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Journey To the Mantle of the Earth By 2020

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday March 24, 2011 @09:31AM (#35597582)

    But how could we have known that's where those alien microbes were? God help us, HOW COULD WE HAVE KNOWN!?

    • In all seriousness, that would be a pretty significant discovery if we found life living close to the mantle.
      • by jc42 (318812) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @03:54PM (#35603230) Homepage Journal

        In all seriousness, that would be a pretty significant discovery if we found life living close to the mantle.

        Actually, few biologists would be surprised. One of the more interesting things about previous deep-drilling projects is that they've turned up micro-organisms all the way down. Projecting the microbe count from these holes has produced the estimate that there is more biomass inside the planet than on its surface and in the oceans. Of course, this is based on a very small sample, so nobody takes it too seriously.

        But still, the fact that we've found living things everywhere we've drilled means that the default assumption should be that we'll keep finding them. Presumably it'll get too hot for life at some depth, but so far we have no clue at all what this depth might be. The really significant thing would be if we found no decrease in the density of microbes at any depth.

        And I don't think the critters down there qualify as "alien". From the few samples that've been studied, they are very similar to the things living inside rocks near the surface. We might have to go to other planets to find something truly alien. And maybe the things living inside the other planets will turn out to be relatives of the things living here.

        For further information, ask google about "deep-rock microorganisms" (without the quotes). There's quite a bit of information on the subject online.

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      Also.. is this a reference to POD [wikipedia.org] by any chance? :D

    • But how could we have known that's where those alien microbes were? God help us, HOW COULD WE HAVE KNOWN!?

      I guess we could have just listened to the Scientologists.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      If there are microbes living in the mantle, they're probably not alien.

      Still might eat your face, though.

    • by Chemisor (97276)

      Just drill a little deeper, Lews Therin, and you will reach the true source. It is your only salvation.

    • Well...being that we've given up on the space program we might as well go to hell....

  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Thursday March 24, 2011 @09:32AM (#35597586) Journal

    Jules Verne Likes This.

  • by Stenchwarrior (1335051) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @09:39AM (#35597674)
    ...they'll find a bunch of lonley socks. I mean, those fuckers have to end up somewhere.
  • by russotto (537200) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @09:43AM (#35597736) Journal

    I can see two ways this could go. One, plentiful geothermal power wherever you can dig a big enough hole.

    Two, artificial volcanos.

    Either one is pretty cool.

    • ... as weapons of mass destruction? Why invade Iraq if you can just make a few volcanoes pop up where ya needs 'em?

  • I saw how this turned out in a Dr. Who episode. Murderous mutated humans, parallel universes with the British military in Nazi-esque uniforms. Finishing up with the destruction of the planet. It's not good.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      parallel universes with the British military in Nazi-esque uniforms

      Not all that different than our universe, then. The only thing missing really is the uniform. The police state mechanism is already in place.

    • Yeah, but if you took the eye patch off the Brigadier and put it on Liz Shaw, I could learn to live with it.
  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @09:54AM (#35597850)
    Can we inject all the spent nuclear fuel into the mantle and let it sink to the center? That's what's probably down there anyway...
    • by KarrdeSW (996917) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @10:16AM (#35598078)

      You want to put spent nuclear fuel rods into a burning hot ocean of magma in a spot where enormous upward pressure is being exerted? Realistically, a hole in the earth's crust that reaches the mantle already has a name. It's called a volcano. You wouldn't try to shit in an overflowing toilet, would you?

      Though you may have something if you meant that we somehow insert spent fuel into a Subduction Zone [wikipedia.org], where a portion of the crust is sinking into the mantle anyway.

      Personally, I'm all for storing the old fuel until technology becomes sufficiently advanced to use it again, there is still a ton of energy present in it. I'd say the best way to be safe from the stuff it is to bleed it dry.

      • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @10:29AM (#35598226)

        They're called breeder reactors and already exist. They just happen to be illegal in the united states.

        • by Kokuyo (549451)

          LFTR reactors are good at getting rid of the stuff, too, I heard.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          They're called breeder reactors and already exist. They just happen to be illegal in the united states.

          Are they actually illegal, or is that just the way a certain non-nuclear proliferation treaty has been interpreted to date in order to protect the high price of nuclear fuel?

        • They're called breeder reactors and already exist. They just happen to be illegal in the united states.

          Like that stops anybody. We just need to set up the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Breeder Reactors and we've got it made.

      • You wouldn't try to shit in an overflowing toilet, would you?

        Depends on how bad I had to go...

