointed towards Jupiter from its location 2.6 AU (390 million km; 240 million mi) away, and the distant Voyager 2 probe, some 44 AU (6.6 billion kilometres; 4.1 billion miles) from Jupiter and on its way out of the Solar System following its encounter with Neptune in 1989, was programmed to look for radio emission in the 1–390 kHz range.

The first impact occurred at 20:13 UTC on July 16, 1994, when fragment A of the nucleus entered Jupiter's southern hemisphere at a speed of about 60 km/s (35 mi/s). Instruments on Galileo detected a fireball that reached a peak temperature of about 24,000 K (23,700 °C; 42,700 °F), compared to the typical Jovian cloudtop temperature of about 130 K (−143 °C; −226 °F), before expanding and cooling rapidly to about 1,500 K (1,230 °C; 2,240 °F) after 40 seconds. The plume from the fireball quickly reached a height of over 3,000 km (1,900 mi). A few minutes after the impact fireball was detected, Galileo measured renewed heating, probably due to ejected material falling back onto the planet. Earth-based observers detected the fireball rising over the limb of the planet shortly after the initial impact.

Despite published predictions, astronomers had not expected to see the fireballs from the impacts and did not have any idea in advance how visible the other atmospheric effects of the impacts would be from Earth. Observers soon saw a huge dark spot after the first impact. The spot was visible even in very small telescopes, and was about 6,000 km (3,700 mi) (one Earth radius) across. This and subsequent dark spots were thought to have been caused by debris from the impacts, and were markedly asymmetric, forming crescent shapes in front of the direction of impact.

Over the next six days, 21 distinct impacts were observed, with the largest coming on July 18 at 07:33 UTC when fragment G struck Jupiter. This impact created a giant dark spot over 12,000 km (7,500 mi) across, and was estimated to have released an energy equivalent to 6,000,000 megatons of TNT (600 times the world's nuclear arsenal). Two impacts 12 hours apart on July 19 created impact marks of similar size to that caused by fragment G, and impacts continued until July 22, when fragment W struck the planet.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Multigrain Bread

Multigrain bread is a type of bread prepared with two or more types of grain. Grains used include barley, flax, millet, oats, wheat, and whole-wheat flour, among others. Some varieties include edible seeds in their preparation, such as flaxseed, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Rye and sourdough multigrain breads are additional varieties. Preparations include 7-grain and 9-grain bread, among others.

Multigrain bread may be prepared using whole, unprocessed grains, although commercial varieties do not necessarily always contain whole grains.

Nutritional Content

Whole grain multigrain breads contain a dietary fibre content of up to four times greater than white breads and may also contain more vitamins and protein compared to white bread. Multigrain breads also provide complex carbohydrates.

Commercial Varieties

Multigrain bread is commercially mass-produced and marketed to consumers. Some commercial varieties are prepared using 100% whole grain flour. Between 1989 and 1994 in the United States, multigrain bread was "one of the fastest growing markets within the bakery sector”.

Use in Brewing

A 4,000-year-old Mesopotamian recipe for brewing beer from multigrain loaves of bread mixed with honey is the oldest surviving beer recipe in the world. The Brussels Beer Project microbrewery in Belgium has developed an amber beer with a 7% alcohol by volume named Babylone that incorporates this recipe using leftover, unsold fresh bread donated by supermarkets.

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Sprouted Bread

Sprouted bread is a type of bread made from whole grains that have been allowed to sprout, that is, to germinate, before being milled into flour. There are a few different types of sprouted grain bread. Some are made with additional added flour, some are made with added gluten, and some, such as Essene bread, are made with very few additional ingredients.

These are breads that contain the whole grain (or kernel, or berry) of various seeds after they have been sprouted. They are different from 'white' bread inasmuch as 'white' breads are made from ground wheat endosperm (after removal of the bran and germ). Whole grain breads include the bran, germ and endosperm, therefore providing more fiber, and naturally occurring vitamins and proteins. Sprouted (or germinated) grain breads have roughly the same amount of vitamins per gram.

A comparison of nutritional analyses shows that sprouted grains contain about 75% of the energy (carbohydrates), slightly higher protein and about 40% of the fat when compared to whole grains.

