EP314: How and why the Earth is Expanding

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

Expansion of the Earth
Even after some 170 years of scientific research and evidence, the concept that our planet has greatly expanded in the past still comes as a shock to many people.

The earliest serious suggestion that the Earth had expanded significantly in the past appears to be that by the writer Alfred Drayson, in his 1859 book "The Earth we inhabit, its past, present, and probable future". Drayson was the author of popular books on foreign adventuring, and also on sports and games.

Fig. EP314-F1. Alfred Drayson. From [1].

In the early 1900s, Alfred Wegener awoke a lot of interest with his concept of Continental Drift -- the idea that modern continents were much closer together in earlier geological times. This was the precursor to the idea that the present continents once fitted together over the whole surface of a smaller-diameter Earth.

During the period 1950 -- 2000, the whole concept of Earth Expansion was put on a sound scientific basis by a number of workers, especially by Samuel Warren Carey, who was Professor of Geology at the University of Tasmania. In 1988, Carey published a comprehensive book on the subject, "Theories of the Earth and Universe: A History of Dogma in the Earth Sciences" [4].

. . .
Fig. EP302-F2. Samuel Warren Carey at various ages. From [2] and [3].

The modern doyen on Earth Expansion is James Maxlow, another Australian geologist who gained his Masters and Doctoral degrees with theses on this topic. James has a number of published books, including "On the Origin of Continents and Oceans: A Paradigm Shift in Understanding", and "Terra non Firma Earth", and maintains a current website [6] which provides complete scientific evidence for Earth Expansion.

Fig. EP314-F3. James Maxlow. From [5].

Maxlow has produced models of the Earth going right back to its earliest days, 4.5 billion years ago, using assumptions of regular expansion of the planet since its beginnings.

There is more detail on the history of Earth expansion studies in references [B] and [C] in the Stablemate material section at the end of this article. The current article looks beyond the fact of Earth Expansion, to explain why and how it occurs. Here we will concentrate on the mechanism involved, and how a quantitative model gives a picture of the current state of expansion.

Structure of the Earth
Both older and newer concepts of our planet's structure see it divided up into 4 spherical parts, with the outer layers enclosing the inner ones.

Fig. EP314-F4. The Heartfire Model of the Earth's structure. From [12].

In all models, the innermost section is the Core (older name: Inner Core). The next layer out is the Mesolayer (older name: Outer Core). The next substantial layer out is the Mantle.

These three layers make up the bulk of the Earth's material in all models. All models also assume that the interior of the planet exists under immense pressures, and that the three layers may have different chemical contents and exist in different physical states. The outer layer, the Crust, is relatively thin (up to a maximum of about 40 km thick, down to zero in some places).

Older models differ from more recent models mostly in the contents and nature of the Core and the Mesolayer, but it has always been apparent that heat comes up to the surface from lower parts. Models have attempted to explain the origin of this heat.

How do we know about what's inside the Earth?
Even the deepest boreholes which have been drilled into the Earth have reached down less than 13 kilometres, so our knowledge of most of the interior has come from indirect methods. Easily the most fruitful of these has been seismology -- the study of earthquakes.

A large earthquake sends various waves right through and around the Earth. These are reflected and refracted (bent) as they encounter the abrupt density changes at layer boundaries, just as light waves are reflected and refracted at an air/glass boundary.

Fig. EP314-F5. Paths of seismic waves from an earthquake. From [10].

Figure F5 shows how the waves from an earthquake may travel within the Earth. This is for an earthquake originating from a point beneath the surface (the black dot near the top pf the red section). It can be seen that there are many types of these waves (marked P, S, PKP, PcP, "surface", and so on), all coming from the same earthquake.

The varying nature of these waves means that they behave differently in passing through, and along the surface of, the Earth. Measurements of the same earthquake at different spots around the world lets us trace the paths taken by the various waves to reach those spots. P-waves travel through solids and liquids, while S-waves do not pass through liquids. The refraction of all these waves depends on the densities, and to some extent the temperatures, of the materials through which they pass.

