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What is the Earth made of?

Fun Science: Planet Earth

Professor Gizmo (Amazing Science Presentations) gives expert video advice on: Does the center of the Earth have a fiery core?; Why don't we feel the Earth spin?; Does the Earth get heavier when a baby is born? and more...

What is the Earth made of?

The earth is made up of a gazillion things but if we take a look at it, we get into rocks and minerals, and rocks and minerals of all different types and varieties. Then below that we get into the crust of the Earth. The softer, molten lava type area, and there's iron in there, there's sulfur, there are lots of gases dissolved in the Earth. We can see this in some places where volcanoes are erupting some parts of the ocean are spreading, and things of that nature.

Does the center of the Earth have a fiery core?

The Center of the earth is not really a fiery core, but it's a molten core. Actually, the surface of the earth is moving because of the softer material underneath, which is very hot. The earth is moving. In some places in the earth it's actually spreading apart and it's causing parts of the earth to crush into other parts of the earth causing mountains to raise and then cracks in the earth start forming volcanoes, hot vents and black smokers at the bottom of the ocean. So we have all of these events taking place and they're fascinating to study.

Why don't we feel the Earth spin?

Yes, the earth is spinning and it's spinning really fast, and why can't we feel it happen? Because we're on it, we're part of it, it's all relative. It would be like if you were sitting in a car on a highway going sixty five miles an hour and you look to the car right next to you, and it doesn't appear to moving at all because it's going the same rate. This is same thing when we're on the earth; we're moving very, very, fast, but everything around us is moving at the same speed, so we can't really sense the speed. But, the closer to the equator we are, actually, the faster we are moving.

What is a "rock"?

Well,a rock is... You know you can walk around the earth and find rocks all over the place. You pick it up and you say "this is a rock", but what is it? Sometimes rocks are formed from different processes, and they look different. They have different colors; some of them have a glassy look, some of them have just a dark gray look, some are black, some are bubbly, some are light, some are heavy. So, rocks depending on their composition, and how they're formed decides what type of rock it is. Howwver, they're all rocks that you're going to find all over the earth, and they're all different.

What is at the bottom of the ocean?

There is a variety of life at the bottom of the ocean. If you're looking at the shoreline areas you're going to find fish and sealife that are flourishing well at the bottom there. If you get on to the deeper waters you may get to areas where you'll find some very strange, creepy-looking creatures that live down there at the bottom of the ocean. You can even get some parts of the ocean where there's just nothing there at all. There are parts of the ocean floor where there are things called black smokers and they're very hot jets of water that come out of the bottom of the ocean. They occur where there is a crack in the ocean floor and there's sulfur in the water and bacteria living in the sulfur which start a food chain. You may find that there are blind shrimp that live down there and other similar little critters and creatures. And they're all subjected to living at this very deep depth with a lot of water pressure on them; but that's their environment and they are built for it. They don't venture very far from these areas where this hot water is coming up because they can't live without their life support, these bacteria that feed on the sulfur.

Why do oceans have waves?

Oceans have waves mainly due to wind. The wind blowing across the surface of the ocean causes these waves to build. The higher the wind the bigger the waves. The longer the wind blows the bigger the waves. And then, when the waves reach the shore; they crest and crash. The waves also break and it looks like they're falling into themselves. The wave actually is a motion like this in the deep ocean. When that wave motion gets to the shore it hits bottom and causes the wave to fall over on itself and then crash into the shore.

Why is seawater salty?

Seawater is salty because there's a concentration of salt in almost all waters and as some of this runs off the land, it picks up minerals and salts, and gets into the ocean. Well, the oceans also feed our atmosphere with water, and as the water evaporates, it's pure water that evaporates, but the salts and minerals are left behind. So, the ocean is continually getting saltier and saltier.

Why does the Earth sometimes quake?

The Earth will sometimes quake mainly because of the fact that the Earth's continents are floating, basically: they're floating on lava. When they bump into each other, part of that Earth's surface goes underneath and some of it slides over and there's kind of very, a place of friction there and all of a sudden that friction will let loose and you do a quick kind of a shake. The Earth quakes from that quick release of energy.

Where do mountains come from?

Okay, where do mountains come from? That's a good question. Mountains actually come from the fact that the continents, again, are floating on this surface of molten material. As these things move and bump into each other, some of it is pushed up, and the areas where it's pushed up actually become our mountains. You look at it, and it's such a big, massive thing that you say "no, that can't possibly be." But that's exactly what's happening. The mountains that are formed is not something that you can drive your car over to a certain area, park it and look out the window and watch this happen. It's going to be over thousands and millions of years. Scientists are doing some measurements where they can see mountains rising or falling. But they measure it in millimeters over years. So, don't drive your car out there to park and take a look. It won't work.

What is inside a volcano?

Inside a volcano you're going to find things such as the molten, which is really hot. The volcanoes molten is the pressure that builds up and the volcano has to give somewhere. Where the volcano gives, this molten material pushes up through the surface and pops up through the top of a mountain and flows over the side and you have lava flows. That's basically where your lava and volcanos come from.

Does the Earth get heavier when a baby is born?

When a baby is born? No, the Earth doesn't get heavier because that baby is actually formed from things in the Earth already. All it is is basically the mother or the mother animal is eating material, she is breathing in oxygen. All of that becomes part of the baby, and when you're eating food and you're breathing in oxygen, that material is taken out of the Earth's total and applied to the baby. When the baby is born, it's the same way. So things are not added to the Earth's weight when things are born. It's just simply a matter of exchanging matter from one place to another. In fact it was once said that you're breathing in oxygen, and oxygen may be from somebody else, was in somebody else's body at one time. You could have a molecule of oxygen in your body from Elvis or Abraham Lincoln. Who knows?

How does a piece of coal become a diamond?

You know I think back to an old episode of saw in television of superman. It is the very same process where superman had to save the girl and they wouldn't let the girl go unless they got their diamond back. He didn't have any diamonds with him, so what he did is he took some coal, put in his hand and he just squished it in, only the way superman can, and that pressure turned that coal (which is carbon) into a diamond. He opened up his hand, the coal had turned to diamond, the girl was freed and the day was saved.

Why is the sky blue?

The sky is blue mainly because of the way the atmosphere and light interact together. It's just a certain way the light waves are bent. White light is composed of all different sorts of light. While the way the light bends through the earth's atmosphere, the blue is the color, that gets through the easiest. So, when you look up at the sky, the other lights are bent out and the blue color comes through.