Some chains of curiosity take very odd paths. At times, they yield nothing much. Other times there is a yield, but it is like a handful of warm jello – not something to form into a decent shape for sharing… I’d spent a few days looking at several things that ended that way. Not suitable for any kind of sharing / posting.
Then things shift.
Sometimes you find yourself buried in a dozen connections running all over. Either it’s a dozen postings, or it becomes a single “catch all”. In this case, I’ve settled on “catch some” (with the lesser interesting items left out).
It started with a posting at WUWT about “Burning Man”. An alternative culture ‘event’ in Nevada.
I’ve been a Burning Man Wannabe from, basically, the first founding of it. I was working at Apple then. There is a chart of the dates, location, and sizes of the various events in the wiki:
My first child was born just about the time of the second beach event, my second a couple of years later. Apple, being a “way cool place” and well connected had folks going ‘up to the city’ to the beach event. I was working way long hours and had 2 new kids. Not a good time… Later, Apple was having layoffs and other disruptions came along. Again, I knew folks going to Burning Man and wanted to go. Then it moved to Nevada as the main site. Hard to convince the spouse you want to leave her with 2 young children while you go off to a big week long party in Nevada… ( it is not her kind of event. She hates camping and is not keen on parties and non-traditional cultural things.)
About the early 2000’s, I had enough time, but money was tight. Still, I’d wanted to go. But finding a new job was high on the list of “to do” things. When I wasn’t working contracts, I was hustling for new ones. Finally, I found a time when I had time and no pending work. That year I discovered the price was $200 (it had been free or nearly so before) and just didn’t like the idea of paying to camp on a public desert. In some later year I “got over it” and went to buy a ticket, only to find them sold out. A couple of years back, a friend and I decided to go, and I even went looking for tickets early. But not early enough. They were substantially sold out then, too, and by the time we were all coordinated and agreed, it was too late.
Now we’re back to the “hunt for money” phase as I try to decide what I want to do for a living when I grow up ;-) and spending $400 for a ticket is “an issue” and added to the costs of gas and “logistics” it is closer to “Over a KiloBuck”… and the spouse still doesn’t like camping.
So I’ve spent a 1/4 Century as a “Looky Lou Wannabe”… Maybe next year…
But now I was in the mood for at least a little vicarious attendance. Once again “living through others” instead of being in the event. Second hand life. Oh well, better than nothing… and maybe it would motivate me to remember to watch for the first offering day of tickets and try to get one, again. (Part of my problem is just trying to remember months in advance to buy a ticket to go camping in late August… Heck, some years it wasn’t clear what State I’d be in then.)
But off I went looking at Burning Man Videos on Youtube.
One had a mention of the Playa dust getting in everything. On the skin. On food. In your mouth. So one tangent ran off to: “What is in that dust?”. It is known to be alkaline. It’s known to be mineral rich. So I wondered…
Here’s that video ( a couple of minutes). Warning: Partial Nudity (Hey, it’s Burning Man… You can expect full nudity in some of the videos).
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread, especially among indoor workers. It can lead to S.A.D. and depression. Here were a bunch of folks showing lots of skin and rapidly rising Vit-D levels. I’d found that Magnesium deficiency is also common in the US and it, too, makes you feel bad. Was there Mg in the playa dust? And what else?
Again, not beating around the bush, it has a load of Mg and Ca in it, along with many other minerals, and I found a map showing the area relatively high in Boron. So here we have folks getting a load of 3 things that are generally deficient in modern life: Vit-D, Mg, Boron. Not to mention some decent relaxation and ‘happy time’. No wonder they all look happy ;-)
So my ill formed and less proven thesis is that a week camping on the playa in the summer is good for you, even if there isn’t a large burning statue and 50,000 of your closest friends ;-)
Where is this event? Here’s a map of Nevada. In the upper left corner is a dot and the name Black Rock:
The map is from this site that has lots of useful maps:
Notice that there is a river shown draining into the Black Rock Desert. That’s where all the minerals came from. Washed out of the mountains over eons and collected into an old lake, now long evaporated.
But don’t worry. It will likely return during the next glacial. FWIW, the picture of it in the wiki has Black Rock Desert marked…
Exactly what minerals were in this link:
Down near the bottom is a set of data for several playa. BRP stands for Black Rock Playa. The stuff is given as “oxide”, but that doesn’t mean it IS oxide. That’s just how they measure it on the assumption that most rocks are mostly oxides. While it does not call out Boron, that isn’t too surprising, as if it were more than trace levels, the place would be considered toxic.
In a different paper (also interesting, it correlates boron on the surface with geothermal potential below):
There is a ‘way cool’ map of Nevada with surface Boron levels. You can see that the Black Rock Desert is one of the darker, higher levels of Boron, areas. Unfortunately, attempting to copy the image gave me one that is partially cut off and backwards.
