Theres a small problem with Earths magnetic field: It should not have existed, as Earths rock record indicates it has, for the past 3.5 billion years. Motions in the Earths molten iron core generate convection currents--similar to boiling water--which produce the field. Many sources of heat drive these currents, but the known sources seem inadequate to maintain the field this long. In 1971 University of Minnesota geology and geophysics professor Rama Murthy theorized that radioactive potassium in the core could supply additional heat, but researchers investigating that claim have been unable to obtain reliable experimental data. In a paper to be published Thursday (May 8) in Nature, Murthy presents experimental evidence for his idea and shows why other researchers have been unable to corroborate it.
The work helps explain how Earth has maintained its magnetic field, which shields the planet from harmful cosmic rays and the constant stream of charged particles from the sun known as the solar wind.
"Earth is losing energy from its surface at a rate of about 44 trillion watts," Murthy said. "About 75 percent is heat from the mantle [the middle layer, composed of rock], and 20 to 25 percent is heat from the core. Measurements of cooling at the core-mantle boundary show too much loss for a core to maintain heat and a magnetic field for 3.5 billion years." But if radioactive elements such as potassium, and perhaps uranium and thorium, also exist in the core, the heat from their radioactivity could keep the core hot enough to move and maintain the magnetic field, he said.
Deane Morrison | EurekAlert!
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy