The Goldilocks Zone – Just Right!

International Space Station looking over the Earth and its atmosphere
International Space Station Looking Over the Earth and its Atmosphere

Solar System Planets

Remember learning about our solar system in elementary school? Our teacher gave us this verse: “Mary’s Violet Eyes Makes John Stay Up Nights. Period”. Well, as we all know now, the “Period” which represents Pluto is no longer a planet. It was reduced to a dwarf planet and not considered to be large enough to be part of our planetary solar system anymore. So we are left with Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Which Planets in Our Solar System Have an Atmosphere?

All of them except Mercury. It is just too close to the sun to sustain one. But if Mercury is the only planet not to have an atmosphere and thus, not allow life as we know it to thrive, why is there no life on the other planets aside from Earth? 

The Goldilocks Phenomenon 

Scientists call it the Goldilocks Theory. We like to call it something a bit more sophisticated – The Goldilocks Phenomenon, but any way you look at it, we are alive today because the atmosphere above us is the partridge that is just right! 

The Five Atmospheric Layers

If you draw a line from the first layer (the troposphere) to the last layer (the exosphere), it would be approximately 62 miles in length. As we work our way up through the layers, they each get thinner until they (the atmospheric gasses) dissipate). 

The line is called the Kármán line and is the accepted standard where scientists say the atmosphere meets space, but it is not a strict designation, as it is hard to say exactly where the gasses dissipate completely into outer space. There are so many factors to consider, the temperature being one of the main disparities since this component may differ within different parts of the earth.

With this in mind, let us define the five layers: troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere.

Graphic of the 5 atmospheric layersThe Troposphere

Ever realize that when you go into an airplane, it gets colder as you go higher? Air is warmer near the ground and gets colder higher up. Nearly all of the water vapor and dust in the atmosphere are in this layer and that is where clouds are found here. It contains about 99% of the water vapor, called condensation within the earth’s entire atmosphere and consequently, this is where all of the weather conditions materialize. So it might not be much of a surprise that the troposphere contains about 80% of the total mass of the entire atmosphere.

The Stratosphere

This is probably the best known layer as we frequently hear about NASA’s spacecrafts  “reaching the Stratosphere”. It is also where most of our jet aircraft fly. This layer extends about 31 miles above the ground, so if the troposphere runs approximately six miles high, the stratosphere picks up at the six/seven-mile marker.  

Another common term we hear a lot is the ozone layer. Well, it’s the stratosphere that contains this sub-layer which acts as a natural atmospheric shield by absorbing harmful radiation from the sun. 

Due to man-made pollution, a gap in the ozone layer developed. It extended 6.3 million square miles at one point, but there are positive signs that this hole is naturally healing itself and is the smallest it has ever been at this time.

The Mesosphere

In one of our recent articles on deep mining, we spoke about temperatures reaching as high as 145° degrees. Now we go to an area you wouldn’t want to venture to either, but this time the temperatures go in the opposite direction; that is, way low to about −225°.  Now that’s cold and is the average temperature in this layer. Ironically though, it is also the layer where meteors burn up when entering the earth’s atmosphere.

Any water in this layer here freezes into ice clouds. They make for some beautiful colored skies. The scientific name for them is noctilucent clouds, also called polar mesospheric clouds (not to be confused with the northern lights, which are different). These mostly blue-like clouds are visible at sunset from each of the earth’s poles.

The Thermosphere 

This layer extends between 310 and 620 miles and temperatures can get up to 2,700 degrees. The International Space Station orbits here and this is the layer where we do see the northern lights, also called the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis.

The Exosphere

We have reached the final destination. The air is extremely thin here, but unless you are excited with an abundance of hydrogen and helium, just be content to know that the end of the exosphere is where outer space begins.


What’s your favorite layer? Before you answer, the best bet is to take a ride up there. The next flight to the International Space Station is set for October 22, 2020. Register early. We hear that the bookings are filling up fast! 


Loneliness, Darkness and Miners, Oh My!

Mponeng Gold Mine
Mponeng Gold Mine, South Africa (GNU Free Documentation License)

If you think quarantining in your house for a month or two is bad, just wait till you hear how miners live each day, especially in the very deep ones such as the Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg South Africa, which is the world’s deepest mine.

Is it Worth it?

The Mponeng mine only needs to extract a minimum of 0.35 ounces from a ton of rock to be profitable, but that is certainly attainable because they pull out over 6,000 tons of rock per day.

How Deep is the Mponeng Mine?

Well, in order to grasp just how deep this mine is, as well as how to manage working there, and in the cases of illegal miners – living there, let’s take an imaginary ride to the bottom of the mine; however, let us remember that this might be imaginary for us, but definitely real for them!

