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Drilling to the Center of the Earth 298

Posted by Zonk
from the watch-out-for-the-lavamen dept.
indylaw writes "Japanese scientists are attempting to explore the centre of the Earth." From the article: "Using a giant drill ship launched next month, the researchers aim to be the first to punch a hole through the rocky crust that covers our planet and to reach the mantle below. The team wants to retrieve samples from the mantle, six miles down, to learn more about what triggers undersea earthquakes, such as the one off Sumatra that caused the Boxing Day tsunami."
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Drilling to the Center of the Earth

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  • Wrong bloody title. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anthony (4077) * <adavid@adavid.com.au> on Saturday June 04, 2005 @04:47AM (#12721994) Homepage Journal
    12-25km through the oceanic crust is *not* the centre of the earth.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 04, 2005 @05:00AM (#12722072)
      I agree 100%, the earth is flat.
      • I agree 100%, the earth is flat.

        Yes, but as we also know, the earth is round, like a Frisbee(R). So, as with any disc, it is perfectly possible to find the center of the earth by simply finding the midpoint of its diameter. Obviously that is where they plan to drill.
    • It's the "centre" in the same way that the "centre" of an M&M is a peanut.
      • Hold on.. I've taken a drill to an M&M before, and the thing blasted apart with the majority of it wedged into the drill bit.

        So if the Earth suddenly shatters to pieces.. we can blame Japan?
      • No (Score:3, Funny)

        To be pedantic, the mantle does not go all the way to the center. There's the core below the mantle. To extend your analogy, the crust is the M&M's chocolate shell, the mantle is the chocolate below that, and the core is the peanut.
        • Re:No (Score:4, Funny)

          by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday June 04, 2005 @11:47AM (#12723614) Journal
          I will further butcher the analogy by pointing out that the core is likely composed of two regions: a liquid outer core and a solid inner core. So the earth is really more like those crazy chocloate covered cherry liquor thingies. (if covered in a sweet candy shell. mmmm)
          • Hm...I don't think I've seen a candy like this. Cha-ching!
          • Re:No (Score:3, Informative)

            by Artifakt (700173)
            Both the liquid and solid phases are really anomalous:
            The liquid outer core is made of mostly the same stuff as the deep mantle, Iron with about 5% assorted dense metals mixed in. It's just hot enought to be liquid. The boudary region between them shades gradually from solid to liquid, so what we mean by outer core is essentially arbitrary. Geologists assign a level where it's 'liquid enough', as the boundary.
            The solid inner core is a single Iron crystal. 1,500 Km across, and with damned near no c
      • It's the "centre" in the same way that the "centre" of an M&M is a peanut.

        English is ambiguous, but they are only going through the candy shell to grab a little chocolate. They aren't getting anywhere near the peanut or the center of the earth.
      • No, it's the CENTER in the same way that the chocolate layer of a peanut filled M&M is the center. In short it's not.
    • I think they mean the soft creamy center, like the center of a malteeser.
  • mantle makes you repeat yourself
  • by cwmonkey (662944) on Saturday June 04, 2005 @04:47AM (#12721999) Homepage
    This article is very interesting. This article is very interesting.
  • The team wants to retrieve samples from the mantle, six miles down, to learn more about what triggers undersea earthquakes,
    Hopefully they won't discover one of the triggers firsthand.
  • Madness! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This sounds awfully risky. I hope Bruce Willis and his team are involved.
  • Question (Score:3, Funny)

    by Deltan (217782) on Saturday June 04, 2005 @04:48AM (#12722005)
    Is the drill tip made of unobtanium?
  • "Using a giant drill ship launched next month, the researchers aim to be the first to punch a hole through the rocky crust that covers our planet and to reach the mantle below. Using a giant drill ship launched next month, the researchers aim to be the first to punch a hole through the rocky crust that covers our planet and to reach the mantle below." Anyways, what happens when it gets crushed by the huge weight of the ground above it, and how are they going to keep it transmitting data, through the mantel
  • I hope they consult Hilary Swank or other well-known Hollywood "terranauts" before they commence all this.
  • Energy (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Mattygfunk1 (596840)

    Could it be viable to turn the molten into powerful energy source after that? Anyone?

    __
    Funny Adult Videos [laughdaily.com]
    • If we harnesed the energy of the Earth's centre, we'd risk cooling the Earth to such a degree that the core would solidify, and this would cause the magnetic field to shut down and we'd be bombarded by solar radiation. On the plus side, a cooler core would put an end to all those pesky earthquakes and volcanoes.
      • The Earth is big. Really big. We're talking about a volume of roughly 1E21 m^3. That's a cube of over 5 km per side for every person on the Earth.
    • Could it be viable to turn the molten into powerful energy source after that? Anyone?

      Hot dry rock (HDR) is looking like an interesting clean power source, but in most places its just too deep. The average thermal gradient is 25 to 30 oC/km, so you'd have to drill several kilometres to get useful heat, and at the moment that's too expensive. For those areas with a steep gradient, or if deep drilling gets cheaper, it might be a better long-term prospect than nuclear or solar energy. http://www.seav.vic.gov [vic.gov.au]
      • Don't you think it might be a stretch to claim that permenently leeching energy from the Earths core environmentally safe?