    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday March 24, 2011 @10:22AM (#35598152)

      The problem is that this mantle is under intense pressure because it has the weight of the Earth's crust bearing down on it. This pressure doesn't matter too much to us because of the weight of the rock being forced down by gravity is exactly balanced by the reaction force of the mantle pushing back up. Except where you get cracks and weaknesses in the rock - and some mantle seeps through, causing a volcano. This pressure is enough to drive the molten rock all the way to the surface.

      Now consider drilling a hole - a hole filled with a tube and presumably some material that is not rock - like air or water (probably water since the distance to the mantle is less from the bottom of the ocean). While water has weight, it doesn't weigh as much as rock - we can prove that because undersea volcanoes exist, too. So basically what you will end up doing is creating your own instant-volcano, the minute you get close enough to the mantle that the remaining rock is weakened, all of that stuff is going to come up - following the path of least resistance.

      I am not saying it's the end of the world - it's not. There are other forces at work too, the mantle will cool on its way up and might only reach the surface slowly, if at all. However you must understand that there will be a tremendous amount of upwards pressure in the shaft. It will be absolutely impossible to "drop something" down there. At best what you would get is a deep hole with your radioactive waste, sitting at the bottom of the sea. At worst you would get the mother of all dirty-bombs, driven by a volcano and spreading this waste all over the ocean floor. It was virtually impossible to drop concrete into the Deepwater Horizon shaft. Imagine the pressures of going much much deeper and what's coming out isn't oil but lava.

      • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @10:44AM (#35598424)
        Volcanoes are not primarily caused by local differences in surface strata composition. There is a reason why volcanoes occur along fault lines and especially subduction/divergence zones. Volcanoes are driven in their development and activity primarily by activity in the mantle itself, whether that is melting crust in suduction zones causing plumes of lighter materials or plumes cascading out of the core itself to form hotspots. This is stark contrast to your artificially simplistic description of an equalization of pressure. Volcanoes occur where pressure is not equal.

        The crust itself is surprisingly resilient in places where there are no special pressures. The Kola borehole proved that. Over seven and a half miles down and there was no explosion of pressure. If seven and a half miles of rock can be removed to no ill effect, then substituting it with water should not be as big a problem as you think it is, difference in weight not withstanding.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by scubamage (727538)

        However you must understand that there will be a tremendous amount of upwards pressure in the shaft.

        Giggity.

      • by demonbug (309515)

        The problem is that this mantle is under intense pressure because it has the weight of the Earth's crust bearing down on it. This pressure doesn't matter too much to us because of the weight of the rock being forced down by gravity is exactly balanced by the reaction force of the mantle pushing back up. Except where you get cracks and weaknesses in the rock - and some mantle seeps through, causing a volcano. This pressure is enough to drive the molten rock all the way to the surface.

        Now consider drilling a hole - a hole filled with a tube and presumably some material that is not rock - like air or water (probably water since the distance to the mantle is less from the bottom of the ocean). While water has weight, it doesn't weigh as much as rock - we can prove that because undersea volcanoes exist, too. So basically what you will end up doing is creating your own instant-volcano, the minute you get close enough to the mantle that the remaining rock is weakened, all of that stuff is going to come up - following the path of least resistance.

        I am not saying it's the end of the world - it's not. There are other forces at work too, the mantle will cool on its way up and might only reach the surface slowly, if at all. However you must understand that there will be a tremendous amount of upwards pressure in the shaft. It will be absolutely impossible to "drop something" down there. At best what you would get is a deep hole with your radioactive waste, sitting at the bottom of the sea. At worst you would get the mother of all dirty-bombs, driven by a volcano and spreading this waste all over the ocean floor. It was virtually impossible to drop concrete into the Deepwater Horizon shaft. Imagine the pressures of going much much deeper and what's coming out isn't oil but lava.

        First, to keep magma out of the drill pipe you would just need to keep pressure on your drilling fluid. We already do this; it would just require a higher pressure system than what is needed for, say, oil drilling. Of course, this could be a problem if your drilling fluid is flash-boiling as it encounters the magma, as it would be very difficult to control that much pressure and could lead to a blow out. However, unlike with oil, you could fairly easily stop any leaking lava by circulating cold water, or wo

    • by peter303 (12292)
      Transporting to disposal site could be dangerous. Say there is a 1:300 shipwreck possibility. Is that worth it?
  • In addition, new tools must be developed to withstand extreme pressure and heat – which can reach upwards of 300 degrees Celsius.

    Oh no, THREE HUNDRED degrees celsius!!! Whatever will they do?

    • Oh no, THREE HUNDRED degrees celsius!!! Whatever will they do?

