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Old 02-27-2011, 06:25 PM
 
Location: Hopewell New Jersey
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If the earth, planets etc are/were formed by the condensing of gases after the big bang etc why aren't materials equally dispersed throughout the earth. For many materials such as petroleum products (oil/coal etc) or diamonds the answerer is pretty obvious...they were formed long after the earth was formed.

My question I guess could be distilled down to why are there gold mines? or, why are the elemental materials of the earth not evenly dispersed...

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Old 02-28-2011, 07:50 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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I think it is because the stellar masses fragmented into planets at a much later date, owing to causes that succeeded the big bang itself.

I have never seen an analysis of this idea, but I suspect that at the moment of the big bang, there was no concept of "element", in that there were only subatomic particles (protons, electrons, etc), which were all subjected to post-big bang forces and formed themselves into the natural elements according to where they happened to fall in relation to each other in the random scattering of matter.

Accordingly, Gold would occur only in a few places in the universe that were conducive to the subatomic particles forming in that atomic configuration.

The Earth did form in such a way that all 92 of the natural elements occur on Earth, which is an interesting thing to speculate about. Can it be presumed that all 92 elements occur on every body in the universe? If some elements are absent on some bodies, why? Or, conversely, why is Earth deserving of all of them? Does that imply something unique about Earth, that cannot be presumed to be the case on many, most, or all other planets?

Big Bang Nucleosynthesis is an interesting read on this topic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang_nucleosynthesis

Last edited by jtur88; 02-28-2011 at 08:08 AM..
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Old 02-28-2011, 11:01 AM
Status: "My eyes are rolled back so far I can see my brain." (set 13 days ago)
 
Location: Here.
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Elements get concentrated and dispersed due to plate tectonics, volcanoes, asteroid/meteor collisions, glaciers, flooding, evaporation, wave action, erosion, chemical reactions, river depositing, etc. Gold is transported my rapidly flowing water and settles at low points where water slows down (gold is heavier than water).
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Old 02-28-2011, 09:56 PM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
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If the earth, planets etc are/were formed by the condensing of gases after the big bang etc why aren't materials equally dispersed throughout the earth.

Actually, that postulation is incorrect. jtur pointed to a link that only certain lightweight elements were formed. The heavier elements were formed within stars or their novae as they exploded. Those debris particles were not distributed evenly through space. VERY roughly, the heavier the element, the more reactions it has to go through, meaning gold is more rare than carbon, etc..

For many materials such as petroleum products (oil/coal etc) or diamonds the answerer is pretty obvious...they were formed long after the earth was formed.

Elements have different densities and different valence. Once cooled into a solid form, some structures are fairly permanent.

My question I guess could be distilled down to why are there gold mines? or, why are the elemental materials of the earth not evenly dispersed...

You are arguing for a type of order - homogeneous distribution requires more energy and structure than quasi-random distribution. homogeneous distribution of elements formed at different times would require a startling amount of more energy.
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Old 02-28-2011, 10:35 PM
 
Location: Texas
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Luck of the draw, I'd say.
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Old 03-01-2011, 05:47 AM
Status: "My eyes are rolled back so far I can see my brain." (set 13 days ago)
 
Location: Here.
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Another explanation: much of the elements are actually distributed fairly evenly throughout the earth, but the variable is how close to the surface those elements are. We only become aware of elements that are at or near the surface. The deepest gold mine is only a couple miles deep, which is minuscule when you consider the size of earth. So we are just scratching the surface and can only account for a small fraction of the earth's elements.

Last edited by Retroit; 03-01-2011 at 05:59 AM.. Reason: Forgot an apostrophe. :)
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:23 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Retroit View Post
Gold is transported my rapidly flowing water and settles at low points where water slows down (gold is heavier than water).
Aluminum is also heavier than water. The unique quality of gold is that it is chemically unreactive. It's electron configuration is highly resistant to sharing electrons with other elements, so gold invariably remains in its elemental state, and does nor form ores, from which other elements need to be extracted. Conversely, highly reactive elements like lithium and potassium can never remain in their pure state in the presence of nearly any other substances. For example, if you place potassium in the presence of water, it will, with explosive rapidity, tear the water molecule apart and form a compound of its own.

However, in the case of both gold and potassium, the number of atoms of each metal remains constant forever in a closed system, such as a planet. For example, the amount of pure gold lying around is greater than the amount of pure aluminum, even though aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth's crust. However, it is all locked up in compounds like bauxite, so it is not superfically recognizable as aluminum.
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:21 PM
 
Location: Hopewell New Jersey
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BTW... I didn't mean that there was any significance to gold; it was just an example. The same thing could be said of nearly any mineral deposit. One can be sitting in the middle of a rich deposit of copper (or any other mineral) and drive away for a cpl of hours and that same mineral is liable to be only a trace element at the new location. I was just wondering what is the process that all causes this apparent "clustering".

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Old 03-03-2011, 03:09 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBrown View Post
BTW... I didn't mean that there was any significance to gold; it was just an example. The same thing could be said of nearly any mineral deposit. One can be sitting in the middle of a rich deposit of copper (or any other mineral) and drive away for a cpl of hours and that same mineral is liable to be only a trace element at the new location. I was just wondering what is the process that all causes this apparent "clustering".

Understood. But there is a significance to gold, and the reason it is so revered for illusory value is precisely because its non-reactivity and the fact that it is one of very few elements (is it the only one?) that only occurs in its pure form. In spite of its rarity, it has been known since antiquity, because it does occur just lying there on the ground, glittering, and not locked in an ore as a chemical component very much unlike itself.

But it is a tantalizing question, as to why gold "just sits there" in some places, and not others. The extremely high specific gravity of gold would suggest that every time there is a movement of the medium in which it lies, it would sink further towards the center of the earth, so there must be quite a lot of gold deep in the earth's crust, relative to what is close enough to the surface that we notice it. Maybe gold is more abundant near the surface at places where there has been the least fluid movement of the medium of earth that it lies in.
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