The thesis in this book is that pyrite has been a key material in the development of our civilization and culture. It has figured in the foundation of nations and key industries, in the development of science, and in our current understanding of the nature of matter. It has played a key role in the development of our culture mostly through its use in the most important of human inventions: the taming of fire. Pyrite has determined the nature of the Earth’s surface environment and the origin and evolution of life itself. I have discussed how pyrite affects our present environment through its key role in the great biogeochemical cycles of fundamental substances like oxygen and carbon and how this has continued through over 4,000 million years of Earth history. This long history of the centrality of pyrite to the Earth system has enabled confident predictions about how pyrite is going to affect future Earth environment through acidification of atmospheres, rivers, and soils and eutrophication of the oceans, for example. Pyrite has played a central role in the development of humankind for the entire 200,000 years of the existence of Homo sapiens sapiens and this is unlikely to end now. It seems incontrovertible that pyrite will play a similar role in future human development as it has for the last 200,000 years. In this chapter I return to some of the themes from previous chapters and show how pyrite is still influencing our society and how this is likely to continue into the future. Gold occurs naturally in two basic forms: visible gold and invisible gold. Invisible gold was a term used by one of the greatest of 20th-century gold prospectors, John Livermore, to describe gold that “would not pan”—that is, gold that did not appear in the prospector’s pan when the crushed rock or natural gravel was gently swirled around with water. Livermore discovered invisible gold in Nevada, which led to the 1980s gold rush in that state that has, to date, produced gold to a value of over US$85 billion.
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