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  (Source: Paramount Pictures)
Trapped crystalline water is believed to be enough to fill the Earth's oceans 1 to 3 times over

A freakish find -- a mineralogical surprised tucked inside a dirty, seemingly worthless gemstone -- has shown highly compelling evidence that the Earth's water may have sprung not from space, but from a mantle.  Now mankind is finding out how little it knew about the Earth's innards, as it slowly discovers that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
 
I. The Core and Geodes
 
The 2003 disaster bomb The Core depicted a group of intrepid scientists who used a high tech drilling rig that vaguely resembled a Japanese bullet train. The scientists dug through the Earth's mantle to drop atomic bombs in an attempt to restart the Earth's core, which had been stopped by U.S. weapons experiments.
 
One of the most often snickered about parts of the movie by scientists is the infamous "geode" scene, which shows the drilling rig get stuck inside a pocket of empty space -- a geode made of amethyst, a kind of purple quartz.  As Movie Mistakes summarizes:
 
The geodes occurring in the mantle during the film are impossible in two ways. Firstly, there are no gaps at those depths. The pressure is approximately 3.5 million times surface pressure, and it is not feasible that such structures could form, let alone be maintained. Secondly, the crystals inside the geodes are described as amethysts. Amethysts are a purple variety of quartz, and as any undergrad geology student could tell you, there is no quartz in the mantle, it simply is not stable at such high temperatures.
 
The Core Geode
The Core's infamous "geodes" scene [Image Source: Paramount Pictures]

While the possibility of finding quartz crystals, particularly hollow ones, in the core is still an outlandish thought, researchers over the last decade have discovered an almost equally unlikely find which likely abounds in the mantle -- water.
 
II. Trailblazers Slowly Unraveled Mystery of Incredible Pressurized Crystal
 
Now a pair of papers has offered new insight, taking that a novel hypothesis much closer to being proven scientific fact.
 
The first paper was published in March, and detailed how a mantle-derived sample the material that houses the water in the mantle was found on the Earth's surface for the first time.  The work of an international team of geology, gemology, geophysics, and geochemistry experts Professor Graham Pearson, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Arctic Resources at the University of Alberta, the study found trapped in side a brown 3 millimeter diamond worth around $20 USD, a piece of a mineral called "Ringwoodite".
 
This special crystal inside the diamond is a high-pressure polymorph of olivine, which has been theorized to be abundant in the crust, but trapped in a belt of the mantle known as the "transition mantle".

Blue Ringwoodite
A Ringwoodite sample [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]
 
Ringwoodite is made by mixture of Silicon, oxygen, iron, and magnesium, the crystal's formula is (Mg, Fe)2SiO4 and it has a spinel structure.  The crystal is named in honor of Australian scientist Ted Ringwood, who formulated much of the key components of mankind's modern understanding of the Earth's mantle (although Ringwood himself did not predict Ringwoodite).
 
To date the only known samples of ringwoodite had been made in the lab or found in meteorites.  The first samples were harvested in 1969 from meteors that showered down on Tenham Station in Australia.  A paper was published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nature, giving the world its first glimpse at this unusual blue crystal with the world.
 
The discovered crystal was highly unstable, but geologists quickly identified it as olivine crystal and discovered it was stabilized by radically high pressures.  They speculated it might be stable at pressures similar to the 410-660 kilometer (255-410 mile) deep region of the mantle -- 18 to 23 GigaPascals.  That hypothesis was later confirmed by lab-made samples.
 
In 1996, using an exotic high pressure construct UMN Professor David C. Rubie discovered something extraordinary -- in hot, super-pressurized conditions, Ringwoodite stored up to 2.6 percent of its weight in ionized water (hydroxide).  At the time Professor Rubie's peers were already speculating that a sea of olivine lay in the transition mantle, with much of its crystallized as Ringwoodite.  Could those deposits hold secrets oceans within the mantle?
 
A 2003 paper further expanded upon this work, suggesting that so-called "hydrous olivine" may be the Earth's biggest reservoir of water, containing the equivalent of one to three times the Earth's entire oceans, trapped in a crystalline phase inside the mantle.
 
III. The First Mantle-Derived Ringwoodite Sample Has Lots of Water in It
 
All that was left to observe was to find actual water inside a Ringwoodite sample from the mantle itself.  The new study published in March did exactly that, on a fluke.  The researchers were buying cheap, unattractive diamonds, examining them for another mineral, when they found an incredible find in one of the tiny, rough stones -- tiny entrapped Ringwoodite crystals.
 
