Geophysical Conundrums

There exists a genuine belief among the geophysical fraternity that geophysical modelling is accurate although on occasions, often frequent, the modelling falls short of the mark. An example of the latter occurred during 2009 when the company I was working for decided to test a geophysical modelling scenario by drilling a geophysical target.

The target, interpreted from a gravity survey, was a shallow hematite deposit buried under sand at a depth of some 40-60 metres and some 5000 metres by 400 metres wide. The exploration drilling program was announced to the Australian Stock Exchange in compliance with the JORC code. The target drilled was ‘Target 1’ and I was the supervising geologist. Due to the drilling conditions and the presence of artesian water the drilling machine was a water boring type using rotary cone drilling bits and drilling mud.

Figure 1 – Geophysica Targets – Pardoo Project

The drilling, however, failed to intersect hematite at the target depth of 40-60 metres and instead passed through 90 metres of barren Cretaceous sediments of the Canning Basin to finally bottom in hard Archaean banded iron formation (BIF). (Source)

This is a typical example of the scientific method in operation – hypothesis followed by testing to yield an unequivocal conclusion – true or false. Professional exploration geologists do this all the time and from the accumulation of many “failures’, such as the one described here, and of course the occasional success, we learn very quickly, from long experience, the limitations of geophysical, or computer, modelling.

Later while drilling another geophysical magnetic anomaly to the west, we produced very unusual measurement results from a downhole drill hole orientation survey where the data pointed to a gravitating mass above the surface of the ground while the drill hole was passing through the same Cretaceous aged sediments of the Canning Basin. I posted the data here. The geophysical explanation was that the instrument was faulty. However we repeated this weird ‘dip’ measurement in a second hole 600 metres distant, and were hence confident the anomalous data were real and not spurious due to faulty instrumentation. As there was obviously no ‘graviting mass suspended above the hole’, two choices present themselves – faulty instrument or faulty assumptions or theory.

My conclusion was that the theory behind the use of the instrumentation was at best ‘incomplete’ and at worst, nonsense. The survey instrument was not faulty because it worked as expected once we entered into the basement of Archaean folded BIF, volcaniclastics and sediments further down the hole. And of course the driller and I made doubly sure the instrument was working in the first place, so it’s the anomalous data that needs to be explained.

In a practical sense the usual procedure with these anomalous and inexplicable cases is to quietly ignore the data because: firstly theory is sacrosanct and published heresy is not good for career advancement, and secondly because this would be a trivial distraction anyway from the principal purpose of the drilling, to test the deep geophysical anomaly. However the scientific among us focus our efforts on explaining the anomaly rather than asserting the data are wrong, or faulty, as is the won’t of some climate scientists when trying to explain the missing ocean heat problem, for example.

This approach also needs to be applied to the geophysical dynamo model for the geomagnetic field where the theory of magnetohydrodynamics is used to explain the idea that the geomagnetic field is somehow generated inside the Earth’s core via a Coriolis Force and convection powered by radioactivity. I suggested an alternative here.

The problem for geophysics is that unlike the example described above, we actually cannot test the geomagnetic dynamo model by in situ experiment, so the question then becomes one of what do we do? Accept the virtual mathematical proof of the magnetohydrodynamic equations as proof? This type of proof is a variation of circular reasoning, apart from the missapplication of the Coriolis effect. Yet this is all we can do at present, or so it seems.

There is also the belief that the Earth might have gobbled up a Mercury-type planetoid during youth but which has then the unfortunate problem of being a unique event which then leads to the gradual decay of the radioactivity and a diminishing source of energy. However, as the dynamo model requires a constant source of energy to maintain the convective motion, radioactive decay cannot supply that energy and thus we left with the problem of a plausible energy source.

The explanation using the co-rotating Van Allen Belts is also a little problematical because while the solar magnetic field reverses at the known 22 year cycle, no such pattern has been identified in the geo magnetic field, (or none that I know of), and this means that the Van Allen Belts are not an induced field from the Solar magnetic field.

