Olivine belt - fact or fiction?

Science 2023

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Olivine belt - fact or fiction?
Olivine belt - fact or fiction?
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The olivine belt of the Earth is known in our time thanks to the science fiction novel "The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin". The "Gold Rush", the scientific and technological revolution of the early 20th century and the aggravated social problems of that time - everything was mixed up in this literary work of A. N. Tolstoy. Before starting work, the writer consulted with scientists. However, does the olivine belt actually exist, or is it just a metaphor?

What is olivine?

Olivine belt - olivine

Olivine is a mineral composed of iron and magnesium silicates. It is called the building material of the universe, as it is widely distributed in nature. In the bowels of the Earth, it consists of rocks formed as a result of the solidification of magma melt. Olivine is formed at high temperature (about 1600 °C). In the mantle of the planet, located between the earth's crust and the red-hot core, its content prevails compared to other minerals.

It got its sonorous and beautiful name due to its yellow-green color, reminiscent of the color of olives. However, in nature there are other varieties of it - dark and transparent.

Olivine is an unstable material. As a result of natural processes, it turns into other rocks - serpentine, xenolith, talc, chlorite, majorite garnet.

Green beaches and meteorites

Olivine beach in Hawaii

On Earth, there are several unique olivine beaches dotted with small green pebbles. Among them, colorful beaches in the Hawaiian Islands stand out, consisting of various rocks of volcanic origin, which over time were crushed by the sea surf. The olivine beach of Papacolea was formed as a result of the collapsed slope of the volcano. Even the water in this place has a greenish tint, as it is saturated with mineral particles. At sunset, the olivine stones resemble emeralds, and local authorities have banned their export to preserve the unique beauty of this place.

The main "supplier" of the mineral on such beaches are active or extinct volcanoes, slowly collapsing under the influence of the atmosphere. Olivine is found not only on Earth, but also on other planets and space objects. Scientists have found several large meteorites, consisting of an alloy of olivine and native iron. This mineral is also the most abundant in lunar soil. Its content is 39% in the samples of the satellite of our planet.

The structure of the Earth according to the assumptions of scientists of the early XX century

olivine belt truth or fiction

The hypothesis about the olivine belt of the planet arose in the early 30s. XX century. During these years, scientists formulated a model of the deep structure of the Earth, consisting of several layers. The scheme developed at that time makes it possible to understand that this is the olivine belt of the Earth:

  1. The outer layer of the earth's substance is a crust up to 30 km thick, the most massive under the continents. It consists mainly of granites and sedimentary rocks
  2. Under the crust is a layer, the bulk of which is made up of metals that are in a molten state and under high pressure. Sometimes they are ejected to the surface of the Earth during volcanic eruptions.
  3. In the third layer is an olivine belt, consisting mainly of olivine. And in its lower part, as scientists assumed, a huge amount of precious metal - gold is concentrated. The olivine belt delimits the dense core of the Earth from the liquid layer.

It was the prototype of the model that formed the basis of modern geophysical science. It seemed very convincing, since lava studies confirmed the content of a large amount of olivine. Later, using seismic wave sounding, it was proved that the mineral is actually in the bowels in a molten state. However, scientists were still wrong about something.

The olivine belt of the planet - what is it?

This concept came to the masses thanks to the science fiction novel by A. N. Tolstoy "The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin", which was created in 1927. Even in his sketches, the writer drewa futuristic picture: with the help of a light beam of enormous power, scientists drill the earth's firmament and reach a boiling hellish mixture consisting of olivine and gold.

The idea for the novel was not born from scratch - a friend of the writer told him about an engineer who actually built such a device. But by design it was a paraboloid, not a hyperboloid. This scientist subsequently died in 1918 in Siberia, burying the secret of the invention with him. The inaccuracy in terms did not detract from the interest in the adventurous idea of ​​gold mining, especially since, according to the description in the novel, the olivine layer did not lie that deep - 5 km from the Earth's surface.

Engineer Garin is a we althy evil genius

Hyperboloid engineer Garin

In A. N. Tolstoy's novel, Russian engineer Pyotr Garin manages to create a hyperboloid that emits a beam of enormous thermal power that can destroy any substance in its path. Thanks to an infernal machine, a brilliant scientist began mining gold on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. An American billionaire was involved in the project, whose competitors were also destroyed with the help of a hyperboloid.

Gold mining from the olivine belt of engineer Garin led to the undermining of the foundations of the world economy and a severe financial crisis. The evil genius buys up the entire US industry and proclaims himself a dictator. On his way to world domination, Garin substitutes and uses other people to carry out his selfish plans. However, his tyranny does not last long, and the hyperboloid is captured by a group of revolutionaries. Later unfolds andgeneral uprising of the workers.

Why the hypothesis has become so popular

The idea of ​​world domination and easy enrichment existed at all times. Tolstoy's novel was a sign of the era in which the writer lived. At the beginning of the 20th century, a kind of “explosion” of technical thought took place, new types of weapons of mass destruction were being developed. Tolstoy revised the chapters of the novel several times, and the last, fourth part, was finally completed in 1939, before the outbreak of World War II.

Shukhov Tower

An interesting fact is that he was inspired to create this work by the Shukhov Tower, better known as the Shabolovskaya TV Tower. It was erected in 1920-1922. and during its construction, for the first time in the world, hyperboloid metal structures were used. The grandiose creation of human hands delighted contemporaries and at the same time instilled fear of the possible negative role of technical discoveries.

Olivine belt: fact or fiction?

As modern scientific research shows, olivine is actually a very common mineral. The igneous rocks on which the firmament of the Earth rests consist precisely of it, which is why geologists call it rock-forming. However, there is no gold underneath.

The idea of ​​the olivine belt was inspired by an artistic necessity, allowing one person, who has mastered a unique technology, to enslave the whole world. Therefore, this concept can only be considered as a literary device.

What is actually in the bowels of the Earth

The olivine belt and the structure of the Earth

Under the earth's crust is the mantle that surrounds the core of the planet. It became isolated during the long evolution of the Earth for 4.5 billion years. Its thickness is about 3000 km. The mantle accounts for 2/3 of the mass of the entire planet, and it consists of heavy minerals, including mainly iron and magnesium. Other common chemical elements include oxygen, silicon, aluminium, calcium, sodium, potassium and their oxides.

The structure of the mantle is divided into 3 layers. The upper one is involved in the movement of lithospheric plates. The middle one has an amorphous structure, consists of a plastic substance and is the main source of volcanic magma. The bottom layer is rich in nickel and iron. This structure is not yet well understood. It is possible that there is another layer between it and the core, characterized by high temperature and heterogeneity of matter.

But there are still treasures

Rocks saturated with olivine in modern geology are a sure sign of the presence of deposits of diamonds, platinum, chromium, titanium and nickel. These minerals are no less valuable than the gold described in the science fiction novel by A. N. Tolstoy.

What is in the bowels of the Earth

So, one of the largest diamond deposits in the world are the Argyle deposits in Australia. They consist of rocks of volcanic origin - olivine tuffs. The presence of magnesium and iron silicate minerals, coming from the metaphorical olivine belt, indicates a high content of precious diamonds.

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