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What the pangeaists don't want you to know
August 7, 2010 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Don't continue fooling yourself. The earth is growing and expanding rapidly. Despite plate tectonics' popular acceptance in the 60s, Samuel Warren Carey, the father of modern expansion tectonics, was publicly promoting his theories of an expanded earth as late as 1981. One of the theory's most prominent modern spokesmen is comics artist Neal Adams, who has created a number of informative videos about a new model of the universe that even manages to explain why the dinosaurs died out.

If you're wondering where the extra mass comes from, some put it down to thermal expansion of the core and accretion of matter at the surface. Neal prefers pair production to explain the phenomenon (related: prime matter). There are other mass-expansion theories, but for at least one it's just a matter of perception.

Dr James Maxlow too waves the expanding-earth flag. Here you can watch Yes! The Earth is expanding, his presentation on expansion tectonics.

Previously.
posted by Lorc (77 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
So according to this theory, we're on a Time Sphere?
posted by condour75 at 11:59 AM on August 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nice tags.
posted by JimmyJames at 12:08 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice tags.

Except it's missing batshitinsane.
posted by axiom at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Holy smokes, Batman!
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on August 7, 2010


No subduction eh? I wonder how he accounts for the massive subduction zone earthquakes.
posted by wierdo at 12:37 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


trying_too_hard.jpg
posted by parhamr at 12:41 PM on August 7, 2010


No Subduction - isn't that Mad Professor's remix of Massive Attack?
posted by lukemeister at 12:50 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's this kind of "I don't quite grasp some detail of science, so instead of trying to, I'll make up a completely new theory that REALLY makes no fucking sense" thinking that gets us 5000 year old earths, and denial of evolution.

On the other hand, Neal Adams did a lot of good for the comics industry and creators, so if he wants to humiliate himself, well, I'll forgive him. Green Lantern v. 2 #76-89 buy a lot of leeway in my opinion.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:52 PM on August 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe intereviewed Neal Adams about the expanding earth.
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:57 PM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is great. I always wanted my neighbors to be farther away.
posted by DaddyNewt at 1:01 PM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


So it looks like these people are trying a new tactic, by willing the problem away?
posted by mullingitover at 1:13 PM on August 7, 2010


Hah, hah, hah, hah. I'd argue with this, but I'd rather dig out my eyes with a spoon and eat them with herring.
posted by eriko at 1:14 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand (other than the complete batshitinsanity in general) is how the earth's "expansion" could be accelerating? Assuming the same amount of mass is added to the earth every year, the larger the planet is, the more surface area to spread it across. Therefore the actual diameter of the earth should actually increase more slowly over time.

"Meteorites falling to Earth, large and small, have been known for centuries, but more recent scientific measurements show that an even greater volume of dust and meteorites (hundreds, possibly thousands, of tons) accretes onto Earth's surface every day!
The estimates vary widely (wildly?)—from ~274 to ~55,000 tons per day "

Okay. Let's see what that would very roughly result in, assuming 55,000 tons per day:
Wolfram Alpha | one billion years times (55,000 tons per day divided by the density of sandstone ) divided by the surface area of the earth, in meters = 14.9 meters.

Not very impressive really.
posted by BungaDunga at 1:18 PM on August 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


The problem with most expanding earth theorists is that they make a bad judgment call of saying subduction doesn't occur at all. That alone discredits them big time with actual scientists and geologists discovering otherwise, as there's immense evidence to support that plate subduction does in fact occur.

Still, that being said, I've always like Neal's approach to the theory, as he does a pretty good job with visualizing how an expanding planet could have formed through expansion. If he wants people to take him seriously (and possibly explore that both expansion and subduction are at work), he just needs to take into account subduction does happen, and happens quite frequently...no wait...firstly before anything, he needs to hire a web designer. I'm not sure he knows that he's using the crackpot template...right up there with Heaven's Gate, Echoes of Enoch, etc etc...
posted by samsara at 1:30 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hah, hah, hah, hah. I'd argue with this, but I'd rather dig out my eyes with a spoon and eat them with herring.

Finnish, eh?
posted by Evilspork at 1:33 PM on August 7, 2010


I'm really digging the Prime Matter bit. I love its naive understanding of physics, that positive & negative charge are just something particles have, with no underlying cause or explanation for the EM force itself. It's just the way things are.
posted by scalefree at 1:34 PM on August 7, 2010


Hah, hah, hah, hah.

