Monday, March 28, 2011

Ruins of an ancient structure found near Ranchi in Jharkhand state of India.

Is it Geological weathering or remains of ancient structure?


Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

We live in a highly advanced, technical world, but there are nevertheless a great many mysteries all around us. Ancient places and mysterious beings, sunken worlds and cultures, landscapes imbued with symbolism, unexplained apparitions, and unbelievable finds from ancient times- all of these remain mysteries for human kind, despite intense investigation. Legendary ancient places tell stories that provide archaeologists and historians with information that is essential for the study of culture.

In the past, we have often been less than careful with old buildings and religious sites, many of which were left to fall to pieces after their abandonment. Lack of repair and natural forces take care of the rest, leaving the large part of most ancient sites in ruins. These ruins can still give us a lot of information about the production, form, and quality of building materials. They can also tell us what led to their destruction. The location and function of the structures can be used to help interpret past cults and cultures. Sometimes problem does arise to interpret such structures as some of it very much resembles with typical geological structures or weathering.

We have to be very careful in studying such structures or rocks. This report unreels the unsolved mysterious rock structures and cuttings, on the hills some 25 km north of Ranchi city, capital of Jharkhand State of India. These structures have recently been exposed due to expansion of road construction, and now are being continuously destroyed due to on going construction.

Ranchi possesses remnants of numerous pre-historic stone implements. Its monuments, some of which are credited to the Asuras by the Mundas, yielded such a mixed assortment of finds as polished stone stools, Carnelian beads, wheel-made pottery, copper and bronze objects, copper and gold ornaments and even iron slags, that it is impossible to date them to any one age.

Credit goes to my senior friend Mrs. Elizabeth Borde who told me about these mysterious unsolved rock structures. She used to visit that area from her childhood. When I visited the area with her, I was surprised to see that some weathered structures which very much resemble to ancient rock pillars were lying at the road side. Many were still found intact with rocks of that area.

The way the rocks are carved, it clearly indicates that people at that time in this area were perfect in making such structure. The rock cuttings and stone blocks fitting snugly together were probably hewed from granite rocks.

At first instance it very much resembled with that of typical geological weathering or different layered rocks. As a geologist I looked on the structures that showed a typical pattern of weathering which are not common in other parts of these state. Though it was a weathering but not of usual local hard rocks but that resembling to some ancient structures like stratified pillars.

I was also surprised to see some geometrical lines and angles, rock cuttings and even plant imprints and radiating lines on the rock surface.

Ranchi rocks are mainly Chotanagpur Granite gneiss with Quartzite, Amphibolites etc. Chotanagpur Granite Gneiss forms the country rock of the district and is a part of the enormous intrusive mass. It shows wide variations from fine to coarse grained and porphyritic types, and form massive to highly gneissic types. Weathered structures seen here are not common in Granitic rocks.

Geologists may feel that structures are the outcome of natural weathering, but the pattern of weathering is peculiar. It seems that in ancient days there must have been huge structure, may be of Buddhism, build up on the top of the hills, which finally collapsed either due to natural disaster or some invasions.

Some scholars feel that Buddhism influenced this area in Early History. There are several ruins of the Buddhist monuments and statutes in different places of Jharkhand. Apart from Buddhism, Jainism also makes its presence in Jharkhand.

In early history this inaccessible region full of dense forest and treacherous terrain coupled with its wild inhabitants, appears never to have been completely subdued. It is said that the “Atavi” (or forest states) too acknowledged the supremacy of Magadh during the reign of Maurayas.

Road construction is going on putting threat on these mysterious rock structures. Early destruction took place in 1960 when rocks of these structures were used for constructing wall guard along the road side. Even today villagers used these rocks for constructing their houses. The ruins of these pillars, rock cuttings may be vital clue to ancient civilizations developed and gradually vanished from this area. More research is needed to reveal the age and the mystery of the structures and rock carvings.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Volcano Next Door.

