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 An Introduction to Geophysics


Geophysics: The study in physics of the Earth and its environment in space.

Geophysics mainly includes studies of the Earth's shape; gravitational field, magnetic field, internal structure, internal composition, plate tectonics, generation of magmas, volcanism and rock formation.
Some times it includes the hydrological cycle; fluid dynamics of the oceans and the atmosphere; electricity and magnetism in the ionosphere and magnetosphere; solar-terrestrial interaction; and similar problems on the Moon and other planets.

Geophysics is at its hart the application of the principles of physics to the Earth and in more recent years other planetary bodies. As we expand our knowledge of worlds other than the Earth this expansion is natural. It is really only cultural inertia with in the scientific community that keeps it from being changed to planetary physics.

Geophysics Gravimetry

Gravimetry: The measurement of gravitational field strength.

There are many factors that affect the local gravitational field, they include the density of the material under that spot on the planet and other near by objects. On Earth the major factor from other objects in space are from the moon and the sun. Plate tectonics produces some variation in local underground density, as does mineral composition and other factors. These factors make gravimetry useful in studying the Earth's interior. It is also useful in hunting for specific minerals since different minerals have different densities

Geothermal Physics

Geothermal Physics: The study of heat flow within the Earth and its affect on the Earth.

This definition is being extended to other planets as well as the Earth. This heat flow is a result the interior of the Earth slowly cooling, with the main source of heat transfer is convection. Exceptions include some heat is transfer by mantel plumes in the mantel. Furthermore the other main source of heat transfer is conduction at the core - mantel boundary and in the lithosphere. It is the convections in the mantel drives plate tectonics. The Earth interior looses heat to the surface at a rate of 4.2 × 1013 W which is a considerable amount of energy making geothermal energy a safe and plentiful source of energy.

Geophysics Electromagnetics

Geophysics Electromagnetics also includes the interactions of these currents and ions with geomagnetic field. It also includes electromagnetic waves produced in both the Earth’s atmosphere and the Earth itself. Geophysics Electromagnetics also includes the interactions of these currents and ions with geomagnetic field. It also includes electromagnetic waves produced in both the Earth’s atmosphere and the Earth itself. Geophysics Electromagnetics further includes the interactions of these currents and ions with the geomagnetic field as well as electromagnetic waves produced in both the Earth’s atmosphere and the Earth itself.

Geophysical fluid dynamics

Geophysical fluid dynamics is study of the motion and interactions of all of fluids on and within the Earth and other planetary Bodies. In Earth these fluids include the magnetosphere, atmosphere, ocean, mantle and outer core.

Mineral physics

Mineral physics: The study of the minerals that compose the interior of the Earth and other planets. Specifically it is the study of how these minerals react under the temperatures and pressures found within a planet.

Size, form and structure of the Earth

Understanding the size, form and structure of the Earth is important to understanding how various forces affect the planet.

The Earth has a mass of 5.97219 × 1024 kg

The Earth has average radius of 6,378.1 km

The Earth is not a perfect sphere because it bulges slightly at the equator due to its rotation.

At the equator, the Earth has a radius of 6,378.1370 km.

At the poles, the Earth has a radius of 6,356.7523 km.

The deep interior of the Earth has never been directly observed, however its structure can be deduced from seismology and other factors. The solid crust which forms the surface on which we live and there are two parts to the crust continental crust and oceanic crust. The oceanic crust is a relatively than basalt layer about 3 miles thick. The continental crust essentially consists of sediment covered granite slabs that go to an average depth of 22 miles (35Km) forming deep foundations. The mantle is a solid but due to the high pressure and temperatures at those depth it is semi-fluid allowing it to slowly flow. The liquid outer core is the area that produces the Earth’s magnetic field by way of electric currents. The solid largely iron inner core is under such high pressure that even at such high temperatures it is still solid.


Radioactivity: Also called Nuclear Decay, it is the phenomenon where by an unstable atomic nucleus emits ionizing radiation causing the nucleus to loses energy and rest mass.

Radioactivity causes about 80% of the Earth's internal heat, with the main isotopes being potassium40, uranium238, uranium235, and thorium232. While there are many types of nuclear decay there are two main ones found in nature, Alpha decay and Negative Bata decay.

In alpha decay the nucleus ejects an alpha particle.
An alpha particle is a helium atomic nucleus consisting of 2 protons and 2 neutrons.
The process reduces the atomic number of atom by 2 changing the element.


In negative Beta decay a neutron emits a Beta particle and an electron anti-neutrino to become a proton.
Beta particles are actually negatively charged electrons.
This process increases the atomic number of the nucleus by one.