Why should you laugh at these guys? Even if this theory is wrong you couldn't have thought it up. It's clever as hell (except for the part about where the additional matter comes from.) Why are you so threatened by ideas that are different from your own?
posted by Faze at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Even if this theory is wrong you couldn't have thought it up.

So, basing a theory on incorrect science is fine as long as you're clever?

Why should you laugh at these guys?

Nobody gets a free pass. Science isn't therapy.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:47 PM on August 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Thanks BungaDunga. I'm going to use that tool so often in the future.
posted by eeeeeez at 1:56 PM on August 7, 2010


It's kind of a shame that even if there is eventual truth to an expanding Earth (I admit it makes the gigantic scale of dinosaurs and the interlocking shapes of Pangea feel more plausible), Mr. Adams seems to be pathologically unable to pursue proving it, which ends up discrediting further investigation.

He needs to either team up with a scientist and willfully disabuse himself of his fictional ideas (it's definitely not science), or design effective experiments.
posted by hanoixan at 2:02 PM on August 7, 2010


"Why do scientists frantically cling to [reality]? Because it would be 100 years of science out the window and would upset too many apple carts." I'm sure you've all heard this before, but can you imagine grad students' glee if we all got to start over? Just nix everything from the 19th century on? Hell yeah! This time I get to be James Clerk Maxwell! You can be Charles Darwin!

Seriously. Pfft. Only somebody who confuses science with (the rent-seeking variety of) business could believe this kind of conspiracy theory. Opportunity rocks. Revolutions create it. Q.E.D., revolutions rock.

All that said, though, I think every crackpot should be given this kind of visualization skills. Those expanding/contracting globes are cool. (I wish he'd projected it out into the future, though - that's the best about continental drift, I always think.)
posted by Michael Roberts at 2:14 PM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why are you so threatened by ideas that are different from your own?

Why are you so threatened by people you presume to be threatened by ideas different from their own? See, we can do this all day. Now ask me why I'm so threatened by your suggestion that I'm threatened. Go on, it lets us both flap our jaws in a simulacrum of reasoned discussion without any of that pesky reasoning which requires such tiresome mental discipline and problematic access to facts.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:25 PM on August 7, 2010 [16 favorites]


no, the earth is shinking because the edges get worn away as it travels through space and sometimes pieces fall off - once in awhile those pieces end up in the ocean instead of outer space - we call those icebergs

it's just like a frisbee - you throw a frisbee for millions and millions of years, it's going to be worn down to nothing

eventually there will be holes in it and you will be able to see what the underside of the earth looks like if you crawl through

that's the problem with modern science - you can't possibly come up with a sensible theory of the earth, expanding or not, if you continue to insist that it's round

it's FLAT, damnit!
posted by pyramid termite at 2:30 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


See that ice sheet the size of Manhattan x 4 that just broke off from Greenland?

Also this would explain global warming because we are steadily getting closer to the sun.

What I got.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:37 PM on August 7, 2010


Brooklyn is not expanding.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:40 PM on August 7, 2010


By the time your theory has reached point where a comic book artist from the 70s is taking it straight to the people via the internet, its really time to hang it up. I love Adams, esecially any of his illustrations of the Savage Land. I have a couple vintage X-men issues of his I'd love to frame someday. Shame I had to hear about this. I make a special effort not to know the private life and politics of creative people who's work I respect. The ability to render eye-catching illustrations or write an excellent story really doesn't quite intersect with the ability to be a logical or skeptical thinker. In fact, I'd argue that the two don't often intersect at all. I don't want to read science fiction from Charles Darwin or a paper on artificial intelligence from Michael Bay.

Why are you so threatened by ideas that are different from your own?

Probably because I don't get off on being a loudmouth contrarian and believe that all scientific claims should have the adequate amount of evidence to back them up. Especially in the age of creationism, 9/11 conspiracy theories, and global warming denial. If you don't do that then next thing you know, you're listening to Art Bell and believing every conspiracy theory you hear and repeating the tired "Why are you so threatened..." line everytime someone calls you on your obvious bullshit.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:48 PM on August 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


The earth must be expanding, because there are so many more tinfoil hats than there were two billion years ago.

Don't believe me? Then where did all that extra tin come from?
posted by erniepan at 2:54 PM on August 7, 2010


Fucking Star Trek was right! It's Red Matter!

