MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: Why is the the earth's core hot?

Date: Thu Feb 10 22:17:10 2000
Posted By: Matthew Buynoski, Senior Member Technical Staff,Advanced Micro Devices
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 950034218.Es

The heat of the Earth's core is a mixture of two sources. The first is the 
initial heat from the formation of the planet. That is, as the smaller 
bodies coalesced to form the Earth, their gravitational potential energy was 
converted to a good deal of heat. The second source is the (continuing) 
decay of radioactive elements in the bulk of the Earth (mantle as well as 
the core). In spite of the latter, the planet has been slowly losing 
net heat for quite some time. As this heat is lost, more and more of the 
liquid outer core 'freezes' to enlarge the solid inner core. 

A good book on the formation of the Earth is "From Stone to Star" by Claude
Allegre, and this Mad Scientist suggests you read it. A large number of 
first year geology texts also discuss this.

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