Uncommon Sense

December 22, 2020

Scum of the Earth You Are

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:20 am

I still love learning things and, having lived a long time, the things I learn often resonate with many other things already learned. One such tidbit I learned yesterday is the subject of this post.

Teachers, especially chemistry teachers, are somewhat well-known as sources of lame jokes. (Sometimes this is deliberate. A joke very lame can also be hard to forget and so becomes a mnemonic device.)

One of mine was that when the planet Earth first formed, it was almost entirely molten. As a consequence, the elements that were most dense, i.e. iron, nickel, etc. sank and today form the bulk of the Earth’s core, and the less dense elements, i.e. silicates, aluminum, carbon, etc. floated to the top and formed a scum. It is from those elements that people are formed which is why they are referred to as “the scum of the Earth.” <groan>

What I learned just yesterday, that all of the very dense elements, e.g. gold, platinum. etc. also sank due to their density, but also due to being dissolved in the liquid iron. It is a chemical truism that the best solvent for a substance is a liquid version of a similar substance, so liquid metals are excellent solvents for other metals and liquid salts are excellent solvents for other salts (which is how aluminum became cheap, but that is another story).

As a consequence, all of the gold and platinum and other very dense elements we have access to here on the surface of Planet Earth, came as parts of meteorites after the crust of the Earth solidified enough to bear them up.

You learn something new every day . . . or at least it is worth trying for that.

1 Comment »

  1. Very nice


    Comment by Shristy Singh — December 22, 2020 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

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