Ringwoodite in diamond
Professor Graham Pearson [Image Source: Richard Siemens]

The find is incredibly rare because typically diamonds don't form in the "domain" of Ringwoodite.  Olivine (and Ringwoodite) was predicted to be found in the transition zone lies between the upper and lower mantles.  The upper mantle is relatively slow moving layer of molten rock.  It consists of an estimated 75 percent dunite rock, which in turn is typically around 75 percent olivine.  
 
By contrast, diamonds typically form in the upper mantle.  A diamond that forms on the edge of the transition zone, as deep as 300 km or more may be relatively worthless to gemologists but is incredibly rare from a research perspective. The diamond was harvest in 2008 from the kimberlite gravel-filled river in the Juina area of Mato Grosso, Brazil.  Kimberlite is among the deepest derived of volcanic rocks. 
Ringwoodite infographic
[Image Source: U of Alberta]
 
The tiny piece of Ringwoodite was painstakingly extracted at the University of Alberta -- a university known for having the world's largest diamond research group.  After the extraction came the critical test -- did it have water?
 
Analyzing the extracted crystal with high precision infrared spectroscopes and X-ray imagers, the researchers not only found water, but an abundance of it -- roughly 1.5 percent of the crystal's weight was water, indicating roughly it to be loaded to about 60 percent of its theoretical capacity.
 
Professor Pearson remarked on the find:
 
This sample really provides extremely strong confirmation that there are local wet spots deep in the Earth in this area.  That particular zone in the Earth, the transition zone, might have as much water as all the world’s oceans put together.[The stone was] so small, this inclusion, it’s extremely difficult to find, never mind work on, so it was a bit of a piece of luck, this discovery, as are many scientific discoveries.
 
One of the reasons the Earth is such a dynamic planet is because of the presence of some water in its interior.  Water changes everything about the way a planet works.
 
Ringwoodite Diamond
The diamond sample that contained Ringwoodite [Image Source: U of Alberta]

His study on the work was published in perhaps science's most prestigious peer-reviewed journal, Nature.  A pair of co-authors from Ghent University in the Netherlands -- Professor Laszlo Vincze and Professor Bart Vekemans -- received senior author credits on the study.

IV. Wet Mantle Drives Unique Mantle Seismic Activity
 
The second paper, just proposed, is perhaps equally important.  It has proposed a model for how the transition zone of the mantle works, in a sense.
 
Researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM), Northwestern University (NWU), University of Southern California (USC), the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the University of Wyoming (UW) compared data harvested from seismic P-to-S conversions recorded by a dense seismic array in North America called USArray.

US Array
U.S. Arrray in the Alaskan tundra [Image Source: USGS]

USArray has migrated around the country, collecting high-accuracy seismic readings.  It currently resides in Alaska.  The observed data was compared to the output from numeric models and high-pressure laboratory experiments on olivine.
 
U.S. Array
A diagram of a U.S. Array seismography station [Image Source: USGS]

The study's findings indicate that the mantle's transition zone undergoes an exotic rheological process called "dehydration melting", where currents of hydrous ringwoodite transform into perovskite and the trapped water is expelled back into the transition zone, forming more high-pressure Ringwoodite.
 
Water is a key part of this process.
 
Researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM), Northwestern University (NWU), University of Southern California (USC), the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the University of Wyoming (UW) were responsible for this new model, which is the only known model able to explain newly observed effects spotted in the latest round of high-accuracy seismology data.
 
V. Strange Earth
 
Professor Steve Jacobsen, a study coauthor from Northwestern University comments:
 
Geological processes on the Earth's surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight.  I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades.
 
Ringwoodite here is key.  Its crystal-like structure makes it act like a sponge and draw in hydrogen and trap water.
 
The study also suggests that if the mounting evidence is accurate, it would indicate a vast amount of water in the mantle, offering intriguing proof that the Earth's abundant supply of water came primarily not from collisions with asteroids and meteorites in Earth's early days, but from inside the cooling molten shell that was created as solar debris gravitationally collapsed into planets.

ocean
The mantle may be the source of most of the Earth's surface water.
[Image Source: Deposit Photos]
 
A paper has been published in science's other most prestigious peer-reviewed journal -- Science.  The study's firth author is UNM geophysics Professor Brandon Schmandt, while UW geology Professor Ken Dueker is its senior author.
 
More work still needs to be done.  New drilling techniques could one day offer mankind's first direct observations of the mantle, allowing direct tests of the composition of the upper mantle -- and perhaps eventually the transition mantle and the faster, flowing lower mantle.
 
