Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Forbidden City gold and silver, part 1

All those years in China, and I only went to Beijing for part of two days. One day was spent on the Great Wall, at Jinshanling. The other was spent fighting my way through the crowds at the Forbidden City.

It was a fight. Within minutes of entering, I was separated from my travelling companions, by the surging crowd, and only found one of them about an hour later by chance as I was deciding where to look next. We played WeChat tag, and managed to get together at the exit.

The Forbidden City was a palace that expanded greatly during the Qing Dynasty. The wealth of the place was truly amazing, even after the KMT sacked the place before retreating to Taiwan with the spoils. What they left behind is still impressive.

One of the thrones

The entire complex has been converted into a series of museums organized by topic. Like most Chinese tourist spots, there are ample opportunities to get dressed up in period costume and pose at different spots in the palace complex. 

The two best museums to see are the treasures museum and the clock museum. Bandwidth here in Ghana is a little limited, so I'll only show pictures of some chintzy stuff today, and save the good stuff for later.

Silver candlesticks

Chamberpot with silver and gold inlay

Various articles with gold or silver inlay

Silver axle endpiece for chariot

Wine vessel with gold and silver inlay

Most of these artifacts are older pieces, dating from the Han Dynasty and the Warring States period. None of these are in the main treasure museum, but are scattered in some of the others, along with a lot of bronze pieces and weapons (so many weapons).

Saturday, February 24, 2018


Arrived in Ghana a couple of days ago. Getting used to the heat. Here are some shots of the Sahara from the plane.

The sandy, sandy sea

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Goodbye China

This is my last day here.

I liked it here. It was comfortable. Perhaps too comfortable. I would have stayed here forever. It was an ideal retirement.

Oh well, back to the Ghanaian project, assuming the current market turmoil hasn't derailed the financing.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Stone by stone

One of the things I like about China is the way the Chinese use stone, even in modern-day life. Most bollards, for instance, a carved from stone. I suspect this is only possible due to the low value of labour.

Of course, there is a long history of using stone in China.

The Great Wall, seen from the air.

The Great Wall of China cannot be seen from the moon. It can be seen from commercial flights if you care to look.

It snakes across hills, built on what looks like the most difficult path possible, cresting hills and ridges in the parklands north of Beijing.

The most famous tourist sites have been extensively rebuilt. Some of them are wide enough for twelve men to march abreast. Many other places are falling apart, or have only been partially refurbished. I think these are more interesting.

Jinshanling is a less-visited section of the wall. Of course, travelling there in late fall also helps. In any case, there were few visitors other than the dozen or so on our day trip.

The terrain is rugged, with many steep climbs. Still, it must have been worse actually carrying the blocks of stone used to build the wall up to the construction site.

The Mongol side of the wall. Those are not solifluction terraces.

The wall was a barrier as well as a road. An army could move along the wall, easily keeping pace with an enemy army on the outside trying to outflank it.

As we walk along the wall, we start to reach places where repairs have not kept up with time.


The watchtower in the distance was the goal of our hike.

Along this stretch the climb was so steep it was tempting to go on all fours. Here was also where I really pondered the difficulty of carrying the stones while the wall was being built. I have been assured that they used donkeys.

At lunch I sat at a table with several others on the tour, who happened to be from Singapore. We were telling each other about ourselves, when one of them stopped me and told me I had a nice voice, and should go back with her to Singapore where she would get me a radio show. I told her that Singapore had too many of my ex-wife's relatives.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Breakout of USDX vs gold

It has been awhile since I last mentioned gold (at least as far as price is concerned). That was because nothing significant has been happening. Something seems to be now, however.

The diagram below shows the trajectory of the system defined by the US dollar index and the gold price. Contrary to common belief, the gold price does not simply rise as the dollar falls--

My interest in this is the effect of the US dollar index and the gold price on the profitability of mining companies. For a gold company outside the US, with revenues in dollars and expenses in local currencies, the value of the US dollar may be as important as the price of gold. In fact, the US dollar may be more important, because a rising gold price is sometimes accompanied by "windfall taxes". If the US dollar has fallen in accordance with the rising gold price, the company may not actually have received a windfall at all. Furthermore, if the US dollar were to rise instead (and gold remain roughly constant), this would be a real windfall for these companies, and normally taxes are not raised in such a case.

In some previous articles I introduced the concept of the "isoquant", which is a locus of points where the product of the gold price and the US dollar is a constant. Much of the time, the trajectory of the system follows one of these isoquants--they represent the path of least resistance, being the "default" that everyone expects. Most historical moves at least start along an isoquant.

Given the size of the blot represented by the last three years of activity on the above chart, a move above $1400 is imminent. Such a move would be very small in the chart above. My prediction is for this coming move to approach the cluster in early 2013, before the gold price fell dramatically in the middle of the year. That would put the price near $1600. A move of this magnitude should take about a year to complete.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Dendritic fractures in river ice

We've had a pretty cold winter for this part of the world. Nothing like what you are having in Ontario, though. But still cold enough that I wish I hadn't forgone a winter coat this year.

This is the first time I have ever seen snow in Zhengzhou stay on the ground for more than a week. The canals froze, but that happens at least once every winter. They stayed frozen for longer than usual, until the warm spell that started just before the weekend.

Last weekend, crossing the bridge on Nongyedong Lu just east of Zhongzhou Lu, I saw these.

Cracking and refreezing. The dendritic pattern usually indicates a diffusive process, but am not sure how that translates here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tunnel in the Taihang mountains

A couple of hours north of Zhengzhou, in the outskirts of Xinxiang city, is an area with a number of villages built on mountain plateaux. These lie on the Henan section of the Taihang mountains, which is really a large escarpment that crosses three provinces in northern China. I have visited other sections of this escarpment here, here, here, and here.

One such village is Guoliang Cun, which for many years was only reachable by a "sky ladder", which is a goat trail. The village was isolated and remained in poverty until in the 1970s, the villagers decided to make their own tunnel through the cliff so that the village could be connected to the main valley road.

A section of the tunnel, viewed from across the valley

The red cliffs are a distinctive feature of the Taihang mountain complex. They consist of reddish Neoproterozoic sandstones, with cross-bedding on a metre scale. Ripple sets are well defined on some horizons.

Cross-bedded sandstone, about a metre thick

Ripple casts in the ceiling

The tunnel was carved out of the rock using hand tools. Local lore has the men hanging off the side of the cliff at the beginning, although I'm not sure how true that is. The tunnel is uneven and is marked by numerous windows of variable size--apparently these were used more for disposing of rock debris during the construction of the tunnel. They provide the only lighting in the tunnel at present.


Gazing out the window

Lookout over the entrance to the village

Still pond near village entrance

The village still has that "land that time forgot" feel, especially when compared to the modern cities of China. Naturally, the town is organized around extracting money from tourists. Most of the buildings are old stone buildings, the exception being the hotels that have been built starting about ten years ago.