The mystery of stone columns

September 16, 2022

These columns are spectacular products of a natural experiment in the physics of hydrothermal convection...

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Researchers have determined that the Crowley lake columns were created by cold water percolating down into — and steam rising up out of — hot volcanic ash spewed by a cataclysmic explosion 760,000 years ago. These columns are spectacular products of a natural experiment in the physics of hydrothermal convection.

The blast, 2,000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens created the Long Valley Caldera, a massive 10-by-2-mile sink that includes the Mammoth Lakes area. It also covered much of the eastern Sierra Nevada range with a coarse volcanic tuff, or ash fall.

Researchers not only discovered the origin of the columns but also learned a great deal about the surrounding landscape.

The columns began forming as snowmelt seeped into the still-hot tuff. The water boiled, creating evenly spaced convection cells similar to heat pipes. Analyses by X-rays and electronic microscopes of samples of the columns found that tiny spaces in these convection pipes were cemented into place by erosion-resistant minerals.

It was estimated that as many as 5,000 columns exist within a 2-to-3 square-mile area east of the lake. They appear in clusters and are diverse in size and shape.

The largest pink diamond

Miners in Angola have uncovered a massive pink diamond that may be the biggest gem of its kind found in the past 300 years.

The pink diamond is estimated to weigh 170 carats, making it just a smidge smaller than the 182-carat Daria-i-Noor diamond — the largest pink diamond in the world, which today is part of the Iranian National Jewels.

The new diamond has been nicknamed the “Lulo Rose,” after the Lulo mine in northeastern Angola where it was found.

Pink diamonds are relatively rare, and scientists still aren’t certain about the phenomenon that gives these stones their rosy hue.

The Lulo Rose will have to be cut down from its rough form, which could result in its weight dropping by up to half, according to the statement. But even if the Lulu Rose is reduced to 85 carats, the vivid pink stone looks primed to set a new sales record of its own.

Compiled by SG

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