What's next -- a material that gets stronger the more pressure it's exposed to?  Who knows, but one thing is for sure.  Science is often as strange and unbelievable as the best and worst works of fiction.

Sources: Nature [journal paper], Science [journal paper], University of Alberta [press release], The Guardian



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RE: But...
By Dorkyman on 6/17/2014 4:45:18 PM , Rating: 2
I think he was just stating the obvious: that 97% of the scientists had agreed on something, so further discussion was inappropriate and/or grounds for dismissal.


RE: But...
By FITCamaro on 6/17/2014 6:49:59 PM , Rating: 2
He was absolutely correct. But your comment is exactly how "facts" come about today on matters like this.

"This is the 'fact' and if you disagree we shall shun, discredit, disown, and criticize you."


RE: But...
By sgw2n5 on 6/18/2014 2:06:25 PM , Rating: 2
No, that's not at all how it works. (But you already know that).

If somebody disagrees with a standing scientific theory, they are more than welcome to thoughtfully explain their position... especially if there is compelling evidence as to why the standing scientific theory in question could be inaccurate. That is the power of science. Theories can be refined over time as more data become available.

Creationists have no evidence, and no argument other than:

but but Jesus! But but the Bible! Faith!

A highly edited and revised collection of stories and superstitions =/= science.

You are of course free to believe whatever you want. But we both know what the more reasonable, logical, and likely position is.


RE: But...
By EricMartello on 6/18/2014 2:37:23 AM , Rating: 2
I think this is a pretty cool discovery and it definitely raises questions about the theories that Neil degrasse tyson was smugly dismissing as incontrovertible "science fact" on his new show.

I don't believe that we were created by a god, but we (humans and our planet) could be the experiment or creation of some other technologically advanced species. I consider the theory of evolution to be generally sound, but it's not without holes.

My biggest bone to pick with evolution as an explanation for how we came to be is mostly all other life forms on earth have "evolved" within a relatively narrow channel, meaning that they evolved improvements but none gained a broad, massive advantage over another species. All species existed in a state of equilibrium with regards to their physical and mental abilities...except for humans.

Humans have moderate physical ability, average size and strength, but our mental capacity and potential for intelligence is leaps and bounds superior to ANY other creature on this planet. It doesn't fit the "pattern" of natural evolution in my opinion.

Humans are the only creatures that have gained dominion over the planet and all other creatures - and I find it hard to believe that evolution, which has maintained a kind of balance among all species for eons, would allow for any single creature to gain such a massive advantage over all others.

There is no difference in believing that the earth was created by a deity vs believing a consensus - in both cases that which is unknown cannot be proven, either due to technological or logistical limitations.

I have less of a problem with christians than liberals - and both of them are believers who tend to put belief ahead of fact-finding or seeking knowledge, while also rejecting any inconvenient, conflicting truths - because christians acknowledge that their belief is based on faith while liberals wrongly claim that they are rooted in proven, settled science.

If you want to know the truth then you need to stop looking for things to believe in and you need to focus on gaining an understanding...you also need to accept that the truth is often going to be different than what you may have expected.


RE: But...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/18/2014 9:34:22 AM , Rating: 3
Eric I respect you and consider you a brother in the eternal struggle against the Socialist Libtards, buuuuut -

I'm not understanding why you think evolution wouldn't allow one species to rise above others.

Also I'm not seeing this equilibrium you've mentioned. We know from fossil records that unchecked evolution in the past has lead to several "super predators" both on land and sea. Creatures which evolved to be so dominant, they had NO natural enemies other than themselves.

Balance? Millions of species have been wiped out by other species that adapted and evolved to gain dominance over them. What balance?

quote:
I don't believe that we were created by a god, but we (humans and our planet) could be the experiment or creation of some other technologically advanced species.


Well that's fine but there is ZERO evidence for this. There aren't even clues.

You're right, evolution isn't perfect. But we can see it happening, we can view it's history through fossils. There is at least SOME scientific proof of it as a concept.

It's simply the best explanation we have right now, today, using the knowledge we've gained. Which is why it's still a theory.

quote:
There is no difference in believing that the earth was created by a deity vs believing a consensus - in both cases that which is unknown cannot be proven


Okay I have a big problem with this one. We can prove how planets and stars are created. We've actually observed the process. We have images of planets being born, stars being created, star nurseries. Remnants of dead stars and destroyed proto-planets. There's MOUNTAINS of observable data to back up these theories. At this point I'm shocked people still debate this.

http://io9.com/5987862/our-first-image-of-a-planet...

