The IceCube and the Earth's Core

Will an astronomical machine buried in the ice of Antarctica someday reveal what the Earth's core really looks like?

[Image: The IceCube's surface workings, Antarctica; via New Scientist].

Last week, New Scientist reported that a neutrino detector called IceCube, once constructed, might just do exactly that.
Because the Earth rotates, we read, distant neutrino sources – such as black holes – will be blocked at certain predictable moments by the Earth's core; piecing together all these temporary blindspots, we can then infer the shape of the core itself.
It's an absence that generates absences elsewhere.

[Image: A schematic diagram of the IceCube].

The "machine" itself, meanwhile, is actually quite extraordinary: incredibly, it will "fill a cubic kilometre of ice" – and yet it's really a buried network of connected glass balls.
According to The Daily Galaxy, building the IceCube is less an act of construction than a kind of archaeology in reverse; the process will consist of entombing "glass-globed sensors the size of basketballs on 1-mile-long strings, 60 sensors per string, in 80 deep holes beneath the polar surface."
This will then allow scientists to develop, that same writer says, a "library of the universe" – something that would make even Borges proud.
So I'm left thinking of at least two things:
    1) In John Carpenter's 1983 remake of The Thing, a team of Norwegian researchers finds something buried in the ice of Antarctica; it turns out to be a spaceship... which, according to a later group of American scientists, must have been there for more than 100,000 years.
    It's frozen solid, and older than writing.
    But what if, down there in the ice someday, we find something not unlike the IceCube – only we didn't put it there, some vast and buried machine with no identifiable purpose, origin, or design?
    Or perhaps next year some lone helicopter pilot will go flying around, scanning the ice with radar, only to discover that what appears to be a geological formation is actually a machine, some ancient, hulking technology indistinguishable from bedrock... Or a machine made entirely from ice, still detecting the remnants of galaxies.
    Perhaps even telescopes dream.
[Image: A glimpse of the Transantarctic Range].
    2) I was joking with a friend the other day that Americans are always stumbling upon the face of Christ in unexpected places, and then ending up on CNN. They find Christ on a pancake, or on a piece of burned toast, or on an Eggo waffle (these sightings often involve breakfast foods), or even in the bark of a tree – and the people who discover these faces never once seem to think that what they're suggesting is sacreligious: God has sent unto you his only son... disguised as a croissant.
    But what if, after all the numbers are crunched and the maps are made, we find that the core of the Earth looks like the face of Jesus? What then? Nevadan entrepreneurs will suggest that we rescue it, digging it up with diamond drills, polishing it and storing it in a church somewhere.
    Imagine the core of the planet on display behind stained glass inside a cathedral near Paris, or down in an old consecrated basement in central Rome. Under armed guard. Why is there not more holy geology?
    Someone breaks in, using C4, a pair of infrared goggles, and a lot of rope, and they try to steal the center of the planet...
For more on the IceCube and Antarctic science in general give this article in The Economist a quick read – then check out NOVA's round-up of weird detectors.
Then, if you're looking for a good book on Antarctica itself, consider picking up a copy of Terra Antarctica: Looking into the Emptiest Continent by William L. Fox (a book previously mentioned on BLDGBLOG here).

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9 Comments:

Blogger Skye said...

Have been also been excited by the new Halley 6 research station for the antarctic and its implications for a similar base elsewhere in the solar system... Just found this fantastic blog. Is there a forum/discussion page? Or do these comments turn into discourse?

November 29, 2007 12:05 PM  
Blogger Yanurama said...

Building upon your idea, maybe its a generation ship, one that found a good spot and grew outside it's hull.
But most surely it's a medieval Hell and full of rats.
Or Agartha.

November 29, 2007 3:29 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

No forums, unfortunately, just comments; sometimes these do turn into real conversations, other times (like now, apparently, with this only the third comment) not. Glad you found the blog, though.

And I am, indeed, interested in the Halley Antarctic bases.

November 30, 2007 12:06 AM  
Blogger Widgett Walls said...

Okay, whew. I thought this might have been Ice Cube the actor/singer starring in a sequel to The Core for a second.

Anyway, the only thing better than the Earth's core looking like the face of Jesus is if it looked like the face of Elvis. Then you get the core of the planet on display at Graceland.

November 30, 2007 1:24 AM  
Anonymous rallycross said...

you should look for Jesus on the face of the Antarctic here http://lima.usgs.gov/ through these high-res satellite images, and also ta a look at the latest station being built for Jesus/Elvis/polar research presented here http://www.antarcticstation.org/
and here http://www.polarfoundation.org/

November 30, 2007 8:09 AM  
Blogger cemenTIMental said...

Geoff, re:geological jesus heads, you really need to take a look at these storyboard images from Jodorowsky's forthcoming (hopefully!) movie King Shot:
http://twitchfilm.net/archives/006452.html

December 01, 2007 5:26 AM  
Anonymous Andy K said...

Hmmm, Elvis vs Jesus, who had the most followers at death + X years?

Anyways, something buried under the ice, same as it ever was:

La nuit des temps, poorly titled "The Ice People" in English.

More recently, I liked Dan Brown's take on the archetype in Deception Point.

December 02, 2007 4:22 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Wow - Andy, I have to say that both those books sound terrible! Thanks for the links, though - I had no idea that was the plot of Deception Point, to my own pop cultural discredit.

Anywho, isn't Antarctica also where they find the old alien fortress in Alien v. Predator? And, of course, there's also H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness," which I wrote about slightly more extensively here: The B-Flat Range.

And, cementimental, those "geological jesus heads" are indeed something... It's like Mt. Rushmore forceably renovated by a team from the Vatican.

December 02, 2007 1:37 PM  
Blogger jglenn said...

Alien technology buried in the ice! this was also a subplot of the recent Transformers movie...

December 07, 2007 10:13 AM  

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