Knowledge is Power

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“We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there – on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.” -Carl Sagan 1994. Sagan had a way of making us realize just how small we are on a universal scale. We even know that some of the dots we can see are other planets. We do not know a ton about these other planets but here are some facts about the pale blue dot we call Earth.

PaleBlueDot


 

32. Its a Bird! Its a Plane! No, its just space junk.

There are more than 100 million pieces of junk orbiting Earth at about 17,000 miles per hour hour (27,000 km/hr). This includes man made objects such as defunct satellites but also rocks. There are another 22,000 man made objects orbiting Earth right now in planned orbits.

orbiting earth

31. A violent beginning.

Earth was formed by vast quantities of particles (some as small as grains of sand) and larger masses (asteroids) smashing into each other as they orbited the Sun. As this mass of space junk grew, it created a gravitational field that stared pulling everything in its orbit towards it, leading to more impacts and increased gravity. These impacts released huge amounts of energy,  much of it in the form of heat. The amount of heat was so immense that it actually melted the entire mass which was only held together by its own gravity. Eventually the outer layer cooled forming the Earth’s crust. It is this energy that produced and drives the molten internal layers of Earth as we know them today.

accretion

30. Who’s got a shovel

There is enough gold in the Earth’s core to cover the entire surface of the Earth in a 1.5 foot layer gold. The reason all this gold is in the core is tied to Earth’s formation. Recall a liquid density experiment in your science class. All the layers of liquid just sit on top of each other and do not mix because they have different densities, the heaviest liquids sinking to the bottom. There was a time in Earth’s formation when the entire planet was molten. During this period, much of the densest material sunk inward toward the middle of the planet and the less dense materials floated to the top. Because gold is such a dense metal, most of it sunk into the depths of what would become Earth. People have considered trying to get into the inner layers of the Earth to harvest the precious metals within but there are some challenges – for one, the inner core is about the same temperature as the Sun.

molten earth

29. Stay warm, stay alive

It is the immense internal heat within Earth that is what caused our planet to be inhabitable and keeps it that way. The activity beneath the surface led to releases of gases and other minerals over Earth’s long life (eruptions). These eruptions of gases formed the atmosphere that gives us life and protects us from the vacuum of space to this day.

stmosphere

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28. Snowball Earth

The Snowball Earth hypothesis proposes that Earth’s surface became nearly entirely frozen at least once, sometime earlier than 650 million years ago. It is believed that this period of Earth’s history is what caused the evolution of multicellular organisms leading to the Cambrian explosion (the time when complex life began to appear). Earth was able to escape the depths of Snowball Earth because of eruptions beneath the ice that released huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect. Some greenhouse=good, too much greenhouse=bad. Without some greenhouse effect, Earth’s global temperature would be 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).

View of Earth 650 million years ago during the Marinoan glaciation.

27. Free Oxygen

The air we breathe is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% other gasses. Where did The oxygen come from? The greenhouse effect that allowed Earth to battle the Snowball age (caused by the high amount of CO2 in the atmosphere at the time) warmed the planet to a point where life could thrive. The earliest life forms were photosynthesizing organisms. These forms of life use sunlight and to produce carbohydrates (energy) from CO2 and water. The by-product of this photosynthesis reaction is oxygen. Over millions of years, the photosynthesizing life, such as plants, released so much oxygen the composition of the atmosphere changed allowing oxygen breathing organisms to begin to evolve.

photosynthesis_11

 

26. High quality H2O

Earth is the only planet in our solar system where liquid water is found. Liquid H2O is believed to be the key to the survival of every life form.

high quality h2o

25. Thats Deep

The Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is the deepest known point in Earth’s oceans. In 2010 the United States Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping measured the depth of the Challenger Deep at 10,994 meters (36,070 feet) below sea level with an estimated vertical accuracy of ± 40 meters. If Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth, were placed at this location it would be covered by over one mile of water.

everest vs challenger

24. I shall call you…

The name “Earth” comes from Old English and Old High Germanic words (eorthe and erda, respectively) for “ground” or “soil.” Earth is the only planet that is not named after a greco-roman diety.

planet names

23. Thunder buddies for life

Ever get shocked by a door handle? Lightning strikes are caused by the same static build up of charges, but on a global scale. Lightning strikes Earth over 8.6 million times per day. Each bolt can contain up to one billion volts of electricity.

lightning

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22. Catchin’ waves

Earth’s crust is made of many plates that are like surf boards floating on a sea of magma called the mantle. The convection currents in the mantle force the plates to move. The plates move just a few inches a year—about as fast as a person’s fingernails grow.  Based on the current movement of the plates, in 250 million years, a new supercontinent will be born.

techtonics

21. Exploration.

Humans have only explored 5% of Earth’s oceans. Therefore there have been less humans in many locations on Earth than on the moon.  It is believed that there is as much as $60 billion in lost treasure from shipwrecks scattered in the ocean so it may not be such a bad idea to start exploring.

ocean gold

20. The North Pole(s)

The North Pole is point in which the Earth’s axis of rotation meets the surface. What will you find here? Nothing but ice, there are no significant geologic features that have been created due to their proximity to the pole. However there is a second North Pole, Magnetic North. This is the point in which the Earth’s magnetic field points vertical down through the planet. It is also where compasses point to. This is why compasses can be deceiving, especially as you move north.

