email - October 2017

Paleomagnetism Revisited

Matt reviewed our paleomagnetism experiment.

Matt watched our “Paleomagnetism Busted!” video,1 which we described in the December, 2013, issue of our newsletter.2 In it, we used little magnets to show that they naturally line up in anti-parallel orientation because that is the lowest energy state. Therefore, one should not conclude that alternating bands of weakly magnetized minerals are evidence that the Earth’s magnetic field has changed polarity many times over the past several million years. This was his response:

Hi,

I just wanted to provide some feedback on your paleomagnetism experiment.

(1) As I understand it, the entities that align themselves with the earth’s magnetic field, when new crust is forming at mid-ocean spreading ridges, are not themselves magnets. They are little tiny iron-bearing minerals that respond to magnetic fields but do not themselves produce magnetic fields—that is, not until they have all been lined up in a certain direction by the earth’s magnetic field. That is one inaccuracy of your model. I think a better experiment would use something similarly susceptible to magnetism (like little bits of iron) but not, at the outset, magnetic.

(2) I know you said it wasn’t the basis of your argument, but you still misrepresented how these analyses are made. You mentioned having to preserve the orientation of a rock as it is brought into the lab for analysis. Surely paleomagnetic rocks are analyzed in the lab, but some of the most compelling observations when it comes to paleomagnetism are ship-towed magnetometer readings. Traveling perpendicular to a ridge they register slight stengthenings and weakenings of the earth’s magnetic field, which are interpreted as paleomagnetism aligned with and against (respectively) the Earth’s present magnetic field.

(3) Because the entities in the rocks that produce the magnetic anomalies are so tiny, then if your model were correct, wouldn’t it be impossible to detect magnetic anomalies on the scale that we have observed them? Let me break that down, in case it’s not obvious. Your experiment is supposed to be evidence that when something is aligning itself with a magnetic field, the dominant factor is the orientation of the adjacent magnetic body. New crust forms at spreading centers just a little at a time, so if your model were correct the alternation would occur at a very small scale—doubtfully at a scale that could be detected by ship-towed magnetometers. Your theory might gain credibility if the magnetic stripes were roughly the same width—then you could argue that the paleomagnetic orientation is determined by the earth until the slightly-magnetized rock has built up enough to compete with the Earth’s magnetic field—but they are not.

(4) The Earth’s molten outer core is thought to produce the magnetic field, and is thus (probably, but not assuredly) responsible for the switches in polarity. It is extremely difficult to study the Earth’s core, for obvious reasons. Philosophically speaking, I think it is fitting that the mechanism of this phenomenon is as mysterious as the thing itself!

That’s all, I sincerely hope that you take the time to respond to one or more of these points.

Cheers,

Matt

Regarding Matt’s first point, in their molten state, the minerals bearing iron, nickel, or certain other elements are not themselves magnetic, but they align at a molecular level with the surrounding magnetic field. Then, when they solidify, they do retain some residual magnetism. It is their residual magnetism that is measured. So, they really do become very weak magnets.

Matt is correct to point out that little chunks of magnetized rock do not ooze out from inside the Earth and line themselves up. The rocks are in a liquid state containing molecules which are free to align with an external magnetic field. When they cool, they retain that alignment and produce a weak magnetic field. We fail to see why it matters if the minerals were magnetized deep under ground or became magnetized at the surface of the Earth. All that matters is that they had a magnetic field when they solidified.

If we had used iron filings instead of magnets, we would have had to have dropped them on something smoother than the blue shop cloth we used so that they could overcome friction to align with the Earth’s magnet field. But if we had added a second row of iron filings, how could we have known if they were pointing north or south?

Matt’s second point is absolutely correct. When measuring the rocks under water, a towed magnetometer is used. There is no argument there.

In his second and third points, Matt correctly states that the magnetic fields are very, very, very weak. They can, however, be detected by very, very, very sensitive magnetometers. But their weakness says nothing about how they became magnetized, or why they aligned in a particular direction.

If you use a magnet to pick up a pin, the north pole of the magnet in your hand is nowhere nearly as strong as the north pole of the magnet that is the North Pole. But the pin jumps up off the table and sticks to the magnet in your hand rather than flying through the air to the Earth’s North Pole because the pin is closer to the magnet in your hand than it is to the North Pole. The magnetic field produced by a little magnet nearby can be stronger than the magnetic field produced by a bigger magnet far away. (Note to hikers: Don’t trust a magnetic compass if you are standing next to your pickup truck. Nearby steel can affect the orientation of a magnet, too.)