        If we run out of oil, we are just out of oil. If we burn up everything, we just have dirty air. If we spill it all out into the ocean, we have some dirty water. If we drain a substantial amount of energy from the Earths core (stop thinking shortterm, if we start it is possible that we will be leeching juice for hundreds of thousands of years into the future) we destroy all life on Earth
        • Re:Energy (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 1u3hr (530656)
          if we drain a substantial amount of energy from the Earths core (stop thinking shortterm, if we start it is possible that we will be leeching juice for hundreds of thousands of years into the future) we destroy all life on Earth.

          Why don't you back that up with somne figures? I can't be botherd to spend the time to refute it, but my feeling is that you could "drain" all the energy we could feasibly use for millions of years with negligible effect. Much less effect than fossil fuels certainly. Actually, if

          • Re:Energy (Score:3, Informative)

            by coopex (873732)
            Specific heat of Nickel/Iron 440j/(kg-K)
            Temp ~6000K
            Density of Iron 7800kg/m^3, Nickel 8900km/m^3
            Diameter of outer core ~5000km
            Mass of core = 5*10^24 kg, less than the mass of earth = 5.97*10^24
            Heat content of core = 12*10^33 J, which combined with this data [ouc.bc.ca] of 12 trillion kwh electricity usage/year = 43*10^18 J/year gives us over a billion years to drain it 1%, well past the life of our planet.
    • Re:Energy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vellmont (569020)
      It's not molten rock in the upper mantle. The article itself says the temperature only gets to about 100 C. Considering how long it takes to get down so far, and the remote location (middle of the pacific ocean) I doubt getting energy from a small hole would be very practical.

  • Read up on Project Mohole [wikipedia.org].

  • by centipetalforce (793178) on Saturday June 04, 2005 @04:57AM (#12722057)
    The mantle IS NOWHERE NEAR the center of the earth. More /. titling sensationalism. Still, drilling even 6 miles down is quite a feat
  • Right, so this japanese ship is heading out to sea with large metal poles on board. Think they want to punch holes in the sea bed? Nah, they're aiming to blow holes in something else [scoop.co.nz].
  • Slashdot story Sunday 10 April 2005 [slashdot.org].
  • Seriously, if you are going to cut and paste the first paragraph of the target story as your submission, at least get it right and don't have the first sentence pasted in twice.
  • Slashdot: reaching new heights in intra-story dupes. Slashdot: reaching new heights in intra-story dupes.
  • by concreationist (760560) on Saturday June 04, 2005 @05:21AM (#12722153)
    1. Build giant probe to drill to the center of the earth
    2. Arm the probe with nuclear weapons
    3. Hold the world hostage for... ONE MILLION DOLLARS
    4. Profit!
  • Using a giant drill ship launched next month, the researchers aim to be the first to punch a hole through the rocky crust that covers our planet and to reach the mantle below. Using a giant drill ship launched next month, the researchers aim to be the first to punch a hole through the rocky crust that covers our planet and to reach the mantle below. The team wants to retrieve samples from the mantle, six miles down, to learn more about what triggers undersea earthquakes, such as the one off Sumatra that cau
  • Edge of mantle != center of the earth. Mantle = ~3000 km, outer core = ~ 5000 km, inner core = ~5000 km.

    Reaching the mantle is very impressive. Just keep it in perspective.
  • From TFA:
    Previously undiscovered bacteria that can survive the anticipated 100C temperatures of the upper mantle could be useful on the surface. Heatproof enzymes isolated from bugs brought back by earlier Japanese drill missions are now used in washing powders.

    WOW! Just imagine the kinds of laundry detergent we could make with super heat resistant bacterial enzymes. WOW! Just imagine the kinds of laundry detergent we could make with super heat resistant bacterial enzymes.
  • Written by Bill Bryson.

    About the earth's layers (p216): "... the various layers, using average figures:
    From 0 to 40 km (25 mi) is the crust.
    From 40 to 400 (250 mi) is the upper mantle.
    From 400 to 650 (400 mi) is a transition zone between the upper and lower mantle.
    From 650 to 2,700 km (1,700 mi) is the lower mantle.
    From 2,700 to 2,890 (1,900 mi) is the "D" layer.
    From 2,890 to 5,150 km (3,200 mi) is the outer core,
    and from 5,150 to 6,378 km (3,967 mi) is the inner core."

    About an attempt to drill
  • Too much heat is what they will find, among other supprises. Now, I hope they will be able to devise a means of harnessing this heat to generate electricity. I guess folks from Iceland are just near this heat and this is why they rely so much on geo-thermal electric generation.
  • perhaps... (Score:3, Funny)

    by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Saturday June 04, 2005 @06:09AM (#12722284) Homepage
    Perhaps people drilling to the center of the earth is what's causing the tsunamis... Oh the tragic irony that would be!!
    • no, no...
      It was the people on the inside drilling out to see what's there!

