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Danish Research Center To Explore Mysteries of Earth's Interior

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the jules-verne-approved dept.

Science 56

An anonymous reader writes "The DanSeis Centre at the University of Copenhagen has just received a grant of more than €3 million from the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education to investigate and tackle one of geoscience's great mysteries: do mantle plumes, hypothetically buoyant regions of heated mantle material rising towards the earth's surface, actually exist?"

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Why not switch? (0)

GmExtremacy (2579091) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374813)

If only they'd have switched to Gamemaker...

Such a disaster would have been prevented...

What "new methods and instruments" ? (4, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374975)

In the article, it is stated that

"Using new methods and instruments, we can take geologic measurements much deeper within the Earth than before. Now, down to 500 and 1000 kilometers! Methods in current use, by the oil industry among others, provide information for areas down to between 6 and 10 kilometers," explains Professor Thybo.

If the multi-trillion-dollar oil industry can only make geologic measurements to a depth of 6 to 10 kilometers, what make you think a research program that cost 3 million euro can measure down to 500 or even 100 kilometers?

Just what kind of "new methods" and "instruments" are they going to deploy??

Re:What "new methods and instruments" ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39375115)

Nowhere it's stated it's the same kind of measurements they use.

Re:What "new methods and instruments" ? (3, Insightful)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375425)

The oil industry won't spend money researching depths they can't drill to.

Re:What "new methods and instruments" ? (1)

CPCPCP (2596903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375589)

Or wont spend money weres no oil, by the other hand if theres oil in those suposed "study spots" and not just heated mantle, they would spend alot to reach it. IMO

Re:What "new methods and instruments" ? (1)

Diamonddavej (851495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39386065)

Mantle plumes and mantle processes in general are integral to continental break-up and the development of sedimentary (rift) basins, within continents and along continental margins. Petroleum companies are very interested in mantle processes and basin development (it's a branch of geology called Basin Analysis); some of the worlds largest oil and gas fields are found in sedimentary basins along rifted continental margins.

Near me to the west of Ireland, there's the Corrib, Slyne, Porcupine & Rockall Basins to name a few, these were formed when the North Atlantic opened up in the last 60 million years. That break-up was caused in large part by the Iceland Plume and furthermore, it appears that fluctuations in the strength of the Iceland Plume over time caused land uplift and erosion (and thus production of sediments into those basins i.e. oil/gas trap rock). The reason why there was uplift is poorly understood.

Mantle plumes definitely exist (Iceland would be underwater without it's buoyant plume impinging on and lifting up the crust). The question is, what depth do plumes start? At the core-mantle boundary ~2900 km or near the upper/lower mantle boundary ~660 km depth? The Iceland plume has been imaged to ~400 km depth using seismic tomography. This new project will extend the depth imaged beyond the crucial 660 km boundary.

An Iceland hotspot saga [mantleplumes.org] by Ingi orleifur Bjarnason

Re:What "new methods and instruments" ? (1)

Diamonddavej (851495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39385627)

The oil industry won't spend money researching depths they can't drill to.

However, diamond exploration companies will.

Torsvik et al., 2010. Diamonds sampled by plumes from the core-mantle boundary [geodynamics.no]. Nature 466(7304), 352–355.

Re:What "new methods and instruments" ? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376193)

because the oil industry couldn't give a shit about what's down at 500km. They just want to know where oil is, and only the oil that is economically extractable in a reasonable time frame.

Re:What "new methods and instruments" ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39377245)

From the article "advanced seismographic equipment".

6 - 10 km is not their limit but probably gives them best depth to resolution for what they are looking for.

Re:What "new methods and instruments" ? (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39379711)

Clearly they have one of these things:


Re:What "new methods and instruments" ? (1)

mcswell (1102107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39392603)

Iceland would be better than Denmark, I think.
"Descend into the crater of the Jokull of Sneffels,
Which the shadow of Scartaris falls upon before the calends of July,
Bold traveler, and you will reach the center of the Earth.
Which I have done, Arne Saknussem."

What about whales? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39382531)

Denmark is going to test its nuclear devices (tongue in cheek). Seriously, using a huge amount of explosives seem to be the only instrument of generating useful returns. Not being even remotely connected to geology, I'm not qualified to guess what new methods of processing the worldwide seismic data they have got.

For one thing, I'd like to hear more in the vein of Environmental Impact Assessment. We've got enough naval low-frequency sonars driving whales mad, so this stuff needs to be clarified beforehand.

Foregone conclusion.... (2)

vjoel (945280) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374817)

...it's a plume filled danish.