The width of the magnetized regions says nothing about the magnetic field that produced them.

Oscillations

In a subsequent email, Matt wrote,

I also wanted to address this idea of the damped oscillation more directly. For one thing, I don’t think the reversals of the Earth’s magnetic field are true oscillations that can be modeled with a simple pendulum or a spring. Yet it is true that the Earth needs some form of energy to power it’s [sic] magnetic field, because (the prevailing theory states) the magnetic field of the Earth is generated by convection in the Earth’s outer core. Convection is a process by which heat escapes a system. Geologists puzzled long and hard how there could still be heat within the Earth, billions of years after it’s [sic] genesis. They discovered that radioactive decay is the source of that heat.

I questioned the basis for his belief that the oscillations of the Earth’s magnetic field cannot be modeled by an under-damped second-order differential equation. In his subsequent emails, Matt never explained the reason for his unbelief.

The equations that describe a swinging pendulum, a car bouncing up and down after hitting a pot hole, and the oscillating electric field in a radio transmitter, take an identical form. That’s because every kind of oscillation involves energy transfer from one state to another, and the equations for energy transfer don’t depend upon the kind of energy being transferred.

The pendulum is the easiest to explain. When the weight at the end of the string is at its highest position to one side, it has potential energy (due to its height) but no kinetic energy (because it isn’t moving). As the weight starts moving down, it loses potential energy and gains kinetic energy. At the bottom of its path it has no potential energy (it doesn’t have the potential to go any lower) because all its potential energy has been converted to kinetic energy. As the pendulum continues to swing, the kinetic energy it had at the bottom of its path starts to get converted back to potential energy as the weight slows down and gets higher. When it reaches its highest point on the other side, all the kinetic energy has been transferred to potential energy, and the weight starts moving down again.

Whether it is a pendulum swinging back and forth, a weight bouncing up and down on a spring, the electromagnetic field oscillating in the antenna of a radio transmitter, the form of the equation is always the same because oscillation always involves energy transfer back and forth between two energy storage states. (And, yes, it always also involves an energy source because some energy always gets lost in the transfer. A pendulum eventually stops swinging when the iron pine cone on a cuckoo clock gets to the bottom and can’t give the pendulum a little kick on each swing.)

The radioactive decay deep inside the Earth produces the energy that would be necessary to support oscillation of the energy stored in the Earth’s magnetic field IF there were a secondary energy storage state for energy to move into and back out of. That’s why, in Matt’s own words, “the mechanism of this phenomenon [the supposed periodic reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field] is as mysterious as the thing itself!”

Thinking isn’t Knowing

Matt doesn’t know how the Earth’s magnetic field could change polarity. There is no known explanation for it. It is mysterious. But, since he “knows” the Earth’s magnetic field did change polarity, there must be an unknown explanation for it.

The flaw in his reasoning is that he doesn’t KNOW the Earth’s magnetic field changed polarity—he only THINKS it changed polarity because he thinks that is what caused the alternating bands of residual magnetism on the seafloor.

Years of debugging software have taught me to be very careful to make a distinction between what I really know and what I think I know. To find errors in computer programs, I added monitoring points to tell me what branch the computer took, or what value was stored in a particular memory location. It wasn’t until I realized that the path actually taken, or the value actually stored, wasn’t really what I “knew” it had to be, that I could find and fix the problem.

Evolutionists know that the spontaneous origin of life is impossible; but since they “know” it did originate spontaneously, they believe there must be some mysterious natural process which violates known laws of chemistry and physics and caused life to originate.

Evolutionists know there is no known mechanism for how the Earth’s magnetic field could reverse polarity; but since they “know” it did reverse, the consensus is that there must be some mysterious natural process, probably connected to convection, which caused the reversal.

Real science doesn’t lead one to believe things that cannot be confirmed scientifically, and actually would have to contradict known scientific laws. The theory of evolution is not real science. Science is against evolution.

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Footnotes:

1 http://scienceagainstevolution.info/video/Paleomagnetism.wmv
2 Disclosure, December 2013, “Paleomagnetism Busted!”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v18i3f.htm