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/2.6mi, 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.”

 

Geologist Prof. Fabrizio 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. Fabrizio 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.

Geologist Prof. Fabrizio Nestola: View TEDx Talk ‘Viaggio Al Centro Dei Diamanti’ (Journey Into Diamonds’ Center)

TEDx Talks_Geologist Prof Fabrizio Nestola. Awarded Academic Scientist/Researcher of the year 2016 for professional achievements. Original image copyright TEDxTalks. Edit Ellaarte
TEDx Talks_Geologist Prof Fabrizio Nestola. Awarded Academic Scientist/Researcher of the year 2016 for professional achievements. Original image copyright TEDxTalks, edit Ellaarte.

Here below, please find TEDxPadova video ‘Viaggio Al Centro Dei Diamanti’ (Journey Into Diamonds’ Center) transcription as well as translation (Italian to English). Dear readers are kindly invited to consider that both transcription and translation do not intend to replace, nor do they officially and/or unofficially comply with TEDx/TEDxPadova high quality standards. While due diligence has been applied in scripting video audio as close as possible to its original version, as well as the choice of links to external sources, its content is provided by Astera’s admin for your convinience only. Any suggestions and comments for further improvement are welcome.

Video transcription and translation (Italian to English) by Astera Admin

Video ‘Viaggio Al Centro Dei Diamanti’ (Journey Into Diamonds’ Center) content transcription and translation by Astera Admin, keynote speaker Prof. Fabrizio Nestola. Acknowledged content begins: “If you thought I was going to talk to you about the­­­se diamonds well… wrong guess (items, presumably diamonds, are shown to the audience). We are geologists, we are a weird people : we like diamonds full of inclusions, impurities, diamonds you would never wear on your finger. But why do we like these kind of diamonds? Because we are crazy? That aside, the real reason is that thanks to these diamonds we have recently discovered oceans of water at great depths inside the earth. Today I’ll explain how we achieved this discovery. Our story begins in 1869 [(Astera’s note, with permission, correct year is 1879)] a teeny tiny crystal, the size of 0,04 mm/ 153in trapped inside a diamond for millions of years, has completely changed the paradigm of our knowledge related to Earth. Our story begins in Queensland, Australia, a small village called Tenham. Tenham, nighttime February 1869 [(Astera’s admin note, with permission, correct year is 1879)]. A meteor shower of  102 meteoroids (shooting stars)  fall on Tenham. From that moment those meteoroids are called Meteoroids of Tenham. Fast forward to 1935, the full set of those meteoroids are donated to the London British Museum. In 1969, almost 100 One hundred years after their discovery, three geologists R. A. Binns, R. J. Davis & S. J. B. Reed publish in prestigious Nature Journal the ground breaking discovery related to the Tenham meteoroids. What did the three geologists discover? They discovered that a relevant  mineral, called Olivine, a magnesium iron silicate, transformed itself into a new mineral, until then unknown, which maintained the same chemical composition but a greater density. The geologists called the new mineral ‘Ringwoodite’named after the Australian scientist Ted Ringwood. How did this transformation occur? Due to meteoroids’ collisions while traveling in space, before  impacting the Earth. Why was this discovery so relevant to gain the publication in Nature Journal? For two reasons: the first, as  my Geology  students, some of them  attending this event, know olivine makes up the 60% of our planet up to  254mi /410km depth. You didn’t know that… so we walk on olivine, we live on top of olivine, so it’s important for us. The second reason, and here the geologist gets curious: what if the above mentioned transformation occurred thanks to impacts in space, would it possibly  also occur within the Earth itself? In this case a new scenario would open up, since in those years no one knew what the inner strata of the Earth were made of, and this was a concrete proof that perhaps pressure would help. But what is the answer to this question? The deepest drill through Earth’s crust ever been made extends to 7.4mi/12km, while Earth’s ray to its center is  3960mi/6.374 km. Giant presses have been built, like the one viewable on the image shown (min 4:12), which generate very high temperatures and pressures in laboratory environments. Therefore compressing our beloved olivine to a pressure matching the earth’s at 372mi/600km depth do you know what it transformed itself into? Into ‘Ringwoodite’, exactly the very same ringwoodite that the three geologists had found in Tenham. Bingo! Hence we can synthesize the whole Earth! And so we did. By means of these presses we synthesized several kind of minerals which probably made up our planet. Can you see that coloroful slice on the image? (min 4:52) That slice is Earth’s inner structure, where only its core is missing, made up of nickel-iron alloy and basalt. We know its components thanks  to experiments performed in lab. Let’s ask ourselves a question though: ‘what if it were all wrong?’ What if all the lab experiments did not reproduce our planet? In that case, it wouldn’t be nice, we wouldn’t even know what lays inside the earth. To answer this question I rely on my beloved diamonds, which are the only earthly elements which travel in time. They can be up to 3,5 billion years old, Earth is 4,5/4,6 billion years old and in space they rise from high depths up to the surface without being destroyed, and if in luck, in their core we can find ‘ inclusions’ as you can see in the image (min 6:05) Inclusions are fragments, real pieces of earth’s deep strata. My idea consisted in studying as many diamonds as possible to verfy if all lab experiments matched the real content of inner earth. Thanks to the European Research Council we have been able to build a prototype X-rays machine which studies diamonds’ tiny inclusions. In 2014, while studying a Brazilian diamond worth around 10 Dollars, thanks to these instruments we’ve been able to find the mentioned 0,04 mm/ 153in tiny crystals which turned out to be Ringwoodite, the first earthly ringwoodite which confirmed  its origins being at a depth  around 372mi/600km. However the most important discovery wasn’t Ringwoodite, but was what ringwoodite embedded. In that ringwoodite we found 1,4% water, unexpectedly at those depths. What were the implications? Look at that slice of Earth (video min 7:38),  that light blue band called transition area, it contains 35% ringwoodite. A simple calculation makes it:  35% of transition area  made of ringwoodite x 1,4% water it means that the transition area embeds a volume of water corresponding to 3- 4 times the size of the Pacific Ocean. Therefore the water available on Earth is much greater than we thought. You may be skeptical, and rightly so, about the equation of having one diamond of one continent sampled representing the entire earth. So we did test many other diamonds; we studied diamonds from Africa of 90/100 carats origined at greater depths. Do you know what inside them? Inclusions of iron with Hydrogen, Methan. Another side of the world, again Hydrogen. Therefore let me conclude with a hope: what you see is a simplified water cycle in our planet, the water cycle and theories related to its future availability are based also on the total amount of water available on our planet. That said, it means that present and future water cycles theories will have to be recalculated based on the new applicable model of finding water. So let’s hope that future data concerning water cycles will be more positive of the data presently available. Thank you!”  [End of transcription as well as translation of TedxPadova video, keynote speaker Prof. Fabrizio Nestola.]

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

 

Post header & illustrations/watercolors credit: ellaarte.com

 

 

 

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