Re:Foregone conclusion.... (3, Funny)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39374971)

If the planet is consuming too many plum filled danishes, I can certainly understand hot bubbles of materials rising up.

Oh, sorry, you said "plume," not "plum." Never mind. Also, for anyone who thought of hot grits and/or Natalie Portman while reading the above, you've got issues bro.

Re:Foregone conclusion.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39386089)

Plum Danishes? Yes, I'm listening....

Onion and /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39374901)

I'm sorry, but in the last few days i started to confuse my rss feeds of "The Onion" and /. Is it just me or is the usual mixture of well researched and wildly inaccurate articles really gone mad?

Re:Onion and /. (3, Insightful)

Anonymus (2267354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375069)

Slashdot is basically the techie equivalent of Fox News. We don't really come here to get information, we come here to get entertained and enraged by things that fit our point of view.

What about the discontinuity of gravity? (4, Informative)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375029)

Why is the force of gravity at the core zero?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Earth-G-force.png [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Slice_earth.svg [wikipedia.org]

And why the hell is there a Gutenberg discontinuity where gravity increases the closer you get, then drops down to zero?
The Gutenberg Discontinuity, is the boundary, as detected by changes in seismic waves, between the Earth's lower mantle and the outer core about 1800 miles below the surface. It is also called the core-mantle boundary.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohorovi%C4%8Di%C4%87_discontinuity [wikipedia.org]

Re:What about the discontinuity of gravity? (5, Informative)

jlar (584848) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375095)

"Why is the force of gravity at the core zero?"

Because the integral of the forces acting on some mass at the center of the Earth is zero. Or to put it differently: You are being pulled by (approximately) equal forces in all directions.

Re:What about the discontinuity of gravity? (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375659)

IIRC no integral is needed; the vector sum of forces will do.

Re:What about the discontinuity of gravity? (1)

jlar (584848) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375829)

"...the vector sum of forces will do."

Yes, assuming point masses. But that means that you are summing atoms. For practical purposes I would make an integral over the volume of the Earth.

Re:What about the discontinuity of gravity? (1)

louic (1841824) | more than 2 years ago | (#39379259)

It depends on the definition of centre. If by centre you mean centre of mass, that is the same as saying: "we define the centre to be the place where gravity is zero".

Re:What about the discontinuity of gravity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39375339)

And why the hell is there a Gutenberg discontinuity where gravity increases the closer you get, then drops down to zero?

Go to the first URL you linked to [wikipedia.org], scroll down the page and see where the image is used. Go to that article [wikipedia.org], scroll down until you find the image. Read the section where it's used, and pay attention to the shell theorem. Then remember that the core is believed to be made of a nickel-iron alloy, and understand that you're getting near to something massive when you approach the boundary. Then it's not so surprising that gravity increases, and it also explains why it is zero at the center.

Writing this took me more time than finding and understanding the information.

Re:What about the discontinuity of gravity? (3, Informative)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376627)

Gravity does not increase once you are inside the Earth's surface unless perhaps you are moving down towards a large, cow-shaped lode of pure Uranium. Newtonian gravitation satisfies a Gauss Law (like electrostatic fields) and aside from minor perturbation due to the Earth being rotationally deformed and the tides, the field starts at zero at the origin/center and smoothly increases as one moves toward the surface in any direction, then smoothly decreases (like $latex 1/r^2$) once one is outside of it. Rotation (e.g. coriolis forces) alter the perceived local acceleration by a hair as a function of latitude. The slight equatorial bulge and compressibility of the core material keep the field from increasing ideally/linearly (as it would for a perfect sphere of uniform density). Finally, the Sun and the Moon create further local acceleration perturbations that are not strictly speaking variations in the Earth's field, but that result from the non-uniformity of the Sun and Moon's fields and the fact that the center of mass of the Earth has a different acceleration than points on its surface as it interacts with them both (the tides).

None of these things are even slightly mysterious. None of them are really particularly difficult to calculate, or at least estimate. "Interesting" discoveries from the systematic study of near-Earth and inner-Earth gravity are entirely possible, but one would ordinarily consider the discover of a fifth force, or a short range modulation of the gravitational force, to be "interesting" in this context. In order to make such a discovery, however, one has to know the mass distribution and compute the net relative acceleration one should be observing to very high precision, as one is basically looking for an anomaly, and small deviations from a not-too-well-known or even well-defined base quantity are the most difficult to detect, see the entire (somewhat humorous) debate about global warming for an example).


P.S. -- Off-topic general query: Wordpress lets one embed latex in comments, and it isn't even particularly focussed on technical subject matters. Is there an equally simple way to embed latex in /. comments? I'd put the ideal form of gravitation inside a sphere inline into this reply, except that nobody wants to read things like \vec{g} = -\frac{GMr}{R^3} \hat{r} or the derivation of same in latex unless they know latex well enough to read it as rendered...

