Is the Earth getting lighter?
January 31, 2012 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Is the Earth getting lighter? BBC Radio's More or Less ("the mathematical icing on the cake of life") talks to some of the Naked Scientists from Cambridge about whether the Earth is gaining or losing mass, revealing some surprising and interesting facts.
posted by philipy (12 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Earth: "Does all this space dust make me look fat?"
Mars: "Nah, you look better today than the day you were condensed from a large, lumpy cloud of cold gas and dust"
posted by Blake at 7:04 AM on January 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

Didn't know we were collecting space dust! Interesting. Did know we were losing gasses, thanks to Death from the Skies. Book mentions that as the sun expands and heats up, so too the Earth heats up, and this will eventually start happening with the other gasses in greater amounts: now + ~1 billion years most of the continents are desert; now + ~3 billion years, the oceans are gone, and Earth winds up like Venus; now + ~6 billion years, Earth is just an airless, gasless rock floating in space.
posted by curious nu at 7:15 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

What is the deal with all these nude scientists? Doesn't it distract from their work, what with the cold and the fear of splashing chemicals on their nether regions?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:16 AM on January 31, 2012

"For instance, the Earth's core is like a giant nuclear reactor that is gradually losing energy over time, and that loss in energy translates into a loss of mass.

But this is a tiny amount - he estimates no more than 16 tonnes a year. "

Some people say the Earth is made out of mud
The poor Earth ain't got no muscle and blood
Molten iron core made of metal and stone
A magnetic field that's weak and gravity's strong

You load sixteen tons, and whattaya get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
St. Peter don'cha call me, cause I can't go
I owe the Earth's mass to the company store

The Earth lost some mass when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number-nine coal
And the star boss said, "Well bless my soul!"

The Earth gained some mass one morning, it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are Earth's middle name
It was raised in the canebreak by an old mama lion
Cain't no high-toned woman make it walk the line

If you see asteroids a comin' better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
Meteorite of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't getcha then the left one will
posted by Xoebe at 7:39 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would assume the earth is getting heavier just based on the spontaneous creation of lint in my belly button. Every single day.
posted by srboisvert at 8:00 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Alas, the total amount of lint created spontaneously will never counteract the total mass lost from all the socks that disappear from this universe every year.

We are doomed, I say, DOOOMED!

But wait; all is not lost. There is a possibility to escape our fate: we go wherever the hell those socks went.
posted by chambers at 8:58 AM on January 31, 2012


I think I've met his brothers. (Possibly NSFW)
posted by Splunge at 9:03 AM on January 31, 2012

Woo-hoo! My less planetary gravity diet is working!
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:04 AM on January 31, 2012

Instinctively, I would have said that we were getting lighter and I'm glad that I'm right. Although, I did not take into account that we pick up all the debris we travel through. Hooray for the moon keeping off the larger masses!
posted by source.decay at 9:48 AM on January 31, 2012

This is why we should all learn how to skitter!
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:32 PM on January 31, 2012

Is the Earth getting lighter?

Dear Ask Metafilter,

I am trying to weigh the Earth to ascertain if it is getting heavier or lighter. I have a scale handy, but when I try to put the Earth down on the scale, the scale keeps falling up at the Earth. It is much harder to weigh the Earth than I thought! If only we could talk about mass instead of weight, this might make more sense.

Please advise.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:56 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please advise.

You need bigger scales.
posted by philipy at 5:00 PM on January 31, 2012

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