Scientists Planning to Dig Through Earth's Crust in 2020

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Scientists Planning to Dig Through Earth's Crust in 2020

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"Journey to the Outskirts of the Mantle" might not be quite as catchy as the "Center of the Earth," but it's still an immense undertaking.

While neither the funding nor the technology is there yet, scientists are beginning preparations to tunnel their way through up to 6 kilometers (just under 4 miles) of ocean floor in an attempt to breach the Earth's crust and reach the mantle bellow.

The project, which is planned to begin somewhere around 2020, would not be simply offering loads of people with shovels free pizza and beer to dig a big hole. "This would be a very significant engineering undertaking," says Damon Teagle, co-author of the paper that proposes the project. "We're talking 6km of ocean crust and we'd want to get some distance into the mantle -- maybe 500m. So that's a very deep hole; and it would be in water that is perhaps 3-4km deep as well. Also, we would encounter temperatures around 250-300 degrees at least. It would be hot and demanding."

This isn't actually the first time we've tried to dig to the mantle. In 1969, Project Mohole dug about 180 meters down before running out of money and giving up, which is pretty pathetic considering the average oil drill depth is about 2000 meters. Since then, we've managed to get down to a little over 1 kilometer in Russia, the deepest man-made hole yet dug.

You might be wondering why we would spend all this time and energy getting to the mantle; well, we want to bring some of it back with us. The lava that we see up topside has been tainted by the rock it runs through on its way to whatever volcano it spewed from, and doesn't provide an accurate measure of what the inside of the Earth is composed of. Hopefully retrieving a pure sample will allow us to better understand the inner workings of our planet.

Or maybe we'll find Brendan Fraser riding dinosaurs, who knows.

Source: Wired UK

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"The project, which is planned to begin somewhere around 2020, would not be simply offering loads of people with shovels free pizza and beer to dig a big hole."

Yeah, that'd be kinda hard at the bottom of the ocean. The pizza would get all soggy.

All they have to do is recruit on minecraft servers. Instant workforce for a project like this, with perfect motivation... as long as you say that there is diamond/iron there. :)

Yeah, we need minecrafters. We can make the damn shovels. As long as there are some trees, we can get diamond shovels eventually.

But seriously. This is a bad idea. Why? No idea. It just is.

Just as long as they avoid doing this in Wales. Don't want a bunch of angry lizard people waking up and getting pissed off at us, after all... :P

Trivun:
Just as long as they avoid doing this in Wales. Don't want a bunch of angry lizard people waking up and getting pissed off at us, after all... :P

Yea, my first thought that came up from this is "I bet they just watched that episode from doctor who and thought "eh, why not?""

inb4 a new supervolcano.

"OH SHI-"

This reminds me of Thermal Boreholes from Alpha Centauri.

Those were kickass, but I was just thinking of their -6 planet modifier (or whatever it actually was,) and that thermal boreholes aren't actually viable.
I guess I should be focusing on making my Minecraft equivalent for the time being.

If they could dig in the Atlantic, at that 11Km deep spot they could save all of the trouble, but all of their equiptment would crush due sto the weight of the water....
I doubt they'll get that far into the crust.

Have they not read their dark fantasy? You do not dig too deep!

There are Lizard people, Lovecraftian horrors, Dinosaurs, Goblins, Balrogs and God knows what else down there.

2020?

But....we'll all be dead by that stage.

A-hyuk.

I like to think this isn't about figuring out what the earth is made of, but more just the first step in a scientist's quest to get people to stop believing in the Hollow Earth "theory."

i hope the project ends up more interesting than the jules verne book; journey to the centre of the earth. got that book got tedius at points.

in all seriousness, this could produce some fascinating results, it could potential lead to some pretty majour advances in materials science, things like new superconductors etc.