It should be borne in mind that Figure F5 represents only one cross-section of a spherical Earth. Analysis of this quite complex situation allows quite a lot of information to be derived, information of varying accuracy. The divisions into Core, Mesolayer, and Mantle are thought to be reasonably accurate. Some data suggests further divisions can be made out, for example between an inner and an outer Mantle.

Estimates of temperatures at different depths within the Earth are much less reliable. The temperature at the very centre is thought to be around 6000 deg C, though other estimates have been as low as 3000 deg C and as high as 7200 deg C. However, the pattern of change with depth is reasonably well established -- only the numbers assigned to different points are rather uncertain.

Fig. EP314-F6. Variation of internal temperature, surface to Core. From [16].

Figure F6 shows this pattern of temperature change with depth (solid green line). Notice that although the Centre is reckoned to be the hottest point, temperatures in the layers above vary relatively slowly for the inner half of the planet, roughly to the top of the Mesolayer. The change becomes more rapid on approaching the surface. From the actual surface down, measurements can be made in mines and boreholes -- these indicate a rise in temperature of about 25 deg C for each kilometre you go down.

What Figure F6 tells us, is that the internal heat of the planet is mostly being released fairly close to the surface, rather than from a very hot source within the Core. The 25 deg/km rise seen near the surface does not persist in depth, if it did, the temperature at the centre would be around 6400 x 25, or 160,000 deg C, rather than 6000 deg C.

This gives us our first clue to the misconception that the heat rising up at the Earth's surface from within comes from a hot Core. The temperature pattern is quite wrong for this to be happening. Established laws of the physics of heat flow tell us that if heat was coming up from a hot Core, the temperature change would be more like the lower, dashed red line in Figure F6.

All older ideas of the origin of the Earth's internal heat assume that it comes from a hot Core. They are all wrong. The Earth is hot inside, heat is generated within it, but not necessarily in the Core. Instead it seems to have its expression much closer to the Earth's surface.

Ideas for a hot Core
Ever since heat rising from the Earth was detected, ideas have been put forward for its origin. One idea was that it was heat left over from the Earth's origin. This was discounted back in the 1800s, when it was shown that this would all have dissipated in much less than a million years.

The most widely accepted current idea is that the Earth's internal heat (equal to one ten-thousandth of what we get from the Sun), comes from radioactive decay [7]. It is not usually specified whereabouts the radioactive material is supposed to lie, though one researcher claimed [15] that it consisted of a 8-kilometre wide ball of Uranium at the Earth's centre.

The problem with the radioactive decay idea comes when you consider the long-term position. Radioactive elements have a half-life, a period over which half of their atoms will decay, For uranium-238, the most common isotope, the half-life is about 4.5 billion years [8].

Where did this Uranium come from, in the formation of the Earth? Conventional science has no plausible answer to this. The Earth is about 4.8 billion years old, so if this uranium was initially present, over half of it has already decayed. Going back 4.5 billion years, there would have been twice as much uranium, putting out twice as much heat. While internal heat generation might have altered over the years, we have no evidence for it.

The Element Kitchen as the source of heavy elements
The answers to two basic questions, "Where does the internal heat of the Earth come from?", and "How did Earth acquire its heavy elements?" both come from a new model of the Earth in which its Core is assumed to contain Compressed Neutrons, formed during the initial gravitational aggregation of the planet.

This model, the Concore Model of planet and star interiors [8], is relatively new (2012), but it does give satisfying answers to some difficult questions, and so far has not been contradicted by any new evidence. For those wanting more details of the picture here, references [A] to [C] in the "Stablemate material" section at the end give extended information.

The principal differences between the new model and older ones are in the contents of the Core, and in the processes occurring in the Mesolayer.

The Core. The Core contains what are here called compressed neutrons. Neutrons are one of the two main components of an atom's nucleus, along with protons. In a nucleus, neutrons are stable, kept from breaking down by the presence of protons.

In the Core, neutrons exist which are not part of atomic nuclei. Free neutrons can exist in ordinary life, such as in the products of nuclear decay, but these free neutrons are unstable, with a half-life of about 10 minutes. In the Core, compressed neutrons are kept from breaking down by the pressure of the surrounding material.

