2011-11-24

Most Anti-Climactic Science News Story In a Long Time

What has become of science?

The Register reports that scientists have made a "mystifying discovery!" As we all know, the majority of the Earth's core is made of iron. (If you didn't know that, you probably just forgot what they taught you in junior high school - no big deal. You knew at some point in time.) As you may not have known, the density of the Earth is inconsistent with a solid iron core, so scientists have concluded that there must be some lighter-weight material mixed in with the iron.

Up until now, they thought it was oxygen. Turns out, it's silicon. "Mystifying," eh?

For those of you with absolutely no prior geology knowledge whatsoever, I refer you to this table, courtesy the Physics Department at Georgia State University, showing element abundance in the Earth's crust:

ElementApproximate
% by weight
Oxygen
46.6
Silicon
27.7
Aluminum
8.1
Iron
5.0
Calcium
3.6
Sodium
2.8
Potassium
2.6
Magnesium
2.1
All others
1.5
So it turns out, the second-most-abundant material in the Earth's core is also the second-most-abundant material in the Earth's crust. It required a great deal of lab work and government funding to uncover this startling mystifying discovery.

I was expecting something actually surprising. The fact that the "mystery material" turned out to be one of the most abundant materials in the solar system is not at all mystifying. The fact that the scientists were somehow surprised by this is stymieing.

Are we really the same species that invented set theory?