No! My ancestors sealed the demons in down there. We can't dig them up again. It will unleash a darkness on this world that has never been seen before. The demon will inhabit the sole of the Ancient Dragon God and it will raise an army bent solely on the destruction of every living thing. We will need the Wardens to unite the land and fight this evil.

Oh, wait...

Morloks! We're coming for you!

..Wait, you mean they haven't yet?

Huh, I assumed we already did.

How can 1km be the deepest man made hole when the average oil dig is 2km...

they are looking for aliens ... and hitler ... sentient dinsours ... atlantians.

should be interesting wonder what they expect to learn? dont we allready know how old the world is how it was formed and from what it was formed?.

devilmore:
How can 1km be the deepest man made hole when the average oil dig is 2km...

The Kola borehole, the Russian well that was mentioned, is actually 12.26 km deep.

OT: I'm a geologist by training and all I can say is: it's about goddamned time. It's very true that we don't have a completely clear idea of the chemistry of the mantle, and actually getting real samples would potentially answer a few outstanding problems in plate tectonic theory.

It's also good for two areas I have an interest in. One is whether mantle plumes exist. if they do, they're what make "hot spots", which in turn make places like Hawaii and Yellowstone; the former is the most active volcano on earth, and the latter is one of the so-called "supervolcanoes"

I hate that term. It's fairly reasonable I suppose, but it has the stench of Hollywood/overdramatized documentary about it. Probably because I first heard it in one of said documentaries.

The other area is the modeling of volcanic processes. A better idea of mantle chemistry would give better constraints on what the properties of magma are, which would help in predicting volcanic behavior, which could lead to better forecasting of eruptions.

That Guy Who Phails:
..Wait, you mean they haven't yet?

Huh, I assumed we already did.

Really, what we know about the inside of the earth are mostly theories based off of experiments and things like that. We have never actually been under the crust, but it is most likely that there is a mantle and core.

I'm with the other guys, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqjrqVzNiVk

BEWARE THE BLUE GRASS!!!!!!!

Joy. If global warming doesn't kill us by then, exposing the earth's mantle to the outside and infecting it will finish everything @[email protected] Exaggerated sure, but something about this just screams "Really bad idea!"

Blue_vision:
This reminds me of Thermal Boreholes from Alpha Centauri.

Those were kickass, but I was just thinking of their -6 planet modifier (or whatever it actually was,) and that thermal boreholes aren't actually viable.
I guess I should be focusing on making my Minecraft equivalent for the time being.

In the borehole pressure mines 100km beneath Planetsurface,
at the Mohorovicic Discontinuity where crust gives way to mantle,
temperatures often reach levels well in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius.
Exploitation of Planet's resources under such brutal conditions has
required quantum advances in robotic and teleoperational technology.

-- Morgan Industries, Ltd.,
"Annual Report"

... "Shadow... and FLAME"

TheIronRuler:
If they could dig in the Atlantic, at that 11Km deep spot they could save all of the trouble, but all of their equiptment would crush due sto the weight of the water....
I doubt they'll get that far into the crust.

Ice is monocrystalline at at the south poll. It is very very hard, harder than rock in fact.

redisforever:
Yeah, we need minecrafters. We can make the damn shovels. As long as there are some trees, we can get diamond shovels eventually.

But seriously. This is a bad idea. Why? No idea. It just is.

My thoughts as well, feels like a bad idea. Catastrophic movie bad idea where they blow up the crust or something haha. It also prompts the question, what is the point of all this? To what end does this serve us, aside from knowing what pure lava looks like...

Besides, with the immense amounts of money, resources and talents being dedicated to this, I can help but think: wouldn't all of those things be better suited elsewhere?

CAPTCHA: worat INFINITUDE
the hell?

vid87:
Joy. If global warming doesn't kill us by then, exposing the earth's mantle to the outside and infecting it will finish everything @[email protected] Exaggerated sure, but something about this just screams "Really bad idea!"

Is that a joke, or do you really believe that one can "infect" a massive, 1800 mile thick layer of 2000°-4000°F solid rock?