( I suspect some kind of ‘security’ feature; and I’m just not that interested in breaking their copy protection scheme right now, so you need to snag a copy of the paper and look at the map yourself.)
I changed my mind… Here’s the map:
Reds and yellows are high levels, blue is low. Notice there is a dark yellow red area in the upper left corner that is right where the Burning Man / Black Rock Playa is located. There’s boron in that playa dust, and likely in therapeutic levels. 3 mg / day is the normal level. Eat enough playa dust, that’s likely to do it. ( It would be interesting to get an exact level in the playa dust and calculate the amount that needs to blow onto dinner ;-)
So one interesting track as led us to realizing that there are several nutritional / vitamin related benefits to the playa / summer mix. It also follows that volcanic springs and mud baths (thanks to that paper) will also likely be therapeutic to folks with Mg or Boron deficiencies. Yet more evidence for some of the claims of various ‘healing waters’ and ‘mineral spas’ having some merit, I’d say. (Personally, I’d always figured it for just placebo effect or folks wanting a good time. Here I, skeptical of it, find there’s merit in the idea… Oh well, that’s what I get for having an open mind and scientific bent ;-)
One Side Track on Liquid Stone
Further down in the same article is a mention of Catechols. The article is mostly a ‘heavy sledding’ article about silicon chemistry… but I’m interested in silicon chemistry… and how to soften rocks.
It has long been known that catechol (1,2 dihydroxybenzene; Figure 5, I) is an excellent complexing agent for Si, and a basic catechol solution will even dissolve quartz (Bach & Sticher, 1966) to yield tris(catecholato) silicate, M2[o-C6H4O2]3Si, where M is a unipositive
Hmmm… I’m thinking. Didn’t we see a plant was used to soften rocks in a prior posting on megaliths?
So that story of birds using plants to soften rocks might have some merit. Catechols being common in plants. From the wiki on catechol:
Catechol was first isolated in 1839 by H. Reinsch by distilling catechin from catechu, the juice of Mimosa catechu (Acacia catechu L.f). Upon heating catechin above its decomposition point, a substance first named “pyrocatechol” formed (“pyro” referring to heat). This “pyrocatechol” is now simply referred to as catechol. Catechol occurs in free form naturally in kino and in beechwood tar; its sulfonic acid has been detected in the urine of horse and humans.
So here we have it made from Mimosa or Acacia plants. Then further down we find it in Beechwood tar. It’s also found in other plants:
Small amounts of catechol occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, along with the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (also known as catecholase, or catechol oxidase). Upon mixing the enzyme with the substrate and exposure to oxygen (as when a potato or apple is cut and left out), the colorless catechol oxidizes to reddish-brown melanoid pigments, derivatives of benzoquinone. The enzyme is inactivated by adding an acid, such as lemon juice, and slowed with cooling. Excluding oxygen also prevents the browning reaction. Benzoquinone is said to be antimicrobial, which slows the spoilage of wounded fruits and other plant parts.
It is one of the main natural phenols in argan oil.
Pyrocatechol is also found in Agaricus bisporus.
That Agaricus is the common food mushroom. The “argan oil” was more interesting. It comes a tree closer to Egypt.
Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania Spinosa L.), endemic to Morocco, that is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. The oil is marketed for cosmetic use as Moroccan oil
So now I’m thinking: Not only is there a potential ‘citric acid / oxalic acid’ pathway to softened stones, but there’s a few plant oil / extract paths as well. Given how much the ancients burned wood and made plant extracts (sometimes in stoneware) I can’t help but think “they figured this out”…
For my purposes, just knowing that catechol dissolves quartz makes it pretty easy to come up with a way to make stone paste. I’d also bet the catechol slowly oxidizes away over the years leaving what looks like ordinary stone. It ought to work even better on feldspar too.
A Short Side Track on Edible Plants
That line about Beech was interesting to me, so I took a look at Beech Trees and discovered that not just the nuts are edible. As I’m interested in “found foods”, that is of interest to me. But it is more than just ‘found food’, it is a generally very useful tree!:
Beech wood is an excellent firewood, easily split and burning for many hours with bright but calm flames. Chips of beech wood are used in the brewing of Budweiser beer as a fining agent. Beech logs are burned to dry the malts used in some German smoked beers, giving the beers their typical flavor. Beech is also used to smoke some cheeses.
Note to self: Try some beechwood smoked something or other in the smoker… oh, and learn how to spot a beech tree and scout the neighborhood ;-)
Some drums are made from beech, which has a tone between those of maple and birch, the two most popular drum woods.
The textile modal is a kind of rayon often made wholly from the reconstituted cellulose of pulped beech wood.
