Episode #125 of the Stack Overflow podcast is here. We talk Tilde Club and mechanical keyboards. Listen now
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Some background: We are able to determine the age of certain rocks and minerals using measurements of radioactive and radiogenic isotopes of certain elements. The most common are U-Th-Pb, Rb-Sr and Sm-Nd. Simply put, the resulting date is the time that has passed from the crystallisation of that mineral. Obviously there are complexities, but there are not ...


36

what evidence do we have that the asteroids indeed formed at the same time as earth? It depends on what is your definition as "the same time". The formation of the solar system and Earth did not happen at a particular second in time but was rather a continuous process. It also depends on what you define as "asteroids". I'll try to put some things in order. ...


30

I'm not quite sure if the question is asking about glacial, ice ages, or snowball Earth, and whether it's about the onset or end of a glacial period. I'll try to hit all three. Ice Ages and Milankovitch Cycles Ice ages are long spans of time that marked by periods of time during which ice reaches far from the poles, interspersed by periods during which the ...


25

Yes, the age of the Earth is about 4.5 billion years (4,500 million years). Your linked articles describes well how it was formed and how we know about it. The uncertainty is less than 1% and depends partly on the radiometric dating methods and partly on the definitions. Sometimes the age is said to be 4.567 Ga, that might be a little too exact number to ...


21

The speed of rotation of Earth is controlled by its angular momentum. And the conservation of angular momentum is a very serious law of physics (perhaps even stricter than conservation of mass). So in the same way that for the Earth to lose mass, that mass have to go somewhere. For the Earth to lose angular momentum, it'd have to go somewhere. Earth's ...


20

At least four things combined to prevent solid freeze-up during Ice/Slush Ball Earth periods: It takes a lower temperature to freeze water under pressure. Deep sea pressures are enormous. Ice floats. If it sank and new ice kept forming at surface, the seas might fill with ice. The surface freezes first and acts as an approx zero-degree C barrier, ...


19

The first thing you should think about is how the accretionary disk cooled and the cosmochemical constraints this put on Earth (But I am not going into details here). From studying meteorites it is apparent that the oldest meteorites don't show signs of chemical differentiation (e.g. melting, ...) and are thought to represent the solids that formed from the ...


19

which came first That's actually a very hard question. The most simple answer would indeed be igneous. Here's why: Sedimentary rocks (in the sense of rock cycle) comes from pre-existing igneous or metamorphic rocks, so you need to have had them first. Metamorphic rocks, by definition, are rocks that form from other kinds of rocks (be it igneous or ...


18

Helium (He) is formed by radioactive decay of uranium (U) and thorium (Th) to lead (Pb). There's another name for the nucleus of a 4He atom: It's an alpha particle. Alpha decay is one of the pathways by which radioactive elements eventually decay into non-radioactive elements. For example, 238U decays to 234Th via alpha decay. There are three key isotopes ...


18

According to the recent paper in Nature Geoscience: Nitrogen speciation in upper mantle fluids and the origin of Earth's nitrogen-rich atmosphere, $N_2$ originates from regions of the Earth where plates are converging. Venus and Mars lack plate tectonics and therefore lack $N_2$ in their atmospheres. In other regions of Earth upper mantle, and in Venus and ...


17

The answers that have been provided are correct but they're omitting the fundamental issue that explains why they are correct: When you date a rock you get the point that it solidified, not the point the material came into being. Most rocks on Earth have melted time and again and thus are useless for figuring out how old the Earth is.


17

A definitive statement comes from the abstract of Scott and Glasspool1, 2006: Charcoal, a proxy for fire, occurs in the fossil record from the Late Silurian (≈420 Myr) to the present. One of the tired old truisms you learn is that fire needs three things: Oxygen, fuel, and a source of ignition. There is little doubt that there has been lightning since ...


16

Is there a theory on how the Earth's plates were initially formed? The answer to this is has roots in another question you asked about the differences between continental crust and oceanic crust. Carlson et al. (2014) just put out an excellent review of what we know about Earth and how it formed through time. I am using it as a guide and source for much of ...