Magnetic-North-Pole

19. Earth is not round

Earth is actually not completely round. Technically Earth is an oblate spheroid, imagine a sphere that you squished on the top and bottom. This is due to the centrifugal force of Earth rotation. The forces created from Earth spinning causes it to bulge at the equator. The same reason why liquid will fly out of a bowl if you mix it too quickly.

oblate

18. The tallest but not the highest

The closest point to space on Earth is not Mount Everest. Rather it is Mount Chimborazo, a 20,000 plus foot mountain in the Andes. Even though Mount Everest is taller from sea level, Mount Chimborazo sits higher on Earth’s bulge at the equator.

chimbarozo

17. Not of this planet

Because Antarctica is has little vegetation and has a snowy landscape, it is one of the best places to find meteorites. More meteorites have been found in Antarctica than anywhere else in the world.

meteorite1

 

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16. Not so romantic

The largest flower on Earth is also the smelliest. Native to Sumatra, The corpse flower smells like rotting flesh. It releases this odour to attract pollinating insects such as flies who feed on deceased animals.

corpse floer

15. Sweet fresh water

Just .0003% of the Earth’s water can be used by humans. Over 68% of that .0003% is frozen in permanent ice, in Earth’s ice caps and glaciers.  Antarctica holds about 90% of the Earth’s ice and 70% of Earth’s fresh water. Sea levels on Earth would rise about 60 m (200 ft) if all the ice in Antarctica were to melt. Lake Baikal in Russia holds 20% of Earth’s unfrozen freshwater. It is the deepest and oldest lake in the world.

fresh water

14. Supervolcano

Yellowstone National Park is actually a huge volcano or what some scientists refer to as a supervolcano. Its most recent eruption was before humans lived. It hurled ash all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. A supervolcano is a volcano capable of producing a volcanic eruption with an ejecta mass greater than 1015 kg. These eruptions can cause global sudden climate change which can threaten the existence of life on Earth.

yellowstone hotspot

 

13. Making a difference

A tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.  Considering how light the gas is, this is actually a huge amount.

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 2.36.31 PM

 

12. You’re hot then you’re cold

Scientists believe that Earth’s stable climate is an anomaly that will end in the next billion years.

hot and cold

 

11. Black rose

There are no black flowers on earth, though some are very dark shades of purple or red.

ck rose

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10. Old Growth

The tallest known tree on Earth is a redwood tree in a California forest. Nicknamed “Hyperion,” it is about twice as tall as the statue of liberty, at 380 feet high.  Also in California is General Sherman, the world’d largest tree by volume. With a height 275 ft, a diameter of 25 ft, an estimated volume of 52,513 cu ft, and an estimated age of 2,300–2,700 years, it is among the tallest, widest, and longest-lived of all trees on the planet.

general sherman

9. Just keeps going

Earth’s nickel-iron core creates a powerful magnetic field. It is the difference is the rate of rotation of the liquid outer core and the solid inner core that create a dynamo effect which gives off a powerful magnetic field. The field protects the Earth from damaging solar winds. These solar winds would literally strip the atmosphere off the Earth if it were not for the magnetic fields. The auroras (Northern Lights) at the poles are caused by the solar winds and other ions interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field.

aurorasa

 

8. Wold of extremes

The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth’s surface was 136 degrees Fahrenheit in El Azizia, Libya in 1922.The coldest temperature ever recorded was in Antarctica’s Vostok Station at a bone chilling minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit.

hottest

 

7. Its alive!

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest living structure on Earth. It stretches for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres. It is home to thousands of species of animals many of which are threatened or endangered.

barrier reef

6. Even flow

The Nile and  The Amazon Rivers have variously been called the world’s largest river. The Amazon River is not only the longest river in the world, 4345 miles, but it also carries the more water than the next 7 largest rivers combined. The Nile is a close second in terms of length at 4258 miles.

amazon river

 

5. Fire on the mountain

Earth’s longest mountain range is actually underwater. Called the mid-ocean ridge system, it stretches over 80,000 km all round the world. It is almost 20 times longer than the longest range on the surface, which is the Andes Mountains. The entire ridge is volcanic as this ridge marks the boundaries of massive oceanic plates.

ocean ridges

4. Journey to the center of the Earth

If there were a tunnel through one end of the earth to another, it would take about 42 minutes to fall all the way through. Technically you would not fall all the way through. Once you passed the center of the Earth, gravity will start pulling you the other way. You will be falling back and forth until you eventually settle in the center of the Earth.

earthjump

3. Stars for days

Earth has about seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains of sand. Still, the known universe contains 70 thousand million, million, million stars in the observable universe, which means there about 10,000 stars for every grain of sand.

sand stars

 

2. Save the rainforest

There are about 3 trillion trees on earth, or about 422 trees per person. However, the number of trees on the planet has slashed by nearly half since the beginning of human civilization. Over 15 billion trees are lost to due to human activity each year.

deforestation-causes

1. Three moons?

Earth has 1 moon (The Moon).  There are 2 additional asteroids locked into a co-orbital orbits with Earth called 3753 Cruithne and 2002 AA29. 3753 Cruithne is 5 km across, and sometimes called Earth’s second moon. It doesn’t actually orbit the Earth, but has a synchronized orbit with our home planet. It has an orbit that makes it look like it’s following the Earth in orbit, but it’s actually following its own, distinct path around the Sun .2002 AA29 is only 60 meters across, and makes a horseshoe orbit around the Earth that brings it close to the planet every 95 years. In about 600 years, it will appear to circle Earth in a quasi-satellite orbit. Scientists have suggested that it might make a good target for a space exploration mission.

 

cuthrie
3753 Cruithne

 

 

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