Scientists descend to a fiery lava lake to protect a Congolese city in its path.
By Michael Finkel
Photograph by Carsten Peter
"excerpt comes from the April issue of National Geographic magazine" (

When? This is the question that has brought two of the world's leading volcano scientists to the center of Africa; it's the question that haunts a team of Congolese seismologists; it's the question that may determine the fate of close to one million people. When will Nyiragongo erupt?
Nyiragongo is a two-mile-high volcano towering over the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and also one of the least studied. The chief reason for the lack of research is that for the past 20 years the eastern DRC has seen nearly constant warfare, including a spillover of the massacres in neighboring Rwanda. One of the largest United Nations forces in the world, some 20,000 troops, currently maintains a fragile, and often broken, peace.
At the base of the volcano sprawls the city of Goma, growing by the day as villagers from the countryside seek refuge from rebel and government forces. An estimated million people are now crammed into Goma.

Fig.1The lava at Nyiragongo is made of an alkali-rich volcanic rock; its unusual composition may be a factor in the lava's fluidity.Photo by Carsten Peter/National Geographic

Fig.2 Photographer Carsten Peter tests the thermal suit that Sims used to get close to the lava lake. "It can protect you from the radiant heat, but if you get hit with a lava splatter, the force will likely kill you," he says. For 30 years Peter has explored volcanoes around the world. "Seeing at close range the primal forces that shaped the planet can be hypnotic. You cannot allow yourself to fall under a volcano's spell, especially one as unpredictable as Nyiragongo. That can be a fatal mistake."Photo by Carsten Peter/National Geographic
Fig. 3 With temperatures around 1800 degree F., the lava is wildly erratic. As molten rock meets the air , it cools and forms plates on the lake's surface.Photo by Carsten Peter/National Geographic

The above photos are "in the April 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands March 29."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Oldest Tsunami occurred in Jharkhand State of India more than 1,600 million years ago.

The scientists analyzed sedimentary rocks deposited in "Chaibasa Formation" in eastern India.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Scientists have found evidence that the oldest earthquake followed by tsunami traceable in the earth's history took place more than 1,600 million years ago in what is now Jharkhand.

An international team of scientists from India, Japan and Poland has reported the discovery in a paper of the journal 'Sedimentary Geology’ in year 2006.

This occurred long before the massive southern land mass called Gondwana land split up and the piece that now forms peninsular India floated north and crashed in the Asian land mass.

The scientists analyzed sedimentary rocks deposited in "Chaibasa Formation" in eastern India. "The layers show deformations that have never been described before," Rajat Mazumder, lead author and a Humboldt Fellow in the university of Munich told.

Mazumder and co-workers show that earthquakes caused the deformations "while the sediments were still being deposited and before their consolidation," they said.

The layers containing these deformation structures are termed "seismites" and the scientists could trace the deformed horizons up to a kilometer depth.

Considering their occurrence in sediments deposited between 1,600 and 2,100 million years ago, "they are among the earliest records of earthquakes known in the Earth's history," the scientists reported.

"One of the strongest arguments for earthquakes as triggers of the deformation is the occurrence of strongly deformed layers (sandwiched) between unaffected layers of similar grain size," they said. Another argument is the finding of "tabular depressions," the formation of which would have required a large block of sediment to move upwards and drift away.

According to the scientists a tsunami generated by an earthquake most likely detached a weakly consolidated silt/mud block and lifted and transported it away leaving behind a hole that gradually got filled by laminated sediment observed by them.

It is interesting to note that Chaibasa Formation is underlain by volcanic rocks which have been dated as 2100 million years old. In other words the sediments of Chaibasa Formation were being deposited in a basin affected by active volcanism. In such areas high intensity earthquakes do occur.

The high grade Chaibasa Formation is estimated to have 2-4 km of thickness and is traceable westward to the north of the Chakradharpur town South of Ranchi city. The character of the sediments in the Chaibasa Formation, the non-diastropic structures preserved in them, despite extensive but open folding and deformation, and the environment of deposition have received some attention. Deep to shallow marine turbidite environment, peritidal shallow marine environment or even a totally fluvial environment have been proposed. Perhaps more than one environment co exists in the region.

S.M. Mathur in1964 and K. Naha in 1956 are among the earliest geologist to suggest turbidite structures and a deep marine environment in the Ghatsila area. M.V.N. Murthy and Anand Alwar in 1966 recorded some 106 cycles of turbidite beds in a 3500 m thick arenaceous pelite sequence in the Subarnarekha river section north of Rakha mines. It is suspected that such cyclic turbidite sequence may be related to seismic phenomena. Sedimentation in the Singhbhum Mobile Belt is endowed with several features. Both tectonism related to lithospheric stretching and contemporaneous volcanism are reflected in the character of the sediments.