Run away! Run away!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 3:09 PM on August 7, 2010


As the mass increases. gravitational forces increase, thereby condensing the earth and limiting expansion. Plus the change in gravity should change some classical mechanics heuristics in noticeable ways (9.xx meters per second squared would be a variable indicator, not a constant, etc).

Alternatively, it might explain why we're getting heavier.
posted by yesster at 3:35 PM on August 7, 2010


What I don't get is where all the water is supposed to come from? From the little I saw, nearly all the expansion is supposed to be creating our deep oceans instead of the smaller shallow seas that there were before. Are they claiming most of the matter added is in the form of H2O? If not, then wouldn't the oceans be even deeper if located on a smaller sphere?
posted by meinvt at 3:41 PM on August 7, 2010


Can it be as simple as that?

Yes, it can be exactly as simple as that.
posted by Phssthpok at 3:44 PM on August 7, 2010


This got a two-page spread in the Japan Times a while back and just ruined my day. I couldn't teach anything because my brain was constantly writing drafts of letters to the editor about why on god's green Earth they wasted ink and paper on this hokum.
posted by MShades at 3:51 PM on August 7, 2010


We do have a use for clever nonsense, and crackpot theories: fiction. If the theories are scientific, that makes them science fiction. Which I for one greatly enjoy.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:41 PM on August 7, 2010


Guy_Inamonkeysuit: "Fucking Star Trek was right! It's Red Matter!

Run away! Run away!
"

If the planet ever does get sucked into a black hole, good luck with that strategy.
posted by bwg at 5:18 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Eventually Mankind will be forced to migrate to a new home on Mars before Earth grows to the size of Neptune. Today's global warming is an early warning to Mankind."

W-wow. Just... wow.
posted by cthuljew at 5:28 PM on August 7, 2010


Except it's missing batshitinsane.

What was it they said about continental drift when first proposed?

torn away from Europe and Africa ... by earthquakes and floods .... The vestiges of the rupture reveal themselves, if someone brings forward a map of the world and considers carefully the coasts of the three [continents]. -- Abraham Ortelius, 1596

All truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as self-evident. -Schopenhauer

Of course the part about dust, meteors, comets accumulating - perfectly true, long known. NOT. Because meteors were not accepted by science until 1803.

And about Wegener? Since his ideas challenged scientists in geology, geophysics, zoogeography and paleontology, it demonstrates the reactions of different communities of scientists. The reactions by the leading authorities in the different disciplines was so strong and so negative that serious discussion of the concept stopped. One noted scientist, the geologist Barry Willis, seemed to be speaking for the rest when he said 'further discussion of it merely incumbers the literature and befogs the mind of fellow students.'

Carl Sagan publicly apologized for his initial attacks on Velikovsky, recognizing that truly new ideas are -always- startling at first.

Very good at pulling the trigger = knee jerk.
posted by Twang at 5:41 PM on August 7, 2010


What was it they said about continental drift when first proposed?

People should be skeptical about all ideas, even correct ones. Because even the most correct ideas we have are eventually going to be discovered to be deficient in some way. That's how science advances.

The reason we should be skeptical about all ideas is that most ideas people have are just flat wrong. This is one of them.
posted by empath at 6:03 PM on August 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
posted by stbalbach at 6:04 PM on August 7, 2010


I had four favorite university professors who changed my life and my way of thinking. Three of them were run out of town. But one managed to stay. I realized after two years of taking his classes that it was because *he talked in code* that he was not chased out of town. Once you learned his jargon, you understood what he was talking about and you realized he was absolutely brilliant and original in a way that almost none of my other teachers were. He was a religious studies professor, but he became interested in the expanding Earth theory. He still has some writings on the internet about it here: http://www.triplehood.com/expa.htm. Yes, I realize the design of the website does nothing to further his argument.

Earth expansion is the kind of thing where it's so easy to laugh at it, then when you actually look at the evidence all around -- on the Earth, the Moon, Mars, Venus, the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, etc. -- then you're like, "You'd have to be crazy not to believe something is happening here." The fact that it's not the accepted wisdom means nothing. If you want proof, look at the history of just about any field of study. I don't think my professor ever tried to explain the mechanism behind the expansion, he just collected all the evidence and said, "Look at this and then tell me the Earth isn't expanding." The fact that (almost) all my favorite professors were chased out of town was a factor in my dropping out of graduate school.
posted by jabah at 6:33 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I enjoy this sort of nonsense, because I can spend a few hours trying to come up with the most ridiculous aspect of it. Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams had a only slightly more idiotic idea, which was that there was no gravity, but every object in the universe was growing, and gravity was just what happened when two things got bigger and therefore had less space between them relative to their sizes. When I read that one, it was a fun day thinking up all the ways it didn't work. And it relieved me of the burden of wondering if I should read anything Scott Adams had to say.

