The Core–The Geoscience

In saving the Earth from a core that has stopped spinning, the heroes of the movie ‘The Core’ encounter a cave deep in the Earth’s mantle.  Does this make sense in terms of the properties of earth materials?  Please include your view on how much that science fiction can bend reality before it enters the realm of fantasy. This discussion is part of the course “Earth Science Essentials for the Science Fiction Writer” but please feel free to contribute whether you are part of the course or not!

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14 thoughts on “The Core–The Geoscience

  1. “The Core” is a movie I once sat down to watch, got about 10 minutes into, and turned it off. Watching this clip where they go down into the core and find geodes reminded me why I could not get through this movie: it is way too ridiculous! Even if you can wrap your brain around the impossibilities of the core just suddenly ceasing its spinning and people venturing down into the core to find out why, what they find in the core tips the film from “ridiculous” into “outrageous” for science buffs. In the core, the scientists find a cave. First of all, why on Earth (or should I say, “in Earth”?) would there be a cave in the Earth’s core? The core is packed solid due to thousands of pounds of pressure placed on it. This enormous open space in the core would have been compressed due to all this pressure. Next, the core of the Earth is mostly made of dense metals, largely iron and nickel. Geodes are formed inside igneous or sedimentary rocks, which you will not find in the Earth’s core. There is no possible way the Earth’s core would be home to a gigantic geode. While it makes for a pretty scene, it has no place in reality. Although I do not know if it would count as part of the fantasy genre yet. I believe there is a lot of overlap between the two genres, like impossible worlds and imaginary monsters. But to enter the realm of fantasy, I think a science fiction story would have to stop trying to provide any sort of even semi-reasonable explanation for things. In a lot of science fiction, the writers at least try to provide some sort of pseudo-scientific rationale for why things are the way they are, whereas in fantasy, that may never be explained or simply get chalked up to “magic”.

  2. “The Core” is a movie I once sat down to watch, got about 10 minutes into, and turned it off. Watching this clip where they go down into the core and find geodes reminded me why I could not get through this movie: it is way too ridiculous! Even if you can wrap your brain around the impossibilities of the core just suddenly ceasing its spinning and people venturing down into the core to find out why, what they find in the core tips the film from “ridiculous” into “outrageous” for science buffs. In the core, the scientists find a cave. First of all, why on Earth (or should I say, “in Earth”?) would there be a cave in the Earth’s core? The core is packed solid due to thousands of pounds of pressure placed on it. This enormous open space in the core would have been compressed due to all this pressure. Next, the core of the Earth is mostly made of dense metals, largely iron and nickel. Geodes are formed inside igneous or sedimentary rocks, which you will not find in the Earth’s core. There is no possible way the Earth’s core would be home to a gigantic geode. While it makes for a pretty scene, it has no place in reality. Although I do not know if it would count as part of the fantasy genre yet. I believe there is a lot of overlap between the two genres, like impossible worlds and imaginary monsters. But to enter the realm of fantasy, I think a science fiction story would have to stop trying to provide any sort of even semi-reasonable explanation for things. In a lot of science fiction, the writers at least try to provide some sort of pseudo-scientific rationale for why things are the way they are, whereas in fantasy, that may never be explained or simply get chalked up to “magic”.

  3. I have never even heard of this movie until today. It is certainly a ridiculous concept, but I am sure it is entertaining. Even watching just to “gripe” about the stupidity could be worth the time. There could not be an air “bubble” deep in the earth that is lined with crystals. The shear force of pressure would not allow the empty space. Rocks formed very deep and under extreme pressure form large crystals, not empty space. Stupid concept to make a movie about, but it seems they found some popular actors to help confuse the general public about science!

  4. Obviously, this whole scenario does not make sense. At 700 miles below the earth’s surface, deep in the mantle, the rock would be at incredibly high pressure and temperature. In fact, the rock likely would not be acting like a typical solid rock at the surface at this point. It would be a mushy, plastically deforming material that would obviously not be able to support a cavern. The pressure would preclude its forming, and the rock would not be able to store the tremendous pressure laying on top of it because it does not behave elastically. (Think of how arches support buildings). It would simply collapse. This is why earthquakes usually only occur within about 40 miles of the Earth’s surface. Below that point, the rock behaves plastically while earthquakes require elastic, energy-storing rock in order to occur.
    Furthermore, there would be not atmosphere at this point in the Earth’s mantle. The pressure would be so high that all matter would be in a solid phase. It would be simply impossible to have a gaseous material at this pressure (recalling our discussion about phase diagrams). Furthermore, the heat at this depth would have likely incinerated the heroes and their vehicle. As far as the scientists explanation that some type of gem “bubble” allowed the cavern to form would not be accurate either. At this point in the mantle, the rock is a homogenous silicate mixture. Gems require tectonic activity (movement of magma, faulting, and groundwater interactions) in order to become concentrated and form crystals. The gems simply would not form at this depth and would obviously not be firm and rigid enough to support a cave even if they could form.