(There is one theory that the geomagnetic field is caused by the earth’s rotation itself, assuming that the earth’s surface, that is electrically negatively charged, is the rotating electric charge. But this then raises the problem of what is driving the earth’s rotation, and if it is Birkeland currents, then these being magnetically field aligned currents, and the problem of the chicken and egg arises, that of which came first, the magnetic field, or the Birkeland current? This is not a trivial problem because it starts to confuse the accepted rule of cause and effect, and which I am not here going into for the present).

However if the electric universe model is the path down which we must go, where we assume that the Earth’s rotation is caused by the Lorentz Force from the solar wind as it plunged downwards into the Earth’s polar regions, basically the Alven solar homopolar model, and where the jet streams lead the slower rotating trailing earth, then any reversal of the geomagnetic field recorded in the rocks requires an external force, since it is clear that geomagnetic polar reversal is unlikely to be internally generated.

That geomagnetic pole reversals have occurred in the past is not an issue. Rather, it is the mechanism producing the geomagnetic field that is not well understood. The problem is serious because it profoundly affects the various grand geological unifying theories of the Earth, that is Plate Tectonics, Wrench Tectonics and Expanding Earth theory and which all depend on the interpetation of the palaeomagnetic record in the rocks.

If the geomagnetic field, driven primarily by the co-rotating Van Allen Belts, is suddenly affected by an electrically (plasma) active cosmic body coming close enough to the Earth to disrupt the Earth’s plasma and magnetospheres, then that interruption could cause large magnitude electromagnetic effects in which the electric plasma current direction might be reversed, thereby inverting, on a temporary basis, the geomagnetic field. And it is quite likely that a rapidly oscillating current might also occur, a sort of short term cosmic alternating current type of effect. After all, the solar sunspot cycle is nothing other than an oscillating electric current at a decade long period of oscillation.

And this cosmic interaction could also be associated with catastrophic geological events in which those temporary geomagnetic reversals might be embedded in the cooling lavas etc. since it is from these lavas that we have the primary evidence of the reversal of the geomagnetic poles. But as these inferred Van Allen Belt peturbations are distinctly catastrophic, one finds oneself in the murky area of geological catastrophism that is anathema to the existing unformist paradigm.

Which is interesting because while past catastrophes are considered anathema, future ones are quite in order, especially the expected Global Warming or Climate Changing catastrophe looming over the horizon from our continued emission of CO2. Velikovsky, as a practising medical doctor and psychoanalyst would have been rather intrigued with this overt display of intellectual schizophremia. In fact he discusses these issues in his posthumously published book, ‘Mankind in Amnesia’.

At present there are no impending arrivals of cosmic bodies of a size large enough to cause any imminent flips of the geomagnetic field, and as the internal dynamo model is itself founded on problematical assumptions, one would not expect any magnetic field reversal in the immediate, or for that matter, near future. One does, however, expect another milennialist prognostication of gloom and doom from the usual progressive suspects.

These are indeed interesting times.

About Louis Hissink

Retired diamond exploration geologist. I spent my professional life looking for mineral deposits, found some, and also located a number of kimberlites in NSW and Western Australia. Exploration geology is the closest one can get to practicing the scientific method, mineral exploration always being concerned with finding anomalous geophysical or geochemical data, framing a model and explanation for the anomaly and then testing it with drilling or excavation. All scientific theories are ultimately false since they invariably involved explaining something with incomplete extant knowledge. Since no one is omniscient or knows everything, so too scientific theories which are solely limited to existing knowledge. Because the future always yields new data, scientific theories must change to be compatible with the new data. Thus a true scientist is never in love with any particular theory, always knowing that when the facts change, so too must he/she change their minds.
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2 Responses to Geophysical Conundrums

  1. Pingback: How much of this Geophysical Modelling Could You Believe? | Louis Hissink's Crazy World

  2. Pingback: Objects – Just what are they? | Louis Hissink's Crazy World

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