So far for this one, the best I've come up with is energy released in formation of a gravitational body. If the earth's surface was 40% smaller, the volume was ~50% smaller. Assuming equal density, that means that roughly 3/4 of the energy of Earth's formation was released in the last 200 million years. That's roughly 2.5*10^32 J * 3/4 * (1 megatons TNT / 2.5 * 10^15 J) ~ 8*10^17 megatons TNT. Over the course of 200 million years, that's 4 * 10^7 megatons of TNT per year. Or roughly 3 billion Hiroshima explosions per year. Man, it's amazing the fossil record doesn't reflect that hostile environment! It's probably not the biggest problem with the theory, but I think it's probably the most amusing.
posted by Humanzee at 6:41 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


See what people are saying about the Expanding Earth theory!

"An ungodly dipshit melange of incoherent nonsense, total misunderstanding of established fact, and stated conclusions which are not only risibly untenable in their own right but also totally unsupported even by the writer's own futile and quietly tragic attempts at reasoning, which are rendered hopelessly useless by an obvious lack of even the most elementary understanding of basic physical processes." -clockzero

I don't know why he asked me for a blurb either.
posted by clockzero at 6:50 PM on August 7, 2010


Perhaps this is the proper place to mention John C. Symmes' (1780-1829) Hollow Earth Theory. Circular No. 1 begins:
TO ALL THE WORLD!

I declare the earth is hollow and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees; I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.
(previously)
posted by plastic_animals at 7:17 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


jabah: Why on earth would you think a religious studies professor would have any credibility when it's his opinion versus the entire field of geology?

Just as an analogy -- would you trust a geology professor who came up with a theory that, say, Jesus and Buddha were the same person?
posted by empath at 7:23 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can someone run the numbers on what impact an expanding earth would have on the orbit of the moon? And do these people also think the moon is expanding?
posted by empath at 7:25 PM on August 7, 2010


Down, down...

To the very nipple of the world!

(There's an MST3K quote for everything)
posted by dirigibleman at 7:33 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a theory about very smart, inquisitive, slightly stubborn people and what happens when they decide to venture into fields outside their training. Sometimes, very rarely, you get profound new understandings in multiple new fields, but usually you get bunk.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:48 PM on August 7, 2010


Can someone run the numbers on what impact an expanding earth would have on the orbit of the moon?

Generally, orbiting bodies have average kinetic energy equal to -1/2 their average potential energy (virial theorem). So you can write conservation of energy as follows:
E_before = E_after
K_before + P_before = K_after + P_after
1/2 P_before ~ 1/2 P_after
G m M_before / r_before ~ G m M_after / r_after,
where m is the mass of the Moon, M is the mass of the Earth, and r is the distance between them.

So you'd expect the Moon to gradually spiral outward as the Earth expanded. In this case, the Moon would double its distance over the course of 200 million years. The potential energy doesn't change, so neither does the kinetic energy or velocity. The moon would continue orbiting at the same speed but at a larger distance, and therefore the period of the Moon's orbit would double.
posted by Humanzee at 7:57 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


People should be skeptical about all ideas, even correct ones. Because even the most correct ideas we have are eventually going to be discovered to be deficient in some way. That's how science advances.

Yeah, I'd rather not the scientific consensus be credulous. Skepticism is built into it by design, which is why a lot of scientifically-minded people are skeptics. This can have some shortcomings, but ultimately if you can prove your hypothesis and can make predictions based on your theories which pan out, people begin to take you much more seriously. Of course you will still be challenged, but over time if the theory continues to hold it will become part of the consensus ... until something else comes along to challenge it successfully.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:06 PM on August 7, 2010


Probably because I don't get off on being a loudmouth contrarian and believe that all scientific claims should have the adequate amount of evidence to back them up.