Here it is for everyone to see, a gas giant in the making. It's not the hand of god, aliens aren't doing it. The only force at work that we can't see is gravity, and we have a pretty good understanding of how that works.

To say this takes the same kind of "faith" as believing in a deity is just mind boggling to me. We have a fairly accurate and complex model of how the physical Universe works. No, it's not perfect, and we're learning new things by the day it seems. But to say it's even close to the "theories" put forth by Creationists is frankly insulting.


RE: But...
By EricMartello on 6/18/2014 1:54:47 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Eric I respect you and consider you a brother in the eternal struggle against the Socialist Libtards


AYE!

quote:
I'm not understanding why you think evolution wouldn't allow one species to rise above others.


Don't get me wrong - I'm not denying evolution. I consider it to be a sound theory as it is observable and experiments can be performed to support the underlying hypothesis. What I'm saying is that humans seem to have benefited from some kind of external boost that did not occur entirely naturally.

quote:
Also I'm not seeing this equilibrium you've mentioned. We know from fossil records that unchecked evolution in the past has lead to several "super predators" both on land and sea. Creatures which evolved to be so dominant, they had NO natural enemies other than themselves.


The natural evolutionary process of life is really like a process of elimination. Subtle mutations occur randomly with each new generation of a species, and if the mutation provides an advantageous benefit, the particular animal with said benefit gets a chance to keep it by mating and passing the genes for that mutation onto its offspring.

Yes, there have been "super predators" that rose to the top of the food chain and stayed there for long periods of time...but while they did manage to ensure they'd never go hungry, did they gain dominion over other species or the planet itself in any way? Another thing to consider is that even though these predators became experts at hunting, the imbalance eventually led them to deplete their food supplies - and they did not have the ability to "make" their own food.

Compared to the advantages humans gained due to their intellect, we are not only able to transcend the food pyramid with our weapons and technology (we can kill ANY other creature on this planet including other humans relatively easily), but we are able to do things like farming, building structures and vehicles, etc. We are also conscientious enough to view any other species potentially gaining ground on our intelligence monopoly as a threat.

quote:
Balance? Millions of species have been wiped out by other species that adapted and evolved to gain dominance over them. What balance?


Right, but it's more like a pendulum swinging back and forth, and the species are all subject to the whims of the pendulum's magnitude. In many instances, if humans feel threatened by that same swinging we can just build a new pendulum.

That's the balance that is missing. It's like playing a game with your own special set of advantageous rules, while all other players are stuck using the game's original rules.

quote:
Well that's fine but there is ZERO evidence for this. There aren't even clues.

You're right, evolution isn't perfect. But we can see it happening, we can view it's history through fossils. There is at least SOME scientific proof of it as a concept.

It's simply the best explanation we have right now, today, using the knowledge we've gained. Which is why it's still a theory.


I wouldn't be so quick to say there is zero evidence...and yes, I am sharing my opinion here, but I do think that the huge intelligence gap between humans and all other species is definitely suggestive of some kind of non-natural tweaking happening along the way.

Evolution makes sense 99% of the time, and even up to a certain point it makes sense with humans...but that 1% that proves to be a source of contention for me is our obvious advantage and dominion over the planet and all other creatures on it.

quote:
Okay I have a big problem with this one. We can prove how planets and stars are created. We've actually observed the process. We have images of planets being born, stars being created, star nurseries. Remnants of dead stars and destroyed proto-planets. There's MOUNTAINS of observable data to back up these theories. At this point I'm shocked people still debate this.


We've seen other planets forming but we have yet to discover another planet that's like ours, or even some shadow of what earth used to be throughout its development. We haven't found a planet with any complex life on it (i.e. insects) despite having found planets that are believed to be able to support life as we know it.

Saying this does not mean that I believe the creation story...but I do not think that the true story of how earth came to be the way it is today is an open and closed book. I'm not suggesting that we attribute the things we can't explain to divine intervention but just as it is silly to jump to that conclusion, it's equally as silly to dismiss the possibility that our planet was engineered by other mortal beings to some degree at some point in time.

quote:
To say this takes the same kind of "faith" as believing in a deity is just mind boggling to me. We have a fairly accurate and complex model of how the physical Universe works. No, it's not perfect, and we're learning new things by the day it seems. But to say it's even close to the "theories" put forth by Creationists is frankly insulting.