If that is what you believe, then you are uneducated enough that you don't understand the mechanics of the project, the geology and physics involved, or the comparative scales of the project and the earth, and your feeling that this is a bad idea is a knee-jerk reaction to something you don't understand.

I don't believe your opinion is worthy of respect. In fact I think that this kind of thing should be shunned in the same way that a man who defecates in public should be shunned. Indeed, the two are at least figuratively similar.

See, people who do this sort of thing- rejecting ideas out of hand simply because what they don't understand scares them- can and have done a lot of damage to societies in the past. People often wonder why we don't have some of the technologies we were promised by books and movies several decades ago. Part of the answer is people doing what you just did.

Science doesn't work like the technology trees in games. Most revolutionary discoveries, and especially the technologies that are born from them, are accidents born from research that had no intention of doing what they did. The man who discovered penicillin had absolutely no intention of making the first antibiotic. The people who first worked on Quantum Mechanics had no idea that their work would lead to the silicon chip. The man who worked out the structure of the atom and initiated the field of nuclear science was actually trying to prove an incompatible hypothesis, and he certainly couldn't have imagined how his work would change the world, both for better and worse.

In the 90s, people were griping about the increasingly (seemingly) abstract work of physics, muttering about how it didn't do anyone any good for the physicists to find this or that new particle that could only be measured or made with billions of dollars of equipment. Those particles are now the basis for new medical scanners.

Your approach to discovery does harm in other ways as well. Much has been made about the "danger" from the Large Hadron Collider. Everyone is worried about it making black holes, but the media never ever bothers to mention that black holes are nothing more than clumps of matter with an unusually high density, and therefore, in many cases, unusually strong gravity. Since the black holes the LHC would produce would be the product of a few subatomic particles colliding, they would therefore have only the mass of a few subatomic particles, and therefore, the gravity of a few subatomic particles.

Furthermore, the media never mentions that gravity is the weakest known force in the universe, and that the gravity created by even the mass of a human being is too small to measure, let alone the gravity created by the mass of a few subatomic particles. The electrostatic repulsion and attraction of particles, on the other hand, may as well be infinitely greater (that force, by the way, is what prevents you from walking through walls and what holds objects together. When you overcome the electromagnetic force in an object, it breaks). This force, along with a few other, slightly weaker ones, is the reason that no particle-scale black hole will be able to do much of anything, as any matter the hole ingests, if the hole manages to do so at all, will repel other matter more strongly than the black hole can attract it.

It gets better. They also fail to mention that black holes lose mass over time in the form of faint radiation, and the smaller the black hole, the faster this loss occurs. Since micro black holes are as small as you'll ever find, they won't last long. In fact, they will vanish nearly instantly.

But the media is not much concerned with accuracy in science articles and stories, as shown on this very page by the author saying that the Kola well, the deepest well ever, is 1 km deep (it is more like 12 km) while also saying that most oil wells are 2 km deep. Can't get much more unconcerned with accuracy than that. They still like to blare the sirens though, and whip their readers into a terrified frenzy. This lead to the death by suicide of at least one person (a young girl in India), because they figured death by suicide is better than death by black hole. So far, the LHC has killed no one, and the media, in their eagerness to hype Hollywood-science disaster-movie scenarios, has indirectly caused at least one death through fear of the LHC.

One death is hardly a statistically significant figure, and I suspect that one so easily persuaded might have killed herself for some other reason later, but it does illustrate the harm that can be done by people becoming hysterical about things they don't understand. Had the media had some tiny quantity of journalistic integrity, they would have educated themselves about the physics of the situation, then educated the public to the extent that the public was willing to listen, and then they could be as hopeful as we are that this machine will reveal things to us that we had no idea we didn't know. Instead, there are probably people getting ready to commit mass suicide on the day that the collider runs its first full-power test, assuming someone doesn't bomb it or kill the researchers involved first.