But this isn't a scientific claim. It's wild speculation. Wild speculation is good. These people aren't submitting an article to your peer-reviewed journal. They're engaging in the time honored human sport of imagination and what-iffing, and half-kidding themselves and us along in the process. You need to develop some emotional intelligence and learn to enjoy other people.
posted by Faze at 8:10 PM on August 7, 2010


Immanuel Velikovsky's correspondence with Einstein
posted by kuatto at 8:21 PM on August 7, 2010


Worlds in collision documentary
posted by kuatto at 8:32 PM on August 7, 2010


Also, I realized that I really shouldn't criticize things like this since I myself am a proponent of Julian Jaynes's bicameral hypothesis. Although I don't think bicameralism actually significantly violates the already well-known and established rules of the science it purports to modify nor the basic laws of biology (or physics, as the case may be).
posted by cthuljew at 9:58 PM on August 7, 2010


Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams had a only slightly more idiotic idea, which was that there was no gravity, but every object in the universe was growing, and gravity was just what happened when two things got bigger and therefore had less space between them relative to their sizes.

Most of that was intended as a thought experiment: he thought he was being profound in an attempt to point out that your perceptions of reality might be radically different from what is (what you think is) actually going on. I didn't get the impression that he was trying to claim that this was something real that was going to overturn science. He did seem to take it a bit too seriously, though.

Julian Jaynes's work is so full of holes so large you could drive a truck through them, and it's constructed in a way as to be pretty much unfalsifiable. But it is interesting and reads like an out-there but innovative literary criticism essay. It challenges the way we think of classical literature and characters' motivations in history.

Crackpot science, on the other hand, doesn't really serve a useful purpose, except to mislead the public about how real science works and what it's doing right now.
posted by deanc at 11:09 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I should start selling |>3ni$ |>i11$ that induce pair production.

God. Why am I not doing that. I would be so rich.
posted by clarknova at 11:11 PM on August 7, 2010


actually, the earth IS expanding. and I know the mechanism. and it doesn't violate any of the currently known laws of physics. and it's super simple. and you will smack yourself in the head for not seeing it first. and i will tell you if you ask me nicely. but you have to say please.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:18 PM on August 7, 2010


sexyrobot: I swear, if this is a "hot air" joke...!
posted by cthuljew at 12:18 AM on August 8, 2010


nope. no joke. say please.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:35 AM on August 8, 2010


Why is this so hard to believe? I mean, I'm slowly expanding.
posted by brundlefly at 12:52 AM on August 8, 2010


So, I probably did my extremely-back-of-the-envelope calculations incorrectly, but I got that sea levels would have been something like 1800 meters higher if the Earth's surface was 40% smaller. Just a thought.
posted by cthuljew at 2:03 AM on August 8, 2010


The fact that (almost) all my favorite professors were chased out of town was a factor in my dropping out of graduate school.

This should have predisposed you toward a theory of contraction.

Seriously, "chased out of town"? Could this be more vague and unlikely? Add in relying on a code-speaking, subversively brilliant professor of religious studies for your geophysics makes me wonder if this is a spoof.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:08 AM on August 8, 2010


Most of [Scott Adams' theory] was intended as a thought experiment

Now that I think it over, I remember it was the one-two punch of Adams' gravity theory and his advocacy of affirmations (and clearly the mystical kind) that really turned me off of him, with the affirmations being the biggest issue.

That said, I think the whole "thought experiment" defense is a cop-out (to be clear, I seem to remember him using it, I'm saying he's copping out, not you deanc). It's part of the fundamental contradiction of being a crackpot. Those stogy scientists are all stuck in an uncreative rut! But my theory is new and mavericky and shows the dangers of group-think! Except that it inevitably ignores even the most basic well-known facts, and all pre-existing theory. In Scott Adam's case, his novel theory of gravity has no orbits, and in any case is very similar to the action of a massive negative cosmological constant (a very tiny positive cosmological constant is consistent with observations). So his thought experiment doesn't replicate many of the most basic aspects of gravity, nor is it "new".

In Warren Carey's case, it sounds like he was a geologist at a time when it was clear that something really strange was happening with Earth's landmasses, but no one knew what. He came up with a theory that was only slightly crazier than continental drift, and never was able to shift views as evidence came in to support plate tectonics. That's a pretty understandable situation I think, but no one under the age of 80 has that as an excuse for believing in Expanding Earth.
posted by Humanzee at 6:52 AM on August 8, 2010


Agreed. Science is iterative.