16

I gather, but may be wrong, that the mass of earth at present increases by around 108kg/day. All else being equal, one would expect the earth to have gained a mass, since 75 million years ago, of: $$ 75^6 \times 365 \times 10^8 kg = 6.496 \times 10^{21} kg $$ First off, that should be $75\times10^6$, not $75^6$. That alone makes your estimate high by a ...


15

Earth's Spin Earth rotating clockwise is the result of a chain reaction that started when Earth's star formed as the result gas clouds collapsing. During the collapse of the gas, one direction was shorter and a disc formed. Due to the law of conservation of angular momentum, the disc gained an overall spin, which was passed to all the objects of notable ...


15

Of course it isn't "absurd", and looking at the ball-park energy budget figures you'll see why: First, I don't think anyone is claiming the Earth is completely frozen. More of a "slushy at the Equator" scenario. But let's assume an average 1 km thickness of ice for arguments sake (i.e. probably an exaggeration although polar ice would be thicker). The ...


15

The idea of mass extinction is not that recent actually: Cuvier (1798), Buckland (1823) and d'Orbigny (1851) for instance were already talking about global catastrophes in earth history, linked to extinctions. But during the same period, Brocchi (1814) and Lyell (1832) proposed that extinctions of species occurred individually and were a gradual process (...


15

I think you are confused about the timescales and the magnitude of the impact that is being talked about here. The collision between the early Earth and a roughly Mars sized body, Theia is thought to have happened between 4.4 and 4.45 billion years ago. The Pangaea supercontinent had fully assembled by around 250 million years ago. Previous to this there ...


14

If you ascribe to the giant impact hypothesis, which most scientists do, whatever rotation the Earth had prior to the formation of the Moon was lost thanks to that 'giant impact'. That was a massive impact involving a Mars-sized body colliding with the proto-Earth. A "little" impact wouldn't change the Earth's rotation by much at all. Note very well: ...


14

What makes you think Geothermal energy and underwater volcanoes are too weak? The mid-oceanic ridge system alone is 50000 miles long. The mean heat flow at the surface (91.6 mW/m2) has to be accommodated somewhere. Also the freezing point of brine at a depth of 5000 m is approx -40 °C.


14

The age of the solar system is 4.6 billion years. We know that because almost all meteorites are 4.6 billion years old¹. Therefore, that puts a very solid upper boundary to the age of the Earth. According to solar system models, it took between 10 million and 100 million years for the Earth to form in the early Solar System. That result is consistent ...


13

To answer your question to the point: we don't know at all. For most of living organisms, the fossil record is either inexistent or very fragmentary. Even estimating the number of species (which is somewhat less difficult since you need only one specimen of each species to have access to that information) is very difficult and affected by many, many ...


12

Sedimentation rate presently varies many orders of magnitude depending on the place you observe. The rate of sedimentation is also different. Some places have continual sedimentation, others have episodic sedimentation events. That is why charts that show changes in sedimentation rate are usually done for individual sedimentary basins, to determine the ...


12

The formation of a T-Tauri star spells the beginning of the end of the protoplanetary disk from which planets and asteroids can form. The end is nigh when that star ignites. The large solar winds and solar radiation pressure sweep the disk clean of all small objects. Some spirals inward, some outward. There's no dust and no gas from which new planets and ...


12

It depends where, the continental landmasses at higher latitudes would be covered by massive ice sheets. Therefore the life in the sections of the US and Europe that are close to the Ice sheets would have conditions similar to what is life in Greenland today. The map would look like this: (Image taken from planetaryvisions.com) And the summers would be ...


12

If water on Earth came from meteorites, why doesn't Mars have substantial water? First off, that's a conjecture regarding the origin of the Earth's water rather than a known fact. A few times a year or so, a new journal article will appear that argues that the Earth's water is primordial, then another arguing that it came from comets, then yet another ...


11

First of all, Earth is not a random assortment of atoms. While it probably formed along like that in the beginning, somewhere along the way it differentiated into distinct core, mantle and crust, which are not chemically the same. That's a story for another question though, and there is an excellent answer to it on this site. Back to your question, Why are ...


11

For all intents and purposes, the Earth represents one frame of reference, as @kwinkunks states. Therefore no effect. Yes the gravitational field on top of a mountain is slightly less than at sea level. This is very small though. Variations in gravity over the Earth's surface typically vary at most by a few hundred milligals (ie. "one part in 10,000" order ...


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