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Earth Science

Journey To the Mantle of the Earth By 2020 262

An anonymous reader writes "A half-century after the first attempt to drill through the ocean crust into the Earth's mantle, a new campaign armed with improved technology is underway that could reach the mantle by the end of the decade, researchers say."
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Journey To the Mantle of the Earth By 2020

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  • Re:"Extreme Heat"? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2011 @10:27AM (#35598212)

    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 find your own sources or try the experiment yourself).

    Now, the Russians probably used tungsten-carbide drill bits (which have about 2x the shear, 2x the melting point of 440 stainless steel and are significantly harder on the Mohr scale than steel - again, I couldn't find a source on the drill bits, I'm just guessing) and had enough heat dissipation issues when the ambient temperature reached 300 C + heat generated from friction drilling.

  • 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 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.

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error. -- John Kenneth Galbraith