And yes, I'm aware that an argument could be made that one of the things we have no idea we don't know could be that the LHC will be dangerous for some other unknown reason. But the same was feared about the first nuclear bomb. The issue was studied, much as the "dangers" of the LHC have been, and the best minds in the field concluded, as they have today, that the means to destroy the world or break physics are not nearly as accessible as people are afraid they are. Of course, there are other ways to destroy the world with nuclear bombs, provided one has enough of them, but the worry at the time was on the danger of setting off just one bomb, and it was mostly about whether the first bomb would ignite the atmosphere.

There is a wide suite of possible outcomes that people are expecting from the experiments at the LHC, some taken more seriously than others. No one with any credibility has taken any of the doomsday scenarios seriously since they were given the scrutiny that was demanded at the beginning of the hysteria. Scientists, being residents of the physical world like everyone else, have no interest in being sucked into black holes or converted to new forms of matter or winking out of existence, no matter how fatalistic and obsessive the uneducated might like to think they are. They have looked at the possibilities seriously and have found the fears to be groundless.

Everybody here likes to talk about digging too deep or causing zombie apocalypses or opening the gates to hell or whatever. I invite you to consider: How many times, in the 2000+ years since philosophers first started having real discussions about the natural world, has any of that actually happened? Now think about how many real horrors there are or were in the world that you will never have to face, or are better prepared to face, because of the work of scientists: The plague, smallpox, polio, cholera, typhoid, predators, starvation (still a problem for many but not nearly the problem it used to be, and we're working on it, despite your stubborn efforts to ban GM foods because they scare you), hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami (obviously hard to do much when the source is nearby, but warning systems save a lot of lives farther out) diabetes, paralysis, all sorts of genetic disorders, AIDS and other STDs, Influenza (this killed A LOT of people back in the day, now it's just something that happens every winter or so), tetanus, infection from minor wounds, marauding nomads, bitter cold, oppressive heat, drought, and manually calculated pen-and-paper taxes.

I think our record speaks for itself.

The fools don't they know the earth is a huge balloon? dig too deep and it will pop! THE POPING IS UPON US!

Oh well I suppose it would be cool to know what it is made of just before we pop.

I am going to build a pop proof shelter who is in?

THE POPING IS NEAR!

but what about the the cthulu dinosaur morloks?!

McMullen:

vid87:
Joy. If global warming doesn't kill us by then, exposing the earth's mantle to the outside and infecting it will finish everything @[email protected] Exaggerated sure, but something about this just screams "Really bad idea!"

Sneep.

Agreed. Furthermore, this project would go a long way in helping us harness geothermal energy on a massive scale, which would reduce pollution and give us a constant and inexhaustible source of power.

The only time scientific endeavour can be unjustifiably dangerous is when it's used to achieve political ends or make money. But even that has changed the world we live in for the better.

My thinking is..."now we understand how digging holes way too deep destroys us all :D"
But Im a cynic.

SomEngangVar:
"The project, which is planned to begin somewhere around 2020, would not be simply offering loads of people with shovels free pizza and beer to dig a big hole."

Yeah, that'd be kinda hard at the bottom of the ocean. The pizza would get all soggy.

Nah man, the lava would keep it warm.

McMullen:

I hate that term. It's fairly reasonable I suppose, but it has the stench of Hollywood/overdramatized documentary about it. Probably because I first heard it in one of said documentaries.

I've been saying this for years. Supervolcanoes my ass. It's the cauldera that's gonna fuck us all!

Aren't we well into Yellowstone's 600,000 year eruption cycle...?
[/quote]

Digging for obsidian are we eh?
Hopefully it won't have any effect on normal life if some kind of accident were to happen.

NLS:
Digging for obsidian are we eh?
Hopefully it won't have any effect on normal life if some kind of accident were to happen.

Like what? It's not like they can do much more damage than what the earth does to itself all the time.

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