Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sudden snow in Wuhan

It's really nice to have a little time to stop and look at the flowers.

Hothouse in the Botanical gardens. Outside, the tulips were up, but not blossoming.

Yesterday, a snowstorm hit. I had planned to go the Yellow Crane pagoda temple complex anyway.

The Yellow Crane Pavilion.

A peek inside.

Views from different levels.

Flowers interrupted.

Anyway, off to Changsha today.

Gold from a Chinese tomb

From the tomb of Prince Liangzhuang, who died in 1441. The artifacts are on display at the Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan, which is a distinctive complex that is hard to miss.

Gold pins.

Earrings and gold ornaments.

Belts of gold and white jade. Some of these formed entire belts, with several segments held together with strips of fabric; and some pieces were like buckles for a silk sash. But they all had gold in them. Gemstones included (apart from the jade) rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aventurine, and turquoise.

Hat ornaments--again gold, with sapphires, rubies, et al.

What do you when you are a prince and you have important company. You can't expect them to wash their hands in a ceramic bowl, can you?

Actually, the gold basin was for the prince. The guests (and the wife) had to content themselves with silver.

Silver basin and tableware.


Gold utensils.

Gold coins. Apparently these were placed under the body of the wife (who, coincidentally, may have died at the same time as the Prince). Better than losing them in a boating accident, anyway.

Silver coins too. Well, why not?

Inscribed gold bar, describing fineness, weight, and the bona fides of the maker. I don't believe any tungsten was used in its manufacture.

Friday, January 29, 2016

River dredging in China

Buzzing along on the bullet train down to Wuhan, we crossed a number of tributaries of the Yangtze River.

It's a little blurry, but that's what happens when you go blazing by at 280 kph. What is up with this river? It didn't look natural, but there wasn't a lot of time to think about it.

It looks like the river has been dredged. That is something I'm always on the lookout for. A little over a year ago I went blitzing past an alluvial gold operation by the Yellow River. But in that operation there was a lot of gravel. Nothing like that is evident in the above photo. My guess was that they were mining sand.

A little while layer, I saw this . . .

and then I was sure they were mining sand.

Near Hankou, we see this. This doesn't even look like it was a river--just a field that has had sand mined down to below the water table. Where does all this sand go?

It goes downriver. As far as Shanghai (above). But plenty of it only goes as far as Wuhan.

Barge on the Yangtze in Wuhan.

For some number of years, river dredgers from China have been causing chaos in Ghana. Now we see where they got their start.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Gold vs copper

Below is the graph of gold and copper (gold and copper prices in US dollars multiplied by the US dollar index - representing the price that non-US-based companies receive for their products) over the past six years.

A tale of two commodities.

As said before, copper looks like an old man falling down the stairs. Just lately, the drop looks worse. I don't usually do simple technical analysis, but I'm not liking the looks of that breakdown. The last bounce of copper off the long trendline looks to correlate with the bubble in Chinese stocks, as if the faith in copper grew with the faith in the Chinese economy. The popping of the Chinese stock bubble may have been the signal for the copper bulls to give up the ghost.

Gold by contrast looks a lot better. Starting in late 2014, when the US dollar begin a rapid climb, gold x USDX has diverged favourably from copper x USDX. This looks like support for the argument of a major economic slowdown, marked by a move towards safety.

What happens next? I think much will depend on the US dollar. We will soon learn whether the US dollar really is a safe haven in tough economic times. If it begins to decline, I don't think we'll see a copper recovery--and the copper x USDX graph will get uglier still--but we should see a rise in gold. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

News flash! Gold-silver ratio dips below 20!

At least in jewellery stores in Zhengzhou. Gold jewellery is normally sold by weight--today's price was quoted at 289 yuan per gram for 22 carat (I think!) gold. Silver items (chopsticks and bowls, which aren't quite as labour-intensive) are being sold for 15 yuan per gram. That gives us a gold-silver ratio of 19.27, not allowing anything for fabrication.

Meanwhile, here is the ratio recently. We can see how often the gold-siver ratio was at its "normal historical ratio" over the last 40 years.

It happened in December, 1979, when the gold-silver ratio was 14.6. The only month in the last forty years when the price of silver was completely free from manipulation.

Silver is pretty pricy at local coin stores as well. Even in multi-kg amounts, the quoted silver price is well in excess of $40 (US) per ounce. When I asked about why the price was so much higher than the world price, it was suggested that if I knew someone willing to sell silver at that price, I should go there and buy it. Here, this is the price.

I am not sure whether or not this is a marketing issue within China, where silver has a long history of significance.

On the plus side, you can buy plenty of "silver" at local "antique" markets for a good price--often even below the world price!