Jumping on the next elevator (called a cage) to descend from the surface,  we take the long ride 1.6 miles down where you will reach a connection to a second elevator that will take you down further.

Don’t expect the place to look like a hotel lobby when you get there. Instead, you will be greeted with a huge array of tunnels with a diameter of about five or six feet in all directions and stretches for hundreds of miles. Yes, ‘hundreds’! 236 miles to be exact. That is more extensive than the New York City subway system. So if you don’t mind trudging through this dare, dreary area to get your gold, go for it, but you might want to still reconsider because there is an additional factor – temperatures in these caves can reach as high as 140º F. 

Why are the Temperatures So High?

You descended almost three miles down through the earth’s crust and the closer to the earth’s core you go, the higher the temperatures will be. Not to worry though because there are sophisticated cooling systems that will keep your body from going into dehydration and may be sudden death. 

What are These Cooling Systems? 

6,000 tons of ice per day is pumped down to cool the tunnels, along with giant fans that blow the air over the ice which subsequently reduces the temperature to a nice 85º, but you will need to bring one of those tanning lamps (not recommended) because that’s the only way you will be able to get a suntan if you have the time to do so.

Within these small rock-layered tunnels, these are the temperatures that these miners are faced with; however, there are other miners who face even worse conditions. These people are hired by international criminal organizations to dig out gold from these same mines. Called ghost miners, they sneak into the mines (actually the bribed guards look the other way) and live down there for months on end.

Don’t expect them to get caught as they will blend into the miles of tunnels where it is almost impossible to locate them, but if they do get caught, they have the firepower to push the ‘mining police’ back with their AK-47s and bottle grenades.

Ghost miners might not know each other, but they have their allegiances and help out each other when they can with food and supplies, which undoubtedly helps to keep them from going insane.

Bacteria in the Mponeng Gold Mine

So you thought that all living organisms need the sun to nourish them. Wrong. Deep in the Mponeng mine, scientists found Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator, otherwise known to the general public as bacteria. These tiny creatures have never seen the sun. They live independently from all other organisms and can be considered a single-species ecosystem.

How Does This Bacteria Live in This Harsh Environment?

Water does find its way from above through cracks in the rocks and they acquire nourishment from the breakdown of organic matter. D. audaxviator, which is the common denominator for this family of microbes has been living down there for millions of years.

How Would One Get a Job as a Mponeng miner?

Hold on! We suggest not to quit your day job so fast, but if you insist and don’t mind the dark, dreary, hot conditions to get your hands on a few ounces of gold (if you are successful), here are the job offerings



Tanzanian Miner Finds Tanzanite Gem Worth Millions

Coat of Arms of Tanzania
(Photo: Wikimedia
Public Domain)

Looks like Saniniu Laizer, an independent miner in Tanzania has the luck of the Tanzanians, after finding, for a third time, a discovery of two violet-blue tanzanite gemstones, which are some of the world’s rarest gems.

These stones are said to be the largest ever found in the country and this discovery made 52-year-old Saniniu a self-made millionaire. He sold 33 pounds of stones to the Tanzania government for a whopping 7.74 billion Tanzanian shillings ($3.4 million U.S. dollars).

Laizer is not employed by any organization or company. Like others, he mines on his own by hand, but if this gemstone find was not enough, he went back to make another discovery, grabbing a 14-pound gemstone valued at $2 million.

Surface Mining
Surface Mining (CC)

Mining makes up more than 50% of Tanzania’s exports with gold the primary mineral. Saniniu’s mining is considered legal, although there are Illegal mining techniques as well as corruption in this country and it is a big problem for the government. 

In 2019, Tanzania set up trading centers to allow miners to sell their gems to the government. Many reportedly mine by hand, like Saniniu without any affiliation to any mining companies. This also encourages other small scale miners to work.

So What is Laizer Going to Do with His Fortune?

Farmers in Igunga,_Tanzania (Wikipedia)

“There will be a big party tomorrow” he said. “I want to build a shopping mall. Laizer also mentioned that he will slaughter one of his 2,000 cows for his party, according to the BBC.

Tanzania is a poor country located in East Africa and despite its mining production of gold, it still remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world. About 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and although they have a structured educational system, the attendance rate is poor.

There is a lack of trained teachers, a lack of student motivation from students to attend, most probably due to the lack of esteem due to the low poverty level; subsequently, there is a large drop out rate. Poor nutrition is also a big problem. No doubt this also adds to the overall impoverishment of the country.

Saniniu Laizern is a bright spot in these areas of low morale, so it’s not surprising to hear that he wants to build a school and healthcare facility in his community. “I want to build this school near my home. There are many poor people around here who can’t afford to take their children to school.”