The Mesolayer. The layer immediately outside the Core is the Mesolayer. It is an area of intense nuclear transmutation, and has been so since the earliest days of the Earth. It is subject to direct action of neutrons, from the outer boundary of the Core, and shows building up and breaking down of atomic nuclei into heavier and lighter forms. This site of intense transmutation is here called the Element Kitchen.

Transmutation of elements is today routinely achieved in the laboratory. Atomic nuclei can be built up in weight by bombarding them with particles such as neutrons or helium nuclei. Continuing build-up of atomic mass eventually leads to unstable elements, which break down into smaller parts. Figure F7 shows some of the processes and products found in the breakdown of a Uranium-235 nucleus.

Fig. EP314-F7. Example of nuclear transmutation. From [17].

Transmutation of elements within the Mesolayer
In the current model, the Mesolayer is the site of intense nuclear transmutation, with the formation (and breakdown) of elements occurring slowly but inevitably over the lifetime of our planet. This site of intense transmutation is here called the Element Kitchen.

We know that the elements found within the Earth include the whole of the Periodic Table's stable elements, plus many unstable (radioactive) isotopes. These include many so-called heavy elements, elements above Iron (Fe) in the periodic table. According to astrophysics convention, heavy elements cannot be made in stars, so their origin has been a puzzle. Vague suggestions that they are made in supernovas do not stand up to examination.

When does transmutation of elements within the Mesolayer cease?
At the outer limit of the Mesolayer, transmutation activities within the Element Kitchen have settled down, the chemical composition of the material has become uniform, and is then regarded as the inner part of the Mantle. While the Mantle is believed to be of fairly uniform chemical composition, its material may be subject to phase transitions, and is certainly subject to physical stresses as the material below it expands.

The Mantle can be sampled at various places on the Earth's surface where the Crust is very thin or non-existent, such as at mid-ocean rifts. This material is a type of basalt, and is called MORB, the acronym for Mid-Ocean Rift Basalt. Its chemical composition may be the result of reaching partial equilibrium in the transmutational processes of building up heavier nuclei and breaking them down into lighter ones.

Fig. EP314-F8. Nuclear binding energies. From [19].

Figure F8 shows a graph of the binding energy of atomic nuclei plotted against their mass numbers. The mass numbers of the elements in the Periodic Table increase from the lightest, Hydrogen, with a mass number of 1, up to the isotopes of Uranium, with mass number of around 238.

What the graph shows is that light elements like Hydrogen have low binding energy. Fusion of hydrogen atoms can release energy. The same is true, in principle, for all elements lighter (of lower mass number) than Iron (Fe).

At the peak of the graph is Iron (Fe). Iron atoms have the highest known binding energy. Squeezing more binding energy into a nucleus makes it unstable, and so more liable to break down, releasing energy in radioactive decay (fission).

It may turn out that the relative abundance or scarcity of different elements in the Earth's outer-layer composition (the study called geochemistry) may be linked to the positions of these elements on the nuclear binding energy scale.

How neutrons turn into hydrogen atoms and energy
The vital process that causes expansion, and produces heat energy, is the decay of neutrons. These neutrons are not parts of atomic nuclei, but are compressed matter created during the initial gravitational aggregation of the Earth (and other components of the Solar System) from interstellar material, some 4.8 billion years ago.

Fig. EP314-F9. Free neutron decay into proton + electron. From [11].

So in my model of the Earth, an important feature of the Core is that it contains Compressed Neutrons. Neutrons are one of the two main components of an atom's nucleus, along with protons. In a nucleus, neutrons are stable, kept from breaking down by the presence of protons.

But neutrons can also exist in a free state, outside an atomic nucleus, for example if they are ejected during radioactive decay. Free neutrons are unstable, breaking down with a half-life of about 10 minutes. The products of this breakdown (Figure F9) are a proton, an electron, and a blob of energy (the "photon" in Figure F9).

This energy blob is the main source of the Earth's internal heating. The Compressed Neutrons within the Core are kept from decay by the enormous pressures, and by being surrounded by other neutrons -- except at the surface of the Core.

At the Core's surface, the factors keeping compressed neutrons stable within the Core are no longer uniform, so a surface neutron has a small tendency to break down, a bit like how evaporation can cause a raindrop to lose molecules from its surface. While the chance of decay is very small, over extended time it can produce significant effects.

