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Monday, May 4, 2009

Welcome Back Mahina!!!

As well as everyone else who went on the China Excursion!!!
(with the exception of Uncle Shorty, Aunty Susan and Kamalu home on the 10th)

My Favorite Picture!!!! LOL!!!

Tama's Research on the Earth - Dr. Bartlett

Here is the email correspondence that Tama had with Dr. Marshall Bartlett a Geophysicist currently teaching at BYU - Hawai'i. Please feel free to use Tama's example in your search for information from a content expert. Aloha...


On Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 9:52 AM, Tama Moors wrote:
> Aloha Dr. Marshall Bartlett,
> My name is Tama Moors.I am 14 years old and in the 8th grade. I attend
> Hakipu'u Learning Center public charter school in Kaneohe. I am doing a
> project on how the Earth works. My teacher is Feki Po'uha and he referred
> you to me as a resource for my project. I would appreciate it if you would
> share some of your insight and expertise in response to these six questions.
> I will be using other resources to also address these questions.
> How does the Earth work?
> What is the Earth made of?
> What is the Earth's atmosphere made of?
> What are the different internal layers of the Earth and how do the work?
> What is the data of the Earth? (size, scientific name, age, etc)
> How does gravitation work?
> My project is only a few weeks long and as such I would request your
> response by next week or at your convenience.
> Mahalo.
> P.S. I will be posting this information on a blog. I haven't started it yet
> but when I do I will email you the blog address. Please let me know if you
> have any objections to this.
> Class Blog Link:


From: Marshall Bartlett
Date: Mon, May 4, 2009 at 10:55 AM
Subject: Re: Aloha!
To: Tama Moors


Thank you for getting in touch with. I will try to answer your
questions as concisely as I can - though you are asking some tough
ones! These are questions that could easily (and do easily) fill many

1. How does the Earth work?

The answer to this question depends, to a large extent, by what we
mean by "work". At one level, the Earth can be seen (as it often is
by geologists) as a system that produces heat internally through the
decay of radio-isotopes of Uranium, Thorium, and Potassium. This heat
is then dissipated to the exterior of the Earth through conduction,
convection, and latent heat exchange. The result of this process is
near constant motion of the surface layers of Earth in the process
known as plate tectonics. The result of all this motion includes
events such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Viewed from this perspective, plate tectonics (and the associated
earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.) "work" analogous to how the radiator in
a car works to rid the engine of heat. Plate tectonics is a cooling
system for our Earth which is constantly being heated by its own
internal chemical constituents.

However, as I mentioned, this is not the only way to think about how
the Earth "works." There are also complex chemical, physical, and
biological interactions between the major Earth system components of
the geosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, the cryosphere, and
the biosphere. In many ways, these interactions are of more interest
to us as human beings since it is these systems that we depend upon
for our survival.

2. What is the Earth made of?

The Earth is similar in chemical composition to the "Terrestrial"
planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Our planet is primarily
composed of the elements Iron (~32%), Oxygen (~30%), Silicon (~15%),
and Magnesium (~14%), with lesser amounts of all of the remaining
elements on the periodic table. Due to a long history (~4.5 Billion
Years!) of chemical evolution, the exterior parts of the Earth (where
we live) are dominated by silicate rocks, composed primarily of oxygen
and silicon. The majority of the iron in the Earth is found in its
deep interior.

3. What is the Earth's atmosphere made of?

Earth's atmosphere is composed primarily of molecular nitrogen (~78%)
and Oxygen (~21%). The remaining 1% is made of what we refer to as
"trace gases" such as Argon, Carbon Dioxide, Neon, Helium, Methane,
and several others. The Earth's atmosphere has changed radically over
the long history of Earth and is significantly influenced by the
presence of living organisms on our planet.

4. What are the different internal layers of the Earth and how do the work?

The Earth is divided along two different classification schemes; one
related to the rheology (flow characteristics) of the materials
involved and the other related to the chemical composition of the
materials. The chemical segregation into a light, buoyant crust on
the outside of the Earth overlying a denser mantle and core is a
result of gravitational separation of the materials, just like when
oil and water separate in salad dressing.

5. What is the data of the Earth? (size, scientific name, age, etc)

Rather than quote all the numbers for you, have a look at the data box
on Wikipedia at

6. How does gravitation work?

This is a much more complicated question than it sounds! The short
answer is that we don't really know; what we do know is how to
accurately characterize the effects of gravity. There are two
competing theories in physics today for how gravity works: one
suggests that gravity results from the exchange of tiny particles
(called gravitons) between all objects that have mass; the other idea
is that gravity is a natural geometric consequence of the bending of a
"space-time-fabric" that underlies nature. Both are useful working
models of gravity but have some fundamental inconsistencies that have
yet to be worked out. Something for you to work on!

Hopefully those answers will give you enough material to get your
project up and running. There is lots of great info on the internet
(try a Google search for "Plate Tectonics" or "Earth's composition"
for example). Let me know if I can be of any more assistance.

Good luck!

Prof. Bartlett

Marshall Bartlett
Assistant Professor of Physics and Earth Sciences
Brigham Young University - Hawaii
Department of Biochemistry and Physical Sciences
55-220 Kulanui Street
Box 1967
Laie, HI 96762

phone: (808)675-3812
fax: (808)675-3825


E 'Ulumua Kakou!
Let us find our way forward together!
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