New research predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the cosmos.
Wouldn’t that b bad news to the cosmos-a-minute/fund us!! crowd?
Minerals form from novel combinations of elements. These combinations can be facilitated by both geological activity, including volcanoes, plate tectonics, and water-rock interactions, and biological activity, such as chemical reactions with oxygen and organic material.
Nearly a decade ago, Hazen developed the idea that the diversity explosion of planet’s minerals from the dozen present at the birth of our Solar System to the nearly 5,000 types existing today arose primarily from the rise of life. More than two-thirds of known minerals can be linked directly or indirectly to biological activity, according to Hazen. Much of this is due to the rise of bacterial photosynthesis, which dramatically increased the atmospheric oxygen concentration about 2.4 billion years ago.
– Grethe Hystad, Robert T. Downs, Edward S. Grew, Robert M. Hazen. Statistical analysis of mineral diversity and distribution: Earth’s mineralogy is unique. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2015; 426: 154 DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2015.06.028 More.
It’s certainly worth considering that life forms might shape minerals at or near Earth’s surface for their own benefit, creating a specialized environment that is not automatically replicable on a far-off planet.
Here’s the abstract:
Earth’s mineralogical diversity arises from both deterministic processes and frozen accidents. We apply statistical methods and comprehensive mineralogical databases to investigate chance versus necessity in mineral diversity-distribution relationships. Hundreds of mineral species, including most common rock-forming minerals, distinguish an “Earth-like” planet from other terrestrial bodies. However, most of Earth’s ~5000 mineral species are rare, known from only a few localities. We demonstrate that, in spite of deterministic physical, chemical, and biological factors that control most of our planet’s mineral diversity, Earth’s mineralogy is unique in the cosmos. (paywall) – Grethe Hystada, Robert T. Downsb, Edward S. Grewc, Robert M. Hazend
Just because a planet is out there somewhere and has water doesn’t mean it’s a marine aquarium, right?
See also: Copernicus, you are not going to believe who is using your name. Or how.
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