As well as the energy blob, neutron breakdown also produces protons and electrons. A proton and an electron combine very readily, to give a hydrogen atom. In this way, a neutron turns into a hydrogen atom plus energy.

Relative sizes of neutrons and hydrogen atoms
A hydrogen atom is enormously greater in volume than a neutron. The diameter of a hydrogen atom is about 1.06 x 10-10 metres, while that of a neutron is about 1.60 x 10-15 m [3]. That means that their radii are in the ratio of 66,250 to 1, and their volumes in the ratio of 66,250 cubed, 2.875 x 1014, or almost 300 million million.

So the decay of a neutron yields a hydrogen atom which is hundreds of trillions times larger. This, then. is the basis of a quantitative model showing how the Earth could undergo a manyfold increase in its size, without any change in its mass. Plenty of evidence is available [B, C] to show that in the past 200 million years, the Earth has approximately doubled its radius.

If all the mass of the Earth was in the form of compressed neutrons, the planet would be only 366 metres in diameter. The very slow decay of just a fraction of these compressed neutrons would be ample to swell up the planet to its present size.

In his 1859 book [15], Alfred Drayson suggested that the Earth might once have been half its current size. Figure F10 shows an original figure from [15] -- only the colouring has been added. The centre orange sphere represents the former Earth, of radius R, while the green sphere enclosing it represents today's Earth, of radius 2R.

Fig. EP314-F10. The present Earth enclosing a half-radius older sphere. Based on [15].

Standard reference texts will tell you that the current volume of the Earth is about 1.098 x 1021 cubic metres. The old Earth had only one-eighth of this volume, about 0.137 x 1021 cubic metres, so the "new" volume added in the last 200 million years is about 9.69 x 1020 cubic metres. Is it realistic to expect all this new volume to come just from neutron decay?

For the purposes of calculation, let's assume that 200 million years ago, the Earth's Core was made up entirely of compressed neutrons, and had a diameter of 360 metres. How much volume would we gain by converting the outer metre of this core? Standard calculations will show you that the difference in volume between a sphere of diameter 360 metres and one of diameter 358 metres is about 4.049 x 105 cubic metres.

Swell this out by converting its neutrons to hydrogen atoms, that is, multiply the volume by the Expansion Factor of 2.875 x 1014, and this should give a result of 1.164 x 1020 cubic metres, To equal the 200-million-year gain of 9.69 x 1020 cubic metres, we would need to convert about 8.325 metres of core radius -- still leaving us with a Core over 343 metres in diameter.

Of course this is only a first-approximation calculation, which ignores factors such as that heavier elements formed in the Element Kitchen occupy volumes less than that of combined hydrogen atoms. But it does give, apparently for the first time, a plausible quantitative answer to how the Earth could double its size over geological time.

There is no clear evidence at present to decide between various possibilities as to the distribution of the Compressed Neutrons, if these are present in the Core. The neutrons could all be aggregated in pure form, in a ball less than 400 metres in diameter, or could be distributed within a much larger Core which also contained conventional atoms -- current estimates put the Core diameter at above 1200 kilometres. This does not affect the calculations above,

How changes in the Earth's Mesolayer show up at the surface
We have shown how neutron decay in the Mesolayer can account for large expansion of the Earth's volume, and the heat appearing at the Earth's surface. What are the mechanisms involved?

The sort of theoretical mechanisms we might postulate do fit in very well with what is actually observed. New hydrogen atoms formed in the Mesolayer will not be able to swell out immediately to their size at the surface, because they are still under immense pressure. They are also subject, in the Element Kitchen, to continued cycles of atomic transmutation, some of which will affect their potential size.

These changes will set up huge physical stresses in the Mesolayer as it tries to accommodate expansion. These will extend, to a considerable degree, to the overlying Mantle also.

But the Mantle is different, in that it has the capability to undergo all manner of shifts and movements to allow the stresses derived from below to find open expression. We call these stress-relief movements "Earthquakes".

Earthquakes have been observed and studied for many centuries, but the fundamental questions of what causes them, and where their energy comes from, have not found realistic answers until now. Their observed distributions and depths beneath the Surface do fit in well with how we might expect stress relief to occur in the upper few hundred kilometres of the Earth.