For collections of radioactive nuclei there is a characteristic decay rate which is usually designated by the isotopes half-life which is the time needed for half of the isotope to decay. This half-life is independent of the amount of the present isotope because the more atoms of the parent isotope there are the more nuclei will decay in a given unit of time. Nuclear decay is often used in determining the age of a sample however there are assumptions involved in the process. It is especially assumed that the half-life of an  isotope is constant.

Accelerated Nuclear Decay is the process by which nuclear decay proceeds at a faster rate than normal. Now small amounts of accelerated nuclear decay have been observed in Bata-decay under some circumstances. While accelerated alpha decay has never been directly observed evidence for it exists in the retention of radiogenic helium by zircon crystals. Accelerated Nuclear Decay would look identical to normal decay but faster. The main argument against the hypothesis that the retention of radiogenic helium by zircon crystals shows substantial accelerated alpha decay is heat. The other common argument is the lack of an observed cause of accelerated alpha decay. However there are theoretical answers to both objections. The real reason for resistance to the hypothesis that the retention of radiogenic helium by zircon crystals shows substantial accelerated alpha decay is the fact that it would drastically reduce radiometric ages. However none of these arguments change the fact that measured helium diffusion rates in zircon crystals are a perfect match to a model showing accelerated alpha decay about six thousand years ago.


Seismology is the science that studies of earthquakes and the propagation of elastic waves through the Earth or through other planetary bodies. On Earth these elastic waves are often the result of Earth quakes. Earthquake are the affect of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust creating seismic waves. The strength of an Earth quake is measured by a base 10 logarithmic scale called the Richter scale.

There are three main types of seismic waves:
Body waves which travel through the Earth.
Surface waves which travel through the Earth’s crust.
Normal modes that ring the Earth like a bell.

Seismic waves have been used to map the interior of the Earth.

This works because the waves travel at different speeds as the density and composition change.

Plate Tectonics

Earth’s crust is divided into segments called plates. These plates are not fixed but they slowly move over the mantel.


Where the plates meet they interact in three main ways sliding, spreading and subduction.
Subduction is seen as the driving mechanism of Plate Tectonics.
When these plates interact the results are Earth quakes and volcanoes.

Plate Tectonics got its start in a book published by Antonio Snider-Pellegrini in 1859 called La Création et ses mystères dévoilés (The Creation and its Mysteries Unveiled). He proposed that all of the continents were once connected together based discovering the same plant fossils in both Europe and the United States. He then found this matching of fossils on all of the continents.

  He proposed that the super continent catastrophically broke up resulting in the Flood described in Genesis the first book of the Bible. The catastrophic nature of the process went against uniformitarianism  and this early version of plate tectonics got little support at the time. This image is from The Creation and its Mysteries Unveiled and it shows the continents before and after separation.

The idea of Plate Tectonics was later picked up by Alfred Wegener around 1910. He slowed down Antonio Snider's Catastrophic Plate Tectonics to make it fit evolutionary time scales producing continual drift. This slowed down version of Plate Tectonics became an establishment theory around 1963.

Catastrophic Plate Tectonics was revived by Dr. John R. Baumgardner in the 1990's with support from computer modeling of the Earth's interior.The result is a Scientific description of the Genesis Flood. Modern Catastrophic Plate Tectonics is basically plate tectonics on over drive.


By JrPol (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or
CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Geomagnetism is the study of the Earth’s magnetic field. It includes the study of the magnetic fields of other planetary bodies as well. The Earth magnetic field is tilted about 11 degrees relative to its rotational axis. At present the magnitude of the Earth magnetic field at the Earth's surface ranges from 0.25 to 0.65 gauss. The Earth’s magnetic field is produced by an electric current in the core. However measurements since 1900 have shown a net loss of field energy of about 5% which is equivalent to a half-life of 1465 years.

The dominant model used to solve this problem called the dynamo theory. The idea is that the current that produces planetary magnetic fields is generated by a self sustaining dynamo, powered by the planet's spin. The result is complex currents in the planets core that causes the field to fluctuate from time to time, and reversing itself . In the case of the Earth this is thought to occur about every 500 - 700 thousand years.

From U.S. Geological Survey: This Dynamic Earth

This theory is illustrated in this manner with dark areas showing the present magnetic field direction and light areas show reverse magnetic field direction. It shows these nice neat strips across the ocean floor, as produced by the theory.

From U.S. Geological Survey: This Dynamic Earth

In Reality the pattern is not so neat and regular, in fact the tendency is for the positive and negative areas to be mixed up and this is the case all over the world. It gets worse when you look vertically where negative and positive are one on top of the other. Actual data seem to be inconsistent with uniformitarian theory, but is consistent with: a rapid spreading coupled with rapid magnetic reversals, a stretching with cracking and a single reversal, temporary local magnetic reversals, and reversals resulting from stress in the rocks.

