Lately there has been a lot of talk about amber. I think that part of the reason is the age of this gem. Most Baltic ambers (i.e., originating from huge carnivorous forests around the Baltic Sea) date back to 40 to 150 million years ago. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. Agricultural civilization dates back about 15 thousand years and first hominoids like Lucy (Australopithecus) date back about 3.2 million years ago. Some 40 to 150 million years ago (the dinosaur age) is when mammals were practically non-existent. When you hold that piece of amber in your hand, it’s a lot to take in.
Amber is actually the resin of enormous ancient coniferous tree forests. These massive trees fell into the sea and over time, under the pressure of water and sand and though decomposition, seeped resin into the sea. The resin cooled in the cold waters and was polished by the sand on the bottom for millions of years, or simply stayed under deep layers of sand and soil. Amber is very resilient to decomposition and abrasion. Trees use the viscous resin to protect “wounds” from contamination and infection. Over time these “wounds” were covered by new bark or crusted resin. This is also the reason why amber has antibiotic properties and why it is so resilient to decomposition.
Another fascinating quality is that amber can preserve fossils. These are usually insects from the time when the amber was formed. Such amber is uncommon, but it can be found from time to time. Usually the fossils are dragonflies, mosquitos, spiders or other insects from ancient times. (Spiders are not actually insects but I group them together for simplicity’s sake.) We are still waiting for a dinosaur egg in amber, which could open the door to cloning. But finding such a preserved specimen is nearly impossible.
Amber as Protection
Amber is more than a beautiful gem: it reflects electromagnetic waves. There is more and more proof that electromagnetic waves from electronics, especially from computers and cell phones, irradiate our cells with radiation. This radiation, if substantial, can increase the risk of cellular mutations, which can in turn increase the risk of cancer. At any one time this radiation is inconsequential. But when accumulated over a prolonged period of time, it can have a negative impact. These radiation waves may also alter our brain wave patterns leading to mood swings or depression.
But it’s not my intention to scare people away from electronics. In our modern age, cellphones and computers are indispensable. However we should also think of ways to protect ourselves from excessive radiation. Amber is one way to do achieve this. That’s why wearing a necklace while at work in front of the computer is not such a bad idea.
See you next time.