Wheat is not the only grain used in sprouted breads. Grains and legumes such as millet, barley, oat, lentil and soy may be used. Bread that is made from an array of grains and legumes can provide a complete set of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Sprouted breads may contain slightly more trace minerals and nutrients than non-sprouted breads. Other than that, they supply much the same advantages as whole grain breads over refined grain breads, such as lowered risk of coronary heart disease.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Earliest Hominins Outside Africa

Shangchen is a palaeolithic archaeological site in Shangchen village, Lantian County, Shaanxi, China. Stone tools found at the site and dated to 2.12 million years ago, now are considered the earliest known evidence of hominins outside Africa, surpassing Dmanisi in Georgia by 300,000 years. Shangchen was occupied for 850,000 years, with the newest tools found dating to 1.26 million years ago. No hominin fossils have been found.


Shangchen is located in and named after the village of Shangchen, Yushan Town, Lantian County, Shaanxi, about 50 km (31 mi) southeast of the provincial capital at Xi'an. The archaeological site is on the cliff faces of a gully in the Loess Plateau. Because loess is a soil made by extremely fine particles blown in by the wind, all larger rocks found in loess deposits had to have been carried in by humans or other animals.

Discovery and Excavation

Lantian County is where fossils of the Homo erectus, now called Lantian Man, were discovered in 1964. The oldest fossil, a skull, was initially dated to 1.15 million years ago. In 2001, geologist Zhu Zhaoyu and other scientists began researching the site again, and determined that the skull was 1.63 million years old.

Zhu's team surveyed the region around the fossil site, and discovered stone tools buried deep in the side of a gully in Shangchen, less than three miles away. The team, later joined by British paleoanthropologist Robin Dennell in 2010, thoroughly searched the gully and excavated the site between 2004 and 2017, and their findings were published in July 2018 in the journal Nature.

Findings at Shangchen

96 stone tools have been found at Shangchen, including flakes, points, and cores. They were found in 17 artifact layers. The oldest of the tools date to 2.12 million years ago, while the newest date to 1.26 million years, indicating that the site was occupied (not necessarily continuously) for 850,000 years. Some of the tools were found with bone fragments of animals including deer and bovines. Even older remains may still lie undiscovered, as the deepest layers at Shangchen are inaccessible as of 2018 because of farming activities.

The findings are highly significant as they represent the earliest evidence of hominins outside Africa, surpassing Dmanisi in the Caucasus region of Georgia, which was the previously known oldest hominin site outside Africa, dating to 1.85 million years ago. It is also older than the Yuanmou Man, the oldest hominin fossils found in East Asia, dating to 1.7 million years.

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Footnote: The Paleolithic Period

The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers c. 95% of human technological prehistory. It extends from the earliest known use of stone tools by hominins, c. 3.3 million years ago, to the end of the Pleistocene c. 11,650 cal BP.

The Paleolithic is followed in Europe by the Mesolithic, although the date of the transition varies geographically by several thousand years.

During the Paleolithic, hominins grouped together in small societies such as bands, and subsisted by gathering plants and fishing, hunting or scavenging wild animals. The Paleolithic is characterized by the use of knapped stone tools, although at the time humans also used wood and bone tools. Other organic commodities were adapted for use as tools, including leather and vegetable fibers; however, due to their nature, these have not been preserved to any great degree.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Choosing a Career

Find Your Passion is Awful Advice.  When the going gets tough, the soft start whining. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

"Resource Nationalism" Is Coming

Early 2012 Argentina’s oil industry was controlled by Repsol, the Spanish energy giant, through YPF, its local subsidiary. By the end of the year, this was no longer the case.

By then President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner's leftist government had nationalised the oil sector, stealing YPF with the stroke of a pen.
The experience for investors in Repsol was an elevator drop so jarring I suspect many were left with their spines sticking out the top of their heads.

We can all scoff and laugh at the poor bastards and say, "Well, what did you expect investing into yet another Latin American backwater grasping at fading socialist ideas in order to stay in power?"

And to be sure, the third world loves to dance to Marxist music, but I've more than a sneaky suspicion, in fact I'm pretty convinced we're going to see it, and not just from crazy bitches south of the equator. Resource nationalism, that is.

