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, October 21, 2018

Silver is really unpopular

So says my anecdotal evidence.

In China, where silver sells for about four times the world price, it is no surprise that it is unpopular. I tried to give silver jewellery to a girlfriend there--she didn't want it. There was more acceptance of the charming notion of providing a silver spoon as a gift for a baby, as the Chinese do believe that silver draws the toxins out of foods.

I became interested in silver in about 1998, and originally bought it from a local coin shop. Looking for other sources, I found the local United Church held sales in the spring and fall, and jewellery was one of the main topics. Back in those days, nobody was interested in silver, and I bought a lot of old jewellery and the occasional silver spoon, and even a few candlesticks, all at good prices. Some of the jewellery I bought there were listed among my wife's favourite pieces, including an antique piece from Republican times in China, which included a secret pocket for secreting opium.

By around 2004, it began to get more difficult to buy used silver. Groups of young men began to show up at the church sales, aggressively buying up all the silver (and occasionally berating the bemused old ladies administering the sale for not lowering prices when the silver price began to fall). So by about 2006, I had stopped looking for silver at the church sale, and just bought used CDs, games for the kids, and baked goods.

I had been in China for the past few years, but was around for the church sale last week. I decided to see if anything was available in the jewellery section. And there were very few people there, mainly old women, and nobody was interested in the silver. I ended up buying something for my daughter. So this is a more anecdotal evidence of a general lack of interest in silver.

Monday, October 15, 2018


This song has been buzzing around in my ear lately.

I'm not sure where this has come from, as it seems to be more of a spring song than an autumn one.

But for the past four years, I have spent autumn and winter in China. And come to think of it, I have spent very little time of any autumn in Canada since about 2007--so maybe it is a response to seeing the autumn colours of Canada for the first time in a long time.

In China, you mostly get yellows. Before China, I spent a lot of time in West Africa, and you get some colour changes in some trees during the dry season, but mostly there is no change

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The new New Age

Anthropocene is a movie which appeared in the Toronto Film Festival this year. It has since gone on to appear in a few cinemas hereabouts.

It is a visually striking film. But if you are already familiar with its message, it is a little slow.

The movie trailer is unfair to the gentleman from Hong Kong who owns the ivory shop. All of the ivory depicted in his segment in his store is fossil ivory, something made clear in the film, but not the trailer. I went to one such shop when I visited Hong Kong--if you want a carved tusk, you can have one for about the price of a house.

I first encountered the term "Anthropocene" as a proposed name for a new geological epoch--one in which the forces modifying the earth's surface are dominated by human activities--in 1987 or 1988, in an issue of Geology. I only remember the time because it was when I was in Newfoundland, and looking back casually through recent publications only shows more recent references.

The original article was very short, and as I recall, attracted a firestorm of responses in the form of letters to the editor. Most of these suggested alternative names to this epoch, ranging from "Neocene" and "Cenocene" (often accompanied by dry, pedantic discussions about why one name was superior to another), but there was one clever wag who proposed we call this new epoch the "Shouldhavecene". Yes, we should have.

Anthropocene seems to have won out, or at least it has the upper hand.

Thirty years ago the world was a different place. At the time the first article appeared, it seemed like a joke, this idea that humans could dominate the surface features of the planet. Part of this is a kind of blindness. Grow up in cities surrounded by farms and this landscape seems like the most natural in the world. Add to this Canada's managed forests, some tourism commercials, and it was easy to think that nearly the entire country was untouched wilderness.

Onwards in the theme of human impacts on the world. Yesterday we had the second (annual?) Progressive Mine Forum, held in the MaRS Discovery District, which is a sort of breeding tank for tech industries. It covered numerous themes related to modernizing the industry, from mechanization, reducing fossil fuel usage, "green" mining, battery metals, and so forth.

Quote of the day: "You know who likes big trucks? Ten-year-old boys and mining engineers." I think that was Nathan Stubina of McEwen Mining.

Interesting idea of the day: Just as Uber is the largest taxi company in the world (which owns no taxis) and Airbnb is the largest hotel chain in the world (which owns no hotels), might there arise a large mining company that owns no mines? The speaker, George Hemingway of The Stratalis Group mentioned that Apple is proposing to use only recycled material in their products. What if they do the recycling? What if they became so good at it that they begin to supply recycled material to everyone else. Apple (or any other large tech company) has a huge advantage over traditional mining companies--they have no trouble attracting financing to projects with no projected return.