Basalt (/bəˈsɔːlt/, /ˈbæsɒlt/, /ˈbæsɔːlt/, or /ˈbeɪsɔːlt/) is a common extrusive igneous (volcanic) rock formed from the rapid cooling of basaltic lava exposed at or very near the surface of a planet or moon. By definition, basalt is an aphanitic igneous rock with less than 20% quartz and less than 10% feldspathoid by volume, and where at least 65% of the feldspar is in the form of plagioclase. (In comparison, granite has more than 20% quartz by volume.) Basalt is usually grey to black in colour, but rapidly weathers to brown or rust-red due to oxidation of its mafic (iron-rich) minerals into rust. It almost always has a fine-grained mineral texture due to the molten rock cooling too quickly for large mineral crystals to grow, although it can sometimes be porphyritic, containing the larger crystals formed prior to the extrusion that brought the lava to the surface, embedded in a finer-grained matrix. Basalt with a vesicular or frothy texture is called scoria, and forms when dissolved gases are forced out of solution and form vesicles as the lava decompresses as it reaches the surface.
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights. In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states. Text by Steve Smith.