      Wait, you mean the earth isn't a Dyson Sphere?
  • Similar projects (Score:5, Informative)

    by Flamerule (467257) on Saturday June 04, 2005 @06:10AM (#12722289)

    There have been a number of other projects to drill deep into the Earth's crust, though none has succeeded in reaching the mantle, as this Japanese team is trying to do. Some of the more well-known ones:

    Another poster already provided the wikipedia page for Project Mohole [wikipedia.org]. That was a US team back in 1961 that managed to drill to 183 m below the sea floor, in 3500 m of water off the Mexican coast. From a ship, floating on the ocean surface -- I just find that incredible.

    As far as land-based projects go, there have been 2 big ones that I know of. The Kola Superdeep Borehole [wikipedia.org] was a Russian project, started in 1970, that drilled at a site on the Kola Peninsula near Finland. Their deepest hole reached 12.262 km in depth, which is the current record. This page [compuserve.com] has a section (scroll down a few screens) with some very interesting findings from the project. Apparently, geologic theory doesn't quite correspond with what we find when we actually go down there to see for ourselves.

    There's also the KTB (long German acronym) Borehole, started in 1978 in Bavaria. They reached a depth of 9.101 km. Information on this one is hard to find, at least in English, though there is a great Oilfield Review article (big pdf) [slb.com] available.

    This Japanese project is going to drill through the sea floor in the Pacific, in a spot where the crust is thin, which will hopefully allow them to reach the mantle in only 7 km, under 2.5 km of water. For comparison: the previous record seafloor drill was only 2.1 km. So they've definitely got their work cut out for them.

  • Godzilla!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Skiron (735617) on Saturday June 04, 2005 @06:32AM (#12722340) Homepage
    I hope they don't wake up some million year old creature that then terrorises Tokyo and makes all the girls scream!
  • The core has been breached before -- described here in detail [intuitor.com]
    --
    The Core: "Someone set up us the bomb"
    • the much shorter version of that review: bitch, bitch, bitch, there's incorrect physics in a movie [shock horror!], bitch, bitch, bitch
      • The difference between bitching about, say armageddon, which had some bad physics and a watchable plot (It was an oil driller movie rather than an asteroid movie after all.. kinda like abyss was actually a trucker movie) and 'the core' is that the core didn't just have SOME bad physics. it had ALL bad physics and was a formula movie to boot. It's the shiniest example of hollywood's willing violation of the laws of thermodynamics (for no good reason... many of these movies could've been made with reasonab
  • "The team wants to retrieve samples from the mantle, six miles down, to learn more about what triggers undersea earthquakes" What they are going to learn is that Giant Drill ships that are punching a big ass hole in the Earth's crust trigger undersea earthquakes.
  • From the article: "Heatproof enzymes isolated from bugs brought back by earlier Japanese drill missions are now used in washing powders."

    Now that's interesting. Rocket science meets home science.
    --
  • This has already [imdb.com] been done. They found an ocean down there, dinosaurs, and they even brought a duck. This team needs to do it with a drill?
  • I couldn't help thinking, while rtfa, that this sounds like the plot to a godzilla movie. In fact, didn't they make one about drilling into the earth and then awaken some hell beast that gozilla had to kill in tokyo harbor or something? Didn't he have to cape a geyser of lava with a hell beast? I had the "lumbering" godzilla theme playing in my head as I read the guardian story.
  • Oh, no! They're going to drill down and accidentally stop the earth's magnetic field, and then something else bad will happen, and we'll all have to move to Mars!
  • and only another 3953 miles to go to the center of the earth. It's progress, I suppose.
  • the team wants to...learn more about what triggers undersea earthquakes

    And believe me, they're about to find out.

  • These guys have obviously never watched Dr. Who.
  • You'll let out all the dinosors.

    Apolagies to Jules Vern :-)
  • This is cool, but the mantle is hardly the center of the earth. I'm much more interested in this [wired.com] - a proposal [caltech.edu] to create a molten-iron probe capable of actually reaching the core of the earth. A hundred thousand tons or more of the stuff would be poured into an artificial crevice in the earth, where it would sink down through the mantle.

    The trick seems to be finding a probe that can ride the iron blob the whole way down, and keep it hot (probably through radioactivity). This was also considered as a wa
  • What is this, a Japanese bible university that says the core is halfway through a 12-mile diameter Earth, that is only 6000 years old? If they can't get those details right after talking to leading-edge geologists, what gives them the legitimacy to represent the scientists to consumers? Just a fancy printing press gives their authority, it seems.
  • Why do volcanoes, and perhaps this hole, spew pressurized material past holes made in the surface? The crust isn't anything like a seal, and the mantle that we see exposed as lava is a fluid. How does one mantle volume under a hole (or weakness) heat up differently from the rest of the mantle fluid? Why doesn't the mantle just equalize that pressure increase in the fluid, rather than force open the brittle mantle?
  • a movie from 1965 called "A Crack in the World"?

    I hope this project turns out better than The Project in the film.
  • But aren't these guys aware of the important and certainly not-at-all-made-up story [amightywind.com] that Art Bell has been trying to tell everyone for years now? We have to stop this before it's too late. We don't want to loose the demons of hell on the earth to destroy the human race and bring...

    (notices Paris Hilton on CNN)

    ... on second thought. Bring 'em on.

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