Thursday, February 18, 2010

Molten Planet: Breakthrough technology studies the Earth's hot core

By Mike Martin for Illumination 

For centuries, explorers and scientists have gradually demolished misconceptions about the size, shape and character of the Earth.

The ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese thought the Earth was flat. Later observers, most notably the 17th-century British astronomer and comet chaser Edmund Halley, suggested our planet was spherical but hollow — a conjecture that led French science fiction writer Jules Verne to famously ponder a journey to its center.

Thanks to a pantheon of more contemporary truth seekers, we now know our planetary home is a round, reasonably solid mass that won’t accommodate center-bound travelers.

Still, misconceptions abound, even among some of the world’s most sophisticated Earth investigators. One of the more persistent involves the idea that the planet’s lithosphere, its rocky outer crust, conducts heat equally well at all temperatures.

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