The European species Fagus sylvatica yields a utility timber that is tough but dimensionally unstable. It weighs about 720 kg per cubic metre and is widely used for furniture framing and carcass construction, flooring and engineering purposes, in plywood and in household items like plates, but rarely as a decorative wood. The timber can be used to build chalets, houses and log cabins.
Beech wood is used for the stocks of military rifles when traditionally preferred woods such as walnut are scarce or unavailable or as a lower-cost alternative.
The fruit of the beech tree is known as beechnuts or mast and is found in small burrs that drop from the tree in autumn. It is small, roughly triangular and edible, with a bitter, astringent taste. Fresh from the tree, beech leaves are a fine salad vegetable, as sweet as a mild cabbage though much softer in texture.
Beech wood tablets were a common writing material in Germanic societies before the development of paper. The Old English bōc and Old Norse bók both have the primary sense of “beech” but also a secondary sense of “book”, and it is from bōc that the modern word derives. In modern German, the word for “book” is Buch, with Buche meaning “beech tree”. In Swedish, these words are the same, bok meaning both “beech tree” and “book”.
The pigment bistre was made from beech wood soot.
So now I’m thinking I’d like to have a beech tree in the yard. For now, the squirrels can have a feast on the nuts. If The Bad Thing ever happens, I’ll have a herd of squirrels trained to come sit in my yard and pose for the pot; then, when they are gone, I’ll have beechnuts to eat ;-O
Paper, furniture, fire wood, food. This is just looking SOOOOoooo much better than a lot of the pointless trees in the area.
But Wait! There’s More!
While looking at other plants listed in there, I’m reading about this one. That ‘kino’ stuff:
Pterocarpus marsupium, or the Indian Kino Tree is a medium to large, deciduous tree that can grow up to 30 metres tall. It is native to India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, where it occurs in parts of the Western Ghats in the Karnataka-Kerala region. It is also known by the names Malabar Kino, Benga, Bijiayasal (in western Nepal), Piasal (Oriya), Venkai, and many others.
Parts of the Indian Kino (heart wood, leaves, flowers) have long been used for their medicinal properties in Ayurveda. The heart wood is used as an astringent and in the treatment of inflammation and diabetes.
Similipal Kol tribes in Orissa, India pound a paste mixture of the bark of P. marsupium with the barks of Mangifera indica, Shorea robusta and Spondias pinnata to treat some dysentery illnesses. In Karnataka the plant is known as Honne or Kempu Honne.Kannada people in India make glass from the heartwood of this herb and its aqueous solution is used to cure diabetes.
The gum resin is the only herbal product ever found to regenerate beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.
I know, I know… It’s just a wiki… But still, that just demands a follow up. So on my “someday list” is to do a follow up and look for other sources. But still: “regenerate beta cells that produce insulin” just hollers out loud. If that is even 10% of the time true, there’s millions of folks and billions of $$$ here. Diabetes his a widespread and debilitating illness. Heck, I’d eat some tree resin for that…
Some Odds and Ends
The article that sent me off to the silicon chemistry link is here:
It has a discussion of folks using an acid footbath to neutralize the alkaline playa dust. Likely a very good idea. And another idea for a Burning Man Gift: Have acid foot baths and some pH strips to know when to juice them up.
This next page has a bunch of useful information about the site, but is not a “burner” and in fact seems a bit upset at them:
A couple of Videos of what the place is like, selected from many. You can go ‘full screen’ with the cross shaped icon in the lower right, and with the gear-wheel one can set the resolution up for better quality, or down for lower bit rate on slow links.:
About 4 minutes into part 2 is the “Thunderdome”…
This is one of the known camps. I just like the way the video is done.
This one has Russian titles, but as it’s all just music not much of an issue. Yet the music chosen is different in a very interesting kind of way. Most of the songs are in English. And my choosing it has nothing to do with the dancing Asian babes or the firedancers… Heck, some of the firedancers are even guys, for the gals in the audience:
And this one has some nice close up stills of the playa surface in the middle. Honest, that’s the ONLY reason I’m putting it here… well, that and the dust blowing examples… well, and maybe some of the music and hula-hoop dancers, but not the naked guy… ;-)
So now I think you can see two things. First, there’s not a simple way to sort out all those threads. They all interconnect, somehow. From survival foods, to natural medicines, to videos, to minerals and nutrition, and heck even back to ancient Egypt and “liquid stone”…
The other is that you can see how my mind works. It has a dominant thread (in this case Burning Man), but also has a few dozen ongoing “dominant threads” (like ancient technology / liquid stone, or how the body works and responds to various substances) and when connections are found, those weave in. Then there are the just “odd bits” that are along for the ride. Watching a cool video. Some tunes. Trivia about some plant. All in the hopper together. Usually I pick out one bit and illustrate it. Then there are time like this where “the stew just is”…