The energy expressed in earthquakes is the major part of the energy created by neutron decay in the Mesolayer, accounting for about 80% of the whole -- only 20% shows up as internal heat. Details of this are given in [13].

The model presented here throws light on a number of previously unclear matters concerning the Earth.

1. How and why the Earth is Expanding. Even the fact of its expansion has previously been disbelieved, and how expansion could occur without any change in mass has not previously been explained.

2. Formation of Heavy Elements. These are generally accepted as not formable in stars, the present concept of them forming in planets is a new explanation.

3. Origin of Earthquake energy. Previous work in seismology has given no explanation of this energy, the present article gives a new view.

4. Heat from within the Earth. Here it is shown that heat flows within the Earth have patterns indicating they do not match an origin in the Core, but are consequences of expansion closer to the surface.

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Stablemate material on the AOI website and videos on YouTube

[A]. SMB#09 -- Plate Tectonics & the Expanding Earth. Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOy94dH2KgY .
[B]. EP302: The Earth-Expansion Model Part A: The Death of Plate Tectonics. http://www.aoi.com.au/EP/EP302.htm .
[C]. EP303: The Earth-Expansion Model Part B: Answers to A Hundred Puzzles. http://www.aoi.com.au/EP/EP303.htm .

References and Links

[1] Alfred Wilkes Drayson at the Royal Military Academy. http://themorganfamilyhistory.blogspot.com.au/2008/11/alfred-wilks-drayson-at-royal-military.html .
[2] Samuel Warren Carey. http://db.naturalphilosophy.org/member/?memberid=516 .
[3] Tectonica de expansion de la tierra, Samuel Warren Carey (Parte 2). https://elproyectomatriz.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/tectonica-de-expansion-de-la-tierra-samuel-warren-carey-parte-2/ .
[4]. S Warren Carey. Theories of the Earth and Universe: A History of Dogma in the Earth Sciences. Springer, Stanford, California, 1988. ISBN 3-540-00470-X.
[5]. James Maxlow. http://wiki.naturalphilosophy.org/index.php?title=James_Maxlow .
[6]. Website for Dr James Maxlow. http://www.jamesmaxlow.com
[7]. Where does the Earth's heat come from?. https://theconversation.com/where-does-the-earths-heat-come-from-151788 .
[8]. Is uranium radioactive?. https://web.evs.anl.gov/uranium/faq/uproperties/faq5.cfm .
[9]. David Noel. XT807: The Concore Model of planet and star interiors. http://www.aoi.com.au/Extracts/XT807.htm.
[10]. Paths of Seismic Waves from an Earthquake.. http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~braile/edumod/as1lessons/InterpSeis/InterpSeis_files/image015.gif .
[11]. What is Free Neutron -- Definition. https://material-properties.org/what-is-free-neutron-definition/ .
[12]. David Noel. Inside The Earth -- The Heartfire Model. http://www.aoi.com.au/bcw/Heartfire/index.htm .
[13]. David Noel. Finally, the True Origin of Earthquakes?. http://www.aoi.com.au/bcw1/Finally/index.htm .
[14]. Inside the Earth. https://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/astronomy/planets/earth/Inside.shtml .
[15]. Carolyn Krause. Is Earth's magnetic field powered by a "nuclear reactor"?. https://www.oakridger.com/story/news/2020/10/05/earths-magnetic-field-powered-nuclear-reactor/3633365001/ .
[16]. David Noel. Fixed-Earth and Expanding-Earth Theories -- Time for a Paradigm Shift? http://www.aoi.com.au/bcw/FixedorExpandingEarth.htm .
[17. 12.3 Nuclear Energy. https://chem.libretexts.org/Courses/Grand_Rapids_Community_College/CHM_110%3A_Chemistry_of_the_Modern_World/.
[18]. David Noel. XT804: Heavy Elements are made in Planets, not Stars. http://www.aoi.com.au/Extracts/XT804.htm .
[19]. Nuclear Binding Energy. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/nucbin.html .

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Compilation started 2022 Mar 15. First version 1.0 on Web, 2022 Mar 31.
Version 1.1, 2022 Apr 10, recast with input from Cliff Ollier.