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Astronomy 2e

Figuring for Yourself

Astronomy 2eFiguring for Yourself

Figuring for Yourself


Europe and North America are moving apart by about 5 m per century. As the continents separate, new ocean floor is created along the mid-Atlantic Rift. If the rift is 5000 km long, what is the total area of new ocean floor created in the Atlantic each century? (Remember that 1 km = 1000 m.)


Over the entire Earth, there are 60,000 km of active rift zones, with average separation rates of 5 m/century. How much area of new ocean crust is created each year over the entire planet? (This area is approximately equal to the amount of ocean crust that is subducted since the total area of the oceans remains about the same.)


With the information from Exercise 8.25, you can calculate the average age of the ocean floor. First, find the total area of the ocean floor (equal to about 60% of the surface area of Earth). Then compare this with the area created (or destroyed) each year. The average lifetime is the ratio of these numbers: the total area of ocean crust compared to the amount created (or destroyed) each year.


What is the volume of new oceanic basalt added to Earth’s crust each year? Assume that the thickness of the new crust is 5 km, that there are 60,000 km of rifts, and that the average speed of plate motion is
4 cm/y. What fraction of Earth’s entire volume does this annual addition of new material represent?


Suppose a major impact that produces a mass extinction takes place on Earth once every 5 million years. Suppose further that if such an event occurred today, you and most other humans would be killed (this would be true even if the human species as a whole survived). Such impact events are random, and one could take place at any time. Calculate the probability that such an impact will occur within the next 50 years (within your lifetime).


How do the risks of dying from the impact of an asteroid or comet compare with other risks we are concerned about, such as dying in a car accident or from heart disease or some other natural cause? (Hint: To find the annual risk, go to the library or internet and look up the annual number of deaths from a particular cause in a particular country, and then divide by the population of that country.)


What fraction of Earth’s volume is taken up by the core?


Approximately what percentage of Earth’s radius is represented by the crust?


What is the drift rate of the Pacific plate over the Hawaiian hot spot?


What is the percent increase of atmospheric CO2 in the past 20 years?


Estimate the mass of the object that formed Meteor Crater in Arizona.

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