We're constantly refining our understanding of evolution, for example. Darwin was wrong in a lot of his guesses on how it worked, because he didn't know anything about DNA. Now we do, and we're closer. Some things still don't add up. We get better at them.

Newton came up with a great theory of gravity. It made sense, we used it and still use it all the time. But it had flaws. It didn't work everywhere, so Einstein trashed it and came up with a new one. but we still use Newton's all the time, cause it's damn close, and easier, and the BASICS were correct. And you know what? In some circumstances, Einstein's is flawed. And someone will eventually trash it and propose one that fixes those problems. (And in time, will we see it has flaws as well?) But the fact that Einstein's theory is flawed doesn't mean Newton was right all along, it just means they both move closer and closer to the truth.

Science is iterative. Science makes mistakes and corrects itself. I once saw on some anti-science website a graphic saying: "The Bible says 'it is written', but science is just rewritten and rewritten and rewritten." The person who made that graphic didn't understand they just pointed out exactly why we should always trust science over mythology.

So no. Carey wasn't crazy. He was trying to explain what he saw in a situation without evidence, and came up with something that fit, and science did what science does: it comes up with theories and tests them. A flat earth made sense until it didn't. Ether made sense, until it didn't. And an expanding earth, a clever solution to the observations of the time, made sense. Until it didn't. The evidence ruled it out. And yes, plate tectonics will likely undergo some startling revisions, and we may have a substantially modified theory in 50 years... but science is not like a crab, and it does not go backwards.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:41 AM on August 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Great men occasionally latch onto crazy ideas: Isaac Newton wasted a lot of time on alchemy (and possibly died of mercury poisoning as a direct result); Linus Pauling came to believe that megadoses of Vitamin C could cure almost anything; etc. That doesn't make them any less great, nor does it make their more eccentric ideas any less crazy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:22 PM on August 8, 2010


Sexyrobot: Please.
posted by Mike Mongo at 5:37 PM on August 8, 2010


Sexyrobot: Please.

Take a number. I'd even settle for ugly robot, if it could cook.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:49 PM on August 8, 2010


alrighty then...now, i'm not saying that continental drift isn't happening as well, but the ball is definitely expanding (how much is a matter of debate). the question most people ask is 'where is all the extra mass coming from?' well...there isn't any. (outside of the cosmic dust, meteorites, etc...which is actually a pretty negligible amount compared to the total mass of the earth) it is only the VOLUME that's increasing.

all right, time for pictures: here's the wikipedia article on decay chains, ok, scroll down to the pix. see all those greek a's? those are alpha particles, ionized helium nuclei ejected from the nuclei of radioactive substances. they're the weakest form of nuclear radiation, and can generally be stopped by a sheet of paper. they very quickly tend to pick up two electrons and become plain old helium. (since the parent nucleus is now short two protons, it has two extra electrons, which quickly wander off, possibly to be picked up by other alpha particles) radioactive decay is where all the helium on planet earth comes from, since the earth is too small to hang onto much helium in its atmosphere (being a very light atom, helium, at standard atmospheric temperatures, moves faster than the escape velocity and evaporates off of the top of the atmosphere and into space)

and here is a periodic table of atomic radii...oh, look... uranium (which ejects 8 alpha particles during its natural decay chain), lead (a larger atom and the final product of that decay chain), and helium all have a very similar radius. during its natural decay process, uranium (and most other radionuclides) increases in volume by approx. 800%

how much uranium (and other radionuclides) is in the earth? could be quite a bit, particularly in the core and lower mantle, since the earth is pretty heavily differentiated (the denser stuff (like uranium) has mostly sunk to the center), and many scientists believe there might even be enough to create huge nuclear reactors within the earth...the jury is still out on this though, and until we have some neutrino detectors (neutrinos are given off by nuclear reactions) that can look down (and there are some being built), we won't really know for sure.

but in my opinion, there could be a fuckton of that stuff down there. check out this picture of a
supernova remnant taken by the compton gamma ray observatory. see all that purple, and particularly those little yellow hotspots? that be some radioactive junk. when a big star runs out of fuel in its core (which eventually becomes a ball of solid iron, from which no energy can be extracted, either by fission or fusion), the star collapses in on itself and basically bounces off its own core, creating a shock wave that tears the star apart. it's where this shockwave hits the infalling matter from above that pressures and temperatures increase to the point where fusion of heavier elements into uranium (and, well, every other element past iron on the periodic table) can occur. these pressures are insane, and judging by this image, and similar other ones i've seen, it seems high enough to create some big ol' dense radioactive nuggets (the hot yellow spots) that are compacted enough to survive even as the star rips itself apart.

