April 24, 2017
PhD student Bud Davis accepted the challenge of doing the "Up Goer Five" challenge we posted about last week! Below is his description of his PhD research, using only the 1000 most common words in the English language. Want to give it a try? Email whatcha got to email@example.com.
I study what happens when Land Rocks break up and Sea Rocks get formed. Land Rocks and Sea Rocks make up the outer layer of the earth. Because they are light weight, Land Rocks usually make up the areas of Earth’s outer layer that are above the sea. Because they are heavier, Sea Rocks make up the areas of Earth’s outer layer that are below the sea. Deep below all of the Land Rocks and Sea Rocks are the Deep Rocks which are hot and heavy. At the place where Land Rocks and Sea Rocks meet there is sometimes a lot of the black stuff that makes your car engine run. So figuring out how Land Rocks and Sea Rocks form is really important for understanding how much black stuff there is on Earth and where it might be.
At different points during Earth’s history, Land Rocks have broken up into smaller and thinner pieces. When this happens, the Deep Rocks below start to rise up toward the surface, and take the place of the Land Rocks. As they rise, the Deep Rocks are really hot, and some Deep Rocks turn into wet rock parts. These wet rock parts are like water except made of rock stuff instead of water stuff. The wet rock parts are lighter than the Deep Rocks, so they rise up faster than the Deep Rocks. When the wet rock parts reach the surface, they turn into Sea Rocks.
The timing between when Land Rocks break up and when Sea Rocks get made seems to be different all over the Earth. This makes it hard to tell where the black stuff might be. Sometimes Land Rocks break up and no Sea Rocks get made. While other times Sea Rocks get made before the Land Rocks have broken up at all. Since the Earth is too old and slow for us to see Land Rocks break up and Sea Rocks get made in real time, I use computers to imagine different ways this could happen. My computer studies reveal that lots of things might control how the Land Rocks break up and the Sea Rocks get formed, but that how cold or hot the Land Rocks are, is probably the most important thing to consider.
See a more technical (but just as accessible) explanation of Bud’s research in his last Science Y’all post.