Additionally, he said: “I am not educated but I like things [sic] run in a professional way.” And he said that he would like his children to manage his business. This should not be a major problem for Saniniu, since it has been reported that he has four wives and over 30 children.

Taking Care of Your Gemstone Jewelry

Beads in pink, white, black, lead, and gray

Jewelry is cherished for its unique beauty and is special for the value it may hold for the owner. When it comes to gemstone jewelry, the love and appreciation for the accessory doubles. After all, it’s more precious and beautiful. If you take good care of your jewelry, you can increase its value and pass it on as a treasurable heirloom for generations to come. Here’s a proper guide on how you can look after your gemstone jewelry. 

Know Your Gem First

Before you deep dive into cleaning your gemstones, it’s important to first identify them. This is important because different gemstones have different physical properties and they may react differently to chemicals. For instance, some gems are sensitive to heat, while others may weaken because of harsh chemicals. Therefore, you must know what you’re dealing with before you begin your cleaning process. 

While many online guides can help you identify your gem, the best would be to take it to a professional jeweler, a reliable gemologist or a geologist. Apart from identifying your stone, they can also notify you of any physical quirks and corresponding cleaning tools you will need.  

Clean with a Soft Toothbrush 

The best kind of brush to clean your gemstones is with a soft or extra-soft toothbrush. Avoid using a hard or firm brush as it can damage the stone. Use a clean toothbrush and be gentle while coursing it on your stone. Extra care needs to be taken when cleaning sensitive gems such as amber or pearl

Use Mild Detergent 

Most store-bought jewelry cleaners are safe because they are made from mild chemicals. The first step is to mix warm water with a mild detergent cleaning solution and soak your jewelry in it for 2 -3 minutes. Next, using a soft brush, scrub your jewelry gently. You can also use a clean toothpick or shaved matchstick to pick out accumulated dirt if any. But make sure to perform this step patiently.  

Once you’re past this stage, dip the accessory back into the prepared solution. Lastly, rinse off in warm water, ensuring the temperature is the same as the solution. Once finished, shake off the excess liquid and polish it with a gentle, lint-free cloth. To avoid any liquid stain on your gems, plunge them on a surface full of maple wood chips for a few minutes. Afterward, remove all the chips away. 

Handle with a Lot of Care 

Be gentle and careful when putting on your jewelry. Never put pressure directly on them. Don’t push or pull them harshly as doing so may weaken the fastenings and lead to breaking or losing of stones. You should rather push rings by holding its sides or fasten bracelets or necklaces using the band, making sure the area where stones are fixed face upward. 

Follow the Etiquette of Wearing Jewelry

Jewelry is often the most regular part of one’s attire. If that’s your case, you should wear your accessories responsibly to maintain their beauty for long. Always follow the golden rule of putting on your jewelry last (after your clothes, hair and makeup) but taking it off first. Do this, and you will lessen the chance of ruining your gems. Avoid wearing jewelry or take it off before engaging in any strenuous task such as cooking, exercising, gardening, etc.   

Protect Your Jewelry from Extreme Heat and Light

Like many other items, heat can damage certain gemstones. Therefore, it’s best to keep them away from direct sun. For example, avoid placing your jewelry pieces made specifically from opal near the windowsill, where excessive heat can damage the appearance of the minerals. 

A prompt change in weather conditions can also make certain stones or metals crack. Considering this, you should always tuck away your jewelry pieces in a safe box. 

Regular Inspections

Regular care and maintenance are crucial for the long-lasting shine and beauty of your gemstones. It’s often suggested to get your precious gems examined by a qualified gemologist every few months. They can inspect your stones or metals for wear and tear and upon any damage that they find, they usually can fix it right away. 

Consider Polishing 

Keeping your gemstones stored for long can turn them dull and dreary. To restore their luster, polish them with a soft chamois. Try doing this daily to protect your gemstone jewelry from aging. 

Store Carefully

The worst thing you can do to your jewelry pieces is tossing them away in your drawer or dressing table. To keep your expensive jewelry safe and sound, you should always store them in a sterilized bag or box. Make it a habit of putting your stones in a proper jewelry box once you take them off.  

Take Your Jewelry Off Before You Go to Sleep

Just like you’re not supposed to go to bed with makeup on, you should not sleep wearing your gemstone jewelry either. Your jewelry may get tangled into your hair strands or get twisted with your bedsheet strings. 

Gemstone jewelry can be a hefty (but beautiful) investment. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t buy them if you can afford it. It will ultimately elevate your class and style. However, to ensure you can enjoy your gemstones forever, make sure to take excellent care of them by following the guidelines mentioned above!