The problem for oil companies, and indeed resource companies of many stripes, is that they have to go where the deposits happen to be. Contrast this to industries such as manufacturing, where factories can be built wherever wages are lowest, you simply can't outsource energy production.

One Thing Leads to Another

In 2016 I wrote an article arguing that we'd see what I called the rise of the "Strong Men" where I suggested the following:
"Now I could write an essay on the ramifications but let me provide you with 3 important things to watch out for:
1. Political cohesion and stability can no longer be relied upon as politics becomes inward looking with everything from trade deals to central bank swap lines being renegotiated or cancelled altogether.
2. Global coordinated central bank action. The era of global coordinated monetary policy which we’ve been experiencing since the GFC, especially with the three largest players (ECB, FED and BOJ), will be looked back upon with nostalgia by the current clutch of central bankers who muddy the halls of power. Policy will increasingly be driven with greater sensitivity to nationalist rather than international concerns, which brings me to…
3. Liquidity in the financial system which has stemmed from easing monetary policy is already contracting. In a world where derivatives traverse borders, connecting financial systems like never before, a liquidity crisis presents enormous tail risk in a leveraged world."

The first point I was making about political cohesion and stability has many knock on effects. It's not just about the sort of trade wars we're seeing erupting now. It will almost certainly include "protecting strategic resources".

Something else to consider is that while it seems prescient to have correctly identified the present day renegotiating of trade deals, it's worth pointing out that with a lack of political cohesion comes an increased level of distrust and anxiety. And markets tend to exhibit their love for anxiety much like Maxine Waters exhibits her love for Donald Trump — not so much. So we can expect more of that.

That resource nationalism more often than not turns out to be naïve, dangerous, and stupid won't stop it from happening.

What it does bring is supply disruption and often supply destruction, both of which are wildly bullish for the respective commodities involved while simultaneously being somewhat dangerous since nobody wants to wake to find they've been Kirchener'd.


When we look at what's going on in Europe and the EU in particular it's clear to me that all the "kumbaya, let's make love not war, we're all brothers in this" little episode is rapidly coming to a close.

The EU itself, like so many socialist policies, sounded wonderful on paper, especially to academics educated in "liberal" economics who managed to completely ignore hundreds of years of history where such things have been tried, tested, and found to be complete rubbish.

Unfortunately, it's built up not just a lot of monetary problems. Here's TARGET2 imbalances. Whoo boy!
But also a lot of social angst amongst the populaces in member states.

That we are where we are quite frankly sucks. I really like Europe but what's been created by the left-leaning political groups, especially those foie gras-eating pointy-shoed suits in Brussels, is a situation where member countries have opened themselves to all manner of dangers. Dangers in both domestic security (which is why the murder rate in London has been skyrocketing, and many parts of European cities are now "no-go" areas), but importantly also in international security.

And it is the international affairs that are interesting for the resource space.

When you think security, you can think of tanks and guns and stocky men with crew cuts. But no country has real security unless it has energy security.

Which brings me to Germany, for example, who have managed to increase their reliance on others for their energy needs. For a full take-down feel free to go read my take on how Germany took stupid to a new level, where, amongst other things, I mentioned:

"It was back in 2010 when there were a number of anti-nuclear protests in Germany and, the following year, not coincidentally soon after the Fukushima disaster, Merkel’s government announced it would close ALL of its nuclear power plants by December 2022. Since then Germany has permanently shut down eight of its 17 reactors."
And this:

"In particular, after realising that subsidising solar in a country that only rarely actually enjoys sunlight was particularly verdammt dumm, they are now pushing ahead to build what is known as the “Nord Stream 2” project. This is a $10Billion pipeline that will transport natural gas from Siberia all 3,000 km to the motherland. Economically this makes a lot of sense. Geopolitically? None.
That is to say they’ll be doing business with Russian companies, Gazprom to be precise. This places them under Putin’s thumb while simultaneously pissing off their US counterparts."

And so now here we sit two years on and Merkel and Trump are slinging poo at each other. The question one needs to ask is this:

When will Germany (and indeed other EU members) decide that energy security is probably not a bad thing?

Because when push comes to shove, it's going to become more important than keeping the hemp wearing, soy latte drinking crowd happy and pretending that the world's a safe cosy place where everyone can afford to be inclusive and run their Tesla's on unicorn farts.

