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My Work

The Rabbit Hole, Volume Two

Challenge 47

Challenge 45

Earth's Core

by Dennis M. Myers, 03/7/2020

I keep finding people who say that the earth is a giant magnet. Not really isn't. At least, not a permanent magnet. Yes, it generates an electromagnetic field, but that doesn't make it a real magnet. You can do the same thing with a spool of wire and a current.

Solar wind is the continuous flow of charged particles from the sun which permeates the solar system.

A cosmic ray is a highly energetic atomic nucleus or other particle traveling through space at a speed approaching that of light. They are only different from our own solar wind by their relative high energy, and their scarcity.

A nucleon is a proton or a neutron. Solar wind particles have kinetic energy of between 0.5 and 10 keV. keV : Abbreviation for kiloelectron volts, a unit of energy in diagnostic radiography and nuclear medicine, equivalent to the kinetic energy gained by an electron falling through a potential of 1 volt.

Alpha particles are exceptionally weak. They can be blocked by a sheet of paper. So no, they do not contribute to the Earth's core being hot. At least, not from an external source.

The Earth's core has an iron center. Why? Because it's heavy. Heavy things tend to sink. Know what's heavier than iron? Uranium. What happens when you put a bunch of uranium together? Gee, you get a lot of heat. We use this every day in nuclear reactors to boil water. Works pretty well. Know what else it gives off? Radiation. Both ionizing and electromagnetic radiation. This process, known as radioactive decay, generally results in the emission of alpha or beta particles from the nucleus. Uranium-238 decays by alpha emission into thorium-234, which itself decays by beta emission to protactinium-234, which decays by beta emission to uranium-234, and so on.

Now, while Alpha particles are weaklings, Beta particles are a bit more sturdy, but are still not capable of making it through to the surface, or anywhere near. However there is a bit of electromagnetic radiation as well. Gamma rays. This sort of thing is detectable at some distance, which means that the idea that the Earth's core has uranium in enough quantity to generate heat is testable, and has indeed been tested. They've detected it. The calculated heat generated, when added to theoretical models, brings the heat that is suggested by the models very close to what is measured in reality.

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