The University of Rhode Island has a giant tub of 174 gallons of corn syrup built by doctoral students to model the Earth's mantle.
The corn syrup – worth about 2,000 pounds – held in an oversized aquarium, and the mechanics above, are the first of their kind in the lab to understand what's happening just below the surface of the earth, better than any computer model Opinion of some students in the Narragansett Bay campus of the URI.
Slowly moving belts simulate the tectonic plates, the land that makes up the surface of the earth.
"The earth's surface is broken up like pieces of eggshell," said Loes van Dam of the Graduate School of Oceanography. "These parts are drifting and shifting in relation to each other. What we are trying to investigate the drift of these plates over time."
The students consider the effect of this drift on magma, this molten rock, in the form of lava the earth's surface is coming. 19659004] The corn syrup stands for the 1,200-mile-thick mantle just below the earth's crust, which moves slowly. Embedded in: brush bristles and pearls to better see the river in the simulation.
The cloak is "a solid rock," said Tucker Sylvia in the Graduate School of Oceanography. "It's a creeping viscous flow, in geological timescales."
Van Dam has been fascinated by rocks and geology since childhood.
"If we can understand how the material moves in the mantle, and in the past and in the future, then we can say something about the formation of the crust we are standing on," she said. "We can say something about how the Earth is changing, and it has changed and will change." In addition, much of what is under our feet is unknown.
"This is the planet we live on, and it's a shame that we know so little about, and its inner workings," she said.
A 14-second video compresses 30 minutes of an experiment that is translated in real time to 30 million years.
"The data we collect in the lab happens in the lab," said Sylvia. "It's real that allows us to help and guide others and better limit computer modeling to realism."
There will be countless experiments in the pipeline over the next few years.
For example: Are there different variations in the rock that make up the mantle? Everything for a better understanding of the interior.