The current turmoil within Merkel's own coalition party indicates trouble already exists.

Just wait until the EU really starts to fall apart. It'll be a scramble to secure borders and the chaos of restructuring trade agreements will ensure that it'll be "hunker down" time. In fact, governments will be looking around claiming all they can, because bargaining chips will be necessary.

And when that happens, we want to be very very well positioned because it'll be resources that benefit, in particular energy.

In fact, it's one of the reasons I spent so damn long hunting for a technical expert that understands the resource space. Because what do I know about the technicalities of resources?
          -- Chris MacIntosh, founder of Capitalist Exploits


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Cave Rescue in Thailand

Tham Luang Cave Rescue

Twelve members of a junior football team, aged 11 to 17, and their 25-year-old assistant coach, became stranded in the cave Tham Luang Nang Non (Great Cave of the Sleeping Lady) in Thailand's Chiang Rai Province on 23 June 2018. Shortly after they had entered the cave, heavy rains partially flooded it, blocking the exit and forcing the group to go deeper into the cave to avoid the water.

Efforts to locate them were hampered by rising water levels and strong currents in the cave system. No contact was made for over a week. The rescue effort expanded into a massive operation amid intense worldwide media coverage and public interest. On July 2, after advancing through narrow passages and muddy waters, British divers found all of the missing group members alive on an elevated rock about 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) from the cave mouth. Rescue organizers discussed various options to extract the group: whether to teach them basic diving skills to enable their early rescue, wait until a new entrance was found or drilled, or wait for the floodwaters to subside at the end of the monsoon season months later. After days of pumping water from the cave system and a respite from rain, the rescue teams hastened to get everyone out before the next monsoon rain, which was expected to bring a potential 52 mm (2.0 in) of additional rainfall and was predicted to start around 11 July. Between 8 and 10 July, all of the boys and their coach were rescued from the cave, with four of them being escorted out on each day.

Over 1,000 people were involved in the rescue operation, including Thai Navy SEALs and volunteers and technical assistance teams from multiple countries. One death occurred during the rescue: Saman Kunan, a 38-year-old former Thai SEAL, asphyxiated on 5 July while attempting to pass through a narrow passageway on return to the cave entrance after delivering supplies of air to the interior.


Tham Luang Nang Non is a karstic cave complex beneath Doi Nang Non, a mountain range on the border between Thailand and Myanmar. The system is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) long and has many deep recesses, narrow passages and tunnels winding under hundreds of metres of limestone strata. Since part of the cave system is seasonally flooded, a sign advising against entering the caves during the rainy season (July–November) is posted at the entrance.

On 23 June 2018, a group of twelve boys aged between 11 and 16 from a local junior football team named the Wild Boars and their 25-year-old coach, Ekapol Chantawong, went missing after setting out to explore the cave. They planned to have a picnic to celebrate the 17th birthday of one of the boys, Peerapat Sompiangjai. The group was apparently stranded in the tunnels by sudden and continuous rainfall after they had entered the cave. A ranger of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation alerted authorities to the missing group after seeing their unclaimed belongings at the cave entrance.

Search and Contact

Military divers searched the cave. A Thai Navy SEAL diver said the water was so murky that even with lights they could not see where they were going underwater. After continuous rain, which further flooded the cave entrance, the search had to be periodically interrupted. After four days, the Thai Navy SEALs were joined by a group of 30 personnel of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, and by British cave diving rescue experts Richard Stanton, John Volanthen, and Robert Harper, who brought Heyphone LF radios borrowed from the Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation.

Policemen with sniffer dogs searched for shaft openings that could provide alternative entrances to the cave branches below. Drones and robots were used to improve the search effort; however, no technology currently exists to scan for people deep underground.

The twelve boys and the coach were discovered, all alive, on 2 July, at approximately 22:00 by Stanton and Volanthen, whose efforts were overseen from outside by Harper. The group was found on a narrow rock shelf about 400 metres (1,300 ft) beyond the "Pattaya Beach" chamber, named after an above-ground beach in Thailand. Volanthen was placing guidelines in the cave to later assist others in navigation. He ran out of line, which led him to swim to the surface—there, he found the missing team and its coach. The ledge where they were found is about 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) from the cave mouth.