Thursday, September 25, 2014

Here Be Dragons Part IV


Gunung Batur as we descended in the light of day.
There have been several mysteries about the planet we live on. What causes Earth's internal heat, which has persisted for billions of years? What powers the "dynamo" of planetary magnetic fields? How could the planets coalesce from an orbiting disk of gas? If particles collide at orbital velocities they will not stick together unless they have the mass of mountains. The answer lies not in geology, but in cosmology.
The Big Bang created billions upon billions of Black Holes. They formed from quantum fluctuations grown large by expansion of the Universe. They are the largest component of mass in the Universe, surrounding the galaxies with invisible haloes. Our own solar system contains hundreds of these tiny holes, and we have been ignorant of their existence.
When the solar system was but a disk of gas, a number of singularities started orbiting in the disk. One of these objects was smaller than a proton, yet weighed as much as a mountain. Larger particles were attracted and stuck to it. The singularity was far too tiny to eat everything up, but the small amount that was swallowed made the rest grow red hot. Eventually a ball of rock formed with a hot centre. This was the birth of a planet.
The singularity in Earth's core has the diameter of a grain of sand, and the mass of a moon. It has been giving off radiation for billions of years. The heat generated causes volcanoes to erupt, creates the continents, and forms hydrocarbons in Earth's interior. Our life and this planet would not exist without it. Even the petrol that fills your tank may be the byproduct of a small Black Hole!
This singularity spins independently within Earth's core. By dragging part of the iron core along, it spins the "dynamo" generating a magnetic field. That is why Earth's magnetic poles are not aligned with the geographic poles, and why this field sometimes changes direction. Venus has no magnetic field because its core does not spin. Mercury has a magnetic field and is here predicted to have vulcanism, which our MESSENGER spacecraft will discover in 2011.
These are truly exciting times! By climbing into the dragon's fiery mouth, we can understand the very origin of the world! A Black Hole can exist in the last place anyone would look for one, right beneath our noses! TOMORROW we will see another example supporting this theory.

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