back to article Alien 'lava lamp' with dying magnetic field orbited Earth a billion years ago – science

Scientists studying prehistoric lunar rocks have found evidence of a lava-lamp-like dynamo at the heart of our Moon’s metallic core that generated a long-lasting magnetic field. The Moon samples were collected in 1971 by astronauts, David Scott and James Irwin, during NASA’s Apollo 15 space mission. Now, a paper published in …

  1. redpawn Silver badge

    When is the last time you used yours?

    Lava lamps get old fast, get shut down and sit unchanged for eons in unheated storage.

    1. EddieD

      Re: When is the last time you used yours?

      About 2 weeks ago, when I stayed with my folks (it's in the bedroom I use when I visit..)

      Still works fine, and looks great.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: When is the last time you used yours?

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but I just got a IoT* wall plug just so I can control it whenever I like without having to dig for its inline cord-switch (it's in a quite visible but hard-to-reach spot)...

      * Now, now, we're all adults here, no need for that pitchfork - it just functions like a wireless switch within a larger existing system, there's no remote access at all to any of it...

    3. breakfast

      Re: When is the last time you used yours?

      I heard an account of an office where they were used on everyone's desks, activated whenever they broke the build.

      I suspect the story was completely spurious, but I rather like the idea because it gives you a brief window of opportunity after your build break to get it fixed before it becomes super obvious...

      1. aeonturnip

        Re: When is the last time you used yours?

        Reminds me of a previous job where the dumbest remark or most heinous coding failure won the "Terry of the Day" award - a picture of Terry F*ckwit (from Viz) attached prominently to the top of the person's monitor.

  2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Are you suggesting

    The Sixties were four billion years ago. I protest. I'm no more than a billion years old, at the most.

    - someone who remembers the Sixties but only because he was too young to do the drugs.

  3. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    I used to have a LiteBrite growing up in the 70s....

    Can we make some kind of astrophysical analogy using that?

  4. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    Black goo

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I thought radioactive decay was a big part of keeping the core molten...

    But this definitely sounds like something that should be feeding into where future Lunar missions land, and ideally that do sample return from.

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: I thought radioactive decay was a big part of keeping the core molten...

      On the modern Earth, the heat of the Core is thought to be largely primordial heat left over from its formation. There is also a continuous contribution of latent heat released as the Inner Core grows through crystallisation from the Outer Core. Radioactive heat is likely to be a relatively minor component in heating the Core.

      Radioactive heating is much more important in the Mantle where it is largely driven by the decay of low concentrations of 40K, 232Th, 235U and 238U. Even though concentrations of isotopes are low, the volume of the Mantle is so vast that most of the Earth's heat is generated here. Perhaps counterintuitively, the continental Crust contains the largest concentration of radioactive isotopes due to their elemental incompatibility with the ultramafic minerals of the Mantle. Their relatively high concentrations means the geothermal gradient rises most quickly at shallow depths.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I thought radioactive decay was a big part of keeping the core molten...

        Just to add that the Moon will have continued to heat the Earth after its formation via tidal distortion.

        These days, we only really notice the Moon's tidal effects on the Earth's oceans but when the Moon was first formed it was much closer and its tidal effects were strong enough to affect the entire Earth, rock and all, the Earth's (rocky) surface rising and falling through several tens of metres every few hours and heating the Earth as it did so.

        The same effects would have also occurred on the Moon, of course, but to an even greater degree, so the hypothesis proposed in the article seems quite plausible. Moreover, the gravitational tidal effects of the Earth and Moon upon each other would follow an inverse square law as the distance between them increased so you'd expect to see a nearly exponential decline in this particular factor of the Moon's magnetic field.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I thought radioactive decay was a big part of keeping the core molten...

        "most of the Earth's heat is generated here".

        Take that, Global Warming!

      3. Faux Science Slayer

        Discover of Earth's Inner, Innermost Core" U of Illinois/UC....Mar 2008

        Earth's inner core is 900 mile, cubic crystal Iron and given the dipole nature would form a permanent magnet.This core is rotating faster than the surface, likely due to solar/cosmic magnetic forces. The mantle contains 800,000 cubic miles of Uranium, 1.2 million cubic miles of Thorium, and the Bridgeman Effect causes all metallic element to undergo fission in the presence of Hydrogen, a common fission byproduct.

        We have been systematically lied to about everything, as Planet X will soon prove.

  6. DropBear Silver badge

    Well duh, of course the Moon has no magnetic field. Cheese is not magnetic...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Yeah, but galvanised steel dustbin lids are.

  7. nickx89

    I think it shows,

    Billion years ago? I still have one in my bed room. Well, to come to point, it shows planets lined with and the field was corrected before the life existed on earth.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do NASA do anything these days?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Not much at this point what with the bible-thumpers and their "Earth of only 5000 years old" beliefs controlling the NASA budget. The only hope is that the thumpers will either die off or be voted out (fat chance of that) and maybe NASA can get some decent funding.

      1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

        Can't they send some people up there and just not bring them back?

        There is no shortage of candidates,

        and sending back random rocks instead will provide a greater benefit to humanity than most of our so-called leadership provide

        1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

          Re: Can't they send some people up there and just not bring them back?


          You want to send people on a one way trip to the moon so that they can throw rocks at us?

          Icon for probable result once they throw a big one.

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "prehistoric lunar rocks"

    Just ordinary lunar rocks, then. An historic lunar rock would really get my attention.

  10. Stevie Silver badge


    "Not well understood" is scientist for "Haven't the foggiest".

  11. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Microteslas on the Moon... - somewhere there's a song in this.

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