      Perhaps they shall bake a cake.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      300 Celsius? That's almost as hot as a pizza oven. I can't imagine how they're going to find tools that can function at that temperature.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I realise both you and OP are being sarcastic, however the biggest problem isn't finding tools to function at that temperature. The biggest problem is finding drilling equipment that can dissipate heat at that temperature while generating additional heat through friction. Try using a normal steel drill-bit in concrete for more than 15 minutes continuous in standard air temperature (lets say 21C) will render the drill bit useless just from friction generated heat (anecdotal, certainly - you are welcome to

        • Drills use a fluid injected through the bit to cool and lubricate. The ambient temperature could be compensated for by chilling the drilling mud, using a higher volume, etc.
      • If you have your pizza oven at 300c you must like a burnt ass pizza. Thats over 570F, most pizzas are cooked between 350F and 450F.

        • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

          The Italians apparently don't agree with you...

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizza#Pizza_types [wikipedia.org]

          According to the rules proposed by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, the genuine Neapolitan pizza [...] must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 C (905 F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire. When cooked, it should be crispy, tender and fragrant.

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          That is a pansy-ass cooking temperature. At home, any thinner-crust pizza should be cooked in an oven of at least 500 F; more if you can manage it. A real brick pizza oven is substantially hotter, and commercial pizzerias regularly use them.

      • by scubamage (727538)

        300 Celsius? That's almost as hot as a pizza oven. I can't imagine how they're going to find tools that can function at that temperature.

        Obviously, you make them out of pizza. Problem solved!

  • Heat issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scootin159 (557129) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @09:57AM (#35597884) Homepage
    The soviets have already tried this [wikipedia.org], but ran into issues with the deep-crust temperatures (570*F when they stopped, but it was still climbing) melting their drill bits. How is this project intending to resolve this issue?
  • Go poking holes in it and making volcanoes all over the place! See if WE care!

  • Old News (Score:5, Funny)

    by bedouin (248624) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @10:05AM (#35597966)

    Shredder and Krang already did this in like 1989.

    • by f8l_0e (775982)
      It never fails. My mod points run out and the very next day, somebody writes something funny. Can somebody spare a mod point for a brother?
  • 6km is a deep hole, but not an enormously deep hole by the standards of the off-shore drilling industry; there are deeper holes drilled for oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and for gas production in Sakhalin and the Persian Gulf. The post-salt oil prospects in Brazil require 5km depth to get past the salt layer.

    (annoyingly, oil-drillers appear to use 'depth' to describe the length of holes even when they are not pointing vertically downwards, and some of the things described as 'deepest' appear to be d

  • At last, the Great Lord shall be free...

    • by demonbug (309515)

      At last, the Great Lord shall be free...

      Don't be silly, I'm sure Mierin has a foolproof plan for dealing with any unexpected consequences.

      On a similar note, I heard Lloyd's is looking into offering a new Balrog insurance product.

  • The Dwarves dug too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum shadow and flame.

    — Saruman, The Lord of the Rings

  • It will probably deflate the earth like a giant beach ball

  • This hole would make an excellent geothermal energy source. (By the way, why doesn't somebody start using abandoned oil wells for geothermal?)
  • Sometimes the tectonic plates buckle and carry upper mantle rocks up a dozen miles onto land. This is call obduction.
    In other places high pressure gasses from the upper mantle shoot rocks to the surfaces. These areas are called kimberlites and are sources of diamonds.

    Actual mantle drilling will confirm these rocks. But it hasnt been the highest priority in earth science due to these above-mentioned occurrences.
    • Actual mantle drilling will confirm these rocks. But it hasnt been the highest priority in earth science due to these above-mentioned occurrences.

      There is still interest in direct sampling because a) those rocks you mentioned are ancient and may not reflect current conditions in the mantle, and b) there are still debates on just how plastic mantle material is which affects all sorts of modelling.

  • Best case scenario: Hollow Earth theory is correct and we find Hitler riding dinosaurs in the middle of the earth.

    Worst case scenario: Earth, quite literally, shoots its load and we're screwed.

  • They'll unleash a balrog that decimates civilization. No thanks, Mr. Smarty Pants scientists...

    • by alta (1263)

      Funny timing, I've been playing lord of the rings online for the last hour (free to play if you like) and just finally discovered Durin's Bane... the Balrog.

      It's dead on the side of the misty mountains. Not sure how it got there after Gandalf killed it, guess they just threw it out like trash.

  • by Psion (2244)
    But what about the risk of waking the sleeping race of prehistoric reptiles buried underground to hide from the impact of the moon? Surely it's too great to take!
  • A few more Moho Mines, a couple of fusion plants, and I'll be able to start work on my Krogoth...

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