Sunday, December 09, 2007

Booo! Underground ‘Ocean’ Not Really an Ocean

When I saw this headline at LiveScience, “Huge 'Ocean' Discovered Inside Earth,” my imagination took off. First, I saw the scene at the start of “The Two Towers” where Gandalf rides the flaming balrog into a massive underground cavern with a lake at the bottom. Then I thought of a vast underwater civilization like that in the Abyss or Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

But alas, what they’re calling an “ocean” is actually just a huge region of water-logged rock. Indeed, rock (porous as it often is) can absorb a fair amount of water. For example, “some ocean floor rocks is up to 15 percent water.”

So what they found is actually a bunch of wet rock. A lot of wet rock. So much that it contains “at least the volume of the Arctic Ocean.” Somehow, I’m still not impressed.

Look for this reservoir, known as the “Beijing anomaly” under Asia.

Scientists believe movement of the earth’s crust is forcing water-rich rock under Asia. As the rock descends into the earth’s hot mantle, the water evaporates, rises, and steadily saturates the region now known as the “Beijing anomaly.”

On a more impressive note, the LiveScience article points out that water plays a key role in plate tectonics. “One of [water’s] many functions is to act like a lubricant for the movement of continental plates.” According to one scientists, lack of water may be one reason that Venus has no plate movement. “The system is locked up, like a rusty Tin Man with no oil,” said seismologist Michael Wysession of Washington University in St. Louis. Wysession discovered the Beijing anomaly along with a grad student, Jesse Lawrence.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.