The Chotanagpur Plateau of Jharkhand State represents a part of the Indian Peninsular shield, which is a stable cratonic block of the earth’s crust. Though it is a part of the stable block it is being rocked by mild tremors.

Chotanagpur has faced lots of tremors and geological movements in the geological past and now it is assumed that the plateau is free from any type of tremors or cratonic movement. Evidences of the regional tectonic movement in the plateau area are preserved in the form of faulting, folding, joints etc in the rocks.

According to GSHAP (Global Seismic Hazard Assessment Program) data, the state of Jharkhand falls in a region of low to high seismic hazard . As per the 2002 Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) map, this state also falls in Zones II, III & IV. Historically, parts of this state have experienced seismic activity in the M 5.0 range.

Though being a stable zone, mild tremors struck Jharkhand Plateau on August 1999 for couple of seconds. Few years back too on July and 21st November 1997 Jharkhand Plateau was rocked by the tremors for few seconds. Due to lack of requisite equipment, the Ranchi Meteorological office was not in a position to say something about the intensity.

A tremor stronger than these had shaken Chotanagpur Plateau of Jharkhand on August 21, 1988 at 4.40 AM. The epicenters of the Earthquake was 525 km north west of Shillong ( Indo-Nepal border in Bihar state) and was measured 6.6 on the scale. The 1988 quake which lasted for few seconds was reported from Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and Daltongonj.

A mild earthquake struck the adjacent border regions of the districts of Latehar and Lohardagga, Jharkhand, on 21st March 2007 at 22:04 PM local time. It had a magnitude of M?= 3.3 ( M? is magnitude type unknown) and was felt in many parts of the Chota Nagpur Plateau causing minor damage. The earthquake was centred 81.9 kms NW of Ranchi (Jharkhand), India. Jamshedpur and its adjoining areas experienced at least four low-intensity tremors in the month of January, 2008. This year in month of January mild tremors were in felt in parts of Shaebganj, Pankur, Godda, Ranchi district etc.

From last couple of years Jharkhand has felt few tremors in different parts of the State of low intensity and unfortunately due to its localized occurrence its intensity was not recorded.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Canada’s Dark Secret

Canada continues to mine asbestos and export the fibers to this day, in spite of many health concerns.


Eric Stevenson

Asbestos was a highly used and valuable mineral; now most countries consider it to be anything but that. It first mined in the great white north in the 1870’s and continued on to help cities thrive off the resource into the next century. Miners started to contract terminal illnesses such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis in the 1900’s after developing an initial shortness of breath on the mining sites.

The exposure to asbestos has since been revealed as the main cause for some of these diseases. The asbestos exposure affects a thin lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and heart. Perhaps the worst part about this type of exposure is the fact that mesothelioma symptoms lay dormant in a latency period that can sometimes last up to 50 years.

Diagnosis often comes late in life, with such a long latency period. The mesothelioma life expectancy is an average of between eight to 14 months following diagnosis.

Canada continues to mine asbestos and export the fibers to this day, in spite of many health concerns. The country tried to mend its image in the 1980’s and save the industry when many customers began removing the mineral from their products. America announced its intention to ban the mineral due to health risks. The possibility of legal action on businesses made using the mineral a massive economic liability, even though the US couldn’t ban asbestos right away.

The world health organization has also banned asbestos, citing it as a carcinogenic. The mineral is also banned in all 27 European Union member countries. While other countries have taken this stance, Canada continues to promote the controlled use of asbestos. They even continue the fight to keep the mineral off a U.N. list of dangerous substances.

Asbestos is only used in Canada in particularly exceptional circumstances today. Much of Canada’s own medical associations don’t support the difference and hypocrisy in Canada’s own standards of asbestos use with the countries they’re exporting it to. Right now it’s considered a hazardous substance within the country and only used under precaution.

Perhaps the worst thing about the situation is the types of countries to which the asbestos are dumped onto are third world countries with little or no health and safety regulations. These countries are exposed to a high number of hazardous exposures and have very little resources in helping those affected.

The Canadian government has a certain interest in keeping this trade alive as 95 percent of the 240 tons mined per year is exported out. The country is the fourth largest exporter of asbestos in the world, putting itself at the forefront of western support for the mineral.

