Neutrino detectors and the core of the Earth

All the volcanism, seismic activity and tectonic plate movement on the Earth is driven by heat deep in the planet’s core. Until now the source of that heat in the core was thought to be two things:

  1. Primordial heat as the planet slowly cools over the eons from its accretion in the early solar system.
  2. ¬†Radioactive decay of isotopes of uranium, thorium and potassium deep in the planet’s core.
  3. Tidal heating from the Moon may have played a part in heating the Early formation of the Earth but is considered unimportant now due to the Moon’s distance from the Earth.

But recent data from neutrino detectors in Japan and Italy, indicate that there may not be as much radioactive decay in the core as previously thought. This means that primordial heat is more important and our models of terrestrial planetary formation need to be revised or there is some other heat source we don’t understand yet.

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3 Responses to Neutrino detectors and the core of the Earth

  1. Michael Hutchinson Sr says:

    That’s good stuff, Pace….. I had firmly believed that the Earth could only be getting cooler at this point in time. This may teach us something we had overlooked previously.

  2. Interesting. Though I have some doubts about the statistical significance of such data with neutrino detections so infrequent (geo-neutrino detection rates at <1 /day)… really depends on the absorption model they are using.

  3. Pace Arko says:

    There is also the recently discovered neutrino oscillation to consider. Neutrinos have a tiny mass and oscillate between different flavors of neutrinos as they travel through space. Neutrino oscillation was how they finally solved the solar neutrino problem back 2002.(The Sun was emitting about a third as many neutrinos as theory predicted there should be.)

    I assume the researchers at these detectors took this neutrino oscillation into account. Otherwise, their calculations would have shown only a third as many neutrinos as were actually there.

    Additionally, I had conversation with friends yesterday where they informed me that radioactive decay may not have been as big a deal as I thought. Originally it was proposed as a way to, essentially, avoid embarrassing Lord Kelvin who may have made some mistakes in his calculations concerning primordial heat, as he wasn’t aware of plate tectonics.

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