I was actually implying that purveyors of junk science like "man made climate change" are exuding the same type of faith that religious folks do...but to your comment here, Earth is still an outlier. One would assume that if everything that happened to make Earth into the way it is today was fairly natural it would be more common throughout our universe.

You should know by now that I am a staunch supporter of real science, the kind that is performed objectively to gain knowledge and understanding, absent any desire to manipulate the results of experiments to further a personal agenda. I also do not consider a process science if it shapes or excludes statistical data to make a claim seem more legitimate than it is, (i.e. climate change, the claim that eating red meat increases the probability of heart problems in the future).


RE: But...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/18/14, Rating: 0
RE: But...
By jahwarrior on 6/18/2014 5:02:14 PM , Rating: 2
Evolution is impossible

Nobody thinks that computer networks (including the associated hardware, software, language, and specified meaning), could ever arise spontaneously. So is it reasonable to think that vastly superior biological information systems, occurring just above the atomic level, could arise by any type of Darwinian trial/error process?


RE: But...
By jahwarrior on 6/18/2014 5:02:19 PM , Rating: 2
Evolution is impossible

Nobody thinks that computer networks (including the associated hardware, software, language, and specified meaning), could ever arise spontaneously. So is it reasonable to think that vastly superior biological information systems, occurring just above the atomic level, could arise by any type of Darwinian trial/error process?


RE: But...
By zephyrprime on 6/18/2014 11:30:09 AM , Rating: 2
Yes I see your point. Even if intelligence evolved, shouldn't we be a lot dumber? After all, you only need to be a little more intelligent than animals to be more intelligent than all animals. At that level, your intelligence would still only be a fraction of what a human child possess. Why is there such a big gap? Look at the fossil record and look at how long it took birds to evolve from dinosuars. It took millions of years and there were numerous species of pseudo birds at the time. Each of them was only incrementally better at being a bird than the prior species. There was no sudden transition to being an awesome bird that happened in a short period of time. Plus, there were already lots of flying creatures before birds anyway (including dinosaurs).


RE: But...
By Reclaimer77 on 6/18/2014 12:45:00 PM , Rating: 2
It sounds like you're still approaching this from an Intelligent Design perspective.

Man evolved a more complex brain than other mammals. It's not that complicated. MANY creatures possess abilities that man does not.

Many traits of human intelligence, such as empathy, theory of mind, mourning, ritual, and the use of symbols and tools, are already apparent in great apes although in less sophisticated forms than found in humans.

So generally speaking, our minds are very similar just more evolved. Not even all that much more evolved really.

By your logic great apes and other primates also don't fit into evolution, because they are MUCH more intelligent than other animals. Shouldn't they be "dumber"?

Early man was physically inferior to a great number of predators at the time. If we didn't adapt and evolve ways to compensate for this, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation right now.

Perhaps our greatest evolutionary leap was the ability to form complex hierarchical languages in order to coordinate and pass on information from generation to generation. That's a pretty big deal when the average life expectancy was something like 25 to 30.

I don't know why you think evolution should dictate we would only have to be a "little" more intelligent than other animals. Can you expound on this please?


RE: But...
By Mint on 6/18/2014 3:17:25 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't fit any past pattern because we were the first to get it. There's always a first, even for a random signal deviating X standard deviations from the mean.

Intelligence is an extreme instability. Once a species gets a certain amount of memory that lasts a generation, and develops enough communication skills to leverage it, there is a massive amplification in the advantage of intelligence, as the species can now pass general knowledge on from generation to generation as opposed to merely functioning on genetic instinct. Once that intelligence arises, it's game over for every other species.

Look at the world around us, how we developed that in ~10,000 years, and how we dominate all other species. Humans barely evolved during that geologically insignificant amount of time, so there was essentially zero chance any other species could do the same. Thus, this instability is so extreme that there's only room for one intelligent species on a planet (and even our time may be geologically short lived if we blow ourselves up and/or let AI and self-assembly get out of control).

In fact, it's possible that there's only enough room for one intelligent species per galaxy. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if we colonized the entire Milky Way in the next million years, which is still only 1/4000th of the age of the earth. Doing so would probably dominate resources in the same way we do on earth.

Basically, since I don't see aliens around us, and since it took so long for life to go from earth's formation to even basic mammals, it's a good bet that we're the first species with this kind of intelligence in the entire Galaxy. If another species elsewhere evolved intelligence even 1% faster, they'd be on Earth already.


RE: But...
By snhoj on 6/22/2014 8:27:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't believe that we were created by a god, but we (humans and our planet) could be the experiment or creation of some other technologically advanced species.


The answer is 42.


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