Just recently, a high amount of criticism has been brought on towards Canada’s prominent role in the global asbestos industry. Through different media outlets, documentaries, and reports, the country is continuing to come under fire for its exporting practices.

While many Canadians are against the mining of this mineral and speak up to have it stopped, it’s clear that there is still a faction completely behind asbestos exporting due to its monetary value. With the spread of related illnesses and the controversy surrounding the mineral, hopefully this type of exporting comes to end in the near future. There’s certainly an opportunity to impact a rather hypocritical policy where Canada exports asbestos to other countries but actively tries to remove it from its own.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

How many plants and animals will become extinct this year?

The rapid disappearance of species was ranked as one of the planet's gravest environmental worries.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi.

Extinction is defined as ‘wiping out’ or annihilation’: if a certain type of plant or animal becomes extinct, it simply no longer exists. This may occur on a local or regional scale or, in the most extreme cases, on a global scale.

Nobody knows how many species exist on Earth today. About 1.82 million species have been given a specific name, but this is very incomplete sample of what is out there. In 1982, Terry Erwin of the Smithsonian Institute (Washington, DC, USA) publishes a report in which he proposed that estimates of biodiversity on Earth are seriously underestimated. He suggested that there might be 30 million species of insects alone. This conclusion was based largely on his finding that, in the tropical rainforest, insect species were often specific to individual trees. If any given tree in a tropical rainforest houses a number of unique insect species, it follows that there must be many millions more insect species than were previously believed. Estimates of the total number of species living today commonly range from 5 to 50 million, with some estimates as high as 100 millions.

The rapid disappearance of species was ranked as one of the planet's gravest environmental worries, surpassing pollution, global warming and the thinning of the ozone layer, according to the survey of 400 scientists commissioned by New York's American Museum of Natural History.

How many plants and animals will become extinct this year? This is a difficult question to answer. The ‘Red List’ of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN, also known as the World Conservation Union), compiled in 2000, states that a total of 11,046 species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction in the near future, in almost all cases as a result of human induced activities such as, global warming, climate change, pollution etc. Of known species, this includes 24 per cent of mammals, 12 per cent of birds, 25 per cent of reptiles, 20 percent of amphibians and 30 per cent of fishes. BirdLife International lists 1,186 birds as being threatened world wide, up by 75 since 1994, with 99 per cent of these threatened as a result of human activity. A total of 182 of these bird species are described as critical, which means that they have only an estimated 50 per cent chance of surviving either the next 10 years or 3 generations, whichever is shorter. Over the last 600 years, 128 bird species have become extinct, most of them (103) since 1800. Since only a small proportion of reptiles, amphibians and fishes have been assessed, the percentage of threatened species could be much higher.

Presently environmentalists are concerned about the imbalances caused by human activity and industrial growth in the ecosystem, as it is slowly inundating the forest cover, thereby reducing considerably the area of natural habitat of animal and plant life. Carbon dioxide is increasing, earth is warming, climate is changing affecting the life on the earth.

Since life began on Earth, several major mass extinctions have significantly exceeded the background extinction rate. The most recent, Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, which occurred approximately 65.5 million years ago (Ma), was a large-scale mass extinction of animal and plant species in a geologically short period of time. In the past 540 million years there have been five major events when over 50% of animal species died. There probably were mass extinctions in the Archean and Proterozoic Eons, but before the Phanerozoic there were no animals with hard body parts to leave a significant fossil record.

Human beings are currently causing the greatest mass extinction of species since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. If present trends continue one half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in less than 100 years, as a result of habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

The U.N. warns several eco-systems including the Amazon rainforest, freshwater lakes and rivers and coral reefs are approaching a "tipping point" which, if reached, may see them never recover. Vertebrate species fell by nearly one third between 1970 and 2006, natural habitats are in decline, genetic diversity of crops is falling and sixty breeds of livestock have become extinct since 2000.

A comprehensive survey of mammals included in the annual report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which covers more than 44,000 animal and plant species, shows that a quarter of the planet's 5,487 known mammals are clearly at risk of disappearing forever.
But the actual situation may be even grimmer because researchers have been unable to classify the threat level for another 836 mammals due to lack of data.