Re:What about the discontinuity of gravity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39381403)

Gravity does not increase once you are inside the Earth's surface

Yes it does. At first there's very little earth above you and you're still getting closer to the vast majority of the Earth. Take a look at the picture in the parent you replied to. Gravity gets higher for a while, then falls fast to zero. This shouldn't be surprising if you think about it a bit.

It isn't zero (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39380985)

It is just a lot in any direction. Same reason you are not a stain on the ground from the massive pressure off all the air on top of you. Air pressure is all around and the same all around.

A funny thing is that in theory, if you could drill a hole through the planet and you could jump down it and there was no air resistance you would pop out at the other end at the same speed as you entered. first you accelerate and then you decelerate. Of course, it would never work in real life but it is a fun idea.

For a thought experiment, on the side of a mountain, does a plumb line (weight on end of bit of rope) hang straight down OR a bit to the side because of the mountain? What about the position of the moon? If it can pull an entire ocean around, surely a bit of lead doesn't stand a chance.

We learn a lot about science and then a lot of us kinda forget to ask the next question. That is what makes the Einsteins and Newtons so brilliant. They did continue to ask. And not get told "because".

Re:It isn't zero (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39383581)

It isn't zero. It is just a lot in any direction.

My physics is rusty, but I'm pretty sure if there's zero acceleration, there's zero force.

Didn't one of the old versions of... (1)

Phoenix (2762) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375269)

Didn't one of the earlier versions of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" involve a Dane with a duck?

Re:Didn't one of the old versions of... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376361)

Nope. I was thinking that there were Danes involved in that too, but a walk through Wikipedia reveals apparently not. The explorer in Verne's original novel was German. Arne Saknussemm, the (fictional) medieval alchemist whose lead they were following, was an Icelander. Other incarnations have varied things; in the movie (and later animated series) with the duck, the explorer was Scottish. There was one version with a Swede involved. But apparently no Danes.

Danish (2, Funny)

Plammox (717738) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375437)

The horrible abominations you call Danish pastry over in the US, I wouldn't even feed to the pigs. I wouldn't mind my nationality being associated with a custard-filled fatty pastry, if only it was a delicious custard-filled fatty pastry. For heaven's sake, turn them into bio fuel or something, because they certainly aren't suitable for human consumption.

Same goes for your coffee, by the way. :-)

Re:Danish (1)

Ollabelle (980205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375641)

You have a point, but not ALL of our stuff sucks. Same thing with beer; if you look at the small producers, we have some pretty good stuff.

Re:Danish (1)

Plammox (717738) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375901)

Of course, this is just in jest. At least I know now to politely turn it down, if the company secretary wants to book you into a Holiday Inn, stateside.

Waitress: "D'ya want some more coffee, Hon?"
Me: "NO, NO, I mean, eehhh, no thank you,"

Your large selection of weird brew-beers was a positive surprise, though.

Re:Danish (1)

trongey (21550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376765)

... Danish pastry over in the US, I wouldn't even feed to the pigs...

Well, DUH. Neither would I. Why would you give something so awesomely yummy to a pig?

Just another remake (1)

ihtpsswrds (647476) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375519)

Reminds me of something: now what was that... There's a Danish researcher and a goose, an older scientist and his young apprentice and a rich lady in pink stretch pants. Are we sure this wasn't an announcement from Disney studios?

Pellucidar (1)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 2 years ago | (#39375665)

The hollow-earthers were right! The GOP hopefuls should probably campaign on gaining ownership of the natural resources of Pellucidar; it'd fit right in with their anti-anthropomorphic climate change, sustainable fossil fuels, and creationism beliefs. :-D

Reptilicus! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39376015)

Oil companies only drill down as far as the depth from which they can reasonably extract oil. The Danes are more ambitious.
    They plan on drilling down to the Dinosaur level.
    From there, it's Dinosaurs all the way down


Old News (1)

Gramie2 (411713) | more than 2 years ago | (#39376675)

I thought that these questions had been conclusively settled, as chronicled in that fine documentary The Core

Investigatory team (1)

wolfguru (913659) | more than 2 years ago | (#39377875)

They are sending one scientist, one mountain guide, one unqualified but attractive lab assistant and the guide's pet duck into an extinct volcano to investigate.

Earth's interior (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39379009)

It's filled with Satan. At least that's what my intelligent design education system teaches me.

Any Icelandic staff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39379405)

If they don't hire a guy named Saknussem they are just doing it wrong.

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