Nested Rings

 

The perception of present priorities change with time,  intrinsic and external factors, reshaped conditions. A gathering relevant to climate mutation and natural resources, stimulates interest to research anthropological and scientific literature, related to the topic. The combined foundations of geology with physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology provides ongoing answers to the prime question of how life formed on earth, and also address topics of major significance concerning climate processes and change, mineral resources and ground-water availability, ecosystem alteration and environmental hazards indistinctively effecting humans, flora and fauna.

Space research and exploration report the fact that earth-like building blocks have found unique conditions on our planet while for such geologic framework either there is yet evidence to be shown or no longer exist elsewhere. The earth-like life building blocks consists of 92 natural elements, 25 of which are essential, furthermore of these six are the fundamental elements going under the acronym SPONCH:  sulfur, phosphorus, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and hydrogen. The combination of groups of related organisms have evolved in response to changes in the environment through natural selection. This process has been in effect ever since life began from simple organic molecules in water, over four billion years ago.  For more than two decades, arguments have been made for a process called ‘‘bioalteration’’ or ‘‘bio-erosion’’ [source: Robert M. Hazen mineralogist and astrobiologist/research scientist].

Water is an essential element: how the life-giving liquid may have originated on Earth is subject to theories, which stretch back to the Big Bang, 13.8 billion year ago. Of the two main theories supported by the scientific community, one implies that water molecules where part of the planet during Earth formation, the other backs up the concept that the presence of H2O in comets and asteroids colliding with Earth could have deposited large amounts of ice which later melted, forming water. Ground-water and perhaps oceans in deep Earth: minerals and diamonds embed water. At Earth’s Mantle depths high-temperature and high-pressure squeeze water contained in minerals and rocks; the then released element, bound within the mineral crystal structures, endures the journey all the way to Earth’s crust, the planet’s solid shell.

Illustration: “Olivine inclusion”
Illustration: “Olivine inclusion”

 

A research carried out by an international team of researchers with Fabrizio Nestola Prof. Dept. of Geosciences at University of Padua, Italy, was the first to identify a terrestrial ‘Ringwoodite‘ sample still encapsulated within a diamond containing about 1.4% water. Olivine mineral, in formula (Mg, Fe) 2SiO4, constitutes 60% of the Earth’s interior, up to 410 kilometers. Deeper, by pressure and temperature, the ‘olivine‘ becomes ‘wadsleyite‘ that has the same formula but different spatial arrangement of its atoms. Arriving at the 520km then becomes a new mineral called ‘ringwoodite‘.

The following is the interview extract to an Italian newspaper by Prof. Nestola: “The discovery not only allows to finally explain the anomalies observed through deep seismic tomography but opens a completely new scenario on the inside of our planet. In fact, 1.4% of water in the ringwoodite allows to estimate an average content of 1% water in the transition zone. This percentage corresponds to a thickness of about 8 km of liquid water over the entire earth’s surface. Considering that the Pacific Ocean covers about a fifth of the Earth’s surface and has on average depth of 4.2 km/26mi, by comparison, it is as if within the Earth there is a hidden quantity of water equal to about 10 oceans as deep as the Pacific.”

 

Prof. Nestola’s Research

 

The astounding discovery confirms a long-held theory that Earth’s mantle holds an ocean’s worth of water. It is also of important implication for the presence of water and earth-like life in outer space, the Moon, Mars being the prime candidates for ongoing research, exploration, and future human settlements.

In Italy, his home country, Prof. Nestola is awarded Academic Scientist/Researcher of the year 2016 for professional achievements. The same year he is given the cover of  Science for obtaining unprecedented results, which advance a better understanding of why natural diamond represents a unique window into the deep regions of our planet. Being diamonds one of the oldest terrestrial materials, commonly older than three billion years, they can transport specks inside it worthless to the jeweler but a treasure to the geologist. That speck, an ‘inclusion’, is often a pristine specimen of the mantle, and available tools can extract lots of data from it.

Diamond is a hard, dense form of pure carbon. Physically there is no harder substance, but chemically speaking, diamonds are pretty fragile. More precisely, diamond is a metastable mineral at surface conditions. Experiments show that it cannot form except under conditions found at least 150 kilometers deep in the mantle beneath ancient continents. A little above those depths diamonds swiftly turn to graphite. At the surface they can endure in our gentle environment, but not anywhere between here and their deep birthplace. The reason we have diamonds is that they cross that distance quickly, in just a day or so, in very peculiar eruptions.

 

The Diamond Journey. Illustration: digital & watercolor, credit redit Ellaarte.com. "Diamond Journey"
Illustration: “Diamonds’ Journey”

 

How diamonds rise up to the Earth crust. Some kimberlites deliver diamonds that appear to have come from 700 kilometers and deeper, below the upper mantle entirely. The evidence lies in the inclusions, where minerals are preserved that can only form at these unheard-of depths. Certain magmas at extreme depths find an opening and rush upward, burrowing through various rocks— including diamond-bearing zones— as they go. Carbon dioxide gas comes out of solution as the magma rises, similarly to soda fizzing or baking soda effect, exploding into the air at several hundred meters per second.

Until the 1930’s scientists believed the Earth’s core being solid and distance unknown, until seismologist Inge Lehmann, using limited data and rudimentary technology, discovered the Earth’s inner core and became one of the world’s experts on the composition of the upper mantle.

Although even in ancient times very little was known about the scientific bearing of minerals and crystals, their use isn’t mere mythology, as it has been confirmed for the SunStone” (Sólarsteinn), whose written sources date back to the XIIIth / XIVth century.

To unveil Earth’s mysteries, daring attempts are made to drill through the crust to sample it. Researchers’ publish papers in a sort of discovery race of the Earth’s center, some say they may be one step closer to solving the riddle, as the hidden processes occuring in the depths of the Earth, too are crucial to our daily lives.

mineral-diamond-carbon
Illustration: ” Minerals & diamond”

 

Post header & illustrations/watercolors credit: ellaarte.com

 

 

 

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