Friday Headlines, December 5, 2014
THE LATEST IN THE GEOSCIENCES
A name (finally) for Earth’s most abundant mineral
Carnivorous plant in amber
Cooking with lava
One might ask, how can the most common mineral on Earth not have a name?
The reason for this is this mineral is only found deep in Earth’s interior, a place that we only know by seismic reflection and modeling. But based on this, plus our understanding of the abundance of elements in the planet and in the universe, we’ve known for a long time what the composition and structure of the mineral making up the great majority of the Earth’s interior is.
We don’t ever see this mineral on the surface because it’s simply not stable here. It’s too cold and there’s not enough pressure for the mineral to last long. Plus, there exists no mechanism to get that material onto the surface.
Why does this even matter? If we know what the mineral is, why not just name it? The problem is that the international organization that regulates the naming of minerals (The International Mineral Association – yes there is such a thing) requires that a mineral be named based upon a physical, natural sample. Since this mineral can’t get to the surface of the Earth, it can’t be named.
However, in 1879 a meteorite struck Earth. This meteorite, it has recently been found, contains this ‘most abundant mineral.’ Now that we have a sample, it can be named.
This mineral has been named bridgmanite, in honor of 1946 Nobel Prize winner Percy Bridgman, a physicist who pioneered the analyses of minerals and other materials under high pressure – exactly the circumstances under which bridgmanite forms.
In the category of ‘Hey, cool!’
There’s lots of examples of bugs in amber. And some examples of plants in amber. The occasional frog, mouse, or lizard in amber. Now we’ve got a carnivorous plant from Baltic amber (collected near Kaliningrad in Russia). This amber is Eocene in age (35-47 million years old).
This particular carnivorous plant is very similar to a carnivorous plant called Roridula, which is known now only in South Africa. This fossil find means that the distribution of this particular type of fossil plant was originally much bigger.
Let’s see if the new Jurassic Park can genetically engineer one of these in the large scale. Preferably with feathers.
Next time you’re about to cook and happen to be near an erupting volcano, here’s a convenient recipe for a delicious rib eye steak with corn-tomatillo salsa.
You should mostly read this because when else will lava and geology be prominantly featured in Bon Appetit magazine?