what i'm getting at is that the distribution of radioactive material in space might be quite heterogenous...enough so that planets forming later could have quite different amounts of these elements hidden in their cores, and thus quite different amounts of expansion. i've seen some of the videos these tin-hatters have put out about other celestial bodies that might be expanding (particularly ganymede and europa), and i gotta say, they're pretty convincing, even if their explanations of possible mechanisms are just plain out there. however, all of these bodies (the earth and the gallilean moons) also all have a large orbiting companion keeping their cores churning, so that is undoubtedly a factor here. and i should probably re-iterate here that i definitely don't believe that plate techtonics isn't happening, i just believe that it's not the only process shaping the earth.

also, what will probably happen in the (distant) future is that the earth may actually shrink again as this helium slowly outgasses from within the earth and escapes into space.

thoughts?
posted by sexyrobot at 9:57 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


during its natural decay process, uranium (and most other radionuclides) increases in volume by approx. 800%

Holy cow. So our current ideas about the composition of the Earth's interior, based on its volume and mass, might be based on simplistic assumptions; instead of relatively uniform densities of moderately heavy things like nickel and iron we could instead be looking at a froth of the very heavy and the very light, with more of the latter being produced all the time. Fun ideas to play with and I'm glad you came back and, um, expanded on it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:28 PM on August 9, 2010


That's an interesting idea, sexyrobot. I thought we had built directional neutrino detectors already and determined that the flux is the same in all directions, though. I believe that current consensus is that the core's heat is largely generated by the natural decay of radioactive elements.
posted by wierdo at 12:08 AM on August 10, 2010


huh... y'know what? i'm looking at fission products, and it seems like, generally, a much smaller increase in volume, as opposed to natural decay with all those alphas...maybe the moon (or jupiter in the case of ganymede and europa) is keeping the core of the earth churning (like with the tides) so that these natural reactors CAN'T form (i.e. by differentiation causing all the uranium to sink to the core), allowing the radionuclides to decay naturally and increase in volume by a much greater percent over a longer period of time. maybe the other planets like mercury, mars, and venus differentiated early, spent most of their radionuclides into fisson products, expanding only modestly, died, and then had the evidence of that (more meager) expansion erased by eons of weathering and impact events...int-er-est-ing...
posted by sexyrobot at 8:35 PM on August 10, 2010


uranium (and most other radionuclides) increases in volume by approx. 800%

Does it do that even when it's under extreme pressure?
posted by empath at 8:45 PM on August 10, 2010


well, yeah. gas only decreases in volume under pressure because there is less space between the atoms...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:11 PM on August 10, 2010


What?
posted by cthuljew at 1:02 AM on August 11, 2010


Isaac Newton wasted a lot of time on alchemy (and possibly died of mercury poisoning as a direct result)

I feel thats' a little revisionist or at least takes a fact out of context and compares it to a wholly different modern situation. At Netwon's time there was no clear difference between pseudoscience and science. Newton and his peers were building what we call science today from the remnants of stuff like alchemy and the religious occult. Fast forward 300 years later and you really can't make the same excuses.

Not to mention Newton eventually abandoned alchemy about 20 or 30 years before he died. I think its important to see Newton as a proto-scientist who emerged from the religious/occult tradition, like most scientists of that age. That's really different from a 21st century person who thinks UFOs in the sky are aliens spying on us or that 'psychics' can predict the future.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:48 AM on August 11, 2010


well, yeah. gas only decreases in volume under pressure because there is less space between the atoms...

Solids also decrease in volume under pressure.
posted by empath at 6:56 AM on August 11, 2010


yeah...but not THAT much...at least not inside the earth...it's heavy, but it's not that heavy...you have to be big like a gas giant before the pressures increase to the point where weird things start to happen to the atoms...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:02 PM on August 11, 2010


but science is not like a crab

The internet is not a big truck. It's a series of tubes.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:43 AM on September 5, 2010


yeah...but not THAT much...at least not inside the earth...it's heavy, but it's not that heavy...you have to be big like a gas giant before the pressures increase to the point where weird things start to happen to the atoms...

You mean like coal being compressed into diamonds? Yeah, would never happen.
posted by empath at 12:58 PM on September 6, 2010


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