  5. The likelihood of this movie, “The Core”, happening would be a zero. My first thought when watching the clip was how were they getting to the earth’s core so fast. Moving that fast to the earth’s core I was expecting some sort of pressure built up. The cave or the air pocket they finally get to does not make sense with what we have learned in class. From science we expect the earth’s core to be extremely warm and the pressure to be extreme as well. The minerals and rock at the core would have extreme pressure against each other. I also think their ship or whatever you would call it would have some type of reaction too.

  6. While the “geode” that this group of scientists stumbles upon inside of the Earth looks really beautiful and interesting, it definitely wouldn’t be something that would happen in real life. For one, with the amount of pressure that far below the Earth’s surface, the rock would not be behaving like a solid. It would be much more plastic, like a mushy clay that was able to move. Plus, it wouldn’t make any sense for there to be an air bubble, because how would the air withstand the amount of pressure that was present that deep in the Earth? Maybe it was just the coloring of the scene, but it also seemed like it was cold when they exited their vehicle. Which also wouldn’t make sense. It would be extremely hot that deep in the Earth.

    It’s hard to say where science fiction ends and fantasy begins, however. Science fiction, while based in science, is still fiction. So I don’t think everything has to be completely scientifically accurate. If it was, I don’t think there would be as much space for creativity. I’d still consider this movie science fiction, as it is based on scientific ideas, even though some of them don’t add up.

  7. This whole “science” concept is really bizarre to me. First, they are traveling to Earth’s core…. At 700 miles below our surface. Traveling here, which is not even possible, would have great temperatures and pressure. The rock in the mantle would not be the rock at the surface because we are in the mantle!! It would be more liquid than solid, so there is no way that a crystal cavern would be even possible at this depth. From the beginning of the semester and in other geology courses, it would be impossible for crystals of this size even to form in this cavern in the mantle. This whole situation is really weird!!! Bad science.

  8. The whole idea behind the movie is just ridiculous and the science is crazy. I don’t think this would be a movie I could sit down and watch because it would just be hard to watch such unrealistic things. The fact that they could move so fast into the core is impossible and how far they got I don’t think that’s the type of things they would be seeing nor do I think what their traveling in could make it in such an impact.

  9. Aside from the fact that travel that deep into the earth is not possible, I have enjoyed this movie before with a grain of salt. When we think about the crystals and the geode, it is simply not possible. It makes for great fiction, but at 700 miles down under extreme temperature and pressure, rocks form. Crystals do not. Crystals form slow under low temperatures. Also, air bubbles under extreme pressure, would not remain. They would be pressurized and popped.

  10. There couldn’t have been a cave because the Earth wouldn’t be able to support a cave that deep, it would collapse into itself. those crystals wouldn’t have formed in a cave, and if they “magically” did the pressure in that cave wouldn’t have been suitable for humans to just roam around in.

  11. The core is solid. It is impossible for there to be a huge open space in the core of the earth, because it would be compressed. There are also lots of metal found in the core of the earth that would not be found in this type of cave.

  12. Coming from someone who likes a lot of weird movies, the core is one that I actually sat down and watched. The idea of this movie is absolutely ridiculous. Moving through the core at the speeds they were going was impossible.

  13. I am addicted to weird movies and the core is an awesome movie that i watched. But The idea of going through the core at the speeds they were going was really challenging and the science around the whole movie is kind of a non sense to me.

  14. This movie has failed to support any scientific concepts. Although Iam not an expert, but i could still find several problems with this scene.
    First of all I think it would be impossible to carry out such a mission in real life. As neither the people not there transportation or their suits will be able to handle the temperature and pressure in the earths core.
    Secondly as core is solid it is impossible for them to find a huge cave in there. which is filled up with a material that cannot survive that kind of temperature and pressure.

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