There are other problems with the dynamo theory. Life would periodically be exposed to deadly solar radiation. It can not explain the existence of the magnetic field of Mercury. It rotates too slowly to have a self sustaining dynamo and so it should not have a magnetic field. Furthermore Mercury’s magnetic field is decaying and quit rapidly.

It can not explain the orientation of the magnetic fields of, Uranus and Neptune. The magnetic axis of each planet is tilted about 60 degrees, with respect to the rotation axis, so that the magnetic poles are near the equator. Further more the source of each planet's field is offset from the center, by about one third of a planetary radius. According to the dynamo theory, the magnetic and rotation axes should nearly always be closely aligned.

Dynamic Decay Theory was developed by Dr. Russell Humphreys; a physicist with the Institute for Creation Research. It uses an alignment of the magnetic fields of the planet's molecules, to jump start the planets magnetic field. It includes fluctuations and possibly even reversals during and shortly after the Genesis Flood thus explaining the mixed up magnetic patterns. Projecting back in time based on magnetic field energy, gives a maximum age for the Earth of 8,700 years.

Dynamic Decay Theory explains the origin of planetary and stellar magnetic fields. The orientation of the magnetic fields of. Uranus and Neptune, both the tilted of about 60 degrees with respect to the rotation axis and the field's source being about one third of a planetary radius offset from the center. The existence of the magnetic field of Mercury, since the field's source is a decaying and the current in its core can not related to spin. Measurements by the Messenger space craft have confirmed that Mercury’s magnetic field is decaying as predicted by Dynamic Decay. The residual magnetism on the Moon and Mars, despite the lack of a planetary magnetic fields. The strength for the magnetic fields of Uranus, Neptune, and the 4 large moons of Jupiter; all fall with in the range predicted by Dynamic Decay Theory.


When a planet's magnetic field has sufficient strength it interacts with solar wind in a manner that forms a magnetosphere. The Earth's magnetic field, goes out to about 10 Earth radii in the direction of the Sun. The solar wind is a stream of charged particles. These particles stream out and around the Earth’s magnetic field. They continue behind the Earth hundreds of Earth radii. Within the magnetosphere exists relatively dense areas of solar wind particles. These relatively dense areas are called the Van Allen radiation belts. This process forms a shield not only protecting the Earth from normal solar wind but solar storms as well. Now observations show that the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field is decreasing. As a result this shield is getting weaker and will one day in the distant future disappear. Even if it regenerates itself in a reversal, the life on Earth will be exposed to deadly radiation.

Lunar Recession

One aspect of Geophysics that gets little attention for its degree of importance is the recession of moon. That’s right moon is slowly getting farther away and slowing the Earth’s rotation in the process. It was first discovered following the Apollo moon landings by bouncing laser off reflectors left behind by astronauts. These reflectors were designed to accurately measure the Earth / Moon distance. The results showed that the moon is getting further away at a rate of 1.5 inches or 3.82 cm per year. Furthermore a day is getting longer by 1.7 milliseconds per day per century.

Backwards projection based on the observed slowing of the Earth's rotation 

A backwards projection of the number of days in a year based on forces  acting on Moon and Earth. This a backwards projection of the distance of the moon based on forces  acting on Moon and Earth

This is a backwards projection of  the observed slowing of the Earth's rotation and lunar recession data. The current data is simply plugged into the laws of physics. The result is that the Moon would have been locked in Geosynchronous orbit around the Earth 1.25 billion years ago. This is far short of the 4.533 billion years commonly given for the age of the Earths suggesting that the Earth-Moon system can not be any where near 4.533 billion years old.

The problem is understood by the proponents of a 4.533 billion year old Earth and several solution have been proposed. The problem is that paleontological data claimed as evidence for longer days in the past does not fit with any possible model that allows 4.533 billion years The ultimate response seems to be that the Earth-Moon system is too complicated to get accurate results form such calculations. This is essentially admitting that the problem can not be solve for an Earth-Moon system that is 4.533 billion years old. Which is exactly what would be the case if the Earth-Moon system were indeed much younger than 4.533 billion years.


Put simply Geophysics is the physics of planetary bodies. It has shown us much about way our own planet (the Earth) works. However it also raises issues against the claim that the Earth is 4.533 billion years old.

Geophysics Gravimetry

Geophysical fluid





Geothermal Physics

Mineral physics




Size, form and
structure of the Earth

Plate Tectonics

Lunar Recession


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